Five years ago on Days of Our Lives, Xander Cook Kiriakis was one of the most feared men in Salem as he locked Nicole and Eric in a heating vent, nearly killing them both. He’s returned from the dead, forced Nicole into marriage, and went along with Kristen’s Nicole mask game. Through it all, actor Paul Telfer has taken this character from vile villain to a man with a heart — thanks to one night with a woman that would become the love of his life.
Xander has now endeared himself to DAYS fans who can’t get enough of Victor’s black sheep nephew now regretting some of the terrible things he did. Now, all he has done over the last year has come to light and Xander is about to undergo more changes. Taking the character in a whole new direction was something Telfer was both nervous and excited about the last time he made his Salem return.
Paul Telfer Creates A Brand-New Xander
“It was part of the calculus in making the decision to go on contract,” Telfer tells Soap Hub. “I had been recurring for so long and it had been this mutually relationship beneficial relationship for days and for me. But when I came back on contract, it’s kind of like you jump off the diving board and hope there’s water in the pool for you to land in because you just never know what they’re going to write for you.
“Then I was a little surprised that the storyline straight away was that, oh he falls in love and he becomes an adoptive sort of secret father to Eric’s child and oh, this is not what I was expecting at all.”
One thing the actor made sure to do was to keep Xander’s edge, but also embrace how the audience feels about characters who are not straight villains.
Days of Our Lives Fans Love The Change
“I was kind of worried about changing Xander too much so he’d lose some of his edge or they would soften him a way that wouldn’t be sympathetic — like they’d soften him in a way and not make him romantic so it was very tricky,” Paul Telfer says. “I do think they have done a good job over the span of the last year holding onto the craziness and the unpredictability of Xander, but still allowing good intentions and good motives to infiltrate his otherwise terrible personality.
“What I wasn’t expecting was a lot of those fans of the show — they really did go for it. They took on board that he had softened with Maggie, and those [scenes] were coming from a real place that made sense for this insecure black sheep character.”
Now that the big Days of Our Lives baby switch secret is out there — as well as the fact that Xander was willing to let Kristen (Stacy Haiduk) steal Sarah’s embryo — Xander is free to be his full self. He no longer has to pretend to be good, but that time pretending has changed him.
Rebuilding The Character
“The big shift now I think is allowing him to still be himself and not be a goody-two-shoes, still be occasionally villainous, but not be downright psychotic. So, we thread this needle now of not necessarily a good person but also isn’t trying to fake being a good person anymore,” the actor explains.
“How I have been playing him for the last year or so was he was not faking being good, he was trying to be good, it wasn’t coming to him naturally, it was an effort. Because of that, he made all these mistakes.”
One thing that is changing for Xander as he embarks on an apology tour for how much he hurt people — especially Sarah and Maggie — with the baby switch debacle is he finally gets a buddy. And that buddy looks to be Jack, a character who has had to make a few apology tours himself over the years.
“Xander makes his first real friend in Salem,” Paul Telfer says. “Cause he’s never really had a buddy before. He’s gone after girls, but for the most part, he’s awful to all the men on the show except for Victor.
“Every other dude on the show he just dismisses and hates and every dude on the show he just wants to beat them or shoot them or giving everybody dirty looks. Now, he will have like a bromance, someone he can sit and chat with about his problems, which is nice because normal people have friends. It humanizes him without declawing him.”
Humanizing Xander has certainly proven to be a popular decision by the DAYS writers, but Soap Hub certainly never wants to see him lose that unpredictable edge that tells us anything can happen with this popular and unpredictable character. Days of our Lives (DOOL) airs weekdays on NBC. Check your local listings for airtimes.