Since then, Hall has had the Midas touch. Not only has she become an icon of beauty and brains on daytime television through her role of Dr.Marlena Evans, she's also garnered a number of professional awards and has had the opportunity to branch out into primetime series and TV movies as well.
Most important, Hall has made her dream of motherhood and a stable, happy home life a reality. Married to best-selling author and former Columbia Pictures Studios head chief Steve Sohmer for over six years, the actress considers their sons--David Atticus, 5, and Tully Chapin, 3--the greater part of her success. In short, life is good. "It's extraordinary," Hall says. "I send my mother flowers on my birthday!"
Empowerment and expectation are important points of focus. "And a sense of courage too," says Hall. "I tell my boys often: You are so lucky! You're going to be the best at sports. You'll have such great fun, and have the grandest friends. And I believe they come to expect it."
While growing up in Lake Worth, Fla., acting was never one of Hall's goals. "Nobody I knew had aspirations to be an actor in my small town," Hall says. In the 70's, Hall "fell into" the business while attending L.A City College. "I wanted some way to support myself without having a full-time job, she explains. "I started out a product model. I wasn't thin enough to do a lot of fashion, so I did mostly catalogue."
Her agent pointed out that Hall could make more money in commercials, so she "tried it, liked it, and did rather well at it." Soon she was missing Abnormal Psychology class to work as an actress.
Her first acting role was on Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. That's when Hall realized, "I already had a career! I was enjoying life, the business with its challenges. It was fun, exciting and glamorous."
By 1976 she was playing--ironically, given her college studies--a psychiatrist on DAYS. She quickly won the hearts of fans and enjoyed a host of unique storylines. Her twin sister, Andrea, came to Salem in 1977 and stayed for several years. Today Andrea teaches special education children and has been voted Teacher of the Year this year and last. "She's an amazing woman," beams Hall of her twin. "Besides being talented, she's empathic. She has a sense of justice and integrity. I am so impressed with her."
Hall gives an example of what she describes as her sister's "impulsive heroism." Once, Andrea and their mother were in the first car to come upon an accident scene. Before her mom could restrain Andrea, she was struggling--amid leaking gasoline and shattered glass--to pull a woman from the wreckage to safety. While Hall admits that. like her twin she's "powerfully empathic," she denied her own heroism, saying, "I've never been tested." But examples are abundant in her life, though she likely would have a different interpretation. DAYS executive producer Tom Langan recalls Hall's interaction with their mutual attorney and friend who was dying of AIDS.
"She would spoon-feed him," recalls Langan. "Give him backrubs when he had sores all over his body. When her son David was born, the first thing Deidre did was take a picture of the infant and bring it to the room where Mark was dying. He held the picture to his heart."
Hall tended to another friend with AIDS who lived across the street from her and chose not to go into hospice. "She and a friend would go over to him each evening, wake him and feed him," Langan recounts, noting, "This is the same woman who was criticized for not wearing a red ribbon at a public function."
Clearly, heroism is a trait both twins share, but there are some differences in their natures. Hall recalls how an astrologer once told her mom, " 'Imagine your twins raising chickens. If a hawk came to kill the chickens, Andrea would immediately shoo the chickens into the coop. Deidre would get a gun and shoot the hawk.' I think my 'heroism' is focused on fund-raising and speaking as an advocate, especially for children's issues."
Besides sister Andrea, Hall was raised with three other siblings: older brother Terry, who has Down syndrome and works every day at a Goodwill store, and Debbie and Bill, each of whom has two two grown children. "I'm thankful for all my parents have done," says Hall. "They struggled. Mom worked full time and was a full-time parent. She had five children and made certain we each had a special creative outlet. She worked, paid bills, enjoyed her bridge club and friends. Amazing!"
No less amazine is Hall's list of professional accomplishments. In 1986 she was one of the first performers ever to star simultaneously in a daytime and a nighttime series. As Jesse Witherspoon on NBC's Our House, she was nominated for two People's Choice Awards and was nominated two consecutive years as Best Actress by Viewers for Quality Television. She has been named twice by TV Guide as Best Dressed Woman and one of America's 10 Most Beautiful Women. In 1994 Hall was named Best Television Role Model and won the prestigious American Women in Radio and Television Award.
Hall also broke new ground for daytime stars by guesting on such shows as The Tonight Show, Night of a Hundred Stars, a Bob Hope special and 20/20 (on the occasion of the birth of her son by surrogacy). Along with her husband, Steve Sohmer, Hall created the ABC movie Never Say Never: The Deidre Hall Story, for which she was both the star and executive producer. The actress even has her own line of costume jewelry.
When Hall left DAYS in 1987, she did so to concentrate on Our House and other TV projects, including a multi-episode stint on Wiseguy and parts in the comedy TV-movie Take My Daughters, Please; a Columbo TV movie; and the Perry Mason TV movie The Cast of the All-Star Assasin. In 1991, the same year she returned to Salem, Hall starred in the miniseries And the Sea Will Tell, followed by For The Very First Time. In 1993 she starred in Woman on the Ledge, and in 1995 she appeared in the miniseries Op Center, written and produced by Sohmer.
Hall cherishes her work on DAYS and enjoys recalling times when the cast was particularly "galvanized." Foremost in her memory are times with Wayne Northrup (ex-Roman), John de Lancie (ex-Eugene), Thaao Penghlis (ex-Tony), Leann Hunley (ex-Anna) and Arleen Sorkin (ex-Caliope). "That group was the most cerative, hilarious!"
Of course, Hall says with a tinge of melancholy, "I miss him terribly. Wayne was my heart, my friend." Northrup's role of Roman Brady was recast with Josh Taylor. "Josh is working his heart out," says the actress. "We're both working hard. There are dramatic, romantic moments, and I turn to Josh and he's not Wayne with his funny, curly hair. I'm past the pain. Josh has made it easy, made Roman a sensitive loving guy. He's very patient. I gave him a very hard time, a terrible time, and he survived just fine. We teased him mercilessly." Taylor chuckles at the memory of those moments, and points out, "Dee has a very quick mind and a great sense of humor. She really helped to make the transition a lot easier." Has Taylor ever reciprocated, making Hall the brunt of a good-natured joke? "Not really. There was the time she let it be known it was her birthday and intimated that gifts would be gladly accepted. I sent her flowers and on the card wrote many accolades, then added 'P.S. You're semi-funny.' And Drake didn't send flowers. So it was Josh-1, Drake-0." Taylor also notes Hall's professional attitude. "She's always there when the bell rings," he says. "You can count on her." Joseph Mascolo agrees. "She's not onlt a beautiful woman," he adds, "what I personally enjoy about her is that she's always in the moment on the set. She's a pro."
Hall admits she's at the point in her life where there are concerns other than her career that have become priorities, and she would like to spend more time with her family. "My life changed when my boys came into the picture," she explains. "Ambition just fell away. Now priorities are very quickly locked, set and done. They're it." "Recently, Tully was sick and sneezing, so I asked David to get us some Kleenex," hall relates. "He had to get up in the dark, go to the bathroom, turn on the light and get the Kleenex. He did it and said, 'You know what, Momma? Usually I get scared, but when Tully is sick, I'm not so scared.' I told him, 'Love is giving you courage. You love him so much that to help him you're not as afraid of the dark.' "
Husband Steve clearly stirs Hall's heart and spirit, too. "He's such a genius--brilliant! He earned his doctorate at Oxford a couple of years ago, and he's currently working on Twelfth Night, studying and getting papers published. He's a Shakespeare authority." Sohmer is so "lofty," explains Hall, that she expected to handle all of the day-to-day routines with the children. Yet it was Sohmer who taught Tully how to tie his shoes after many failed attempts by Hall. He also found a way to keep the boy from making his 3s and 5s backward. "Steve has a capacity for breaking down information and abstracts into visuals that work," says Hall. "He's a natural educator. And he's so interesting. Outside our kitchen window we have a family of squirrels. Steve can explain where they go when it rains and answer any other questions the boys have."
Each morning Dad is up early making breakfast and dressing the boys, while Hall prepares David's school lunch. After their evening baths, it's not unusual for the youngsters to prod pop into a game of "scary" tag, where Sohmer roars and chases his giggling twosome around.
What Hall loves most about her husband is that "he's funny! It must be his brilliance. He uses words that are both funny and correct. I love listening to him talk, whether it's dinner table talk or a speech."
With every aspect of her life seemingly in balance, Hall is a wonder to many who know her. Her co-star Drake Hogestyn (John) sums it up: "Twenty years speaks for itself with Deidre--unparalleled popularity. Besides her beauty, physically and spiritually, it's her complete understanding of thr ever-changing soap opera genre and her ability to keep her finger on the pulse of the audience that continue to amaze me. Deidre makes others around her step up their performance through her own devotion to her craft. That commitment is succeeded only by her devotion as a wife and mother, and in my book that makes her the total package.