Zach Tinker Has a New Take for Sonny Kiriakis on ‘Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem’

Zach Tinker, Sonny Kiriakis, Fenmore Baldwin, Days of our Lives, The Young and the Restless
Howard Wise/JPI Studios

When Zach Tinker got the call that he had been cast on “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem,” the limited series spinoff of “Days of our Lives” currently airing on Peacock, he was thrilled but also confused. Why was he confused? Initially, he was to play an unknown love interest of Sonny Kiriakis. It wasn’t until after he landed the role that he learned he was actually hired to play Sonny himself. In an interview with Soap Opera Network, Tinker explains how that all went down, whether he’d be interested in reprising the role on the main series, if offered, working with co-stars Chandler Massey (Will Horton) and Greg Rikaart (Leo Stark), and how cartoons have helped him get through the pandemic that up until recently put a halt to most worldwide activities.

First things first: His full name is Zach Atticus Tinker but because it seems to complicate matters at times he wouldn’t care if you called him Steve. “Whatever floats people’s boat,” he says with a laugh when we asked him to clarify whether he went by Zach Tinker or Zach Atticus Tinker, the latter of which the publicity department for “Beyond Salem” used to refer to him in press materials.  “I love my middle name but I feel like it complicates stuff,” he explains.

Outside of the name question, Tinker tells us he has otherwise been doing well considering what’s going on in the world. In fact, he’s got a few projects he’s been working on besides “Beyond Salem” and he’s even begun to rock a mustache which takes some getting used to even for him. “I was just looking at my mustache in my little frame and I was like, ‘Oof! This is quite the look!’” Tinker joked, referring to his cell phone screen as we talked via a video call.

Freddie Smith, Sonny Kiriakis, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL
Brad Everett Young Photography

As for playing Sonny Kiriakis, a role last played by Freddie Smith, Tinker tells us that he didn’t know anything about the character or the Peacock series initially except that it was to be a five-episode guest-starring role. “All my scenes were with Sonny. I was like Sonny’s love interest, and then when I got the offer, they said, ‘Hey, by the way, you’re actually going to be playing Sonny. You’re not the love interest of Sonny. You are Sonny!’ Tinker reveals. Essentially, the show gave him a fake script to see how he would handle the character even though he didn’t know he was testing for the role he eventually got offered. But by the time all was revealed, Tinker wasn’t bothered in the least. He easily told them, “Alright, sure!” when they asked if he wanted the part.

Interestingly enough, even though he didn’t know he was trying out for the role of Sonny, Tinker decided that in the end, it was best that he not watch scenes from the character’s previous storylines with another actor playing the role. This was a similar technique he used when he took over the role of Fenmore Baldwin on “The Young and the Restless” from Max Ehrich.

“Before the audition, I didn’t know any of the character’s backstory, and in preparation, I didn’t watch any of his [Freddie’s] work,” Tinker shares, explaining, “You want to know the character’s backstory and who they are but you also just want to bring you [to the role] and not overthink it. It was such a fast process that I was just like, ‘Obviously, I have the essence enough of the character that they would cast me. And they cast me because they liked what they saw so I’ll just do what I did in the audition and keep that character.’  If when on the set they were like, ‘This is totally off, do this, this and this,’ then I’ll adjust. But I just kind of did my thing and had fun with the character and what I thought he was about.”

Tinker’s thinking is of course understandable when you consider that “Beyond Salem” was taped all within a five-day period that consisted of five 40-50 minute episodes, not including commercials, versus a regular primetime or streaming series that films over three months with a similar episode count. Even still, Tinker enjoyed the experience and would be open to reprising the role, if offered by the show’s producers. “I am at the ready,” Tinker says should he get the call. “That’s kind of the job of an actor. You’re just waiting to get called up to the majors, and when they tell you to get in there [you start] swinging the bat.”

When Smith learned that Tinker had been cast as Sonny, he posted a welcome message on Instagram. “I want to give a shout out to Zach Tinker,” Smith said in an Instagram story posted on August 2. “Congratulations, man. I know you are taking over the role of Sonny Kiriakis. You are going to have an absolute blast. He’s an awesome character and it’s such an important storyline. I know you’re going to crush it so have fun and I can’t wait to check it out on Peacock.”

When seeing his name tagged on Smith’s video, Tinker felt it was sweet of Smith to do so. “It meant a lot to get permission from the person who [played] the character before. It was very sweet and heartfelt. I’ve never met him but he seems like a very kind, awesome dude,” Tinker says.

Chandler Massey, Zach Tinker, Will Horton, Sonny Kiriakis, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, DOOL: Beyond Salem, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL
Howard Wise/JPI Studios | Chandler Massey, Zach Tinker (“Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem”)

Similar to Massey, Tinker was a little nervous filming that shower scene which aired during the third episode of the series. “We stepped in, and like the water was cold so it was a very interesting experience,” he says of the scenes that were taped on his third day on set. “It was so fun, and working with Chandler was such a blast. We became buddies.”

Despite having to get intimate with someone they barely knew at the time, Tinker and Massey bonded between takes courtesy of the NBA draft. “While we were filming it was when the NBA draft was happening. So, we would be talking about the NBA draft and then make out, and then go back to talking about the NBA draft. It was super easy with him and fun, and, it was really great,” Tinker recalls of his and Massey’s time working together.

Being that “Beyond Salem” is still a soap opera, it’s not surprising that Will and Sonny had some drama of their own outside of the umbrella story of the missing jewels. Enter Greg Rikaart who reprised his role as Leo Stark on the series. Oddly, even though Tinker and Rikaart played nephew and uncle, respectively, on “Y&R” they didn’t really know each other nor did they share many scenes together on the show. That changed when they started working on the Peacock series.

Greg Rikaart, Leo Stark, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL, DOOL: Beyond Salem
Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock

“I’ve worked with Greg, I think in one or two scenes on ‘Y&R,’ but we always… our paths kind of crossed, and we were friendly on social media, and we’d talk and banter but we’ve never really worked together. I’ve gotten to know him now and I freaking love Greg!” Tinker says of his newfound friendship with Rikaart. “He’s so great and he’s really funny. His character… I never really watched ‘DAYS,’ or knew much about ‘DAYS’ before, so I didn’t know about the Leo character but wow, what a fun character. He got to have… you’ll have a blast watching his dialogue and he’s just someone who really loves pushing people’s buttons and has no shame,” he reveals, clarifying, “Not Greg, Leo the character. He steals all the scenes. He’s just so funny and so fun to watch.”

Chandler Massey, Greg Rikaart, Zach Tinker, Will Horton, Leo Stark, Sonny Kiriakis, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, DOOL: Beyond Salem, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL
Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock | Chandler Massey, Zach Tinker, Greg Rikaart (“Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem”)

With such limited time taping Peacock’s bold endeavor and with the pandemic still raging, Tinker sadly didn’t get to interact much with a lot of the show’s cast but he did get to see some of the scenes being taped while he was in his dressing room when he wasn’t rehearsing his lines. “When you’re in your dressing room you have the monitor and you can see what’s going on with other actors and what they’re shooting but I was in my room [most of the time] if I wasn’t in a scene, or I was maybe rehearsing with people in my scenes outside of it or getting my breakfast, or on the phone,” Tinker tells us. Otherwise, he wasn’t really privy to what was going on. Elaborating, he says, “I didn’t really get to watch a lot of the other stuff going on but I’m kind of excited that I didn’t cause now it’s going to be a surprise when I watch it. I mean, I got to read the scripts and see what the storyline was but I didn’t get to really see how they were acted out. So, I’m excited.”

Since there wasn’t a world premiere or a red carpet event, Tinker, like most of his co-stars, are watching “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem” at the same pace as the rest of the show’s viewers. “It’s weird,” Tinker shares. “I’m just a viewer like everyone else basically.”

Our conversation with Tinker took place prior to the launch of “Beyond Salem,” and at the time he hadn’t yet downloaded Peacock on his devices but that’s only because he’s not really an avid TV watcher despite the profession he’s chosen for a career. “For someone who is an actor, I’ve been watching zero television. The only things I’ve been watching are like… because for some reason it made me feel better during [the] pandemic, but I’m watching a lot of cartoons. I re-watched all of ‘South Park’ and then I went through ‘The Simpsons’ and then I did ‘King of the Hill.’ So, I haven’t been watching any live-action. I’ve been just in the animation world because it’s far away from the daunting reality that we’re living in.” He adds, “It’s escapism.” Cartoons also help one fall asleep more easily. “I know, it was weird falling asleep to ‘King of the Hill’ every night,” Tinker recalled.

When it was pointed out that a lot of the cartoons we watched as children aren’t necessarily the same shows we’re watching as adults due to our brains not comprehending the content the same as when we were younger, Tinker agreed. “It’s amazing when you rewatch shows and you’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t catch that show when I was younger,’” he said laughing. 

Did You Know? Outside of cartoons, Tinker’s also into gaming. “I’ve been playing a lot of video games too, so it’s like my TV time has been very limited. But as soon as this comes out, I have to download Peacock now.”

Chandler Massey, Will Horton, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, DOOL: Beyond Salem, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL
Howard Wise/JPI Studios

With Tinker’s interpretation of Sonny so far being a resounding success, which could be gleaned from his original casting, Tinker again reiterated his interest in reprising the role should he get the call from producers of the mothership series, and he expects Sonny and Will to come back together. “It would be hard to tell… I mean we’re married! Our lives are intertwined. If they did have me on the show I’d say the odds are they would have him [Massey] too.”

Outside of “Beyond Salem,” Tinker has recently completed work on several projects and is gearing up for another later this month. “I’ve been lucky to be steadily working on a few other projects that I can’t announce just yet but it’s been really nice to be working. I’m doing another gig starting [later] this month, so I have a little bit of a break right now. I don’t start until [later] this month so I’m a little purposeless at the moment because when I’m not on set I don’t know what to do with myself,” Tinker shares.

While talking mostly about his experience with “Beyond Salem,” it’s always important to check in on someone to find out how they are doing. “Life is good,” Tinker says of how he’s doing. “It’s nice to be getting back to somewhat normalcy. It feels like we kind of took a step back. As soon as we got the vaccine I was like, ‘Yeah! We’re going back to normal.’ And now it kind of feels like we’re in between again. I feel like we took two steps forward and then one back, so we’re like in this weird in between now.”

Not too long ago Tinker found himself moving into new digs, which he notes brings him one step closer to being a first-time homeowner. “I moved into a new apartment about a month ago, so it’s always nice. I’m accommodating to the new digs and it’s a really lovely big boy apartment and I think I’ll be here for a little bit and then hopefully my next move will be into a house,” Tinker says. He further notes, “This is like my first biggish apartment. The last apartment I was in was when I booked ‘Y&R.’ I was a waiter, you know the struggling actor life. I was in this little, little studio apartment so it’s very nice to have space and be able to walk around. Other than that, you know, I’m doing things that a 27-year-old dude does. Just living life.”

Currently rocking the stache during press interviews, it turns out Tinker was forced to shave it off when he taped “Beyond Salem.” He’d love to keep it if he could considering it was pointed out to him that when Smith played Sonny, in real life he was older than Massey, but now Massey is older than Tinker. “If they let me keep the mustache then I think I would have looked older than him but they made me shave it,” Tinker explains. In trying to respond to Tinker’s comment, this writer got his tongue twisted, which Tinker laughed off, agreeing that the fur wouldn’t fit the character. “No, it’s not very Sonny for sure,” Tinker agreed.

Zach Tinker, Sonny Kiriakis, Billy Flynn, Chad DiMera, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, DAYS, DOOL, Days of our Lives, DOOL: Beyond Salem

With such a limited time for interactions between cast members on “Beyond Salem,” Tinker recalls that of the show’s cast he of course knew Rikaart, and he just met Massey, but what about the rest of the bunch? “I knew who Lisa Rinna [Billie Reed] was, obviously, I knew Eileen [Davidson; Kristen DiMera] from ‘Y&R,’ and I knew Billy Flynn somehow. I knew that name [at least],” shares Tinker. “First, it’s such a great name…. Billy Flynn, you can’t not know that name. I had heard of him before and he was a blast to work with. He’s a great dude, and like, he was very much the name that I knew before coming, so it was like, ‘Oh, Billy Flynn!’ when I got on set.”

One of the first promotional photos shared from the new series was one where Flynn, Massey, and Tinker are all standing in front of a kitchen sink and are staring at something or another. For Tinker, he doesn’t know what he was staring at but he felt slightly embarrassed by the publicity department’s choice in photos to release. “I don’t know where I’m looking. Everyone else is in the scene and I look like I’m just staring off into space. Of course, that was the photo they use!” Tinker says, laughing it off.

Billy Flynn, Chad DiMera, Chandler Massey, Will Horton Zach Tinker, Sonny Kiriakis, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL, DOOL: Beyond Salem
Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock | Billy Flynn, Chandler Massey, Zach Tinker (“Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem”)

Praising the show’s writers for a job well done, Tinker says the storylines are “very congruent and fluid. It’s not like they are their own stories. They are all in the same world and relevant with each other.” He notes, “I remember when I got the first episode script and I was like, ‘Oh, this is long! This is going to entertain people for a while.’ You’re going to get your fill. It’s not like you’re going to eat the meal and be like, ‘What was that? The appetizer?’ This is the salad and the lobster and the fondue. You’ll be satisfied for sure.”

Chandler Massey, Greg Rikaart, Zach Tinker, Will Horton, Leo Stark, Sonny Kiriakis, Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, DOOL: Beyond Salem, Days of our Lives, DAYS, DOOL
Howard Wise/JPI Studios | Chandler Massey, Greg Rikaart, Zach Tinker (“Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem”)

The first three episodes of “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem” are now available to watch exclusively on Peacock. Episodes are released daily, culminating with the limited 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.