Brandon Barash is having a ball playing DAYS’s Stefan, but his favorite role is being a dad.
The situation was less than ideal. Brandon Barash was summoned to take over the role of Stefan DiMera on DAYS mid-storyline. For Barash, it meant not only replacing another actor, but an actor he knew well — Tyler Christopher. “It was definitely precarious, especially when you have feelings for somebody,” says Barash. “He and I have been friends for a long time, since my GH days [where Barash played Johnny and Christopher played Nikolas]. Not once did I want him or anyone to think, ‘Hey, I’m trying to take your job.’ In my mind, and through my discussion with the producers, I was just going to be there for about a month. Then, obviously, that changed.”
Barash, who began airing last March, has been on the scene ever since. While he acknowledges that there was “pressure of getting the approval of the audience” as a replacement, it wasn’t something he concerned himself with. “You just have to let that go,” contends Barash. “For me, it’s more about doing honest work. If you do honest work, everything else will work out.”
The actor hit the ground running after a crash course of getting up to speed on Stefan during the short time between receiving the job offer and starting it. “It was very fast, about 72 hours,” reveals Barash. “I met with Albert Alarr [co-executive producer]. He filled me in on things and gave me six scripts to read. I was working a day or two after that.”
Barash concedes “there were jitters,” since he’d spent the last few years doing prime-time, including a recurring role on MAJOR CRIMES, and had to reacclimate to the faster-paced daytime drill. “I didn’t want to hold up production. I didn’t want to go up [on] lines,” he says. “That didn’t happen. After my first scene, I was like, ‘Oh yeah. I remember this.’ It was pretty easy.”
Having some friendly faces behind the scenes helped, too. In addition to having Scott McKinsey, who Barash had worked with at GH, direct his first DAYS episode, he also quickly connected with Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe) and Eric Martsolf (Brady). “We had known each other from doing events in the past,” recounts Barash. “I remember sitting in Eric’s dressing room with him and Nadia for about an hour talking about the ins and outs of the set, the personalities of the cast and the crew, what to expect in certain situations…”
With the lay of the land in hand, Barash could fully focus on bringing Stefan to life, a task made a bit easier the moment he walked onto the DiMera living room set and saw the large portrait of Joseph Mascolo’s Stefano on the wall. “To give you an idea of how iconic he was and that role was, I had never watched an episode of DAYS in my life, yet I knew exactly who that was. It was pretty cool,” says Barash, who immediately felt the responsibility of portraying a DiMera. “Absolutely. You have to do it justice.”
For Barash, that included bringing lightness to the Salem heavy. “To me, it’s always very important to add layers to a character,” notes Barash. “Even if I’m playing a complete abject assh**e, which there’s an argument that Stefan is very much that, everybody has a side of humanity to them. I wanted to add a little bit of lightness to him and a little bit of humor every now and then, because then it makes the big, heated, heavier moments that much heavier.”
Helping the transition along was Stefan’s pairing with Gabi, as the two enemies who detested each other suddenly became passionate lovers. When Barash saw the plot twist in scripts, his first reaction was “this is going to be fun,” he muses. “It’s always fun to play duality like that. They’re the couple who love to hate each other, but they also love to love each other, because it turns out they’re quite good at it. They keep going back for more. And, my God, Camila [Banus, Gabi] is just such a fun actress to work with. I knew, every day, that no matter what I hit her way, she was going to smack it back. There was one scene that we did where we just started spontaneously kissing, and she full-on jumped on me and wrapped her legs around me — not planned or talked about. But we have that trust there, and that’s what’s made a lot of that relationship so much fun.”
When Barash wraps up his on-screen shenanigans as Stefan, he immediately switches gears to his other, far more important role: father to his 5-year-old daughter, Harper, from his former marriage to Kirsten Storms (Maxie, GH). The actor, who refers to himself as “a full-time single dad,” explains that he learned from the best. “I was actually also raised by a single father,” says Barash, of his beloved late father, Jerry. “He set the example very early and set the bar very high. He taught me a clinic on life and parenting without me even knowing it. So when I found myself in the same situation, parenting has been the easiest thing and the hardest thing all at the same time. I say hardest for obvious reasons and easiest, because everything is just instinct. The answers may not always be right in front of you, but if you trust your instincts, you know that the right choices will be made. And that’s what’s most important to me.”
Among those right choices, Barash and Storms have made co-parenting their daughter lovingly a priority. “For me, it’s unspoken. That is the way things need to be for Harper to live a happy, healthy life,” he maintains. “It’s a no-brainer for me to put away any personal bulls**t in order to raise my daughter in a harmonious world.”
That world includes Barash’s girlfriend Morgan Mitchell, a personal trainer at the gym he’s worked out at for years. “We would look at each other but we wouldn’t talk,” says Barash. “I’m not the person who likes to chat people up at the gym; that’s not why I go. I go there, do my work and leave. So I never really said anything to her. One day, I decided to reach out to her on Instagram. The rest is history. We’ve been together a little over a year.”
The relationship has thrived, in large part, because of Mitchell’s affection for Harper. “She’s really great with her,” smiles Barash. “So we spend a lot of time together. We play in the backyard. We play baseball. We go to the park. It’s not very easy being a single dad, raising a kid, and dating at the same time, because my partner has to understand that my daughter is my No. 1 priority and it’s always going to be that way. Harper feeling safe, secure, loved, fulfilled and happy every day is the most important thing to me. Anybody I’m with has to understand that if we’re supposed to hang out, and my daughter gets sick or I have to pick her up from school because she fell down, everything has to immediately take a back seat. I’m very lucky, because Morgan is so good with that.”
Just The Facts
Born: October 4
Hails From: St. Louis, MO
My Girl: Barash has a daughter, Harper, 5, with ex-wife Kirsten Storms (Maxie, GH).
Also Known As: GH’s Johnny Zacchara, from 2007-13 and short-term runs from 2014-15 and 2015-16.
He’s Taken: Barash has a girlfriend, Morgan Mitchell.
MASTER CHEF: “Every-thing I know about cooking, I learned from my mom, who is an insane cook. I cook a lot. It’s a very rare occurrence that Harper and I go out to dinner. She loves my tacos. I make them in soft tortillas, but I end up putting them on the griddle and making them cheesy and gooey on the inside, but crispy on the outside. Harper always says, ‘Daddy, you make the best tacos.’ ”
Wild for Whiskey: “Morgan and I both love whiskey. We have a tradition where we drink it on Friday nights. I like many [kinds of] them. My two favorite distilleries, tried and true, are Springbank and Ardbeg.”
TV Time: “The show I binged most recently was OZARK. I really enjoyed that.”
LET’S EAT: “I could eat
any version of a charcuterie plate or Japanese food any day, whether it’s sushi or
izakaya-type Japanese pub food.”
Game Time: “There’s a game called Polytopia. It’s the nerdiest game I’ve ever played. It’s like chess meets Risk.”