'Days of Our Lives' actress says goodbye to soap opera after 22 years
November sweeps aren’t going to be the same on “Days of Our Lives.”
For the first time in over two decades, Alison Sweeney’s Sami Brady won’t be looking for love, causing trouble, or throwing everybody’s past sins up in their faces. Due to the NBC soap’s lengthy lead time, Sweeney, who announced her exit from “Days” at the beginning of the year on “Ellen,” actually wrapped up taping last spring and now, the character of Sami is off the canvas.
“My love for this character and for the job kept me there a lot longer than people anticipated,” Sweeney tells Variety. “I realized I needed to slow down a bit, take a break and spend more time with my kids (Ben, 9, and Megan, 5). Their life and what’s going on with them is important to me.”
Sweeney credits late “Days” head writer Jim Reilly, who aged Sami from an off-screen moppet to a front-burner teen hellion, for constructing the foundation that has sustained her alter-ego for so long and has also made her one of the most memorable characters in soaps. Reilly had Sami witness her mother’s infidelity, which led to her kidnapping – and then trying to sell — her half-sibling (that resulted from said indiscretion) and also attempting numerous times to steal the boyfriend of her other half-sister.
“Sami made a decision early on in life that if she ever wanted something she was going to have to go and get it for herself,” Sweeney reflects. “Sami was always willing to embarrass herself.”
For about two-thirds of her character’s run, Sami was obsessed with chasing after a man. Over the last eight years or so, she was sought after by, at different times, Lucas (the father of her son Will), Rafe (the FBI agent who protected her), and E.J. (the ethically-challenged offspring of Stefano). “Fans became very vocal over which guy they wanted with Sami – they were way more passionate about that than they were about any of her misdeeds over the years,” Sweeney notes.
One of the actress’ favorite moments was when her teen son, Will, walked in on Sami cheating on her husband Rafe with E.J., which she describes as a very full-circle moment. “I loved the irony of that,” Sweeney says. “Sami was never a cheater, but she thought her and E.J.’s son was dead,” which led to the grief sex.
Sweeney says her TV mom Deidre Hall gave her guidance early on in her career that proved invaluable. “She said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter how good you are in a scene. If there’s no light on you and they can’t hear you, they’ll make you do it again.’ I was so lucky to have my first storyline be with her and (TV dad) Wayne Northrop.”
The writers sent Sami out in style this year. She got to play a woman scorned after learning that E.J. had cheated on her with Abigail, Sami and E.J.’s reconciliation, and her grief over his death. Or is that “death”? Nobody ever truly stays dead in soaps, especially in Salem.
And they don’t leave for good either. In addition to continuing her role as host of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” Sweeney is continuing to work as an occasional director at “Days.” Might the show be able to lure her back to Salem on-screen for the show’s 50th anniversary year, which commences in January?
“I told Ken (Corday, executive producer) when I said I was leaving that I’d come back for weddings, funerals, and the 50th to help celebrate this fantastic brand,” Sweeney says. “I’m not leaving because I don’t love playing Sami. I’ve had an incredible run and it’s been so much fun.”