ICYMI Marci Miller Interview

Wrapping up her maternity leave and returning to work after giving birth to her first child, daughter Willett James Matteson, evoked mixed feelings from DAYS’s Marci Miller. “I couldn’t get home fast enough, and I still feel that way,” says the new mom. “There’s something inside of you, something on a cellular level, that wants to be there and wants to witness and wants to nurture. It was really hard at first. And your body is still healing and getting back to its normal size. You’re so exhausted because you’re waking up every three hours. Your brain is trying to remember how to learn lines again. All of a sudden it’s, ‘I’m supposed to care about what I look like again? I’ve got to be brushing my teeth and washing my face every day?’ I forgot about that stuff.”

The normally casual, no-frills Miller still remembers peering into the DAYS makeup room mirror after getting done up for the first time post-maternity leave. “It was nice to be reminded that I actually enjoy, from time to time, putting on some makeup and getting a little dressed up,” she recounts. “That there is that me, too. And I felt pretty, because the two months leading up to that, I don’t think I even looked in the mirror. There was a moment where I was like, ‘Oh, okay. You’re still you.’ Then my focus was to go home to my husband and be like, ‘Check me out. My hair’s done. Wow. I’m back.’ ”

The path to parenthood was an unexpected adventure for Miller and her husband, Ryan Matteson. “We were not trying to get pregnant,” shares the actress. “It was all a beautiful surprise for us. Then we had a conversation, and we absolutely wanted to have this child.” However, the timing was completely off. “We had moved to Colorado because of the pandemic,” explains Miller. “Downtown [Los Angeles] was getting weird, because of the riots and everything. We have a ton of friends from college and family in Colorado. It just felt like a nice change of pace, and we’re kind of always up for new adventures. I was still working for DAYS, so the plan was to do this long-distance, back-and-forth thing. I was going to stay with Sal [Stowers, Lani] when I was working, then I’d go home. We had made all of these plans, not thinking we were going to be pregnant.”

Yet the couple agreed to the atypical situation “because we knew we wanted to have the baby in Colorado,” notes Miller, who traveled back and forth in between doctor appointments in the Rocky Mountain state and work commitments in California. “Logistically, it was a little bit of a nightmare just to be available to the show, and I was away from Ryan quite a bit, when I wanted him to be around to witness the whole experience — whether she was kicking or my back was hurting.”

Things ended happily — and remarkably easily — on March 13, 2021, when Miller delivered a beautiful baby girl. “I had a dream labor experience,” she recalls. “I pushed for 13 minutes and she was here. It was just crazy. My mother had very easy, very quick deliveries, and so did my grandmother. I had a feeling that I probably would as well, but I was mentally prepared to be pushing and agonizing and exhausted after hours of work. It was pretty sweet, pretty beautiful.”

So, too, was having Matteson and only Matteson by her side during their child’s birth. “It was partially because it was Covid, but we wanted it that way,” confides Miller. “We didn’t even tell people we were going into labor. So much of life with Instagram and this industry gets shared with everybody, which is a beautiful thing. But it was actually nice to be able to share this just between the two of us. Afterward, we sent a picture of us and Willett to our families and were like, ‘Hey, she’s here.’ I don’t think our moms loved that particularly, but it was nice for us.”

The family of three has since moved back to California to accommodate Miller’s daytime return. “I did not want any of us to be apart,” she maintains. “I grew up with a single parent, and she did a beautiful job, but I wanted us all to be together as much as possible during this time. It’s sacred time.” Plus, having her husband in the same state has an added bonus: He stays home and cares for Willett when Miller is at DAYS. “It’s the best,” she raves. “He’s always been a natural with children. He’s very attentive, aware and nurturing. I am so grateful, because I think my daughter has the best dad in the world. I did not grow up with my father. I feel so grateful as a parent now to be able to look at my partner and say, ‘Wow, I am ending the cycle of something.’ Ryan does a beautiful job.”

All and all, Miller finds motherhood “so much more fun than I ever expected it to be. I have a great baby, which I get told over and over again,” she announces proudly. “She’s very curious. She rarely fusses or cries. She’s very even-keeled and mild-tempered and so much fun to be around. It’s all super-profound. You’re watching somebody witness simplicities that you’ve overlooked for the first time. She sees the sky for the first time. She hears music for the first time. She sees art for the first time. We took her to the Immersive Van Gogh [Exhibit in Los Angeles] and got to watch her experience something she’d never ever seen anything like before in her life. Sometimes that’s something as big as the Van Gogh thing; sometimes it’s a sweet potato. It’s not an entirely dissimilar response to either one.”

In between witnessing her daughter’s firsts, Miller’s been acclimating to life back at DAYS. “Oh, man. I’m really enjoying it,” she says, noting that she’s been welcomed back “very warmly. It means so much to have my co-workers asking for pictures and genuinely being interested in seeing and hearing about my kid; whether it’s veterans, people I work with every day or the younger [cast].”

All of those new mom experiences have affected Miller’s attitude toward the Abigail she’s brought back to Salem. “I’ve told a variety of stories with children on the show, but then you have children and are like, ‘Oh. I don’t think I knew what I was talking about,’ ” the actress muses. “I came back apologizing for the part Abby [thought she] had taken in Gwen’s miscarriage and all these types of things. The information lands differently now. There is a mental and biological shift that has taken place. I interpret things so differently.”

One thing Miller hasn’t changed her thoughts about, however, is Chad and Abigail, who recently reunited after months apart. “I’m always going to root for Chad and Abby, as long as it doesn’t get too crazy,” declares Miller. “I’m always going to want them to be together and happy. I wish we could slow down and just really watch them work things out and get into some of the details [of why they happened]. But I’m always grateful to get to work with Billy [Flynn, Chad], regardless of what [the storyline is] looking like.”

What’s In A Name?

Coming up with the perfect name for their baby girl was a process for Miller and her husband. “She was here for two days before we decided on a name,” recounts Miller. “We were staring at her in the hospital, thinking, ‘Jeez, what are you? I don’t know. Blink once if you like this. Blink twice if you don’t.’ ”

Miller had some ideas. “I was really keen on the Frankie, Stevie, Billie, Bobbie kind of names,” she notes. “Willie was one of them. My husband liked that, but he didn’t want it to be her formal name. Then he said, ‘Willett,’ which happens to be a bourbon. We lived in Louisville, Kentucky, and got pretty hip to the bourbon culture there. So there was that tiny little thing, and it’s an old-school English male name, traditionally. The more we said it, we really liked it. We were like, ‘Okay. Willett.’ Aside from it being unique and classic, I wanted something that bridged gender norms a little bit. I didn’t want it to be a typically female name. I want her to be able to fill out a work application and write Will Matteson, and them not know she’s a woman. I want her to have anonymity in that way, and she has options. She can go by Willett. She can go by Will. She can go by Willie.”

When it came to a middle name, the couple stuck with tradition. “She’s a fourth generation firstborn with the middle name James,” points out Miller. “Her dad’s middle name is James, her grandfather and great-grandfather.”

Just The Facts:

Birthday: August 2

Hails From: North Liberty, IN

Our Girl: Miller and husband Ryan Matteson welcomed Willett James on March 13, 2021.

What’s App? “I downloaded Solid Starts, because my kid is starting to eat real food. It’s all about food and recipes. I love to cook, so I’ve really been looking forward to sharing that with my kid. Ironically, she doesn’t seem to give two hoots about it yet, but I look forward to feeding her in a way that she loves and is nutritious.”

TV Time: “I’m late to the party on THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. Rachel Brosnahan is so talented. I’m in awe of her timing and abilities. I love that show. The acting is great, the clothes are great, it has everything.”

Retail Therapy: “Target is my new best friend. I’m always buying random stuff for babies on their website. There are things I should have registered for that I didn’t. I thought I could have gotten by with one swaddle. No, you need like 14 swaddles. I thought a handful of bibs was enough. No, you need 20,000 bibs and spoons, dishes and more clothes. I feel like I’m always playing catch-up.”

Sister, Sister: “My sister’s name is Kayla. She was named after Kayla Brady on DAYS.” As for her daytime sibling, Emily O’Brien (Gwen), Miller says, “Gwen’s an enemy who’s done horrendous things to Abby, but I love Emily. She’s got such a great sense of humor. She’s so smart, beautiful and super-talented. She does stunning work. I sit across from her with my mouth open. She’s just incredible. I really adore her.”