It’s been an emotional year for DAYS’s Lani, who dealt with her brother being shot by her boyfriend, then found herself embroiled in a paternity drama that ended with her baby’s death. For her portrayer, Sal Stowers, getting to sink her teeth into that kind of material has been a dream come true, but, she muses, “It kind of came out of nowhere.”
The actress believes that her uptick in screen time was a result of showing the powers-that-be that she was ready for more. “My heart is so giving and I open up very freely,” she says. “I’m very vulnerable and I’m not afraid of that. With Kyler [Pettis, ex-Theo], during that whole shooting storyline, I really connected with him. I looked at him as my little brother and went there. I allowed myself to go there with James Reynolds [Abe], and I think that was the first time that the producers and the writers saw that, and it makes me feel that they trusted me to carry an even deeper story.”
Which was Lani’s recent baby heartbreak. “I had such gratitude,” she says of playing out the storyline. “That feeling of, ‘Wow, okay, I’m really supposed to be doing this. This is what I love to do.’ You want to do these meaty stories where you’re playing with your emotional life, and you’re experiencing dark sides of life.”
Cry Baby: Stowers appreciates that the show has given her emotional material to play, like Lani’s recent heartbreak over losing her child.
It’s a far cry from her first run on the show, which lasted a matter of months. “I started in April of 2015 and I was done in that December, so it was such a quick little period there,” she says. “Originally I tested with Galen Gering [Rafe], and I guess I was brought on for his maybe love interest at the time. I wasn’t really sure. That’s kind of where they were going and then it switched. It was just mostly detective work, so there wasn’t any substance to Lani yet. And then I left.”
Getting the call to return in 2016 was completely unexpected, she reports. “I got a text from Marnie [Saitta, casting director], and she basically was like, ‘Hey, the show wants you back. Are you around?’ and I was completely shocked! I hadn’t heard anything for five or six months and I was just like, ‘Oh, wow, okay!’ ” It was important to Stowers to put more of a stamp on her alter ego this time around. “Coming back, I was like, ‘Okay, I have to change Lani. I need to make her powerful and more opinionated and strong, and not afraid to voice who she is or how she feels.’ I just jumped in to give everything and not only prove to myself, but prove to the show that I’m thankful for the job and I’m thankful for them giving me another run at this and really developing Lani into this amazing woman that she is. It was definitely a big switch from when I first got on the show until I came back.”
The actress recently inked a new deal with the soap — “I’m there for the next year, which I’m really excited about!” Stowers enthuses — but reveals that she had to give it some thought before signing on the dotted line. “It was something that I wasn’t sure about, because in the past few months, Lani’s just kind of been in and out,” she explains. “There hasn’t really been that much going on from January until now, honestly, but I knew there was unfinished business with Lani. I was like, ‘I have to be able to bring her to the light. She can’t just grieve and be sad; I have to be able to allow her to overcome this and live the life that she deserves.’ I wanted to give her more. When Greg [Meng, co-executive producer] reached out, I knew in my heart it was meant for me to stay.”
A big change, for her, however, was the departure of bestie Marci Miller (Abigail), but the two are very close away from the set. “We are together all the time!” Stowers shares. “I will see her on Saturday. Marci, I can cry just speaking about her. She has become one of my best friends. Her spirit, her aura, everything about her is so pure and authentic. We didn’t become friends instantly, it kind of just happened. Marci always brought her lunch — she never ate at the commissary. I think it kind of stemmed from there. We started eating lunch together in one of our rooms or outside, and then we went through this phase where we started making lunch for each other. We kind of had that routine going for a while because our schedules were pretty much the same. We just connected so deeply on another level. We both have these old souls and we think so much alike. We talk every day and we just recently started doing volunteer work together. I love that girl!”
Simply The Bests: Stowers misses BFF Marci Miller (Abigail), but the duo still spends a lot of time together.
Stowers marvels at the path her life has taken since being named the season 9 winner of AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL in 2008. “I still get recognized from that show and it blows my mind. I think I look so different! I was 21!” she says. “It was before a lot of the changes happened over there: I had the original judges with Twiggy and Nigel Barker, and it was still on The CW. That was such a fun time in my life. It was so unexpected. I never thought in a million years I would have gotten on that show or win that show. Sometimes I have to sit down and think, ‘Wow, I’ve really come so far from trying to make the transition from modeling to really being seen as an actress.’ I remember my manager at the time told me, ‘You want to walk into these auditions and be seen as an actress. Do the work. Have depth to you.’ He really did help me with how I carried myself into my acting career. It’s wonderful. I’ll never ever forget that time in my life.”
Stowers recently connected with ANTM host Tyra Banks. “I reached out and told her, ‘You changed my life and thank you for giving me that opportunity.’ She follows me on my social media, so I know she’s watching, and I know she’s proud of all of the girls who continued to go on with their careers after that show. It’s definitely a proud moment that people still acknowledge it.”
With another year ahead in Salem, the actress is excited about what’s next. “I know something great is gonna come from it,” she smiles. “I’m here and I’m willing to do the work.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: January 20
Hails From: Los Angeles, CA
She’s Taken: Stowers has a beau, John-Michael. “He is truly, truly wonderful,” she raves. “He is a really great guy. It’s coming up on a year, but we were friends prior.”
CHILDREN’s Play: Stowers first entered the soap scene as Cassandra Foster on the online reboot of ALL MY CHILDREN in 2013.
On-Set Pals: “I feel like I’m always with Lamon [Archey, Eli] and with Casey [Moss, JJ]. It’s pretty much the boys now that Marci’s gone. And Maria, our acting coach on set, I’m always with her!”
All At Once: “I just binge-watched all of THE HANDMAID’S TALE. Oh, my God, that show is insane! It’s so good. Elizabeth Moss and the entire cast are just absolutely wonderful. It’s incredible.”
Spreading The Love: “There’s a song from Ben Howard that I really love that is always on repeat. It’s called ‘Only Love’. It is one of my favorite songs. It makes me feel good. I don’t understand how people listen to music that spreads hate and negativity. I just can’t do that.”
Follow Me: On Twitter, she’s @SalStowers; on Instagram, salstowers
My Guy: “He is truly, truly wonderful,” says Stowers of beau John-Michael.
Oh, What A Night!
Stowers presented at this year’s Daytime Emmys for the first time, and had a ball. “That was so much fun!” she enthuses. “I’m so thankful for that experience, and being able to present with Greg Vaughan [Eric]. I absolutely adore him. I was so nervous walking out on that stage — my legs were shaking — and I kept telling myself, ‘Just look at Greg. Focus on Greg. Don’t look at anybody else.’ I’ll never forget being out there at that moment and reading that we won [for Outstanding Drama Series Directing Team]. For a moment, I thought we were being punked because I was like, ‘Wait, this never happens!’ It’s really quick, but there’s a moment where I just look out into the audience and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if this is right,’ but I just kind of went for it. I said our show and it was such an amazing feeling and moment. I think I screamed up there!” Seeing on-screen dad James Reynolds win later in the night was a joy, as well. “Oh, I cried!” Stowers admits. “In my heart, I knew he was going to win. I’ve had the privilege of working with him and seeing how he works, and he works so hard. The moment I heard that little like ‘Ja—,’ just the beginning of his name, I went crazy! He truly, truly deserved that. And how thankful he was. The entire night was just so beautiful to watch. To see his smile and his whole face light up was just truly wonderful. I’m so happy for him!”
Directing The Moment: Stowers, with Greg Vaughan (Eric), was thrilled to award DAYS’s directing team with an Emmy win.
Check out our new podcast, Dishing With Digest!