Days of Our Lives celebrates its 55th anniversary today. The NBC serial, created by Irna Phillips and Ted Corday debuted in color on November 8, 1965. The show’s original family, the Hortons, remains a mainstay on the program and they’ve been joined by many other ones over the years including the Kiriakis clan.
Suzanne Rogers: Salem Memories
Suzanne Rogers’ character Maggie is a member of both of these prestigious families. She joined the show in 1973 as Maggie Simmons, a crippled farm girl who took Mickey Horton (John Clarke), who was suffering from amnesia and went by the name ‘Marty Hansen,’ into her home and into her heart.
Over the decades, Rogers, who is the show’s longest-running continuous performer (1973-1984; 1985-2003; 2004-present) has seen DAYS evolve time and time again. “When I first started, the show was half an hour long and we only had 12 cast members,” Rogers tells Soap Hub in this exclusive interview. “Maggie had never been to the big city because she’d been in a car accident when she was a little girl and her parents had been killed.”
Maggie’s life forever changed after she and Mickey, who got his memory back, fell in love and were married. The show went through a big change, too, when it expanded to an hour on April 21, 1975. While it sounds like that meant double the workload, Rogers recalls that going to 60 minutes made things challenging in a different way.
“When we went to an hour, the cast increased from 12 actors to about 30,” Rogers recalls. “I’m sure it was very exciting for the audience. It was quite a jolt for us. When we were half an hour, the scenes were longer. As an hour show, there were more people to get to know. We thought, ‘Oh, boy, we’re going to have more to do,’ but we really didn’t as [there were] more people on the show.”
Rogers won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1978, the inaugural year for the category. She says the show’s pace has quickened over the years. “It became faster [when we went to an hour],” she says, “but nothing’s been faster than the last 10 years!”
In past eras, Days of Our Lives actors would do what was called a “dry block” in the morning when they’d come to the set and start to bring to life the scenes they were going to shoot. Then, there’d be a dress rehearsal, actors would get notes from the producer and director, and then, after a meal break, they’d shoot the show. It wasn’t uncommon for taping to go into the early evening or even later when big group events were written into the show.
Now, realities related to both economics and COVID-19 require that actors work with the greatest of efficiency. Actors show up for work and their temperatures are taken to make sure they don’t have a fever. Masks are worn up until taping commences and then they’re put back on right after.
“You don’t get to see as many people,” laments Rogers, who saw Maggie become a Kiriakis when she married Victor (John Aniston) on November 8, 2011, the show’s 46th anniversary. “You stay in your room. I think everybody is a little more conscientious about health and knowing you can’t go partying all over the place. You get your script down and you work. We enjoy what we do, but it’s serious! It’s your health and the health of the people around you.”
In honor of the show’s anniversary, Rogers wants to give thanks to the show’s loyal viewers. “We have the most devoted fans,” she says. The actress also gives kudos to Ken Corday, executive producer, son of the late Ted and Betty Corday (who took over as executive producer after Ted’s untimely death in 1966). “They have to be smiling down on [Ken] because he has nurtured the show and has kept us going through all the ups and downs.” Days of our Lives (DOOL) airs weekdays on NBC. Check your local listings for airtimes.