It was late last week when we caught up with three-time Daytime Emmy Award winner Chandler Massey via video call. He was in a hotel room in Connecticut during a break from filming “Next Stop Christmas,” his new Hallmark Channel original movie which also features “One Life to Live” icon Erika Slezak (ex-Victoria Lord Buchanan). Massey spent most of his morning doing interviews for “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem,” the limited series spinoff of “Days of our Lives” currently airing on Peacock, NBC’s popular streaming service which finds the actor reprising his role as Will Horton.
While fans would be thrilled to see the actor back in Salem full-time, for now, Massey is spending most of his days hanging out in Atlanta, Georgia working the daily grind as a “mild-mannered” data scientist. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be open to returning to “DAYS” full-time after appearing in all five episodes of “Beyond Salem,” which concludes Friday, September 10.
“I mean, yeah, of course, I would want to,” Massey tells us should he receive the call from “DAYS” producers. “I have a job in Atlanta, and I’m working on some other things, but it would depend on context and timing. No matter what I’m doing I’m always going to seriously consider [returning] because that place is where I grew up and I love the people there.”
Like many of his co-stars, when he received the call from “DAYS” co-executive producer Albert Alarr that there were plans for a spinoff of the daytime drama series that had been ordered by Peacock, Massey didn’t hesitate in saying yes. “Well, they didn’t have to entice me very hard,” the actor tells us. “I just got a call from Albert and he said they’re working on a spinoff for Peacock. I thought, ‘Holy crap!’ That’s the one bingo square that I never thought I’d fill in – ‘Days of our Lives’ getting a spinoff [laughs] – and [he] asked if I’d be interested in coming back and being in it, and I said, ‘Yeah!’ I mean, [there was] no convincing me that I was in.”
The plot for “Beyond Salem” revolves around the Alamainian Peacock and its stolen jewels, which Massey jokingly commented, “I’m actually surprised you picked up on that,” when I noted the not so subtle way the writers decided to name the artifact that would become the basis for the big mystery after the streaming service, which itself is named after NBC and its often being referred to as the peacock network.
Being that there are six jewels and several locations where they could be found, Massey noted with a smirk on his face that he did get to play with one of the jewels but he didn’t elaborate further on that. Regardless, even though he got to interact with a chunk of characters, he still would have liked to interact with others, namely Deidre Hall as Marlena Evans and Drake Hogestyn as John Black. “It’s a big cast and I think Ron [Carlivati, head writer] did a great job of involving us with a bunch of different characters but there’s always more,” Massey says. Ultimately, he would have liked to have interacted more with Will’s family, including Alison Sweeney who plays Will’s mom, Sami Brady DiMera, even though she doesn’t appear in the spinoff. “Simply put, Will’s family. He moved to Phoenix and [he feels] a little isolated over there. So, any family member would be more than welcome.”
While Chad DiMera (Billy Flynn) isn’t necessarily family by blood, he is family by extension of Sami’s marriage to Chad’s brother, EJ (now played by Dan Feuerriegel), Will’s stepfather. “Will, Sonny, and Chad are sort of like the three… either the three musketeers or the three stooges, I’m not sure which one [jokes],” Massey says of how Chad’s visit to Phoneix sets up the next phase in the “Beyond Salem” storyline.
As for Sonny, Will’s husband, he’s now being played by Zach Tinker who replaces Freddie Smith in the role. So what was it like for Massey to share scenes with a new Sonny? “I was a little nervous at first because Freddie… there’d been several Will’s, like six or seven over the years, [but] there’s only been one Sonny,” he says, explaining, “It’s always been Freddie and he did a masterful job. I worked with him for hundreds of episodes and you get used to seeing the same face. So, I guess I was nervous because I really wanted… I didn’t want the characters to take a step back because of the two new people working together.” He adds, “Sometimes a dynamic takes time to build or whatever. I remember the very first scenes that we did I could tell Zach’s got it and he’s like, ‘We’re not going to lose a beat!’ Freddie left like humungous shoes to fill but I think we’ve found the exact right person to fill them. Zach’s amazing. I think we worked really well together and he’s just incredibly talented. He made it fun and he made Will and Sonny feel real.”
When he got to the show’s set on day one there were plans for Massey and his new co-star to film a very intimate shower scene which he felt a little uncomfortable with, so the show’s producers moved it to day two. “Originally they scheduled that for day one and I’d requested… I said, ‘Can we please move it to like day two at least? So it’s not like, ‘Hey, it’s nice to meet you. Now, shall we get in?’” Massey laughingly reveals. “We [Massey and Tinker] had a day to meet and do some scenes and kind of build a rapport but you know it’s fast. I think that ended up working for us because it kind of charged that scene, in a good way. I think it’s going to turn out well, and you know there’s a drought going on where Will and Sonny are so it’s environmentally friendly,” he points out.
One face that hasn’t changed is that of Leo Stark, played by Greg Rikaart. In “Beyond Salem,” the character is back and is putting himself right in the middle of Will and Sonny’s marriage. Without spoiling anything Massey explains laughingly that working with Rikaart is “the most entertaining and the most fun experience, but also the most frustrating experience on my end because it’s so hard to keep it together when he’s in a scene.” Elaborating, Massey says, “For one, the character is just written beautifully. The character himself is just larger than life but Greg really leans into it and makes him audacious and outrageous, and it’s just so… I really had to work to stay in [the scene] because every minute I want to crack and burst out laughing.”
While Leo becomes a spoiler in the Will and Sonny relationship as teased at the end of episode one and shown in the “Beyond Salem” trailer, don’t look for Will to change from his goody two shoes type character trait, even though that would have been a fun thing to play.
When we asked him if he’d be interested in playing a sort of bad version of Will, sort of like how his character’s mother was in her early days, Massey shares he’d be open to it but he thinks the time might have passed. “Would I want to? Of course, I’d want to [laughs]. Yeah, it’s fun to be bad and vengeful, plotting and ruled by your basic instincts and emotions. I think Will had flashes of those. I think he could have very well gone down that path, and in the early days he flirted with that but I think seeing how much his mom’s struggles negatively affected not only himself and her relationships with his siblings, but I think it was really important to him that he not become like her.”
Even though he couldn’t reveal too much about his next project, Hallmark’s “Next Stop Christmas,” Massey does say that “It’s a Christmas movie. You probably didn’t know that from the title [jokes and laughs]. It’s actually really cool. I’m excited to be working on it.” He also shares there’s “a space-time continuum rift, so it’s got a lot of Christmas magic.” Including himself and Slezak, Massey notes that the movie also features some other big shots in the cast, including Lea Thompson.
Back to Peacock, Massey reveals he is a subscriber, particularly due to the streamer being the exclusive rights holder of “The Office,” one of his favorite shows. “I do have Peacock, of course. And if I didn’t I would say the same thing, but I do,” Massey jokes with a grin on his face. He tells us, “If I’m being honest, [that’s] the main reason why I downloaded it. They’ve got a lot of good stuff.”
Explaining why he got the service, Massey says, “When I need to get out of my comfort zone I love just putting on an episode of ‘The Office’ in the background. It’s just comforting in a way and familiar. That show’s a masterpiece so that’s my number one.”
As for why “Days of our Lives” fans should download Peacock and watch “Beyond Salem,” Massey says directly, “You’re going to love it. The tone is wacky and fun, and the story is so creative. Obviously, if you love ‘Days of our Lives’ you’re going to love it. I’m excited to hear what you guys think.”
So, to make sure you can tell Chandler what you think of “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem” and seeing him back as Will Horton in particular, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Episode one of “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem” is now available to watch exclusively on Peacock. Episodes are released daily, culminating with the series on Friday, September 10.
For more information on Peacock and how to sign up for a free account, or to subscribe to a premium tier, click here.