published Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Actress Deidre Hall dishes on the future of soaps

  • photo
    Deidre Hall, a former star on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives," will be in Chattanooga to appear at She: An Expo for Women, a two-day event sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

She's survived a plane crash, hysterical amnesia and a plunge from a 30th-floor window without even mussing her hair. She's been married eight times, four of them to the same guy; been kidnapped and comatose; played a surrogate mother and serial killer.

And, oh yeah, did we mention her demonic possession?

There's never a dull moment in the life of Dr. Marlena Evans, the psychiatrist brought to life by actress Deidre Hall on NBC's "Days of Our Lives" since 1976.

Hall will be in Chattanooga on Sunday to appear at She: An Expo for Women, a two-day event sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. In a phone interview, she says she will sign her books, meet fans and pose for photos with them during her 2:45 p.m. appearance.

"One of the tops, for sure," says Denise Shahan of LaFayette, Ga., in a post on the Times Free Press Facebook page. "'Days of Our Lives' is the only soap I've watched."

Karen Lake White of Hixson calls her "ageless .. one of the queens," and Keith Harden of Chattanooga says that, when it comes to soap opera queens, Hall "and Susan Lucci are in first place. Although Deidre gets it in my book."

In the interview, Hall discussed how she has maintained her ageless look, her favorite storylines and her love for her "soap family."

Q: What do you believe is the future of soap operas today? What does the industry need to do to keep them relevant to today's generation of viewers?

A: The two ABC shows, "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," were canceled by a man who was not very knowledgeable about what he was doing. He thought it would be cheaper to do a game show or reality show.

It isn't about budgets. Women have been watching these shows for so many generations they are invested. They've shared them with their grandparents and grandchildren. It's their touchstone, it's their family.

The reason we are their family is because we've been there for viewers almost 50 years. We were there when they came home from school and Grandma was in the kitchen with our show on, when they went off to college and had something in common with their roommates watching the show.

IF YOU GO

What: She: An Expo for Women

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Chattanooga Con-vention Center, 1150 Carter St.

Two-day admission: $12 online, $15 adult at the door; $7, children 5-12; free under 5

Information: timesfreepress.com/she or 757-6498

We are there when people go into rest homes, on holidays when nobody comes to the table. We know our audience really loves us. We're family. The ABC executive, who is now gone, didn't get that.

We're never going off the air. There will always be a wonderful place for soap operas.

Q: What about the soaps trying to make a comeback online? Do you think it's feasible?

A: I don't know if you can ask your audiences to go [to the smaller screen]. They are used to having you right there in their house.

We don't ask you to pay for it (the daily show); online needs the audience to pay a dollar (soaps on iTunes are 99 cents per episode download). It's a different way to do business.

Q: What has been your favorite storyline on "Days of Our Lives?"

A: I've had a couple. The most infamous storyline was the (satanic) possession story, because it was so groundbreaking and so trendsetting.

Jim Reilly, who wrote that story, was a devout Catholic and medical doctor, so he made sure it was done with great professionalism and believability. The audience really resonated to it. That was so great to play because it was so outside the margin.

The other was with my twin sister, Andrea. (Andrea Hall played Samantha Evans, twin sister of Marlena, for five years. She returned in 2000, to play Hattie, a Marlena lookalike.)

Q: What book(s) are you signing at She?

A: "Deidre Hall's Kitchen Closeup" (2010, co-authored with Lynne Bowman) is a nutrition book. It doesn't have meat recipes, but if you are into healthy, easy, nutritious meals, this is for you. We offer any number of options that you can make on Sunday and serve three or more days to make meals easier on women's lives. It answers a lot of problems women have in feeding families today, and also has recipes simple enough my kids can make them.

The beauty book, "Deidre Hall's How Does She Do It?" (2011, also co-authored with Bowman) came from having people say, "How'd you get your mascara to do that? How do you do this or that?"

I've been in front of a camera for so many years, it's just information you pick up. Every good makeup artist teaches you things you never knew before: How to dress, best colors for your skin, the most flattering way to wear your hair. It's a funny, irreverent, informative look at how to look your best all the time.

The first chapter is about proper sleep. If you are tired, you never look good. It doesn't matter what moisturizer you use, what your wear or how you comb your hair, they won't work without proper sleep.

Q: What is your beauty regimen?

A: I always cleanse, I always scrub and I always moisturize. I am bringing about 25 of my skin-care kits to Chattanooga. To me, it's a basic smart kit: night moisturizer, under-eye moisturizer, primer, blush/bronzer. They will be for sale.

Q: If you hadn't been an actress, what profession would you have pursued?

A: I was studying psychiatry, ironic as that is.

Q: I understand you are getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

A. Next year. It is so surreal to me. I still think about it and go, "Really?" I'm so flattered. But I don't act because I want the applause. I act because I love the creative process.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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