For all intents and purposes, “Days of our Lives’” Galen Gering (Rafe Hernandez) has had one of the best gigs in Los Angeles as of late. Not only was he getting paid to hang out in a bed all day while his alter ego was in a coma, he’s had the recent fortune of playing the recovery part of the story, which is a physical challenge that rarely falls into an actor’s lap. The result: Some standout scenes of Rafe re-learning to walk that prove Gering has some acting legs to stand on!
Comas are a pretty common standard on soap operas, but the latest storyline in which Rafe was beaten and consequently left in a several-month-long unconscious state hasn’t exactly been the norm. Not only was the comatose character a near victim of dismemberment (ordered by the one and only Joe Mascolo’s Stefano), he was an unknowing witness to a shooting! And these elements make the job of lying in a sleep state not that simple. “As much fun as it sounds, [playing a character in a coma] is challenging on a lot of levels,” the actor tells Soap Opera Network. “You’re laying there with your eyes closed, and you’re just listening to people. You sort of hear certain things, noises you wouldn’t normally hear, and since you’re not visually connected to the person, you can’t see what they’re doing. For instance, the scenes where Sami [Alison Sweeney] shot Bernardi (Anthony Tyler Quinn) in the hospital, there was this ‘BANG!!’ and all this commotion, and you just have to lie there! It was really hard, actually, to do that, to completely disengage yourself, because as an actor, you’re taught the opposite thing: You should be really present. So it definitely was a trip.”
However, the commotion wasn’t enough to keep Gering — a notorious deep sleeper in real life — from catching a few on-the-job zzz’s! “Oh, I totally fell asleep a few times,” he admits with a chuckle. “If I’m laying on my back, which obviously you are when you’re in a coma, I’m prone to snore, so I’d totally have those moments and snore and wake myself up. But there were some times that wouldn’t happen, and I was asleep and nobody would notice, which is really funny to me. I’d come out and be like, ‘Whoa.’ But I always like to mess with the crew, and they mess with me, and they’d say things like, ‘Wow, that was some of your best work today!’ And jokes like that. And then I’d be like, ‘Alright losers, I’m going home. See ya!’ as I’m literally coming in, getting into bed and then going home.”
But it’s only fair that the coma scenes were (mostly) a breeze, because the recovery part of the story has been a lot of work and required quite a bit of research — which the actor says he did mostly online. “We’re in such an amazing age now, [so I was able to look up] physical therapy, rehab, what they were doing, what it was like for these people to go through the rehab, and it was really helpful,” he shares. “On YouTube, there are all these videos of caregivers and loved ones that post rehabilitation of their friends and family, and I could look at this and see these people and see it chronologically, so that was helpful. And there was a story recently on ‘Breaking Bad,’ where one of the guys came back from near paralysis. So I watched that, which was also a big help.”
Despite knowing how to properly play the story, Galen says it hasn’t come without challenges. “As actors, we talk a lot with our hands. We physicalize things, and then suddenly, you find yourself totally limited. All of your acting has to be simplified, and you have to be careful about things you do, and so it’s been interesting in that regard. It’s also been a lot of fun, but with that said, I’ve definitely been looking forward to moving on — literally — and getting back on my feet again — literally!”
But will that “moving on” include a new relationship with Jordan (Chrishell Stause)? Gering wasn’t able to spill a single detail regarding that story or the actress (besides the fact that Stause is a super sweet girl and quite funny, to boot), but he did point out that no matter what happens, he’s pretty sure many fans are still holding out hope for “Safe.” “There are a lot of people who want Sami and Rafe together, and obviously, that’s not happening right now. But those people still hold onto that,” he says. “Soap fans are the most loyal fans in the world, bar none. They’re amazing. So that camp will always root for that, unless something comes along to make them change.”
Meanwhile, he’s been slightly shocked to notice a big fan base for Rafe and Kate (Lauren Koslow), as well! “I was really, really surprised with this really excitable young fan base, the Wild Cats, as I call them: Wild girls tweeting, hundreds of them, out of nowhere, that really loved this relationship,” he shares. “And I think they loved the relationship because it was easy. It wasn’t this headache of a thing, and the characters just went into it head over heels. [The reaction was] overwhelmingly positive from my standpoint.”
So, just to recap, we have lying in a bed for weeks on end, watching YouTube coma recovery videos and monitoring fan opinions regarding onscreen romantic pairings as some of the activities Gering gets paid to do. Doesn’t sound too bad, eh? “I am so fortunate,” he says in agreement. “Having this job has really been a Godsend in that, because of our shooting schedule and the fact that we have 16 or 17 weeks off a year, I’m able to spend time with my family [wife, Jenna, and sons Dillon, 7, and Jensen, 5). All of those things are so great, and they make this job one of the best jobs, in my opinion, that one could have, certainly in the entertainment industry. And the people here are so nice and cool. It’s a win/win.”