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Monday, the cast of Days of Our Lives gathered in a park outside the studio for a photo shoot. The theme was summer fun: picnics, tug of war, volleyball. Unfortunately, due to L.A.ís June Gloom, the sky was grey. Believe it or not, it was cold. The close knit cast didnít complain. Actors played frisbee and whiffle ball while they waited their turn. Actresses posed in sleeveless dresses despite the threat of rain.

I interviewed Alison Sweeney (Sami) about her tour de force performance when baby Grace died, the men in Samiís life, Crystal Chappellís return, and how DOOL has managed to succeed despite numerous obstacles.

Why did you make the unusual decision to play the scenes surrounding Graceís death without any make-up?

First of all, I thought the writing was incredible. They did such an amazing job of telling the story. As a parent (my daughter is five months old), it occurred to me that you wouldnít spend two seconds looking in the mirror to put on make-up. Itís funny because we were taking advantage of the fact that I donít get a lot of sleep because of both [my] jobs so we used all the circles under my eyes to our advantage in the scenes. I just wanted to play it as true as I [could] and make it realistic. I donít know any woman who would put make-up on in a situation like that.

Was it tough to play, since your daughter is about the same age as Grace?

It was certainly heartbreaking. Even my husband was affected by the scene when she writes the insert for the funeral service and is talking about the baby. Itís hard because as a parent I see so many of those moments, things that other people wouldnít know. Because it was so fresh for me, each thing that Sami was listing off is so true. As the Mom of a five month old baby, every word hit home for me.

When is Sami going to find out that her baby is still alive, and is being raised by Nicole?

I donít know. I am looking forward to that more than I can say. Every layer of the storyline is so intricate and so interesting and so emotional. Thatís the next beat to play out is for the truth to come out. I canít wait to find out when that happens. Itís going to be so good. Galen Gering (Rafe) walks by. Especially Galen Gering.

You two are so great together. Sami has had so many leading men over the years Ė

Not that many!

Thatís true. For all her flaws, Sami is the most monogamous character on daytime.

I clarified that with [Co-Executive Producer] Gary Tomlin the other day. I was like, ďJust for the record, Sami is probably the only person in daytime who has never cheated on her significant other. Itís the same three guys over and over.Ē

Gering: Itís constant rotation.

Sami and Rafe (and you and Galen) have such a great rapport. Rafe, from the start, hasnít wanted another woman and has sincerely appreciated Sami for who she is.

Itís different. He basically came in, a total blank slate. Sami was in a different place in her life. Constantly, for the past fifteen years, sheís had something looming over her, something sheís done wrong. Sheís really grown and changed. The whole Grace thing was part of that. Then meeting this guy who really took her for who she was and didnít hold her past against her. It was nice.

But Rafe has yet to see the darker side of Sami.

Itís interesting. Thatís one of the lessons sheís trying to learn from Graceís passing is that the little stuff doesnít matter. I had that scene with Rafe in the hospital when she was wishing there was something she could do to help her daughter. All that crap I pulled, all the things I used to do to get what I wanted is irrelevant. Now I want to save my daughterís life and thereís nothing I can do. Samiís always been someone with a plan and an agenda. Now, in the most important moment of her life thereís nothing she can do. I think that really changes you. Weíve seen a big shift in Samiís goals and who she is. But at heart sheís still Sami. A leopard doesnít change its spots.

So is she going to revert to form when she finds out Nicole stole her baby?

There are no words to describe how angry she is going to be [when the truth comes out.] But it doesnít take away from her loss of Grace. No matter what happens with Sydney, she still had this beautiful girl that she raised and loved and thought of as her own. Whether itís her flesh and blood or not, she will always mourn the loss of this child. There will always be a loss. Getting Sydney back will not take that away.

When the truth comes out, how do you think it will impact Sami and EJís relationship?

Right now she absolutely hates EJ. The interesting thing is that hate is not the opposite of love. So weíll see.

EJ hates her, too. Is he going to attempt DiMera style revenge on Sami?

This week, youíll see that he has a plan to get back at her. Itís interesting because as Nicole has been saying all along, why doesnít he just leave her alone? Either youíre interfering in her life or trying to get revenge. Itís always Sami this and Sami that. Obviously I think EJ isnít just going to let it drop.

Who do you think is the right man for Sami?

That is such a loaded question! I canít give an answer.

You joined the show when Crystal Chappell was playing Carly. How do you feel about her return?

Itís amazing. I admired her work when she was on [Guiding Light]. I think sheís such a talented actress. Iím thrilled to have her back. I used to be a fan of the show [before joining it] and she was one of my favorite characters.

Do you think any of the other old school cast members are going to be returning?

I have no idea. It sort of seems sad and odd to me that they would let go of some wonderful cast members and then bring in new people in the same situation. I donít know what the thought behind that is.

How has DOOL managed to rebound despite being the lone soap on NBC?

Itís difficult, being on in the middle of the day with nothing else in the line-up. We can only thank our fans. The loyal Days fans have stuck with us all these years. The best part about how hard itís been with the budget cuts is that the only thing we can do to make a good show is to write a good show. Everyoneís turning to the writersí office to say, ďrescue us,Ē and thatís what theyíve been doing.

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