INTERVIEW

Quick Take With Susan Seaforth Hayes

What were your thoughts when you first heard about this story with Doug? “I wasn’t told a lot. I was told it was going to be serious, of Doug’s mind going, which is frightening to Julie. As an actress, I enjoy having plenty to say about it. It’s given Bill [Hayes, Doug, her husband] some interesting stuff to play and he has enjoyed that a lot. At 96, he’s doing a lot and loving doing it. And he’s really cute, too! Speaking as a legacy character — I’m the oldest legacy character still standing — it’s pleasant to have story that is not based on, ‘Remember when?’ or ‘You were very useful and very interesting then and now we can look back.’ Instead of being taken back, we’re going forward with a story, which is delightful. I appreciate the nostalgia that we represent, but it’s nice to be representing more than nostalgia and to be involved in the here and now and hopefully the future, as well.”

How is Julie coping with the idea that Doug could have dementia? “Well, her initial reaction is denial. Denial, denial, denial. He doesn’t have dementia. Her initial experience is, ‘I refuse to believe that that’s happening to him,’ which is where you start but not necessarily where you finish. And of course, being an older person married to an older person, you have that fear and that frenzy. You’re not just denying that someone has dementia or may be slipping, what you’re denying is it can’t be over, the love story can’t be over. In short, it puts everything good behind you and everything in front of you is the darkness, the other side of fortune. Fortune has two faces, the good side and the bad side. Between the two of them, they got over the bad side a long time ago and have had a wonderful, long line of happiness, and you don’t want to see it end.”

This is an emotional story. What does it mean to you to still be in the mix? “It’s emotionally gratifying, it’s physically challenging, it’s part of being alive and being an actor and being lucky enough to still work at 78 and 96. It’s pretty cool. When Bill came on the show [in 1970], he always brought more energy to the screen than most of the cast. He brought a joie de vivre, which he still has. When we toast each other with morning orange juice, he always says, ‘To life,’ and he’s there. He’s in it. He’s alive in every way…. Yesterday I was walking through the Farmers Market in Los Angeles with my foster sister, masked, but I was wearing sort of a kimono and a lot of beads and earrings. Two ladies who are well under 40, maybe under 30, saw me go by and said, ‘Oh, hello, we just wanted you to know that we love the show.’ I was thrilled. No matter what actors say, they’re thrilled to be recognized, remembered and saluted, and that’s a rarity when you’re 78 and 96 years old. Pretty nice.” Do you have any message to the fans about what’s to come? “It’s been really good plotting by the head writer, Ron Carlivati. We’ve had more work than we’ve had in a long time, which has only been enlivening.”

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