INTERVIEW

Martha Madison Offers Insight Into Her Alter Ego

How has Belle changed since you first started playing her? “When I first came in, I don’t think Belle knew herself very well yet. Maybe that was me as the actress playing her. She was really torn between Philip and Shawn and didn’t really know what the right path was for her. She went through a few career choices, like any twentysomething. She was really searching for who she was going to be. When I came back to the show in 2015, she was getting a divorce, had just finished law school, and had really stepped into her power — her own personal power. Now she’s much more grounded and confident. She’s very intelligent and able to make big decisions quickly.”

Who is Belle’s role model? “Her mother and father are both role models for her. She’s a very morally centered person, who wants to help the people that she loves. That’s what she endeavors to do every day through her personal life and her career. She’s learned that from her parents.”

Belle has a couple of nicknames. Do you have a favorite? “There’s Tinkerbell and Izzy B. I think Tink is my favorite. It sounds like the kind of nickname you would give a little sister or a little baby. It’s a good reminder that she’s the baby of the family.”

How did you like her career turn to become a lawyer? “Lucky for me, I’d watched a lot of LAW & ORDER. I was very happy, because I like to see intelligent, powerful women characters on TV. I was happy that I got to step into that and play that part. We need more of that on television. I also like all of the lingo and that it allows me to work with a lot of different people. I’m pretty sure Belle’s represented everyone in Salem at one point. So that’s a bonus. On soaps, getting to play the doctor, the lawyer, the cop … you get to interact with everybody.”

What are Belle’s strengths and weaknesses? “Her strengths are obviously her commitment to her family, her moral center and her intelligence. Her weaknesses are men. I think that she found love very young, and she’s had some trouble with that over the years. She’s been with Shawn since high school. It would be unusual to not have doubts along the way when you’ve had a relationship from that young.”

Who is Belle’s best friend? “Shawn is her best friend. Mimi was her best friend forever, but then she left [town]. Probably Chloe is her best friend. That’s something I’d love for them to do more of. Honestly, I was just saying this the other day. I love working with Tina Huang, who plays Melinda Trask. I would love if they would make these two women somehow become great friends. So many of us make really great friends at work. Tina’s so smart and so funny. [That on-screen friendship] would be gold. Belle needs some more friend time.”

Who is Belle’s archenemy? “Jan Spears, without question. Jan takes the word nemesis to a whole new level. She’s not just trying to ruin Belle’s life, she’s tried to kill her multiple times. Jan makes for great drama, but also she’s such a loose cannon that Belle has a hard time getting her arms around it, so to speak. Once Belle thinks she knows how to handle her, Jan does something completely off the wall like morph herself into Belle to have sex with her husband. Who would consider that as an option?”

Who is the love of Belle’s life? “Shawn is the love of Belle’s life. She’s loved him from high school. Also, she’s such a family girl, that I would say a close second would be her dad [John].”

What life event or events do you think most affected Belle? “The loss of her father, years ago, followed by the near loss of her mother and that whole debacle — that whole DNR story that we did a few years ago. It brought a lot of family dynamics to the surface. Obviously, having Claire and going through her mental disorder was probably pretty life-changing, and her relationships with Shawn and Philip. Her relationship with Shawn has been the most concrete part of her life, but her on-again/off-again relationship with Philip over the years has been the reason that she sometimes has doubts. How can you love two people?”

What do you like and dislike about Belle? “I like everything about Belle. I like that she is really steadfast in her decision-making. I like that she is very morally centered and has a lot of integrity, and that she’s very smart and wants to help people. If I could add anything to her, I’d try to give her a little bit more of a sense of humor, when I can. She can be a very predictable and serious character, where I’d like to see her have a little bit more warmth and humor.”

If you could go back in time and change one decision that Belle has made, what would it be?To not sail away around the world for seven years. To stay in Salem where she belongs. That was a long boat ride.

What were the best and the worst times in Belle’s life? “Best times were both of her weddings to Shawn and the birth of her daughter, even though there was a lot of drama going on at the time. Worst times were when Claire was sent to the mental institution, when Belle had to decide whether or not to pull the plug on her mother, and [going through] her divorce.”

What would you pick as Belle’s signature storyline from your time on the show? “The one I’ll never forget is the whole DNR story we did in 2018, because it was very personal to me and gave us a lot of great work. We got a lot of acknowledgment for it. That’s a period of time on DAYS that I won’t ever forget.”

What comment or question do you get the most from fans about Belle?
“ ‘When is she coming back?’ Over the years [when I’ve been off the show], it’s always been, ‘When are you coming back? When are you going to have story? When are we going to see more of you?’ That’s always been the question when people see me or talk to me in person. I can assure them all there’s really great stuff coming. So stay tuned.”

Me Vs. Her

What are the biggest personality differences between you and Belle? “I’m probably a little more laid-back than Belle. She can be a bit rigid at times. Although I have a controlling side to me when it comes to my work, in my regular life I am pretty go with the flow. I don’t see a lot of that in Belle. She’s a planner. I bet she lives by a calendar.”

Who has a better wardrobe? “One hundred percent, Belle. She’s always rocking some really nice designer dress, and she accessorizes very well. I, on the other hand, am in T-shirts and jeans every day. If I have earrings in, that’s a special occasion.”

Who has a better house? “Does Belle have a house? I’m going to say I have a better house. I have a pretty nice house. I know that Belle and Shawn will be more front and center when they actually have more than just a little living room [in Hope’s house]. I think if I moved into my mother-in-law’s house, who was no longer living there, I would probably redecorate. I actually just moved into my house in April of last year, and I’m still decorating it. I actually love to decorate. It’s one of my favorite things to do; room by room, corner by corner. I love it.”

What character/actor from Belle’s past would you like to see back on the show? “I would love it if Farah [Fath] would come back, and Mimi was back on the canvas. She’s always such fun and really spices things up. I absolutely love Farah and would love to work with her again. There’s story they could do a lot with there, if she wanted to come back.”

How is your relationship with Deidre Hall different from Belle’s with Marlena? “They’re not that different. Belle and Martha both love and respect Marlena and Deidre. They’re very maternal to both of us. I’m sure that Belle and Marlena spend more time together than Deidre and I do, but my love is the same. I have [gone to Deidre for advice] many, many times. I’ve gone to her with a lot of things in my life, especially in my career, when I’ve needed a mom to confide in. She is a great friend and mentor, and someone I love very much.”

How is your relationship with Drake Hogestyn different from Belle’s with John? “Belle really leans on John for a lot of guidance and support. She also likes to guide and support him, too. Drake and I have a very fun relationship. He’s very funny, outgoing and loves to tell stories. He’s adorable. I love hanging out with Drake, and I love working with him. He’s always so prepared and so ready to go.”

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