Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes Reflect on Decades of ‘Days of our Lives’

As “Days of Our Lives’ ” Doug and Julie Williams, Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes have battled Doug’s deranged ex-wife, an exploding oven and a serial killer or three — among many other challenges. Their endurance will pay off April 29 when the dynamic duo will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 45th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Pasadena, Calif.

Hayes’ career dates back to the earliest days of television in 1949 when he starred on Olsen & Johnson’s “Fireball Fun-for-All” and later, “Your Show of Shows.”

“The cameras were huge and immobile back then,” Hayes says. “They didn’t have the capability of zooming in or out. It was all live until 1958.”

Born in Harvey, Ill., Hayes, a singer and dancer, found success on Broadway in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Me and Juliet,” and his rendition of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” has sold more than 4 million copies. But in 1970, the divorced father who had custody of his five children wanted stability. He found it professionally after being cast as “Days’” Doug, a con artist, and personally, with Seaforth Hayes, the love of his life.

“I’d been on [“Days”] since 1968, but I was no more important to it than anyone else until Bill came onto the show and into my life,” says Seaforth Hayes, an Oakland, Calif., native whose early credits include selling television sets on “Matinee Theater” and playing a sunburned teenager on “General Hospital.”

Doug and Julie emerged as the show’s favorite couple, topping magazine popularity polls. (Their portrayers earned multiple Daytime Emmy Award nominations, too.) When Doug couldn’t tell Julie he loved her, the writers would have him sing how he felt.

Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes were the original supercouple of daytime drama, and we all have been so fortunate that they remain perennially vibrant and endearing as a couple to this day,” says “Days of Our Lives” executive producer Ken Corday.

The couple wed in real life in 1974 and on-screen in 1976, the same year that Time magazine wrote about the growing popularity and profitability of soaps. Talent at serials on both coasts were interviewed and photographed. Editors selected them for the cover image.

“Knowing the magazine had a red border, I went out and bought a red negligee to wear the day they came to shoot at the set,” Seaforth Hayes says. “We added glycerin tears. I think that’s how the title ‘Sex and Suffering’ came about.”

In 1984, the couple quit “Days” after their characters’ airtime diminished. Seaforth Hayes ended up returning to the show in 1990 without her husband, and writers then tried pairing Julie with villainous Victor (John Aniston).

“All I felt was resentment to poor John,” recalls Seaforth Hayes. “I did everything I could to make sure the scenes wouldn’t work and, sure enough, they didn’t.”

Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes married in 1974, after meeting on the set of “Days of Our Lives.”
NBC/Photofest

When her character exited again in 1993, it was a bittersweet moment for the actress and for much of the audience. Seaforth Hayes’ mother, Elizabeth Harrower, a former head writer at “Days,” scripted her daughter’s farewell. In it, Doug recaptured the heart of his “fair lady” with a music box that played “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”

The pair made sporadic appearances in Salem and performed on stage throughout the rest of the 1990s while Hayes also earned a doctorate in education from West Virginia University.

In 2003, “Days” called again, but this time they had reservations related to reprising their roles. The program was telling a tale in which veterans were being killed off. Hayes had one request for doomed Doug — that he go out fighting.

The show obliged, and Hayes “did all his stunts,” his wife says. She stayed on as a family mourner, noting that the show’s costume designer Richard Bloore bought her “one great black outfit after another.”

Later, the presumed deceased characters were miraculously resurrected and, today, both Hayes and Seaforth Hayes still appear on the show.

“I was no more important to it than anyone else until Bill came onto the show.”
Susan Seaforth Hayes

Last June, the couple attended at taping of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and during a break, the late night host walked into the audience. The couple’s grandson, David Samuel, alerted Fallon that his grandfather had been a guest on the show when it had been hosted by Johnny Carson and Jack Parr. Fallon turned it into a viral moment, inviting Hayes down to the sofa for an impromptu on-air interview and further proving how his talent has withstood the test of time.

The Hayeses have been nominated for Emmys before — Seaforth Hayes is even nominated this year in the supporting actress category — but they both feel that earning the Lifetime Achievement Award is acknowledgement on a different level.

“We were stunned and thrilled when we learned about this honor,” Hayes says. They have been working hard on crafting the perfect speech, she says.

“[Our grandson Brian] said, ‘You can either live in the past or tell them who you are today,’” Hayes says. “I told that to the guys I have lunch with on Thursdays. One said, ‘Do both. Sing a song, get the nostalgia in, and then tell ’em who you are!’”

POPULAR ON VARIETY.COM:

More TV

  • Photos of CBS News anchors, correspondents

    Maria Mercader, CBS News Veteran, Dies at 54 Due to Coronavirus

    Maria Mercader, whose work at CBS News helped deliver the division’s breaking news from the U.S. and around the world to viewers, died Sunday due to coronavirus, CBS News said. She was 54 years old and had been on medical leave for an unrelated matter since the last week in February. CBS News said Mercader  [...]

  • Jeanine Pirro

    Fox News Defends Odd 'Judge Jeanine' Broadcast, Citing 'Technical Difficulties'

    Many viewers noticed something was off during Saturday’s episode of “Justice With Judge Jeanine,” particularly host Jeanine Pirro’s disheveled appearance and slurred speech at times. However, a Fox News spokesperson said that “technical difficulties” marred the show’s first at-home broadcast. “Jeanine Pirro was broadcasting from her home for the first time when she encountered several [...]

  • Trisha Yearwood and Garth BrooksMusiCares Person

    Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood Sign On for Impromptu Live CBS Special

    The live-stream home concerts that have become more of a phenomenon during the coronavirus crisis are now crossing over to prime-time TV. In what is being described as an outgrowth of the kind of web shows that Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood have already done, CBS has scheduled an hour-long special, “Garth & Trisha Live!,” [...]

  • Tiger King

    'Tiger King' Ranks as TV's Most Popular Show Right Now, According to Rotten Tomatoes

    Netflix has a tiger tale that has punched into the zeitgeist with “Tiger King,” stocked with a cast of real-life bizarre personalities and sinister plot twists. “Tiger Tale,” a true-crime-style docuseries that debuted March 20 on Netflix, ranks as the most popular current TV show, according to Rotten Tomatoes. It has a 97% critic’s rating [...]

  • La Unidad

    Movistar Plus Pitches ‘La Unidad’ Digitally to International Buyers

    MADRID  —  Telefonica’s Movistar Plus was set to show off a pair of dramas at this year’s MipTV before the market was canceled. Now, Movistar has prepared online presentations on Monday where it will screen episodes of both series as well as conversations with producers and creatives from both series. Each show focus on terrorist [...]

  • La Linea Invisible

    Movistar Presents New Drama ‘La Linea Invisible’ to Virtual Marketplace

    MADRID – Originally planned to premiere alongside fellow Movistar Plus Original “La Unidad” at this year’s MipTV, “La Línea Invisible” will now instead screen for international buyers digitally in an online showcase hosted by the Spanish broadcaster on Monday. From “What the Future Holds” creator Mariano Barroso (“The Wolves of Washington”), the six-part series is [...]

  • John Callahan

    John Callahan, 'All My Children' Soap Opera Star, Dies at 66

    John Callahan, a soap opera star on “All My Children,” died on Saturday morning after suffering a stroke at his Palm Springs, Calif., home on Friday. He was 66. “Your bigger than life, gregarious personality will leave a hole in our hearts forever. We are devastated–my great friend, co-parent partner, and loving father to Kaya,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content