With a few months under his belt as the most anticipated Days of our Lives recast in years – he replaced longtime fan favorite, James Scott – Dan Feuerriegel is acclimating to his role as the new EJ DiMera. “The reception has been positive, which I’m very grateful for and really humbling,” says the actor. “It’s been a lot of fun playing this character.”
Dan Feuerriegel Talks Days of our Lives
Feuerriegel took time out of his schedule to discuss with Soap Hub his first U.S. soap experience and weighed in on the DiMera bond, Stefano, playing the heavy, and more.
How did you approach coming into such a pivotal role as a recast?
When I originally auditioned for the part, they did not tell me who it was for. I got “dummy” sides or maybe sides from the past. I’m not entirely sure. When I finally had to test with Ali [Sweeney, Sami Brady DiMera], they did say it was for EJ DiMera. I did a little bit of investigating myself, but not too much because I didn’t want to be beholden to somebody else’s performance. I wanted to bring my own personality to it.
What kind of insight did the show provide about EJ?
They gave me a little bit of advice: This is his relationship with Sami. They’ve been married off and on. They have this kind of strong, aggressive, loving sexual relationship. They wanted all that in there…the producers gave me a brief history [of EJ], but not too much. They wanted me to bring my own flavor to it. If they had to come in when I was shooting and say, “Hey, go in this direction,” or “Go in that direction,” they would. But, for the most part, they let me do my thing and evolve into the character, and just gave me a few little pointers along the way.
Did anyone in the cast help you acclimate?
Everybody helped me. Alison, Thaao [Penghlis, Tony DiMera], Billy [Flynn, Chad DiMera]. Everybody I worked with was really fantastic. I would ask questions. They gave me preparation [tips]. They told me, “This is what it’s going to be like. You can’t really do too much about it except to be as prepared as you possibly can dialogue-wise.” It’s not until you get in there, experience it yourself and see how it all works, that you figure it out yourself.
EJ’s a complex guy with good tendencies and dark tendencies. Do you see him as that and what is he like to portray?
I love playing dark tendencies. I love being the antagonist. It’s so much fun. But there have been a few scenes where I get to be vulnerable and open up as much as EJ is willing to open up to a particular character. I love that as well because it kind of influences and helps explain why he’s so aggressive in certain aspects. It gives the character more depth. He’s kind of in the middle, but depending on the situation will go left or right. That’s what I love about the character, they’re giving me some really meaty cool stuff. It’s not just me being aggressive the whole time. I’ll be aggressive here. I’ll be sweet there. I’ll be manipulative over there. I’ll be vulnerable. It makes for a much more compelling character.
What do you remember about your introduction scene; particularly announcing that “some swine” was moving in on his wife?
It was a fun and nerve-racking day. I was very very nervous. I’d never shot anything before. Well, I had shot my opening scene, but that was literally just a door opening and [me standing there]. I didn’t have to do anything. The next day, we shot my first episode. It just happened so fast and, because it was my first time, I was thinking a million different thoughts. It was a blur to me. Then, to go back and look at it, I was like, “OK. Cool. It did come across how I was planning on it and working on it.” Ali made me feel super comfortable. I loved all those lines, how they set it up, and how it was causing drama for the audience.
Has there been any brotherly bonding off-camera with Thaao and Billy?
Thaao was amazing when we first did scenes together. He’s a veteran. He’s a pro. He made me feel comfortable and we got along because we’re both Australian. We chatted about home, where he’s from, and everything like that. It was really cool. I became friends with Billy a little bit later on because he was already on set when I first went to do scenes with him. So we had a bit of a chat between scenes. But everything is happening so fast that once you’re done, people go off to their own lives. Over time, and just from working with him, it’s been a lot of fun. He’s great. We laugh a lot on set probably much to the dismay and anger of the crew and directors. We laugh a lot during scenes and break the scene, and we have to start again.
Were you introduced to the portrait of Stefano and what it means to everyone in the DiMera family?
Yes. Every time I had to look up at the portrait, they were explaining, “This is what it is. This is what he used to do. And you used to [respond] like this.” It’s a constant kind of historical review. Sometimes I’ll say something, and Ali will be like, “No, it was this.” There’s been so much history with a lot of the characters. They just let me know that Stefano means a great deal to EJ, and he does not want to let him down. That’s the primary motivating factor.
Does having the portrait in the background help during scenes?
Absolutely. Every time you’re in the DiMera mansion, you just look up and you’re like, There he is. There he is watching down on us. It kind of gives you that [feeling of], All right, this is what I’m doing. You can use it in scenes. If you’re talking about him, you can look up, put your arm up and kind of point toward it. It’s a nice little reminder of the history of the show and the character. You can bring that history into it every time you refer to it.
What are you liking best about playing EJ?
I like wearing suits. I’m not much of a suit person. I don’t usually wear them, and so getting the opportunity to wear fantastic clothes is always a benefit. Also, because there are so many episodes and so much dialogue, there’s just so much to explore with the character. It’s great getting new scripts and being like, OK. What am I doing today? It’s literally like that. You’ll have this direction in a storyline, and in the next episode, you’ll be exploring another storyline. That’s a lot of fun.