Deidre Hall was a guest on Digest’s podcast, Dishing With Digest, and talked about her early days in television, her jump to DAYS as Dr. Marlena Evans and more.
Digest: So, we are going to go back into the early life of Deidre Hall. You were raised in Florida and planned to become a psychologist. Tell us how your entry into showbiz came about.
Deidre Hall: I ended up coming out to visit friends when I was out of college and came to L.A. When I was here I thought, “Well, I’ll make some money modeling out in L.A.” And then I had an agent that said, “Why don’t you try print?” And then, “Why don’t you try televi- sion and commercials?” It was just a thing that got ushered in. It really was to make extra money while I was taking classes, so that’s how it happened. I kept thinking, “Well, I’ll just do this act- ing thing until I’ve got a career.” And then one day I thought, “What am I doing? I appear to have a career and it’s not in psychiatry.” But how ironic is that, that I’ve spent 40 years playing a psychiatrist? Meant to be!
Digest: So, you actually made your daytime debut before DAYS in 1973 play- ing Barbara Anderson on YOUNG AND RESTLESS. What stands out to you about your time in Genoa City?
Hall: You know what, I was brought in to play a character’s backstory, so I was the reason that Brad had left his hometown and gone on to live somewhere else. What was interesting was, my time there I was sort of the little kid with her nose against the glass, you know, saying, “This looks like fun and these people rent summer places together and they travel together and I like that and I want to do that.” It could not go forward, but I got a real taste of the kinship that can be had in daytime when people work together for hours at a time. I wanted me some of that!
Digest: When you did leave Genoa City, did you see yourself doing another soap?
Hall: Um, I was doing a lot of episodic and an occasional movie of the week, so I had not re-entered the soap arena. I had a call from my agent saying, “Oh, they want to see you for this part on DAYS OF OUR LIVES.” And I go, “Okay, I’m in!” And that was just how it began. I actually screen-tested, by the time I got that far up the ladder, with several women whose faces I recognized. I thought, “Oh, I know [how] this one goes. They don’t want a newcomer here, they want someone who has experience in the medium and isn’t going to slow things down.” So, when I got the call saying that they wanted me to do Marlena, I said, “No.” So, what was clear to me was that several people had been offered the part and they must have turned it down before they got down the list to me. I thought, “If these really smart women had turned it down, I didn’t want it either!” So, not knowing what was wrong with the part, I turned it down. I said to my agent, “No, I don’t want to do it.” And he called back, I guess six or eight weeks later, and said, “Why didn’t you want to do that part as Marlena?” I said, “Oh, I guess ’cause everybody turned it down.” He says, “You’re so crazy! You were their first choice. They went to New York and saw people there. They’ve been all over the place. You are their first choice.” I said, “Oh, well, then maybe I’ll see.” It’s actor’s craziness, what we think. It’s just what we think.
Digest: This was a big year in your career because 1976 is not only when you made your DAYS debut, but it was when you portrayed Electra Woman in the children’s series ELECTRA WOMAN AND DYNA GIRL. The costumes were so of the time. What stands out to you about that experience?
Hall: Oh, and thanks for bringing that up. You know, I’ve got so many memories that are not what you think they are about doing that show. I had gone over and read for it thinking, “Oh, a superhero, you know, like Lynda Carter. Won’t that be fun? Not!” But I thought, “It’s sort of a departure from anything that I’ve done and what a hoot to run around and be a superhero?” The truth of the matter is it ended up being shot on a soundstage. We were the original low-budget show. We did our own hair and we kind of did our own makeup. We were on a stage that was not cooled and we were working in the dead of summer. What we ended up doing was we snuck over … We were adjacent to the DONNY & MARIE stage where they had the ice-skating rink and so we would sneak over when we got to work and open the elephant doors and let all that cold air come on to our stage. We lived off the ice- skating rink cold and that was a big relief. In fact, it’s where I met Jane Elliot [ex- Tracy, GH], who was playing Cleopatra at the time. She came in the next day that she was working with her ice skates and hiked up her Cleopatra outfit and went ice-skating at lunch…. We had to wear body mics and you could imagine that costume; you had to wrap that wire around and around your body to get it pinned in place. At lunch it was either have lunch or use the bathroom. It was wild.
Digest: You did make your DAYS debut on June 21, 1976. When you think about the early days of Marlena and you get- ting your feet wet on the show, what comes to mind?
Hall: Wow. Wow. There’s so many moments. But one of the problems that I had was going from Electra Woman and being that, you know, feet-planted-fists-on-my-hips kind of superhero to coming to be Marlena and her gentle self. [Producer] Al Rabin would say, “Bring it down! Bring it down! Bring it down! You’re not Electra Woman!” I was always trying to find a happy balance in that … I remember shortly after I arrived, and I hope I’m not mistak- ing the period of time, but Bill [Hayes, Doug] and Susan [Seaforth Hayes, Julie] were married on the show and it was just a phenomenon. I mean, I didn’t really understand or appreciate it at that point what legends they were. For that wedding we had allowed fans to come into the parking lot where they had larger moni- tors that were showing the taping of the show, just hundreds of fans who waited in line and couldn’t wait to be here. And, of course, Bill and Susan happened to carry the load of that whole ceremony. At one point, Susan turned around and said to the actors, and also, obviously to the hundreds of fans in the parking lot, “I know this is taking a long time. Thank you for being so patient.” And I thought, “Oh, my gosh, she gets it all. She knows it all. She under- stands it all.” Not just that she is having to carry an iconic moment on the show that fans have waited forever to see, but that there are other people who only stand and wait and watch, and the elegance of that, I went, “Oh, I want to grow up to be like her. I want to know what she knows and behave like she behaves.” Just a treasure.
Digest: Post-Don and Marlena, we were introduced to Roman Brady, who was originally played by Wayne Northrop. Their romance in many ways kicked off the supercouple era on DAYS in the ’80s. Tell us about your relationship with Wayne and that pairing, in particular.
Hall: I think it was genius because of the contrast because you would get Marlena Evans, who was this sort of elegant, sophisticated brain trust and you’ve got Roman, who is just nuts and bolts and doing the right thing for the right reasons and keeping the country safe. They all have this high level of integrity, but they’re very different people. Could that be made to work? And as you may recall, they locked horns when they came to protect her and she said, “I’m not having any of this.” And he brought a sleeping bag and there he was. Oh, and, of course, you know Wayne. Wayne was from the get-go a practical joker. It set the tone for years of ridiculous, crazy practical jokes.
Digest: Any memorable ones you can share?
Hall: He had bunked in with Robert Clary [ex-Robert] at one point, and you know Robert Clary is quite short. Wayne went to props and got a pretend doorknob and put his name on the regular doorknob and then put Robert Clary’s name a foot and a half below it with a different doorknob. It’s that. It was a lifetime of practical jokes. Oh, at one point he came to see me for something. I was at the apartment and he had a trench coat on. At one point the camera was only on me and he untied his trench coat as if to flash me and opened the coat, not seen by anyone on camera, but he’d hung Christmas ornaments all over himself and all over the inside of his coat. He looked like a Christmas tree when he opened his coat. And now, try not to break. “It’s fine. No, it’s normal. He always looks like that under his coat.” I mean, we could be here for days. Hilarious.
Digest: In 1986, Drake Hogestyn took over the role of Roman, who was later revealed to be John. John and Marlena are one of the longest-running and cer- tainly one of the most popular pairings in the history of daytime TV. Tell us about your relationship with Drake.
Hall: Drake came into audition/screen test, I guess. I had agreed to test with everybody. I ran with everybody the same amount of time, practiced with everybody the same amount of time, and did the scene with Drake. Later, everybody was saying, “I don’t know, what do you think?” “I don’t know, what do you think?” And they said, “What do you think?” And I said, “I don’t think there’s any contest.” “Who do you think it is?” I said, “I think it’s Drake. I mean, he’s got everything you need. I think it’s a good look. I think we look well together. I think he’s got an intensity. He’s got a strength and a masculinity but a sexiness. Of everybody that you brought in, I think he’s your best choice.” And they had been in the same place but kind of waited for me to say it, I guess. And so he was hired. I guess none of us stopped to think he’s not really what you would call a terribly experienced actor. I mean, he’d been a sports guy, a baseball player. And there was also, if you recall, it was right about the time Ricky Nelson had died. We all suddenly looked at Drake and went, “Wow, there’s a real familiarity there. They don’t look like each other, but there is that thing.” It was only a slight concern and it turned out not to be a problem. But he was dreamy. He loved to rehearse, wanted to get it right, very serious about the work. He had a Jeep without a top or something. Why am I remembering that? And he would drive that in every day. Raining? He drove it in. But yeah, it was good. I think it worked from the very first moment.
Digest: Here we are in 2020 and you’re still on the front burner as both Marlena and Hattie. What does it mean to you to be part of the DAYS family this many years later?
Hall: It’s such high praise. At a time when budgets have fallen and salaries have fallen and characters don’t always get to stick around as long as they’d like to, to be considered part of a supercouple, to be considered relevant to the show and the storytelling process, dare I say at any age, is beyond. It’s been a home for many, many, many years. It’s always such a good feeling to pull up to the security gate and have my card still work and to be invited back! It’s very meaningful and it is a home that I hope lasts forever.