For more than two decades, Deidre Hall's work as Salem's hopelessly romantic shrink has kept viewers tuned in and in love. Now, meet the woman behind Marlena -- and find out what's ahead for them both! Every once in a while, an actor creates a character who is so special that it is impossible to imagine anyone else stepping into the role. Certainly, that has been the case for Deidre Hall.
Since 1976, the alumna of THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS has filled the elegant pumps of DAYS' Dr Marlena Evans. And through the heroine's triumphs and tribulations, her portrayer has crafted one of the most beloved characters on daytime TV (or simply TV period). Her work as Marlena has won her a steady stream of accolades, including three Daytime Emmy nominations and a prestigious American Women In Radio And Television award. "Marlena really is the evolution of every woman in the baby boom," says Hall modestly. "In the '70s she was a woman struggling to find a place for herself in the world careerwise. Then in the '80s, she was involving herself in a relationship to balance family and career."
Today, as Hall reinvents Marlena for the millennium, her audience is eager to see where her (and, in a way, their own) challenges lie. "In the '90s," Hall observes, "she has been struggling as a single parent, being a successful therapist and an occasionally successful parent, which happens when you have teenagers."
Now that Marlena finally has gotten back John - the love of her life - in her life it is her young-adult children who are causing her worry. She witnessed the shattering kiss between her married stepdaughter, Carrie, and Mike on the Fourth of July. And her fragile relationship with twins Eric and Sami has been strained since she chose to spend her life with John rather than with their father, Roman.
This week, in an effort to mend the rifts in their family, Marlena invites her three older children to a dinner, which does not go smoothly. Not only is Marlena concerned about Carrie's decision to accept a hospital position that will keep her temptingly close to Mike, but she is troubled that Sami has become engaged to Franco and has accused Lucas of child abuse. "She can't really see Sami's [faults] because of her love," maintains Hall. She understands in a part of her brain that Sami has problems, and she's not to be trusted. She has her own agenda. But Marlena is a parent, and you love your children anyway - from the moment that they get put in your arms.
*A Real-Life Blessing*
Hall clearly understands tile profound love of a mother After struggling to come pregnant in real life, she and her husband, best-selling author and businessman Dr Steve Sohmer, surprised the world when they had their two children - David (in 1992) and Tully (in 1995) - through a surrogate. "I know that many people don't know what surrogacy is, and they only have Baby M as a reference, she acknowledges. "You have no idea what surrogacy is until you've sat in my rocker and rocked my child and looked at his face. To really express how extraordinary this experience is…"
Hall's voice traits off temporarily, before she continues, her tone deep with emotion. "My life was so enriched, so dramatically changed with the birth of my children," she says. I held Robin [the surrogate mother] in my arms and tried to thank her for this unbelievable gift."
To help people understand their experience, Hall and Sohmer wrote and produced the 1995 TV movie Never Say Never; The Deidre Hall Story, with Hall in the title role It was hard to put words to such deeply emotional issues, she recalls. "Could we have done [the movie] better? Maybe. But we did the best that we could. It was television.
*Getting Her Priorities In Order*
In many ways, Hall's personal journey closely parallels Marlena's. Once an intense career woman, Hall amassed a resume' that boasts starting roles in 11 TV movies. And back in 1986, she became the first actress to pull double duty by appearing simultaneously on DAYS and the primetime drama OUR HOUSE, the first series to win a Viewers For Quality Television Seal Of Approval. All the while she juggled theater gigs, business ventures (such as the jewelry line she launched in 1996) and charity work. But though Hall recently resigned with DAYS until the year 2000, she has begun backing away from some of her extracurricular activities. "I'm a mom first" she says. "DAYS is a priority. But the only out-side venture that I'm involved in is a Christmas ornament."
Hall pauses, then laughs impishly. "That sounds strange, doesn't it? Actually, my husband's company has recently produced six Christmas ornaments that are designed with a [digital] computer chip for sound. I recorded 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, and you can sit there, close your eyes and say, 'She's in the room; I can hear her reading that story to her children.' (The ornaments--replicas of TVs and jukeboxes-- will be available later this year through QVC and Hall's fan club.)
Other than that project, Hall's main focus right now is her boys, she says. "I don't do anything other than carpool, take my two children to school, and sit in the sandbox.
Hall's determination to be completely involved in her kids' lives often means turning their home into a gathering spot for the boys' friends. For instance, last October, she invited 25 5-year-olds over for Halloween - which also happens to be her birthday - and redecorated so that the house appeared haunted. Then she let her keen sense of humor show, having her assistant dress as a witch and dare the crowd to take a piece of candy from a table. "If someone tried, she'd shoot them with a squirt gun," Hall laughs. The actress is especially concerned about being involved in her sons' education. When David recently graduated from kindergarten, his teacher sent home a booklet with two pictures of him-one taken when he began school and one on the day of his graduation. "I looked at it and wept'" Hall admits. "He had changed so much. It wasn't his height or the shape of his face. It was how he'd gained confidence, gained a passion for learning."
When Hall's younger son, Tully, went to preschool for the first tine a month ago, Mom spent three hours sitting in the back of a classroom, she says, "to make sure he made the transition well."
*A New Attitude*
A two time topper of the best-dressed list and one of TV Guide's picks for the most beautiful women on the small screen, Hall credits her children with giving her a more relaxed approach to life. In the past she confides, "I felt this responsibility to be presentable. If I left the house, I had to be prepared to be met by my fans, and I'd have to dress up a little more." All that changed when Hall had her kids. "I don't wear dry clean clothes anymore; I'm lucky if I wear anything that's not off the top of a hamper in the morning, " she laughs, sounding surprisingly like any other working mom. "I don't wear make-up, I don't comb my hair. I carpool and talk to the other moms.
"That's how I am in my life now. I always felt that I would disappoint fans if I didn't look like Marlena or treat them like Marlena would treat somebody she had just met. But what I got to learn about the world is that people are forgiving, accepting, and understanding about that sort of thing."
*A Happy Ending with John?*
While Hall only recently may have gained this insight regarding her personal life, she long has understood what fans have liked - and disliked - about Marlena. "They loved the possession storyline," she says. "And when Roman showed up again, they were frustrated with my inability to make a choice [between him and John]. But that was to be expected."
Part of fans' frustration was no doubt their fear that Marlena and John would break up. Since Drake Hogestyn was cast opposite Hall in 1986, their coupling has redefined the term "super" "There is a chemistry there, but I can't tell you what it is," she muses. "Every year for the fans' luncheon, we do a montage of past episodes. And when I sit down to screen the tapes, I find myself thinking, 'I see why people love them so much.'
"Drake and I like each other a lot" she adds. "I have enormous respect for him as a performer, as a husband, as a parent and I think those feelings come across on-camera. I feel safe with him, and that al-lows you to be more daring as an actor."
Of course, now that John and Marlena finally are together, rumors have arisen that be may stray into Hope's arms this summer Can anything really break up Salem's supercouple again? "Better chemistry," Hall answers promptly. "That's a fact of life. For years, you would have gone to war if anybody had said that Carrie could love somebody other than Austin. But turn the page. Everybody now wants Mike and Carrie together."
At the moment few fans want to turn the page and see Marlena without John. And Hall herself won't downplay the duos bond "John and Marlena are profoundly well suited for each other" she says. I can't imagine anybody coming along for either of us that would make a better couple."
*Gentlemen Prefer the Blonde*
Popular Marlena has spent more time "courting" than judge Judy! Here's a rundown of the fellows in whom she has inspired love and affection, and/or lust and obsession.
Don Craig: This DA, and Marlena were Salem's yuppie poster pair before there even were yuppies! But the two-career couple were beset by his wicked stepdaughter, Donna, and they grew distant -- and divorced -- after their son died of SIDS.
Roman Brady: This cop saved Marlena from the Salem Strangler, then never let her out of his own arms again. Their love lasted until he returned from the dead and found that her heart had been stolen by the man she wrongly believed was him, of all people!
Richard Cates: This police chief was an old friend of Roman's -- and wanted to be more to Marlena. But when Richard's involvement in a drug ring came to light, his chances of winning over his crush were slimmed considerably.
John Black: When Marlena tried to help this amnesiac recover his memory, they discovered that he was Roman, or so they thought. By the time the real Roman returned, the newly "remarried" Marlena was in love with faux Ro.....John.
Orpheus: This ISA agent-turned-master criminal couldn't stop his feelings from growing whenever he was around a certain shrink. So, the villain abducted Marlena and held her captive on his island, where she played Mary Poppins to his kids.
Stefano Dimera: Forget that the Phoenix tried to kill Marlena -- he has! His determination to ruin the Brady bunch brought the object of his obsession to his attention. Now he is consumed bu their love/hate relationship: He adores her; she abhors him.
Roman again: When thsi supercop returned from the dead terminally ill, even though Marlena was about to wed John, she let her second hubby think that he always had been her favorite. But after he started getting better, he got clued in to the truth.
A matter of character: "Over the last 22 years, we've had very good writers [at DAYS] -- different from time to time, but very good -- who have given Marlena more grit or more tenderness or yellow eyes, " Hall laughs. "They've made her interesting in different ways, and it's been just a joy to be surprised by her and to play her."
Storyline influence: While Hall tries to stay away from suggesting DAYS plots, she unwittingly did bring into being one character. "Ann Marcus [Days' headwriter in the mid-1970s] asked some of the actors what we've always wanted to play," Hall remembers. "I said that I'd like to work with my [real life] twin sister. Ann said, 'Your what?' And the Samantha character was born."
He's the one: As far back as when Drake Hogestyn (John) was auditioning for DAYS, Hall had a feeling that they would click. "I screen-tested with a number of men," she recalls, "and there was no question who was right for it. Drake was dynamic, charismatic, and he photographed like a dream. He certainly got my vote."
*It's A Bird!
It's A Plane!
Deidre Hall recalls her early days as a "super" star.
Before the actress began dispensing advice as DAYS' Marlena, she was busting bad guys on the ELECTRA-WOMAN AND DYNA Girl segments of the late-1970s Saturday-morning kids' series THE KROFFT SUPER SHOW. "It was all so silly," she says. But Hall came away from the gig with more than amusing memories. While playing Electra-Woman, she met her best friend, Jane Elliot who guest-starred as the heroine's foe, Cleopatra (and turned up on DAYS a decade later as the villainous Anjelica). Recalls Hall: [The producers] wouldn't pay to air condition our sage, but we were right next to the Donny and Marie Osmond set, which had to be kept cold because they had an ice-skating rink. So, we would sneak over and open their doors to cool down our stage. And [Elliot] would bring her ice skates and ice-skate during lunch! I thought she was hilarious." While Hall fondly remembers her early days as half of a "supercouple," the show got bad reviews from some fans: her young sons "They watched about six minutes of an epi-sode and began to cry," she reports "They don't mind seeing Superman tied to the train tacks or Spider-Man dipped in oil, but it's not funny when it happens to Mom, even if she has boots and a superhero cape on."