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Daytime Royalty had the chance to speak to Drake Hogestyn (John) about his return to Days, his chemistry with Deidre Hall (Marlena), and his character’s wayward son.

Hogestyn has been a part of Days of Our Lives since 1986, but he tells us his original audition was not even for ‘Days’. “I was brought in on another show, but it was going to be cancelled. The casting agent said ‘You know you’re right for that show, but you’re going to be perfect for this show.’” The casting agent thought Hogestyn might be reluctant to work on a soap, but Hogestyn let his interest be known. “I said, ‘Forget about that. Acting is acting. What have you got?” And the rest is history.

Hogestyn’s character has gone through many changes over the years. Hogestyn explains to us that the character was originally based on Jason Bourne from “The Bourne Identity.” Even John Black’s initials are a tribute. “It was only supposed to go from February sweeps to May sweeps. It was going to be a very short run, but a powerful run.” He remained steadily in the role for twenty-three years.

Hogestyn recently expressed his affinity for that particular time in his acting career, when he told Soap Opera Digest that he and Hall were going to start working like they did in 1986. “[In 1986] I was working with Deidre and trying to find out who John is because he has no identity. We sat down, and we would break down all of the scenes.” Hogestyn believes that the chemistry they have shared onscreen was created during those moments. “We got to know each other really well, and we became safety nets for each other. We haven’t worked together for a while now, so right away I said, ‘Let’s sit down and start breaking open some scripts. Let’s talk about what we did when we were in Switzerland. What did we try to accomplish in this therapy? What pitfalls did we have?’ [We do this] so the emotional levels will be there when we’re talking about it onscreen.”

Hogestyn is glad that Hall works in a similar way as him. “Fortunately with Deidre, we’re very comfortable with each other. It’s the same rhythm of work. The same chemistry is there. It’s not something that you really have to create.” Hogestyn informs us that that has not always been the case. “Over the years with different actresses I was able to create chemistry. It can be manufactured. It’s easier when it comes naturally, and it does with Deidre. She’s obviously a very easy actress to work with.”

One hot topic in soaps has always been ratings, particularly in the 18-34 demographic. Hogestyn tells us that the show is making these changes to eventually bring back the ratings in these target demographics. “NBC is always trying to get the demographics. They’ve tried different things over the years. Some work; some don’t. They throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.” Hogestyn has his own ideas about what might attract new viewers. “The show has been on the air for 45 years because you have a core audience that’s really emotionally attached to the show and to certain characters. When you turn that TV set on, another things happens. Other people walk through the room, and they say, ‘Hey, Grandma. Hey, Mom. What are you watching?’ And as long as that set is on, that’s how you get the younger demographics. I think we’ve been neglecting the core audience for a long period of time. It’s time to bring them home. Bring them back into the fold.”

So what can viewers expect on September 26th? “They’re not only going to be treated to John and Marlena; they’re going to be treated to Christie Clark and Patrick Muldoon. To Matt Ashford. They’re going to see that triangle build with Jennifer and Daniel who’s now come into her life. They’re going to be in that warm fuzzy place that they experienced before.”

We were also curious about John’s son Brady. Eric Martsolf joined the show as Brady only a few months before Hogestyn was let go. While John’s alter ego New John had several scenes with Brady, the real John had only one. Hogestyn gave us a brief recap. “We only had one scene together. In 2009 when John was in the bed, and it was like whoa! Things started coming back to him. I’m the old John and again, and oh Marlena, my God, it’s you. Quick marry me before I die. Brady, my son. Oh my god. Okay, John, shut up. I’ve got to get you to Lugano.”

Hogestyn reassures us that he has already had one scene with Martsolf. He also adds that there will be some mentions of off-camera interactions that have been happening all along. Brady mentions that John has made it clear to him that he does not approve of the things he has been doing. “That kind of sets the stage for John. He’s back to being the protector and the provider. The romantic hero. He doesn’t put up with a lot of nonsense, and obviously Brady has been going through a lot of nonsense.” Hogestyn tells us that Marlena senses that things aren’t going well with Brady and John and asks John what he plans to do about it. “He says that Brady is a grown man. He can make his own decisions… Marlena is quick to say, ‘That’s not the John I know.’”

But Hogestyn lets us know that the writers don’t focus on John and Brady at first. “Right now we’re working on one issue at a time. John’s got his proverbial butt in the ringer, so to speak, because of another event. Some outside forces have been waiting for him to get back in the United States so they can descend upon him. That is going to create an umbrella storyline with four to five different couples, and each couple will see the event in a different way.”

Over the last couple of years we have heard a lot about the fast pace with regard to the show’s taping schedule. This was a new production model for Hogestyn. “It’s a whole different show from what I left. It’s a reinvented show production-wise. We’re in at 8; we’re out at five. We’re shooting seven and a half to eight shows a week.” Hogestyn tells us that this is much different from the 90 hour weeks he had been used to. “We’re doing the show on budget and on time and we’re still telling the great stories, and you can just feel the energy. Not only with Days of Our Lives, but NBC, too. We couldn’t be happier.”

Hogestyn has yet to join Twitter or Facebook like many of his castmates have, but he tells us this may be changing soon. “I think now the time is probably right to explore that and get the word out even more and embrace this. Greg Meng has introduced me to someone at Days of Our Lives that is a social media expert. He said, ‘She’ll take you by the hand; establish your Twitter account, and get you set up on Facebook.’”

Hogestyn has a hard time telling us his favorite thing about John Black. He laughs, “I don’t know if we have time for that.” After some thinking, he tells us this: “He mirrors me in my life. He always tries to do the right thing. He puts other people in front of himself. He does consider himself the protector and the provider... He’s always trying to set the example. It’s not easy being a hero on a soap opera. It’s easier being a villain because there’s more levels and different angles. It’s easier sometimes to write for the villain, but to keep the hero alive and vibrant takes a lot of work, and you really have to reach deep with and find your own layers.”
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