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Roark Critchlow On His DAYS Return

It’s been 12 years since Roark Critchlow’s last appearance as Dr. Mike Horton on DAYS, but he had no trouble stepping back into his character’s shoes. “It’s funny, because playing the part is not that tough at all,” Critchlow says. “They wrote stuff that made sense about what Mike would think and feel. My first scenes are with Susan [Seaforth Hayes, Julie] and Bill [Hayes, Doug] and I was nervous. You get back in there and you just feel … it’s not like a heavy weight, but it’s a heritage. To be able to work with people who have been at it as well and as long as they have? We actually had a couple of lovely scenes. It was like the people that you knew from 20 years ago or whatever. It was not just the characters going, ‘Oh, hi. Hey, Mike, you’re back. It’s good to see you.’ ‘Oh, it’s great to see you, too.’ It was so genuine, because they were both coming from a human place. It wasn’t just the actors and the characters. I really enjoyed those scenes.”

Critchlow says the offer came to him out of the blue. “I’m not really sure how it evolved,” he admits. “They just contacted my agent. He was like, ‘Hey. They’ve got a couple of episodes. Do you want to go?’ I was like, ‘Hell, yeah. That sounds good.’ I got to see some friends [in L.A.]. Saw the kids. Saw [his ex-wife] Maria, too. It was all good.”

The actor last returned for Alice’s funeral in 2010, following the real-life death of her portrayer, Frances Reid. “I missed all the really fun parts, which would be hanging around with everybody else,” he recalls. “They switched the story up so that I got in a car accident and wound up in the hospital. I got to see Christie Clark [ex-Carrie] and Renee Jones [ex-Lexie], but I didn’t get to do the actual show where everybody was at the service. I felt a little bit, not cheated, but it was too bad. I did three shows maybe, but they shot them all in one day.”

This time around, he got to connect with more of his fellow actors. “It was definitely fun to see Patrika [Darbo, Nancy] and Kevin [Spirtas, Craig], too. We had good talks and caught up with each other. I didn’t get to work with Kevin, but he was on set that day. I got to work with the new Jen [Cady McClain] and Matthew Ashford [Jack], who I hadn’t worked with. He was [on the show] before me. When I was on, it was Mark Valley [ex-Jack]. That was actually kind of fun, because he and I shared a whole bunch of stories. Now we’re both in the same spot in our careers.”

As for developing a connection with on-screen sister McClain, Critchlow notes, “It’s funny with actors, right? It was really fun because we were getting to [know each other]. You have to drop into a level of intimacy that you would normally share in real life with someone you’ve known your whole life. In the soap opera, Jennifer is someone I worked with my whole career there, so it’s virtually the same thing. Her character is going through a lot. She and I dropped in really easily, I felt. It was a very nice, natural care for each other. It wasn’t difficult, that’s for sure. Obviously, Missy [Reeves, ex-Jennifer] is a super-duper person. But you don’t compare people. Cady and I chatted. We got on good. In terms of the story, I thought we pulled it off nicely as being people who’ve known each other their whole lives.”

The actor has kept busy since leaving Salem. “I am the proud holder of over 100 IMDb credits,” he reports. “The best part was Tom Marin in PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. I was the father of a pretty little liar [Hanna, played by DAYS alum Ashley Benson, ex-Abigail]. I went to a party. It was an afternoon picnic thing. I was meeting people there. There was a mom and a daughter. The mom said, ‘You’re Dr. Mike.’ And the daughter said, ‘You’re Hanna’s dad.’ I thought, ‘I’m doing okay here. I’m still viable.’ ”

Though he’s currently based in Canada, “There’s so much work everywhere now. I came back to a land of 10,000 people in the mountains of British Columbia. It’s called Summerland, BC. It’s where my folks live and where I went to high school. I’ve worked for 30 years. It’s been a good career, but it’s been a bit of a journeyman career. Lots of highs. Right now, you can shoot in Toronto, you can shoot in Vancouver. You can shoot in Georgia. There’s working springing up all over because of the Internet and technology. They can shoot things almost everywhere. I came back because mom and dad are getting older. I thought, ‘I’ll come back home, take a break and gather myself.’ ”

Still, he appreciates that DAYS still keeps him in mind for visits. “It was a pleasant surprise, but it’s hard to explain. I’ve been back twice, I think, since I left the show. It is just an unexpected pleasure when it happens.”