Still loving the bad guy

Published Jun 27, 2011


Such is Stefano DiMera’s Machiavellian legacy that every baddie in soapville is unfailingly compared to him. And in the almost 30 years Joseph Mascolo has inhabited this role, he has never matched this impact in any of his other character portrayals.

To date he has tried his hand at a few feature films and even crossed the soapie floor to play Massimo Marone in CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful. But he always returned home to Days of Our Lives.

He first joined the soap in 1982 and despite several gap years he continues to leave an indelible impression. Prior to that, the classically trained performer appeared in several soaps, namely General Hospital, Santa Barbara, Where the Heart Is and From These Roots. He also bagged cameo roles on television shows such as All in the Family, Lou Grant and The Rockford Files.

“I guess Days gave me the opportunity to create a role that went on, hell, a life of its own, and one the audience seemed to be interested in. I come back because of that same audience,” he explains.

On what his life would have been like had he stuck to his initial career path, Mascolo chuckles: “I probably would have continued as an actor – music was always a part of my life.”

As for where Mascolo ends and Stefano starts, and vice versa, the seasoned actor shares: “The only similarity between the two is our love of family. I only wish I had his ‘power’. I have not had to defend myself as Stefano, though folks seem to like that I play him.”

In the soap, Stefano has nine children – four of whom are dead (Benjy Hawk, Megan Hathaway, Renée DuMonde and Tony), two who are adopted (Kristen and Peter Blake) and three who remain (Lexie Carver, EJ and Chad Petersen Woods). Did I mention that John Black, whom he brainwashed and caused immense emotional trauma to, is his half-brother?

Stefano has gone through more henchmen than a politician has false promises. A true mastermind in the arts of kidnapping, brainwashing, drugging, baby swopping and, last but not least, faking his death and rising like the Phoenix (Stefano’s adopted alias), it is no wonder that he walks around with a target on his back.

“I’m flattered,” he says of his character’s infamy. “It is frustrating and flattering to play such an influential character. I don’t always see all his actions as ‘evil’. Stefano has the power to protect his family – so that’s what he does. There are always two sides to a character. Stefano can love as well.”

One of the reasons DiMera continues to enjoy longevity in a soap where characters tend to wallow in monotony after a while is that he takes bad to the very depths of evil and then disappears while those memories linger.

With EJ as his pawn in the enduring battle against the Bradys, who knows what trump card Stefano has up his sleeve this time around? But, and make no mistake about it, it will be calculated and sheer agony for his intended victim.

l Days of Our Lives airs on SABC3 at 4.30pm on weekdays.

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