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AT 59, Drake Hogestyn has the uncontainable energy of a 20-something. After a day visit to the Tsebedisanong Primary School in Soweto, and an endless stream of media interviews, he was a far cry from fatigued, which was surprising, considering that they arrived in South Africa only on Sunday.
Co-star Galen Gering, 41, who is even more delectable in person, complemented his seasoned co-star with his quick-off-the-mark comments. In fact, interviewing these two together was insane, but entertaining all the same.
Days of Our Lives has been running for almost 47 years and Hogestyn was with the soap for 26 – until his character, because of cutbacks, was given the chop (along with co-star Deidre Hall) in 2008.
The good news is that the creative team have since reconsidered their decision and the soap couple will be returning to our screens.
Before I could ask the actor about John Black’s various emotional upheavals with Days of Our Lives, he asks: “Your mom loved it [the show], didn’t she?”
I respond: “Probably not as much as I did at the time.”
Going back to his storylines covering three decades, Hogestyn comments: “Credit goes to the writers. It’s hard to keep the hero alive. The bad guys, well… that’s pretty easy. They are always stirring things up. But loves of different elements come into play to keep the hero alive.”
Fortunately, Dr Marlena Evans (Hall) has always proved to be the best anchor and catalyst for his storylines.
“It goes back to John Black being pulled through the hole in the garden wall. You know, when he was lost, looking for his identity, doubting himself. There was always that one thread – that was Marlena. That was the audiences’ attachment to John, emotionally. He wouldn’t always admit it, but he was always reaching for her. And he would put her up on a pedestal – and not just to look up her dress,” he laughs.
Reflecting on his most memorable storyline, Hogestyn says: “It was definitely the exorcism of Marlena by far. While some viewers didn’t like it, our numbers shot through the roof. In fact, our numbers were so strong it gave him [pointing to Gering] a job.”
“That is true,” Gering confirms.
“James E Reilly, who is the venerable lunatic who wrote that storyline, created a show called Passions. So again, love it or hate it, it stayed on for a decade. It was wacky as hell. At times, as much as you wanted to turn it off, you wanted to know what was going to happen next.”
Passions was Gering’s first big TV break and his role as Officer Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald – and his character – stood out enough for Gary Tomlin to write Rafe Hernandez for him.
Shedding light on the influx of fresh faces in Days of Our Lives, Hogestyn responds: “Here is the bottom line, a show has two crucial elements: compelling writing and engaging actors. Change is inevitable. You have to go younger, quicker and faster. Sometimes that is good, if you do that correctly. You bring younger characters in, you have older characters that are established, you have the audience that is attached to the older characters, who accept the younger characters. So you, after a while, see the audience finding an attachment to the new actors.”
And Hogestyn says he is revved up about resuming his character with Hall – however, he has since realised that sometimes it is recommended to have other projects on the go.
“That is also the reason why I am developing a rugby league in the US. Something you and I should talk more about later,” he says.
On crossing the soap floor and slipping into the skin of a new character, Gering says: “It wasn’t difficult with the characters. One of the directors, who cut the budget by 40 percent and saved the show, brought me in and wrote a character who was similar to Luis.
“Rafe, however, is a little more astute and aggressive. I thought the writing was better and my character more multi-dimensional.
“So it was a lot easier for me, especially since there was no hell in the closet.” (laughs)
In the upcoming storyline, interlinked with Nicole’s running away after the baby switching saga, Rafe ends up rescuing her.
He says: “I can’t give any secrets away. Let me just say this: the period coming up for me as an actor and for my character is a fun one. It is all interesting.
“Obviously, there is going to be good drama. As for Rafe and Sami, there are all kinds of crazy things going on for them.”
Like sands through the hour glass, our time was up. But I have to say, these two actors are even more delightful unscripted.
Days of Our Lives airs on SABC3 at 5.30pm weekdays.