Return Engagement: Arianne Zucker

Terms Of Service: 1998-2006, 2008-17, 2019-present

When you left, did you think it was for good? “The first time, yes, but not the second time. The second time, I thought, ‘I’m going, but never say never.’ The first time I left, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to act anymore. I was looking at going back into vet school, because that’s what I originally wanted to do.”

Did it mean something to you that the show never opted to recast Nicole? “That’s very nice and very sweet, and I’m very appreciative. But that also depends on the necessity of the character, and that’s the advantage of not being a major family player. They need certain characters on-screen because of who they are and who their parents are on the show. I can definitely understand why characters get recast for those reasons.” Did you get your same dressing room when you came back? “No. I’ve moved all over the place. But you know what? You can make a home anywhere. That’s my concept.”

What was the biggest difference you noticed when you returned to the show? “The biggest changes were probably in myself, because the studio is a well-oiled machine. You may have different writers or producers, but structurally and everything else, it’s the same smell, the same set, the same everything. There is some comfort to that. But each person comes back with different emotions and a different respect for where they’ve been. I think when I came back both times, I was a different person because of my growth.”

What was the hardest part about get- ting back into the groove at DAYS? “Maybe the memorizing of the lines. But it’s like riding a bike. I’ve been there for so long that it’s like I never left.”

Was it easy for you to “find” the character again? “Each time I’ve come back, I’ve tried to bring new life to the character. When I came back the last time, I did have a little bit of a conversation with [the show’s brass]. Where was the transition from Point A to Point B after the fire? Was Nicole damaged? Does she have issues? Is she freaked out when someone lights a match? I did ask those questions to see if we were on the same page because I hadn’t worked with Ron [Carlivati, head writer], really. And then there was a huge surprise — ‘You’re not really Nicole. You’re Kristen.’ ”

Would you say that was the most challenging return for you, when you played Kristen pretending to be Nicole? “Yes. I didn’t know that right away, which was smart on their part, because they wanted me to still play Nicole and be emotional and vulnerable. If I had known it was really Kristen, in the back of my head, it would have adjusted my work.” Who were you most excited to see again? “I really wasn’t gone that long last time. It was almost like a hiatus for a minute, then back to business as usual in storyline with Eric and Brady. The first time I was gone a year and a half. I came back with Pookie [the dog] and was working with John Aniston [Victor] again. Our characters were still married. I was excited to wreak havoc and, of course, do it with John because I absolutely adore him. He had a big influence on me as an actor when I was younger. I was looking forward to seeing what they were going to do with our characters.”

Had you kept in touch with anyone in your absence? “Not as much the first time. The second time I was in touch with Eric [Martsolf, Brady] and Greg [Vaughan, Eric]. I didn’t know Stacy [Haiduk, Kristen] quite as well as I do now, but I did have her come to my Christmas party.”

What did it mean to you to have your comeback so warmly received by the fans? “That makes me so happy because I really work hard at trying to find the heart of this character. It’s noted that they really love my character and the silly things I do. It means a lot.”

Is there anything else that stands out about your two comebacks? “It’s always nice when the crew welcomes you back. We have such a good time together working on set. They really are such a big part of who I am and what I do when I come to work.”