This interview was originally published in the August 9, 2011 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
DAYS OF OUR LIVES’s Eric Martsolf talks about turning 40 and the big changes in Salem
“I used to have a problem with change,” Eric Martsolf candidly admits. “It was a very difficult thing for me to grasp. When I toured with a Broadway show, I stayed with it until the end. I joined PASSIONS and I stayed with that until the final episode. When I get accustomed to something, I ride that train into the last track.”
The birth of Martsolf’s twin sons, Mason and Chase, on April 7, 2006 prompted him to alter his attitude. “When the kids came along, my whole world was uprooted,” he reflects. “They change every day. It forced me to look at change in an entirely different way. You have to embrace it or you will drive yourself crazy.”
The biggest change currently taking place in Martsolf’s life is DAYS’s upcoming relaunch on September 26. In June, Head Writer Dena Higley was replaced by Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, JR. Soon after, Greg Meng and Noel Maxam were appointed co-executive producers when Gary Tomlin was let go. “Our mood on the set is forge ahead,” reveals Martsolf. “We are making some drastic changes, most of them fan-driven. But the more things change, the more they remain the same. I think you’re going to find a throwback to the good times of yesteryear as well.”
The actor is thrilled that the shift in the show will usher in the return of Drake Hogestyn as Brady Black’s father, John. “When I started on the show three years ago, I was very much looking forward to working with Drake,” he recalls. But a few months after Martsolf’s debut, Hogestyn left Salem with Deidre Hall (Marlena). “So the fact that he’s coming back is a very good thing. I hope they explore our relationship because Brady has definitely been through some changes since John left town.”
When Martsolf joined DAYS in October 2008, he had just come off a six-year run on PASSIONS, which had been canceled earlier that year by DIRECTV. “My first initial feeling at getting the job was gratefulness,” he states, “because it was at a time in our economy when jobs were at a minimum. I had a family that needed cereal put on the table, so I was grateful. My second feeling was, ‘I’m gonna be a recast [Kyle Lowder previously played the role from 2000-05].’ This was my second time out of the gate as a recast. A recast can always be interesting territory. Sometimes they’re embraced and sometimes they are not. I had some good fortune [replacing Travis Schuldt as] Ethan Winthrop and I’ve also had what I believe to be good fortune here with Brady.’
One constant during Martsolf’s tenure in daytime has been working with Galen Gering (Rafe; ex-Luis, PASSIONS). “Galen and I have a very similar journey, at least in the last decade,” says Martsolf. “We’ve coincidentally gone through the same types of experiences at the same time.” Besides both having sons under the age of 10, “we watched the show that we had both worked so hard to develop to be ripped out from under us, and then we were basically hired on the same show, within the same week, under the same circumstances. Those kinds of similar events in your lives gives you a special kind of relationship that you don’t really have with anyone else who isn’t on your timeline.”
As DAYS prepares for its relaunch, Martsolf hopes that Brady retains the dark edge that he acquired last year. “I look at Brady as he’s sort of the Dark Knight in a way. I watched Batman Begins. They pretty much turned Batman into the Dark Knight. The response was, ‘We like this Batman a little more than the traditional one because he’s a little darker.’ His desires are the same, and his good nature is still intact as far as fighting crime, but he’s more of a loose cannon. That’s kind of what happened to Brady. I think audiences have always responded to the characters who take a wrong path for the right reason, so to speak. I think people gravitate toward the unknown. The great thing about soaps is that you love someone or hate him. It doesn’t mater. You’re trying to elicit a reaction, no matter what. Some of the most hated men of daytime are also the most beloved. That’s just the way it works.”
On the personal front, Martsolf reached a pivotal milestone in July. “I turned 40,” he reveals. “It really made me think about my blessings and what I have to be thankful for. As a steadily working actor for almost 10 years, I realize that I’m in a small minority of actors out there who have the ability to do what they love doing and make a living at it. You hear everyone talking about ‘the mid-life crisis’ and people ask, ‘Are you going to buy a red Porsche?’ I’m happy to say I haven’t had a mid-life crisis and I’m not getting a Porsche. If anything, it’s been an eye-opener in a healthy way. It puts so many things in perspective and makes me appreciate things a little bit more than when I was 20. When I was 20, I thought a 40-year-old should retire in Florida and play slot machines for the rest of his life!” he smiles. “But now that I’m 40, as far as the way I feel, it’s like I’m 20. I’m ready to hang with the twentysomethings and play slot machines!”
Just the Facts
Birthday: July 27
Birthplace: Harrisburg, PA
Home, Sweet Home: Martsolf and wife Lisa, who married on October 10, 2003, are parents to twin boys, Mason and Chase, 5.
Other Soap Role: PASSIONS’s Ethan Winthrop, 2002-08
Bird In The Hand: While flying, Martsolf enjoys playing Angry Birds on his smart phone. “I have a college degree and I’m trying to blow up flying birds.”
Favorite TV Programs Growing Up: “The shows I recall watching were THE LOVE BOAT, FANTASY ISLAND and DALLAS.”
Twitter Time: “I send tweets [from @ericmartsolf] occasionally. It’s a good way to keep in touch.”
Did You Know?
-Before replacing Travis Schuldt as Ethan in 2002, Martsolf appeared on PASSIONS as a day player.
-He once performed with a barbershop quartet.
-Before deciding to pursue acting as a career in 1993, Martsolf considered becoming a lawyer.