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ICYMI John McCook and Jennifer Gareis interview

Soap Opera Digest: Donna and Eric are together again! What was your initial reaction to learning this surprising news?

Jennifer Gareis: I was thrilled that Brad [Bell, executive producer/head writer] decided to revisit Donna and Eric. I had so much fun working with John back in the day and while we’ve had scenes together since, we never really had another story together, so the chance to play this now is such a gift.

John McCook: Yes. What I really like about it is seeing how the characters have changed since. Donna was just a girl then. In a way, she put herself first and now, she is a woman who thinks of others ahead of herself.

Digest: How did you find out about the re-pairing of your characters after all these years? Did Brad tell you or did you read it in the script?

McCook: Oh, no. We turned the page, they pulled the sheet back and we were just as surprised as anyone.

Gareis: It was a surprise to everybody.

McCook: No, he didn’t discuss it with us. He does what his dad [William J. Bell, creator/former executive producer/former head writer] used to do. He’ll say, “We’ve got big stuff coming for you,” and then he doesn’t tell you anything, and I think he enjoys that. When we started this whole ED thing, the big story last year, now that I did know was coming because Brad brought me upstairs and asked me about it but otherwise no, he doesn’t really tell us.

Digest: Is there anything you can tease coming up?

Gareis: I don’t know anything. I really don’t.

McCook: No, I don’t either. But I can say it’s nice having Eric and Donna spending time back in the same house together with the family. We just want to make sure we don’t redo anything, and I also would like to have them take a step forward in their relationship, whatever that may be, so we’ll see what that is.

Gareis: Yes. It has been great fun getting to revisit their love story.

McCook: Great fun!

Digest: As actors, were you able to slip back into your rhythms from years ago?

McCook: Absolutely. It was effortless.  I mean, it is different, of course, after all this time, but it’s also easy with Jennifer.

Gareis: I feel the same way. Working with John is so comfortable. He always puts you at ease.

Digest: Jen, does Donna see a real future with Eric now?

Gareis: I believe she does. She has already said that Eric is the love of her life and even though she was not a fan of Quinn, she did not want to sabotage their marriage. She stepped back because all she wanted was for Eric to be happy.

McCook: It would have been so easy to go the other way, but that shows you how much Donna has matured. I’ve said that before. When Donna came back to town [in 2006] she was a girl but now she is a compassionate, intelligent, caring woman.

Gareis: Aw, thank you, John. Yes, I like to think so, too.

Digest: Not to jump ahead, but do you think this pair might ever remarry?

Gareis: You never know.

McCook: Apparently, Eric does like being married.

(They both laugh.)

Digest: What are your favorite Eric/Donna moments through the years?

Gareis: I always go back to the wedding, but it’s not during the actual wedding. It’s the dance that we did after all the actors left for the day. It was just a moment, but it was almost so real that it was scary. It was so lovely.

McCook: I remember. It’s when you feel so deeply and you get that feeling where it almost feels real. You trick your mind as an actor and when you get those little glimpses of, “Oh, my God. That felt just like reality. That was really weird.” We spend so much time as actors trying to talk ourselves into what’s real when we know it isn’t, and then when we have a moment like that that’s so romantic, we go there and we feel that. We are in love for a moment.

Gareis: Yes.

McCook: Honestly, I also loved the scenes in the hideaway, as well. They were naughty but they were also fun and loving, and I feel like they had some real layers there, as well.

Digest: Okay, we have to ask. How could you say “pickleball” so often without just cracking up?

McCook: It became quite the metaphor, didn’t it? It’s a good code word for fooling around at the club. I was actually very aware of pickleball. My son-in-law’s parents both play pickleball every week. It is a real thing. It’s just a funny word, isn’t it? Pickleball.

(Gareis laughs.)

McCook: See? And it smacks of double entendre. It’s funny, and that’s his excuse for using it. It’s just funny.

Gareis: It’s pretty crazy. Honestly, I didn’t think of the sexual innuendo until several weeks into it when somebody mentioned it to me, and I was like, “I can’t believe I missed that!” I don’t know, sometimes my mind just doesn’t think that way.

McCook: And sometimes it does.

Gareis (laughs): True, but this particular time, it didn’t. I felt so silly

Digest: Describe Brooke and Pam’s reaction to the reunion, and what do you think Stephanie would say?

Gareis: Well, Brooke is, “I told you so,” Pam is, “It’s about time,” and Stephanie’s would be, “I’m going to come back and kill you.”

McCook (laughs): Well, Brooke is a romantic, so she loves it. She’s tickled and giddy about it. Pam thinks this is just swell. I don’t think she’s going to give Donna as bad a time as she did before. Not at all. And you’re right — Stephanie would want to kill Donna. She’d want to kill Eric, too, so there you go. Thank God, Stephanie doesn’t have to see this.

Digest: Do either of you think the day may come when Donna’s portrait is above the Forrester fireplace?

Gareis: Oh, John, you had a good idea for this.

McCook: I did and I’m not sure I want to give it away. I want to keep it close to the vest for now, but it’s pretty cool.

Gareis: It is.

Digest: Okay, that’s fine, but please keep us posted.

McCook: Oh, we will.

Digest: In line with that, with Quinn out of the picture, does this mean Donna is the new Forrester matriarch?

McCook: That word sounds so old.

Gareis: It does. How about grande dame?

McCook: No, that sounds old, too. But I do think that Eric absolutely feels that Donna is ready for that role.

Gareis: I like lady of the house or lady of the manor.

McCook: That’s right. I like that.

Gareis: Yes, that sounds a little more pleasing.

McCook: And you know what? I would really like to see Donna rise to that occasion and play that part.

Digest: With Eric and Donna on a good path, we would be remiss if we did not congratulate you, John, on your Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor.

Gareis: Yay! I gave him my congratulations ahead of time. I had fingers crossed, toes crossed, legs crossed, arms crossed, everything was crossed.

Digest: Where do you keep it, John?

McCook: It’s on the mantel in the living room, and I’m still surprised when I see it. It’s still fun. I suppose one day it won’t be a surprise to me anymore, but it still is now.

Gareis: I’m so glad I was able to be there because initially, I was supposed to be going to [Lake] Tahoe that weekend but my husband ended up having too much work to do so we stayed in town. I’m so glad it worked out that I could see it happen in person.

McCook: It was absolutely thrilling to see the cast and crew so excited for me. I love doing this show, and I love doing it with the people I love as family. I am so happy where I am in my life.

Digest: You both did a great job with the ED storyline, which resulted in John’s win.

McCook: When Brad told that story, with Donna able to remind Eric of what it felt like to be excited again, I was thrilled when they brought Donna into the story.

Gareis: Me, too. I don’t think Donna ever gave up hope of reuniting with Eric.

McCook: I was afraid that it was going to go to comedy, and I did not want it to go there. But we were careful about that. And I thought if they were just going to use Donna for that [part of the] story, that would be wasteful. But I think when they saw that, they were looking toward the future and I think that maybe opened up this possibility. At least I hope it did, and so now we’re going much further with it and I’m very happy to see that.

Gareis: I think they’re off to a great start.

Digest: It appears Donna and Eric have finally come full circle.

Gareis: I think it was inevitable.

McCook: Same thing. Inevitable.