Ever since it was revealed in early August that Eileen Davidson had returned to the Burbank studio where “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem,” the limited series spinoff of “Days of our Lives,” was being taped, speculation ran rampant with fans wondering if she’d be reprising her iconic role as Kristen DiMera or playing someone new. Well, Soap Opera Network can officially confirm that Davidson is in fact reprising her Daytime Emmy Award-winning role!
In an interview, Davidson breaks down for us how she found out about the “DAYS” spinoff, working with Lisa Rinna (Billie Reed; “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”) again, being in tune with Kristen’s fashion sense, and what surprises may be in store on the Peacock original series, which premieres Monday, September 6 on the streaming service. Plus, Davidson gives us some news about turning her soap opera mystery novels into a live action film series.
First things first: Davidson is reprising her role as Kristen DiMera on “Beyond Salem” and it was supposed to be a secret. Things changed, however, when Rinna posted a short clip on her Instagram stories showing Davidson sitting in the hair and makeup chair. The caption read, “Look who I found.” Although fans immediately thought “Kristen” when they saw Davidson in her beautiful red dress wearing black shoes that had diamond studs in them, alas, mum’s the word it remained.
“Isn’t that crazy?” Davidson says when we asked her about keeping it quiet. “Well, I’m assuming the cat’s out of the bag, right? So, yes [I’m playing Kristen], and it was supposed to be, I guess, a spoiler reveal… I don’t know, but we’re all just kind of winging it and doing our best, and I don’t know who else I’d be playing. I hadn’t even thought about it,” she noted, adding, “When I saw that people were going, ‘Who could she be playing?’ I was like, ‘Oh, that would have been fun if I were playing somebody completely different,’ but I’m happy to revisit Kristen anytime they ask cause I absolutely adore the character.”
The last time fans saw Davidson on “DAYS” was in 2017 when she played both Kristen and Susan Banks, the latter of whom had been living a fantasy in which she tricked an alive Will Horton (Chandler Massey) into thinking he was her son, EJ DiMera. In 2018, Stacy Haiduk took over as Kristen and the multitude of other characters that followed but we’ll get back to that part of the story later.
So, how did producers get Davidson to come back, even if for a short stint? “I got a text from [co-executive producer] Albert Alarr and they just asked me if I would come back for this spinoff of ‘DAYS’ that’s going to be on the streaming platform Peacock, and I thought it was such a great idea and a fantastic concept, and I loved the fact that, as I said, I can come back and revisit the character without having to commit a huge amount of time.”
The icing on the cake for Davidson came when she found out she’d be working with Rinna again. “When I was told Lisa was going to be on board, I started screaming, and then we texted each other and we were both screaming,” recalls Davidson. “Then we saw each other in person and then we were really screaming [laughs], so it was really, really fun and just fun for me to be able to go back to ‘DAYS’ and see everybody, and to be doing something kind of groundbreaking is awesome in this day and age, especially with soaps that have been on forever, to be able to be doing something completely different,” she says, noting, “What NBC and Peacock are offering is a huge accomplishment, and I was just excited to be a part of it.”
Elaborating further on what it was like working with Rinna again, Davidson said, “We worked together years and years ago, obviously, on ‘DAYS’. Lisa and I, I’m sorry, we just have chemistry in real life and in pretend life, so this was just like… it didn’t even take a second. We just fit.” Calling the experience of it all nice, Davidson shared, “You’d never have known we hadn’t worked together as characters in however many years, and it was just, I don’t know, I thought it was pretty effortless and a lot of fun, and I wish we could have done like a couple of months of that. It was too short.”
Fashion is something Kristen is known for. She just has a look to her that immediately draws your attention, and that became pretty obvious from the fan reaction to Davidson’s appearance in Rinna’s Instagram story, and from the recent release of several promo pictures, and finally the show’s official trailer. Would you be surprised to learn that Davidson played a key part in how Kristen dressed, even if ultimately the decision of what she wore on the show came down to costume designer, Richard Bloore?
“I did have some input into that!” Davidson reveals about the aforementioned red dress, the black and white dress shown in pictures from the show, and the black dress she wore for the cast photoshoot. “I called him a couple of weeks before and I said, ‘Look, if we’re going to do this I want to go big or I want to go home.’ I go, ‘Just go for it,’ and I walked in, and I’m not even kidding you, I walked in one day and my first day in he had that red dress and that black and white dress, and I just went…done! ‘These are amazing!’ There are other things too but he hit it right out of the park.”
If you’ve ever wanted to get some behind-the-scenes tidbits, Davidson has them in spades, such as the one she shared about her look for the cast photo. “So, I’m getting a fitting and he’s [Bloore] got these gorgeous Saint Laurent shoes that are just beautiful,” she remembers. “He gave me leopard ones at first. I see leopard ones and I go, [pointing elsewhere] ‘Oh, my god, what are those shoes?’ He says, ‘Oh, yeah, you can wear those,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my god, that’s amazing, they’re gorgeous.’ So, I’m very happy with my outfit and then he comes in like an hour later, and he goes, ‘I’m so sorry, you can’t have those shoes they’re actually Lisa Rinna’s,’ and I was like, ‘S^&*!’ [busts out laughing], but then he gave me these really fun black shoes with studs in them, and I went, ‘Those are even better for the character.’ If you look at the poster you’ll see these shoes that are just off the hook.”
What made things even funnier was her husband’s reaction to Kristen’s look. “It was fun, it was really fun and my husband was like saying, he goes, ‘You look really different. You look super sexy and you just have this whole edge to you,’ and I said, ‘I’m in character!’ I go, ‘You’re responding to Kristen, not me!’ It was very funny,” Davidson remembers of her conversation with her husband, Vincent Van Patten.
Clearly, Davidson and Bloore hit the right cord for Kristen but what about Davidson’s other “DAYS” characters, such as Sister Mary Moira who looks to be making a cameo appearance if you go by what can be seen in the trailer? “I could be, I could be,” teases Davidson of playing other characters on the show like she had done famously in the past. “You’ll have to watch, but I mean it would be sad to miss an opportunity to actually be able to bring out the other girls, you know what I’m saying? So, that’s why it was kind of like a playground for me. Too much fun.”
Whether or not she’d be interested in taking Kristen from “Beyond” and back to regular “DAYS,” Davidson will never say never. “I’m not saying no to anything but it would really depend on what it looks like. I’m not big on super long commitments at this point in my life,” she says. “I’m not saying I never will be again, but right now, I’m really enjoying what I’ve got going. I love this Peacock thing, so, I mean, sign me up people! If you want Kristen to come back for another series, I’m in, or whoever else comes in. And it’s just really nice.”
Being that Kristen had been recast with Stacy Haiduk, does that mean Kristen on regular “DAYS” and Kristen on “Beyond Salem” are one and the same, just with different faces, and, obviously, different storylines? “I would assume. This is a mini-series,” Davidson notes. “Stacy has got a great gig over there. She’s fantastic in the role and this is kind of the best of everything, well for me anyway.”
Speaking of it being a mini-series, how different was taping “Beyond Salem” from Davidson’s experience taping regular “DAYS” and even “The Young and the Restless”? Turns out, it was all pretty much the same. “Well, kind of like not much [different] because it was still shot on set, the real set, and it was still shot in the same manner. So, as usual, fast and furious, and no time to take a breath and, you know, boom, boom, boom,” she shares.
Although time was of the essence, and the storyline was for the most part self-contained, Davidson would have loved to have worked with some of her former castmates if she’d been given the opportunity. “There are so many people I would have liked to work with. I like Eric Martsolf [Brady Black], Greg Vaughan [ex-Eric Brady] and Deidre [Hall; Marlena Evans], and Drake [Hogestyn; John Black]. I mean, I did work with them a little bit…,” Davidson says, referring to Hall and Hogestyn. “We’re all on the same show but I would have liked to have had more stuff going on with these people.” She also notes that she would have loved to have worked with Jackée Harry who plays Paulina Price on both shows. Meanwhile, one person she did get to work with was Leann Hunley [Anna DiMera]. “Leann and I have known each other forever. We’d been up for a lot of the same roles early in our career so this is fun for us to work together. I really like her, she’s a very cool chick and it was kind of fun to be with her on that level.”
While she’s played several fictional characters throughout her daytime career, Davidson branched out into creating her own characters with the soap opera mystery novels “Death in Daytime,” “Dial Emmy for Murder,” “Diva Las Vegas” and “Swingin’ in the Rain.” In fact, she recently revealed plans to turn the novels into a six-part series.
“The screenplay is even better. It’s a hilarious screenplay,” Davidson says of differences between the books and what she’s got cooked up for the series. “We kind of brought it more into the 21st century and changed a lot of it, making it edgier, sexier, and more fun.”
One of the biggest changes included changing the name of the lead character due to copyright issues. “There was a conflict with Emmy,” she explains. “You can’t use Emmy because of the copyright, so I thought, you know what, I’m just going to change the name of the character. The name of the character in the book is Alexis. I changed the name of the character to Emmanuel, or Emme, in ‘Dial Emme for Murder.’ I thought it worked beautifully and I wish I had done it originally.”
Another change is Emme is now sleeping with her younger co-star. “I don’t think she was in the book, and the book is more G-rated. The movie script is more R-rated,” says Davidson of how the story has evolved.
For more information about “Dial Emme for Murder” and how you can help the project come alive, visit the official website.
Returning the conversation to Peacock, Davidson wants you to know she’s a huge fan of the platform which she says is her favorite among the numerous services out there. “I do have Peacock. I got Peacock for the Olympics,” she says.
As for anything she can share about what to expect on “Beyond Salem,” Davidson teases, “I will say there is a little surprise which I think is going to be a lot of fun. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s going to happen!”
“Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem” follows a multitude of Salemites as they deal with mystery, betrayal, and passion when they spend a long weekend out of town. With John and Marlena traveling to Zurich, Ben and Ciara spending a romantic getaway in New Orleans, Chad visiting some old friends in Phoenix, and Abe, Paulina, Lani, and Eli vacationing in Miami, they each find themselves embroiled in the mystery involving the stolen jewels which, being in the wrong hands, might cause dire consequences for Salem before they can even think about returning home. Joining them for the hunt will be ISA agent Billie Reed (Rinna) as she crosses the globe in search of the missing treasure.
In addition to Davidson, Rinna, Hall, Hogestyn, Harry and Hunley, the show’s cast also includes James Reynolds as Abe Carver, Victoria Konefal as Ciara Brady Weston, Robert Scott Wilson as Ben Weston, Billy Flynn as Chad DiMera, Lamon Archey as Eli Grant and Sal Stowers as Lani Price. Charles Shaugnessy reprises his role as Shane Donovan and Noah Huntley will play Lord Sebastian Alamain.
Other featured players include Thaao Penghlis as Tony DiMera, Christie Clark as Carrie Brady, Austin Peck as Austin Reed, Greg Rikaart as Leo Stark, Chandler Massey as Will Horton, and Zachary Atticus Tinker as Sonny Kiriakis. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Jackie Cox is also set to appear along with Peter Porte (ex-Ricky Williams, “The Young and the Restless”) as ISA agent Kyle Graham. Cox is a Canadian drag queen famously known for their Lisa Rinna impersonation.
One episode of “Beyond Salem” will release each day from Monday, September 6 through its finale on Friday, September 10. The series will be exclusively available in the United States on Peacock.
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