Deidre Hall & Drake Hogestyn Reflect On John and Marlena’s Enchanting Saga
Soap Opera Digest: What do you remember about the first time you met?
Deidre Hall: I had been brought in to screen test with several actors for the part of John. I remember shaking your hand.
Drake Hogestyn: That was when the characters met. We met up in [then-Executive Producer] Al Rabin’s office. I didn’t know Deidre. I wasn’t introduced to her. I thought she was part of the production staff.
Hall (laughs): I was probably barking orders!
Hogestyn: It wasn’t until I was brought back to screen test on November 18, 1985. You’re supposed to stay in your dressing room but I couldn’t, so I walked around and I found the green room and the monitor was on and I watched the guys audition in front of me. And I thought, “I’m not doing that … I’m not doing that … that guy’s all right.” And then we went out and did the audition. In the middle of the audition, I had a thought bubble of, “She didn’t do that with those guys. She’s not reacting the same way to what I’m doing.” Then I said, “Get back in the scene. You’re drifting off into a place where this is feeling kind of comfortable.” But it felt good and usually, it doesn’t feel like that. This was, “Wow, that was really interesting. That felt really good.”
Hall: I tested with him because I would’ve been playing with him and when everybody was done — they look at all of the scenes, obviously — and I got called upstairs saying, “Okay, we know what we think, what do you think because you’ve got to work with him?” And everybody was in agreement and it was Drake! Nobody came close to being the kind of figure, and having that sort of magic and chemistry and the male hero attraction. And that was the beginning of it.
Digest: Deidre, when Drake came in, did you know that they were going to ultimately reveal him to be Roman?
Hall: No. Nobody knew anything about anything.
Digest: So did you just think they were casting a new love interest for you?
Hall: I don’t remember what was said to me but I knew it was somebody that I would be working with. I didn’t know how it would fit in or where it would fit in, I knew it would be somebody that would be on Marlena’s radar.
Digest: So when you found out he would be Roman, what did you think? Did you worry?
Hall: That’s a hard one, partly because we know how loyal our audience is to our characters and how attached they get. I knew at that point that Drake had a really indelible character and the audience was mad for him, so I thought, “Whatever we do, if we do it well now, it’s going to be okay; they will go anywhere we take them because they love the people involved.”
Digest: Do you remember a time where you felt something was clicking or that people were really liking you together?
Hogestyn: I never understood any of that at all; I kind of just relied on Deidre. I’ve always been pretty insecure as an actor, as well as an athlete, because you’re one step away from an injury, so I just try to take it all one day at a time. I remember walking on the set and I get some of the daytime TV magazines, and polls or something came out and the first time I was eligible, I was number 10, and the second time I was eligible, I was like No. 1 or something like that. Someone had mentioned something and Deidre said, “Drake, he’s going to be there until the cows come home!” This sublime confidence that I don’t have! I mean, she sees something I don’t because I could be out that dressing room door as far as I was concerned, and I was only as good as my last show. I thought that was really amazing and I actually took some solace in that. It made me feel a little more comfortable.
Hall: We did have those daytime TV magazine polls that would give you a real clear sense of where you stood. But there were lots of ways that the network was able to get a sniff of how much the audience was resonating to your character or to a storyline.
Hogestyn: The thing is, the audience wanted Marlena to be with Roman so badly. I did sense that. It could’ve been Howdy Doody! They could’ve brought in really, seriously, anybody, and if Marlena would’ve accepted the character and accepted the premise and that this guy is Roman, then the audience would definitely accept him as Roman. But it all fell on her plate, so she led the way with all of that.
Digest: What was the love triangle like to play when Deidre and Wayne Northrop [ex-Roman] came back in 1991?
Hall: That was just the most fun time, I think.
Hogestyn: You know, Wayne is an amazing man. He’s an amazing buddy. We share a lot, and the more I got to know him, he could be a brother of mine, seriously. He has a great sense of humor. I remember there was one gal they were floating around with me and it wasn’t really working well, but there was a scene where I was going to be in a hotel and she wanted to make love or whatever, but I saw Marlena swimming in a pond! But anyway, John’s supposed to make love to her but he’s thinking about Marlena, and Wayne said, “I think you need this,” and he had some balloons and a six-pack of Heineken outside my door. “Good luck today, Partner!” You know, that type of thing.
Hall: He was a constant practical joker. At one point, Wayne tied the dressing room doors together so I couldn’t get out of my dressing room for a set call. I had to call the guard and have him cut me out of my dressing room!
Digest: Arguably, John and Marlena could be the most tortured duo in Salem. When you look back, what do you think their biggest challenge or problem was to overcome?
Hall: I think one of the secrets of daytime and what keeps you coming back is just what you said. It’s a problem. How do they overcome it? Is it Maison Blanche? Is it possession? Is it the devil? Is it Kristen? Whatever it is, it’s putting these characters who you know and want to be together in a situation where they’re not together and you get to watch them find their way back together.
Hogestyn: With all that said, all those stories she just talked about is because they were written. I think the hardest obstacles were sometimes with some of the stories that I don’t know were written a way that played to our strengths. And that is where some of the waters got muddied, and the reason why they were being pulled apart didn’t wash with the audience. That’s my own take on it. It’s all within the story. The biggest obstacles for the actors were when the storylines — and there were several — that were supposed to be tearing them apart or keeping them apart, the audience wasn’t buying, because that idea, that thought, wasn’t strong enough for them. We can feel it, too, playing it, and then [a new writer] would come in with a fresh idea and we’re off and running again and doing something that’s a little more realistic. I always found that to be the hardest, but that’s the reality of soap opera.
Digest: Do you have a favorite storyline that you played together?
Hogestyn: Because of the freshness of daytime drama, it was the first story when I first came on board. That was foolproof. A beginning, middle and an end; it all wrapped up in five months time, basically. And then the exorcism storyline was really, really, really challenging. Deidre had a great time playing that!
Hall: I had so much fun!
Hogestyn: It was hard for a lot of us because it was the subject material, really! It was seriously heavy. The priest on the set and blessing the sets and blessing you and doing all this stuff and they were really taking the desecration very seriously, as they should.
Hall: [Former Head Writer] Jim Reilly’s big claim to fame, although he had so many magnificent things that he did, that was a twist that was on the page. He set it up so well. You never saw it coming! You never knew it was Marlena. You knew there was something terrible going on in town and what could it be and up until midnight on Christmas Eve when she levitated, you had no idea what was going on!
Hogestyn: Right, and even though John and Marlena weren’t together, John was the paranormal priest, and it was still a love story. It was good versus evil when it’s the hero and the heroine. He’s trying to save her at all costs. That was the love story and it was a different love story. It was powerful.
Hall: I also got to be mean, so that’s the nice change for me!
Digest: Do you have a favorite John and Marlena wedding?
Hall: Wow. I still think ’99.
Hogestyn: Well that was the Penthouse Grill.
Hall: Was that the funny headdress that everybody talks about?
Hogestyn: No, that was ’86 as Roman. It was a Sputnik headpiece. The little pearl kept sticking me in the eye! In ’99, they made me sing that Frank Sinatra song, “The Way You Look Tonight,” and I can’t sing at all! But that was a light wedding and there were no big surprises in there.
Hall: Yeah, I liked that one. Mostly because I liked the dress!
Digest: What does it mean to you that the fans are still so invested in this duo?
Hall: I think we’ve had good luck with writers who keep giving us relevant storylines and in that is their continual love and devotion, and it’s what women want and are hungry for and are lonely for and don’t get to have in their lives quite often. And they get to turn on their TV set and as much as we change, we’re still here.
Hogestyn: As much as the world changes, there’s one thing that doesn’t change. There’s a playfulness, there’s affection on both parts that combine and make them stronger. I think John and Marlena epitomize sacrifice to each other and overcoming all of the obstacles that every couple faces every single day. We don’t take that responsibility lightly. I think it’s a good signal to send out there to the audience.