Throughout its history, Days of our Lives has had two actors win the coveted award of Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series. First, MacDonald Carey won the statuette (twice, in fact, in 1974 and 1975) and later, James Reynolds (Abe) took home the gold in 2018. Now, Thaao Penghlis (Tony) is up for the award at this year’s show.
Exclusive Interview With Thaao Penghlis
Soap Hub spoke to the actor, who has played Tony DiMera and his doppelganger cousin Andre on and off since the early 1980s. Prior to coming to Salem, Penghlis played the part of Victor Cassadine on General Hospital.
Soap Hub: Congratulations on your nomination! What’s on your reel?
Thaao Penghlis: Thank you. The material I chose for my reel was the first episode I did when I came back to the show last summer. The scenes were with Ari [Zucker, Nicole/ex-Kristen] and Eric Martsolf [Brady].
Wasn’t Tony presumed dead?
Yes. I had a line – ‘coming back from the dead isn’t an easy task.’ During the scene, there’s this Machiavellian [thing] going on with Tony. I must give credit to Irene [Ancheta] in our publicity department. She pointed out that I had this [particular] scene in the middle of the episode that had life and colors to it. You can see a lot of tapes that have over-the-top moments and tears. I thought if actors are watching this, then they’ll see the transitions I was making.
Did you get feedback on the scenes?
I sent them to my teacher in Australia. She’s tough. She said how did you make those transitions? She was so impressed she sent it to an agent. I think it’s a good piece, different from anything I’ve ever sent in before. Lauren [Koslow, Kate] saw the reel too and loved it.
You know you’re the only actor who has played both a DiMera on Days of our Lives and a Cassadine on General Hospital!
Yes. Both families were created by [late soap opera head writer] Pat Falken Smith. [GH producer] Gloria Monty took to me. She was so kind to me. She felt betrayed when I left. Other Cassadines were killed off, but not Victor. The plan was for me to stay. But Pat left and took me to DAYS…
You eventually returned to GH as Victor in 2014?
Yes. Maura West [Ava, GH] said to me I’m dying to work with you when I was there. Nancy Lee Grahn [Alexis], whom I’d worked with on Santa Barbara [where he played Micah] said ‘Give him to me! I want to work with Thaao again!’ But it ended up being a short visit because Victor was killed off. They were supposed to bring me back but then I went back to DAYS.
This might not work with social-distancing, but how would you feel about a luncheon with all the nominees with the lead actors — just like Susan Flannery [ex-Stephanie, The Bold and the Beautiful] started up a gathering years ago with the Lead Actress noms? Previous year’s winner pays!
Yes. It’d be a nice exchange. Just like they do at the Academy [for the Oscars].
What was it like being on GH in 1981 when the show’s popularity skyrocketed?
It was fascinating. I’d done a mini-series and then there was an actors’ strike. I had gone to GH and tested for the role of Tony [which went to Andre Landzaat]. Then, they hired John [Colicos] as Mikkos. Gloria said she wanted a third actor — Tony’s brother. I loved working with [love interest] Sharon [Wyatt, ex-Tiffany]. We had a great time together.”
Can you settle a debate? Tony was not Stefano’s son, but Renee (Philece Sampler) was his daughter? And Andre was a cousin who had plastic surgery to make himself look like Tony?
Yes. Andre wanted to emulate Tony because he was so popular, so he had plastic surgery to look like Tony. Andre and Tony speak differently. I made Andre more of a klutz, but Tony was the original.
Days of our Lives (DOOL) airs weekdays on NBC. Check your local listings for airtimes.