Interview

Susan Hayes Celebrates 50 Years on DAYS!

Credit: JPI

As Susan Seaforth Hayes marks 50 years since her DAYS debut today, she looks back on her favorite moments as Julie Olson Williams

 

Favorite Memory About Landing The Role? “The audition had [then-Executive Producer] Betty Corday, [then-Executive Producer] Wes Kenney, [then-Head Writer] Bill Bell, [then-Producer] Jack Herzberg … Those names that most people would know would be Betty Corday and Bill Bell across the desks from me. It was a highly emotional scene with Denise Alexander [ex-Susan] and I gave it everything I had — tears and hysterics and all those things — because in the scene I was supposed to confront Denise and try to cause her to have a heart attack, but instead bring on my own labor pains, so it was quite a range-y scene emotionally. I came out of it and I got the job and I was thrilled. Years later, I reminded Bill Bell about the scene and he said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I said, ‘How did you happen to choose me?’ He said, ‘I liked your smile, so there!’ That was kind of a kick in the head to say, ‘Well, maybe you weren’t quite at your zenith of acting ability, but you had potential.’ ”

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Favorite Memories Of Your Early Years? “The camaraderie, the excitement every day because it was shot as though it were live, and we rehearsed from literally 6 o’clock in the morning until noon when we went to tape, so it was like a fresh play every day. There were delightful cast members; we all bonded. When Bill Hayes joined the show [as Doug] and was looking for a house, I remember Susan Flannery [ex-Laura] laying out a map of the areas she thought he ought to be shopping for a house in. We were all kind of wrapped up in each other’s lives in those days. For the first time, I was joining a company that was going to stay together for years. The dynamic was very affectionate.”

Favorite Scene? “There was a very well-written scene where Doug had been killed and Julie doesn’t know it yet, but he appears to her walking out of a tunnel of light and they say good-bye forever. That was also probably my most difficult day. We were fighting a time schedule and at the last shot of the day on, say a Tuesday, and just as we’re getting ready to do it, and we’ve been emotionally charging ourselves up for it for hours, they said, ‘No, we’re gonna shoot that tomorrow. Sorry!’ But those things happen. It’s all part of the game.”

Favorite Storyline? “I can’t say it’s a favorite, but it certainly sticks in my mind: When all the cast was being assassinated by Marlena and I got to be the chief mourner at every funeral. It was challenging because we did not know there were gonna be returns at the end of the rainbow on a desert island in the middle of some ocean somewhere, and dealing with the loss week after week. The carnage of the cast was challenging, especially when Bill, my husband, was killed on the show. Very challenging.”

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Favorite DAYS Moment On- Or Off-Screen? “I know it’s usually a Horton Christmas tree as far as the world is concerned. It’s always a difficult one to shoot. We’ve had some years where Julie kind of has spoken about the meaning of it. I liked having the chance to say, ‘In this moment we honor what is with us and what has gone before us,’ and I think it’s a big hit for the audience because it’s a chance for them to revisit their memories of their own lives, their own families and the things they have loved in their lives. It’s a sentimental moment in a show which is filled with emotion and action, but it just stops for a second and says, ‘This is what counts.’ ”

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Favorite Thing About Hanging The Ornaments? “It’s a good scene however it’s played. Whatever else is going on at Christmas, whoever else gets to be Santa Claus, whoever else gets to be in the hospital having a Christmas miracle [laughs], it’s always memorable for the viewers and kind of memorable for us. I know after I had done that first Christmas show, I began to paint ornaments with the names of friends and give them as gifts. I thought it was a great idea.”

Favorite Thing About Julie? “She’s still there! I think she’s matured emotionally, although sometimes having a mature attitude does not advance action; you have to have conflict to have action. She always steps into conflict. She’s not afraid to. She’s a good deal less selfish, which is the lesson of being alive, that you’ve got to share things and not control things. I enjoy that she’s grown up.”

Favorite Thing About Playing Her? “I get to be dressed up and painted and coiffed by excellent people! I always look best when I leave the studio.”

 

Favorite Memories Of Doug’s Place? “The music. All the music. The memories of Bill writing the arrangements and the choosing of the songs that would highlight the emotions of the storylines at the time. In one storyline, Bill came from a circus night at Doug’s Place and came to Julie’s apartment when they were living apart, and to the music of ‘The Carousel Waltz’, he came in and presented a heart to her and it was like a ballet. Julie had taken sleeping pills and didn’t realize he was really there; she thought it was a dream. It was a really beautiful, poetic kind of scene and moment and I treasure having the chance to do that. I treasured the music because it set us apart from all of the other shows. We were the first ones to do it because Bill Bell and Betty Corday realized this was Bill Hayes, who could sing like an angel. What they didn’t even understand was that he could also compose arrangements, never sang off-pitch, knew what he was doing and could do it in three minutes. When music went to other shows, it was oftentimes not so well-performed. We were best!”

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Favorite Memory Of Frances Reid (ex-Alice)? “The Christmas parties that she used to give for the cast. When the cast was 12 people, these were wonderful, wonderful parties. She loved us. She genuinely loved us.”

Macdonald Carey (ex-Tom)? “The same. Great giver of advice. When I had been on the show a very short period of time and was beginning to feel my oats as an actress and disagreeing with the script and disagreeing with the director and in general behaving like an idiot, he was very kind to me. He took me aside and said that I was never going to get anywhere behaving in that fashion and that I should perhaps choose my words more carefully and catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It only took about three decades for that to sink in! But he was absolutely right, of course. He seemed to enjoy what he was doing. Before I came to DAYS, I had worked on GH, where the whole tone was serious, this was life and death, and never a smile was cracked by the producers. The whole atmosphere on the DAYS set was always so up, so professionally delightful. I mean, you can do drama and still be happy onstage. I felt like I had fallen into a new reality that was exciting and was also, dare I say it, fun.”

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Mary Frann (ex-Amanda)? “She was something special. She was beautiful through and through. Delightfully funny. Her career had been based on comedy. She had a wry way of looking at the world. She was inclusive. She had no flaws. Mary, Suzanne Rogers [Maggie], Lanna Saunders [ex-Marie] and I would all go to a beautiful restaurant in Studio City and celebrate our birthdays, have a wonderful ladies’ lunch, close the place, drink champagne, eat chocolate mousse, laugh hysterically. The four of us were very close. Mary left the show to go on to BOB NEWHART. Mary gave me my wedding shower. She died in her sleep unexpectedly. It was a beautifully attended funeral in the same church where Mac’s funeral was. The church was grand. Her priest spoke and said that he had never had a congregant who was a better Christian or a loving soul than Mary Frann. Suzanne and I still haven’t gotten over Mary Frann, or Lanna. We really still haven’t.”

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Favorite Memory Of Lanna? “She was a wonderful actress. She was Russian, so with Lanna there were always highs and lows. She was very passionate, very funny, had a wonderful marriage … Another leader amongst the actresses. We were devoted to her. We traveled to Africa with Lanna, actually, after I was written off the show for a while. Lanna and her husband and Billy and I and another couple toured Africa.”

Robert Clary (ex-Robert)? “Bill continues to see Robert Clary every Thursday. They have lunch together with a group of gentlemen friends at Caffé Roma in Beverly Hills. After 35 years, I think, of having lunch together, finally I had been invited to join the guys! Part of it was because I was chauffeuring Bill and giving him his time off from me with his buddies, and when they found out I was parking the car under the tree and reading a book while Billy had lunch, they decided that wasn’t right anymore and that I should join them. I get to see Robert every week, too. He continues to be the same guy you remember: pesky and funny and well-informed and loyal and all the good things rolled into one.”

Kristian Alfonso (Hope)? “Kristian reaches out to Billy always and honors him and I cannot help but love her, first of all for that, in addition to all the time spent together. It’s been a journey for me as well as for her, because when she came on to the show, the focus of the show shifted to her and it was a difficult time for Bill and me. But it was inevitable, of course, that time marches on. I think she’s carried the show nobly for a long time.”

Favorite Thing About Bill Hayes? “His professionalism, which impressed me, in addition to his goodness and beauty and charm, continues. After we lived together as husband and wife, I realized how many hours he devoted to the work. He was never an actor who came in and learned his lines during the rehearsals. He would come in with the steps, with the music, with everything ready to go. At the cost of a great deal of enthusiastic preparation, we run our lines together over and over and over before we come into the studio because that’s the way he works, that’s the way he likes it. Strength of character, goodness of heart, openness to new ideas, and enthusiasm for life — this man has endless enthusiasm and makes the most of every day and every moment. What a life partner.”

JPI

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