DOOL’s James Reynolds Back in Salem

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The first to be killed off and the first to return

…and the Brilliance of James E. Reilly’s Diabolical Salem Stalker Storyline!

Plus, What Kept Reynolds Busy While on Hiatus from Days!

We’d all heard the rumors and the buzz.  Days was about to kill off half the cast.  The character of Abe was to be the first. How many would follow? 

For James Reynolds, who played the much beloved Abe Carver, Salem’s police chief on Days of our Lives for upwards of 24 years, news of his character’s imminent demise as the first victim of the Salem Stalker was nothing short of cliff hanger! 

“They told me that the character of Abe was going to be killed. It was certainly shocking.  It was unexpected news, as well,” Reynolds revealed.  “Although, the minute I was called up into Steve Wyman’s office, I pretty much figured that something like that was going to happen.  That was kind of the instantaneous reaction.”

Reynolds went on to explain that Steve Wyman was one of the producers of the show.  “I also have to say that Abe was the first victim of the Salem Slasher, but I was given a good deal of notice. A great deal of notice.  A couple weeks, months.  From that standpoint, I was quite grateful,” he said. “That enabled me to move on relatively quickly.” 

And that’s just what he did.  About a year ago, Reynolds started an educational program for the USO in Germany.  During his hiatus from DOOL, the USO had asked him to revive that program.  So, he went off to Iceland this past March and revived the program there.

“Everybody knows about the entertainment tours that I’ve taken part in now a number of times over the last couple of years,” Reynolds said. “In fact, over the holidays I went to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Everybody knows about those. But also the USO tries to help the dependents of the men and women who are in the military – the spouses and the children. This program that I developed dealt a lot with helping kids stay in school and realize their potential in school, and do the best that they can do.”

Reynolds also devoted a lot of time to the stage.  “We have a theatre, called the Freemont Centre Theatre,” he said.  “Right now I just directed two one acts. They are so successful, I couldn’t be happier.  One is called ‘The Tangle Snarl,’ and the other is ‘Murder Me Once.’ They are both spoofs of the Film Noir detective genre.  I am so happy with them. The reviews have been tremendous. The audiences have been tremendous.  We are extending it through July 25, 2004. (See Soapdom Seeing Stars for ticket info.)  ‘The Tangled Snarl’ stars Mary Beth Evans (Sierra, ATWT) and ‘Murder Me Once’ stars Arianne Zuker (Nicole, DOOL).  A lot of the fans will recognize both.” 

Life for Reynolds, even away from Days, has been extremely busy.  “One of the things I had wanted to do during my time off was sit on a beach in Hawaii or somewhere for three or four weeks, but I never got the chance. The most I could scrape out was four days in Northern California,” Reynolds revealed.  I took the opportunity to share with Reynolds my own desire to visit Hawaii – “you’d love Hawaii if you went,” he said.  “I’d love to get back there.  But it didn’t happen!”

The Brilliance of James Reilly

When Days executive producer, Ken Corday, announced last year that NBC had picked up the show for five more years, he also said that budget cuts were inevitable. What better way to trim the budget than to kill off the popular characters for a time, and not have to pay the actors – then bring everyone back!  A great way to save some bucks during the interim, right?  Wrong.  Reynolds cleared things up. 

“Everybody always thinks it was the budget,” shared Reynolds.  “But it was always the story consideration. Truthfully, and I being one of those people, several of us were under contract for a considerable amount of time that we were off the air.  So, it really wasn’t a budgetary consideration.  It was a story based consideration.” 

Even though a number of the actors were off the air, still being on contract meant they were still getting paid.    “It was just the way the contracts worked and the way the story worked,” said Reynolds.  “When the story started there was no forethought about this person’s contract ends at this date, it was more that this person is someone the audience really cares about and killing that person off will hit home for the audience.”  

The short and sweet of it?  Reynolds on Reilly’s story craft: “It’s amazing.”

When they called him in and first told him that he was going to be killed off, did they give him any indication that it was going to be a temporary thing? 

“No, no, not at all,” he said.  “Far as I was concerned and knew, it was completely permanent,” revealed Reynolds.  Then after a few months, he got a call from DOOL.

“It was Ken Corday. He asked me to come in and sit down and talk, which I really didn’t think anything of.  Ken is a friend of mine, and we’ve had conversations every now and then on any one of a number of things – history and politics and sports. We talk about a lot of different things.  So I didn’t think much about it. I was to be surprised.”

When did the call from Corday come?  “This was in the later part of March. The cast found out about it April 1st.   It was certainly an April surprise.”

Reynolds believes that the other actors were notified about their return to the show around the same time.  But Reynolds was surprised that everyone said yes to the return!  “I think there was some good fortune in there. Certainly some people were available who might not have been if the call came a little bit later.  It worked out very well.”

Did Reynolds think that for some it was a difficult decision to return?  Did anyone have to stop and reconsider and say, well, if I go back to Days, then I can’t pursue a prime time or feature film career?  “I think a lot of people did. It went through my head.  I think it went through a lot of peoples’.  Because once you have accepted that that part is finished, then you have emotionally moved on.  And then, I think there is always the question of saying is that something I want to resurrect?  Everybody comes up with their own answers and their own reasons for saying yes or no.”

Reynolds revealed that as far as he knew, everybody said yes.  “The word is every body is coming back!”

But how does Reynolds think the storyline will play out now?  Old Salem, New Salem, what does he think will happen?  “I have not a clue,” he said.  “That is the real truth. We know a little bit, obviously because we are taping the show and we are ahead and we have some idea of what happens, but as was the case when everybody was killed off, people would sit around the dressing room – the actors and the crew – and would try to figure out what’s going to happen next. Who is responsible for this?  Who is the killer? We had all sorts of different guesses about who the killer was, on to Marlena who turned out to be the one responsible.   The same thing (is happening) now.  Why are we on the island? Who put us on the island?  How did we get to the island?  All of those things.  It’s part of the continuing mystery and part of the brilliance of Jim Reilly in the construction of the story.  One thing I’ve been telling people, it has been a lot of fun working on this so far.  I’ve actually shot about a month’s worth of shows. I’ve had a very good time, as have the people I’m working with who are primarily Josh (Taylor – Roman) and Deidre (Hall – Marlena).  We’re really enjoying ourselves.  We love picking up the next script and seeing where it goes.”

And that makes it fun for the actor.  Reynolds is not going in every day to the same old same old. He is going in to a new challenge every day and that makes it fun.  “Exactly,” Reynolds said.

If he had his wish, what would he like to see happen for Abe? “Gosh, people ask me that all the time. I don’t know. I used to answer that question, and I’ll tell you why I don’t any more. I’ve been so happy with the story for Abe for the last couple of years, and I have a feeling, given Jim Reilly’s propensity for coming up with intricate and interesting story, that whatever is next is going to be fascinating and I really can’t wait for it to happen.  So for me to come up with a story (idea for Abe) is like pouring water into the ocean.  I think there is already enough there.”

Along with returning to Days, Reynolds will continue his directing endeavors.  “Life is more than one thing, and I’ve always felt that as an artist, you have to have a variety of things going on. I am going to direct a play called ‘National Pastime,’ probably at the beginning of next year. It’s about Jackie Robinson and will star my son. So I am looking forward to it.”

Reynolds is having a blast being back on Days.  “It’s so much fun for me,” he continued. “I am so happy about (being back).”

As for the fan support of his character, Reynolds couldn’t be more grateful.  “Almost from the moment that the first fan discovered that Abe was going to be a victim, the fans have been extremely supportive. Right up to today. The real sincere excitement and joy that people have felt at Abe’s return has been nothing short of remarkable.  This last year I have been so heartened by their support. It’s been really amazing.” 

And just as the fans are trying to figure everything out, “we are too!” he said.  Guess we’ll all have to stay tuned to see what happens next!