Interview

ICYMI: Suzanne Rogers Interview

After decades of playing a paragon of virtue and all things warm and sunny on DAYS, Suzanne Rogers was apprehensive when the show’s brass warned her that her character would be shifting over to the dark side. “I wasn’t thrilled when I was told they were going to bring the alcohol storyline back. I didn’t want to do it,” states Rogers emphatically, having already gone down that dismal route in the late ’70s.

It wasn’t Roger’s reluctance to forsake her post as a Salem do-gooder. “No, no,” she assures. “It’s hard to play something that is not in your realm, that you don’t know a hell of a lot about. I mean, before, I went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and I sat there and I listened. It was hard. It’s squeamish. You have such empathy for the people who are alcoholics, and so you want to do them justice. But you know it’s going to take a toll on you, and that’s basically what it did. I couldn’t let it drop.”

Rogers was also covered about being able to handle such a heavy plot now. “When you’re younger, you think you can do anything,” she notes. “When you get older, you don’t know. When you haven’t had a major meaty storyline in quite awhile you don’t know. So you go, ‘Oh, my God. Do I still have it? Can I still dig down in there and get something and make it believable and make it truthful?’ That’s kind of what was going on for me.

This time around, Maggie’s plight has delivered more of the same drama, albeit tenfold. The character’s initial battle with the bottle was quickly dropped in 1978 — “The audience at the time wasn’t thrilled about it, so they cut it short,” notes Rogers — but her current situation and the repercussions to follow remain front and center and infinitely more intense. While Rogers acknowledges that hard-hitting plots like these are “beneficial” in that they educate the audience, she points out that they’re also “earth-shafting and gut-wrenching for the person has to play it. You know when you finish that day’s work, you’ve got another script that you’ve got to learn for the next day. You know it’s going and going. So that’s hard, that’s tricky. It’s much easier being a helpful person. It’s much easier giving advice and being there to help someone else.”

The 2019 version of Maggie’s descent, coupled with stress from a major turn in Rogers’s personal life, wreaked havoc on the actress. “For months, I was just a basket case,” admits Rogers, who handles the care of her elderly mother, Edna. “My mom came out to California and was here [living with me] for 23 years. It was just last year that I had to put her in a board and care facility, because it was too much to take care of myself. It was hard going through that stage. It’s not easy.”

Rogers reveals that her mother has dementia. “The doctors say she has Alzheimer’s, but I don’t know, somehow saying dementia isn’t as bad as Alzheimer’s,” she admits. “I think she knows who I am, but she’s also mad. She’s still got that fire in her. She’s mad that she can’t do what she wants to do or be where she wants to be. So that’s what’s hard on me, because I know she’s where she has to be.

“Between that and the storyline that I was doing I was a mess,” continues Rogers candidly. “I lost a lot of weight. And then I found out that I have diverticulitis, which is another thing that comes from stress. It kind of all took its toll on me, and it all happened in the same year.”

Fortunately, things have gotten better on the personal front. “I’ve calmed down into a place where I don’t take what’s happened to my mom and what I had to do so personally,” says Rogers. “Because I was thinking I was such a terrible daughter for doing what I had to do.”

Yet, story-wise, things remain dire for Maggie, whose spiral seems destined to get worse before it begins getting better. However, the silver lining in it all could be another Daytime Emmy nomination for Rogers, who won Best Supporting Actress honors in 1979 during Maggie’s first battle with alcoholism.“I don’t think about that,” contends Rogers. “Over the years, I’ve learned that I just want to do good work. I know that sounds so cliché, but I’d rather the audience be moved than me be thinking about awards. I just want them to be moved by it and maybe to learn something. I’m hoping that’s what happens. I don’t want it to be so gut-wrenching that they turn away, but I want them to really open their eyes and go, ‘Wow! It could happen to anybody.’ ”

Rogers easily ranks this hard-hitting storyline as the most difficult she’s ever had to tackle, “because of when it hit and all the extenuating circumstances,” she says, add- ing that it’s among her most memorable coupled with a few others. “My ‘red shoes’ storyline was fabulous. That was my favorite, because it was uplifting. Maggie was a cripple and if she could walk, then … That was the hope. Mickey dangled the red shoes saying, ‘If you get well, we’re going to go out dancing.’ The end result was a joyful storyline.”

The actress also cites Maggie’s bout with myasthenia gravis that was written in during her own battle with the neuromuscular disease. “The audience wrote in and said, ‘What is the matter?’ because my face had swollen,” recounts Rogers. “They call it moon face, because you’re on steroids. Obviously, that was hard. I said, ‘Please, if we’re going to do this, let’s make sure it has a good ending, because I intend to get well. I intend to beat this.’ That was a wonderful storyline.”

Since then, meaty plots have been scarce, aside from Maggie’s surprise coupling with and marriage to crime boss Victor Kiriakis, portrayed by fellow vet John Aniston. But the fact that the DAYS audience has whole- heartedly embraced the twosome has truly warmed Rogers’s heart. “People tend to throw people away after they hit 50. They think they don’t have any joy in their life or any love in their life and that they’re all bickering, and that’s not the case. I mean, yes, it’s a roller coaster, we know that, and that kind of is what I try to show in [Victor and Maggie’s] relationship.”

Aside from her rapport with Aniston and TV daughter Linsey Godfrey (Sarah), who she adores, Rogers also cherishes the bond she’s formed with two other DAYS actors: Eric Martsolf (Brady) and Paul Telfer (Xander). “They are just a joy,” smiles Rogers. “Eric has a name for me. He calls me ‘Suzy Q’. My grandmother used to call me ‘Suzy Q’. I just love that, and I dearly love Eric. We work the same way. We work really hard at home. I trust him, and I think he trusts me. It’s just an eye-to-eye thing. Sometimes you just click with people, and that’s the way I click with Paul, too. We started having so many scenes together, and they were good. I thought, ‘This is kind of nice.’ We just have this rapport, and I love it. And they’re young guys, and they’re not bad to look at, let me tell ya! I’m never going to be too old to look,” she adds with a giggle.

Clearly more relaxed after a tumultuous year on- and off-screen, Rogers finds peace in her quiet time at home or being out and about with friends. “I have a stationary bike. I like to pedal on that,” she says. “But I basically like to cook. I love to cook. I have too many cookbooks. When I get [a recipe] I dog-ear it, and then, of course, I go back and I go, ‘No, I don’t think I want to do that.’ I also like being with my friends. We go out to lunch about once or twice a week. I have friends that I’ve had since I first started on the show that are not actors or actresses. The fella that did my makeup for my test on DAYS, Bob Ostermann, and his wife, Charlene, are dear friends. Charlene and I will go out for lunch. It’s a good thing. It’s nice to have people that are down-to-earth and you know you can count on. That is what life is really all about. Friends are valuable.”

Just The Facts

Birthday: July 9

Hails From: Midland, MD

Otherwise Known As: Born Suzanne Crumpler, Rogers changed her name, “because people were having a hard time pronouncing it, spelling it, saying it … and I got tired of repeating it,” she says, noting that she chose Rogers because she loved Ginger Rogers and was so fond of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. “I had done THE KRAFT MUSIC HALL in New York, and the guest hosts that week were Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. They were so extremely sweet to me.”

Let’s Eat: “I love Italian food. I love ravioli. I love lasagna. I love meat. I love pepperoni pizza … I’m not picky.”

Screen Time: “My favorite show is THE VOICE. I love it. I love Blake [Shelton]. I love the different hosts. They’re all very good. And I love seeing the [contestants’] backstory, how this person got to where they are.”

Social Stance: “I guess I’m kind of backward in that area, and I’m private. Social media, I think, is invasive. If somebody doesn’t like me, I don’t want to see it. Why would I bring that into my realm? I’d rather just have my head in the clouds and go about my business.”

Book Aspirations: “I’ve started to write things down about how I started out, what I was like when I was little, and why I got into dancing. Some people had said, ‘Why don’t you write this down?’ So I’m just doing it. I mean, the fact that I spent two years with Katharine Hepburn … I did a musical [Coco, about the life of Coco Chanel] with her. How many people can say that?”

In the Kitchen: “I make lemon squares and bring them to the studio for birthdays. I love Brunswick stew. It’s a southern stew that I make.”

The Welcome Wagon

Suzanne Rogers may not offer advice to newcomers to DAYS, but she always makes a special effort to reach out to them. “When I see new person, I go up to them, introduce myself, and welcome them to the show,” says Rogers. “I remember that I was scared to death my first day. I was holding my breath. I had only done nighttime, theater and commercials, then, all of a sudden, I was doing a daytime soap. I was doing a medium I had never watched. I didn’t know what a daytime soap was. I didn’t know if it was the same. I just know back then, for me, I was scared to death.” Fortunately somebody reached out to Rogers on her first day, and it’s a moment she’ll never forget. “The first person that said something nice to me was Bill Hayes [Doug],” recounts Rogers. “He said, ‘I saw you in the Shubert Theatre. You were wonderful. You were fabulous. Welcome to DAYS.’ I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. It was so nice. I exhaled,” she adds with a laugh. “That’s what I think everybody needs. They need to know they are welcomed.”

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