Days of Our Lives: Surprising Facts About America's Favorite Soap Opera

By Jake Schroeder
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For more than 50 years, Days of Our Lives (DOOL) has captivated audiences around the globe with drama, romance and mystery. Fans have fallen in love with the Horton, Brady, Kiriakis and DiMera families. But what you see on-screen is only half of the story.

Behind the scenes, there is just as much romance and drama as there is on the show. Keep scrolling to learn some surprising facts you may not have known about Days of Our Lives.

The Show Has Come a Long Way Since It Premiered

DOOL was created by real-life husband and wife duo Betty and Ted Corday. When the show premiered in 1965, each episode was only half an hour long. After 10 years on the air, they made the shift to hour-long episodes in 1975.

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Ted continued to work on the show as a producer and director until he passed away in 1966. Following the death of her husband, Betty acted as executive producer until she retired in 1985, although she kept the title until she passed away in 1987.

Steve Johnson Wasn’t Supposed to Stay in Salem

Fan-favorite Steve Johnson, a.k.a. Patch, is one of the most iconic characters on the show, but producers didn’t always see him this way. Patch was originally slated to be a recurring character. He was written in as a troublemaker and thug who would only appear in a few episodes.

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Thankfully, Stephen Nichols did such a great job with the character that he was soon promoted to full cast member. About a month after Steve first rolled into Salem, the Days of Our Lives producers drew up a contract, and the rest is history.

Days Made Soap Opera History

One of the most common tropes across the soap opera genre is the evil twin. Guess which ground-breaking TV show was the first to feature real-life twins in this type of storyline? Yep, you guessed it: Days of Our Lives.

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In 1976, Deidre Hall made her debut as the one and only Marlena Evans. The very next year, her sister Andrea Hall joined the cast as Samantha Evans. She played Marlena’s jealous twin sister who stole her identity, among other things. Who could ever forget this iconic storyline?

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The Same Faces Pop Up Over and Over Again

Over the years, Drake Hogestyn has played seven different characters on Days of Our Lives. The actor has played more characters on the same television show than any performer in not just soap opera but also television history.

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Hogestyn had his debut on the show in 1986. Since then, he has played The Pawn, Roman Brady, John Stevens, Forrest Alamain, Father John, Ryan Brady DiMera and John Black. Will he be back to perform an eighth role? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure — the fans love him no matter who he is playing!

Bryan Dattilo’s Audition Was Shocking for Everyone Involved

Bryan Dattilo may have gone a bit overboard during his audition for Lucas Roberts. He was paired with Christie Clark (Carrie Brady) to perform a scene. Although they knew each other from an acting class, they were about to become a whole lot closer.

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The two were set to kiss during the audition scene, but when Christie turned the stage kiss into a French one, it took the producers to break the two up! This was just a glimpse of what the future held for them once they were cast on the show.

Sami Wasn’t Alison Sweeney’s First Role

Alison Sweeney is most well-known on the show as Sami Brady. She debuted in this role in 1993, when Sami Brady and her twin brother Eric re-appeared on the series. Sweeney continues to play Sami to this day.

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However, when the character first appeared in 1993, super fans may have gotten a strange sense of déjà vu. That’s because this wasn’t the first time Alison Sweeney had been on the show. Years earlier in 1987, Sweeney played the young version of Adrienne Johnson in flashback scenes.

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It’s Long-Running History Was Almost Cut Short

Today, Days of Our Lives enjoys the title of longest-running soap on NBC. The record previously belonged to Another World, which premiered in 1964. When the show was canceled in 1999, the torch was passed to Days. However, its legacy was almost cut short.

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Yes, your favorite daytime soap opera was almost canceled in 2008 due to a decline in viewers and ratings. The fans, however, would not stand for this. They rallied together and saved their favorite show, which has now been running for more than 10 years since the cancelation scare.

The Shooting Schedule Is Extremely Intense

Although everything looks polished on TV, behind the scenes of a soap opera, everything is much more hectic. Since the show airs five days a week, the shooting schedule is incredibly intense. The actors and production team rarely have any downtime.

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Typically, it takes about seven to 10 days to film a one-hour, prime-time drama. On Days of Our Lives, the team films about seven and a half episodes every single week. The actors usually receive their scripts the day before and only have one night to prepare for 20 scenes.

Steve Johnson’s Eyepatch Was Almost Lost Forever

Who would Patch be without his eyepatch? This was a question that the writers were dying to answer. After a knife fight with Bo Brady, Steve lost his left eye and had to wear an eye patch. There was a time on the show, however, when Steve’s eye patch was replaced with a glass eye.

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The fans did not respond well to this. It was jarring for audiences to see this iconic character without his defining accessory. Eventually, the show brought the eyepatch back, and viewers were happy once again.

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A Man Once Played Sami’s Character

In 2005, Alison Sweeney went on maternity leave to give birth to her first child. Even so, the show had to go on. During her absence, DOOL made the bold choice to recast her character as a man. They hired Dan Wells to play Stan, Sami’s male alter-ego.

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Sami went undercover as Stan to get revenge on another character. Though it was an interesting idea, no storyline can go on forever. Wells played the role of Stan for six months until Sweeney returned from maternity leave to play Sami once again.

The Hectic Schedule Takes a Toll on Some Actors

We mentioned how intense the shooting schedule was before, but it can pose a serious challenge to the actors on set. The number of scenes they have to memorize can be overwhelming.

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In a Daily Blast LIVE interview, Kristian Alfonso (Hope Williams) made it clear just how demanding the work can be. Although she used to prepare on her own, she now has hired someone to come to her home and run scenes with her each night. This, she says, has been very helpful when trying to memorize all of her lines.

The Nickname “Sweetness” Came From the Sweetest Place

People around the world go weak at the knees when they hear Patch call Kayla his "sweetness." DOOL fans of all ages dream of hearing that phrase themselves. But where did this adorable nickname come from? The origin story is just as sweet.

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The inspiration, it turns out, came from real life. Stephen Nichols used this term of endearment for his daughter and thought it would make a fantastic nickname for his on-screen love. She permitted him to use it on the show, and it has been used ever since!

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Only Two Things Remain the Same After All These Years

Throughout the decades, a lot has changed on Days of Our Lives from the characters to plot points. This even includes the set, which today bears almost no resemblance to how it looked in the first episode. However, there are a few things that have remained constant over the years.

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Both the foyer and the living room in the Horton mansion have stayed essentially the same since the show first aired. While the wall color has changed a few times over the years, everything else is identical to what it was back in the ’60s.

Even Big-Name Celebrities Love the Show

People from all walks of life love DOOL, including some well-known public figures like Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Monica Lewinsky and Julia Roberts. Back in 2004, Roberts was named in Entertainment Weekly as a "Days devotee" while she was discussing the series’ most peculiar plot twists.

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Photo Courtesy: [Todd Williamson/NBC

The show has also had its fair share of celebrity guest appearances. Actors such as Mila Kunis, Jensen Ackles, Ashley Benson and Jack Coleman have all appeared on the show. Country singer LeAnn Rimes also had a guest role in the late ’90s.

Frances Reid Wasn’t the First Alice Horton

Most fans know and love Frances Reid as the incomparable Alice Horton. However, she wasn’t the production team's original choice for the role. In the unaired pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, Alice was played by Mary Jackson. Jackson is best known for her role as Emily Baldwin in The Waltons.

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By the time the show went to broadcast, Jackson had been replaced by Frances Reid. Since that moment, Reid has been the only actress to portray Alice Horton. She continued to play the role until her passing in 2010.

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Patch And Kayla’s First Love Scene Wasn’t What It Seemed

Back in the ’80s, Patch and Kayla were everyone’s favorite couple. Fans watched with bated breath as their romance grew and culminated in an intimate love scene. Though this episode was one to remember, all was not what it seemed on set during the filming.

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Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) was pregnant at the time when the love scene was filmed. The pregnancy, however, would not have made sense in the storyline. Instead of showing off her pregnancy, the producers brought in a body double to film some of the shots.

DOOL Is Unexpectedly Family-Oriented

While the show focuses on the lives of four families in Salem, it’s shocking to learn that they are just as family-focused off-screen as they are on-screen. The casting department loves to hire the family members of its original cast members.

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Deidre and Andrea Hall are real-life sisters who played twins on the show. Robert Alda (Dr. Stuart Whyland) and Antony Alda (Giovanni 'Johnny' Corelli), a father and son duo, both had roles on the show, too. Days of Our Lives truly takes a family-first approach to almost everything they do.

There Was Almost a Spin-Off

In 1991, the network had planned a spin-off series called Manhattan Lives. The project even enticed Deirdre Hall (Marlena Evans Black) to return to Days and serve as an executive producer on the new show. Instead, Another World was renewed, and the spin-off was canned indefinitely.

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These days, Days of Our Lives is giving spin-offs another chance, this time in the form of a short digital series. The first season is entitled Chad and Abby in Paris and streams on the DOOL and NBC apps as well as NBC.com.

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The Story of the Kami Portrait Is Surprisingly Sweet

The famous portrait of frenemies Sami Brady and Kate Robert made a splash when it first appeared on the show in 2014. It’s so notorious that it even has its own nickname: Kami. Though they may hate each other on the show, the two work well together in real life.

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The actresses who play these women, Alison Sweeney and Lauren Koslow, came up with the idea for the portrait and its composition. Sweeney even posted a behind the scenes video of the two posing for the portrait as a treat for all of the fans.

The Romance Doesn’t End When the Cameras Stop Rolling

When you have to act like you’re in love with someone five days a week, it’s hard to keep your feelings from spilling into real life. That was true, at least, for Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes, who played Doug and Julie Williams on the show.

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The two got along so well on set that they decided to give romance a try in the real world. Eventually, the pair decided to get married. They had a secret ceremony in 1974, about two years before their fictional alter egos tied the knot on television.

The Cast Has a Lot of Musical Talent

After spending so many years together, it’s clear that the cast has become one big, happy family — a family that apparently loves to sing together. During the DOOL 50th anniversary party, many of the current and former cast and crew took to the stage to perform and entertain their colleagues.

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During the festivities, Eric Martsolf and Casey Moss sang Every Breath She Takes. Stephen Nichols performed Wild Thing on the harmonica. Wally Kurth sang Superstition, and nearly every cast member got on stage to sing and dance to Twist and Shout.

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The Show Was Parodied on Friends

The hit NBC show Friends featured a fictionalized version of Days of Our Lives. There were a series of episodes where Joey Tribbiani (an aspiring actor portrayed by Matt LeBlanc) was cast as Dr. Drake Ramoray on the soap. Some actual Days cast members appeared in these episodes, like Alison Sweeney, Kristian Alfonso, Roark Critchlow, Matthew Ashford and Kyle Lowder.

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A number of different television shows have satirized the show. These include SCTV, The Simpsons, Fairly Odd Parents and Saturday Night Live. You know what they say: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Stefano Had an Interesting Nickname on Set

Joseph Mascolo had one of the most fascinating characters in Days of Our Lives history. He played Stefano DiMera, a character who died on the show countless times and always lived to share his story. This is how he got his nickname, the Phoenix.

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Throughout the series, Stefano has survived heart attacks, car crashes, fires, drowning, explosions and more, yet he always comes back one way or another. Though the audience loved to hate him, it was still exciting when he rose from the ashes like the phoenix that he was.

This Actress Was a Major Fan Before Landing a Role on the Show

When Marci Miller joined the show in 2016 as the new Abigail Deveraux, she had enormous shoes to fill. No one knew that better than Miller, who was herself a long-term fan of the show. She even remembers watching the show with her mom when she was a child.

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Her mom may be an even bigger fan than she is. In fact, she’s such a fan that she even named her other daughter after Days character Kayla Brady. Naturally, Miller’s mother was overjoyed when she found out the good news.

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Things Aren’t Always Spick and Span on Set

Although the set looks clean, behind the scenes, it’s a whole other story. In an interview with Eclipse Magazine in 2009, cast members Eric Martsolf and Lindsay Hartley said that James Scott had the messiest dressing room at the time. Later on, Scott fessed up to the mess but revealed that he had a good excuse for it.

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Scott inherited the dressing room from Brandon Beamer, who never moved his stuff out. While the extra items didn’t help, Scott also admitted that he was not good at cleaning or organizing.

An Original Scene Was Filmed for a Different TV Show

The global reach of Days knows no bounds, as evidenced by a piece on the HBO show Last Week Tonight. In September 2015, the host of the show, John Oliver, reported on Syrian migrants seeking safety in Europe. He showed an interview with Noujain Mustaffa who said that she had learned English by watching DOOL.

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The team at Last Week Tonight arranged for Alison Sweeney and James Scott to film a scene for their show. In the scene, they briefly discussed E.J.’s resurrection and then moved on to sympathize with the plight of the Syrian migrants, mentioning Noujain by name.

The Actors Like Some Storylines More Than Others

Much like any other job, actors prefer some tasks and storylines to others. Your favorites on DOOL are no different — they don’t always love their storylines or what they are asked to do. But they still find joy in their work, and sometimes, they do get to do what they love.

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For example, Kate Mansi, who played Abigail Deveraux, loves to tackle storylines that deal with mental health issues. Billy Flynn, who portrays Chad DiMera, enjoyed acting with his on-screen father Stefano, played by the late Joseph Mascolo, the most.

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Some Actors Change, but the Characters Stay the Same

Recasts are par for the course when it comes to Days of Our Lives. Sometimes, a character is just too good to let go of when one actor doesn’t want to play them anymore. It’s common enough in DOOL that fans usually take it in stride.

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The character that has been recast the most is perhaps Dr. Mike Horton. Nearly 20 different actors have played this character over the years, including Kyle Puerner, Brian Andrews, Welsey Eure, Roark Critchlow and more. At this point, the fans are so used to seeing new Dr. Hortons that they have come to expect it.

It’s Not Always Fun and Games on Set

Though most days on set are fun, there can be some scary times, too. In an Entertainment Tonight interview, Jen Lilley (Teresa Donovan) explained that since the shooting schedule is so intense, actors are expected to perform perfectly during the first take.

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One scene was particularly stressful for Lilley. During a 2014 scene, Lilley was supposed to hit Drake Hogestyn (John Black) with a fireplace poker. Though the poker was made of rubber and she was working with a stunt double, she was still concerned that she would hurt him. Thankfully, no one was harmed while filming the episode.

Susan Hayes Sets the Gold Standard for All Soap Actresses

If there’s one actress who is synonymous with Days of Our Lives, it’s Susan Hayes. You may remember her as the stunning Julie Williams. During her many years in the industry, she has set the standard for all other soap actresses.

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Hayes is the only person in the history of DOOL to appear on the show for all five decades that it's been on the air. Plus, she and her on- and off-screen husband Bill Hayes were on the cover of Time Magazine in 1976, the last time that a soap actor was ever on the cover.

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