In Part Three of our interview with Emmy winner Suzanne Rogers, the actress shared her struggles with myasthenia gravis, and her inspiring fight to overcome the medical and emotional issues that prevented her from thriving. In this part she discusses a different kind of stressor, ie, portraying her 30-year-old character's violent "death."
We Love Soaps: Flashing forward to 2003, Maggie was finally front and center again, only to be bludgeoned to death.
Suzanne Rogers: For seven weeks I was front and center.
We Love Soaps: What was that like for you?
Suzanne Rogers: I was told before it happened. And that was the thing, I still had a year on my contract. I had a two year contract. And we had talked about this in the make-up room. John Aniston [Victor] was in the room, and a few other people. Someone asked me, “How much more do you have on your contract?” I said I had another year. Within two days I got a phone call. That must have gone right to somebody.
We Love Soaps: Who called you?
Suzanne Rogers: Ken [Corday]. He said, “I need to talk to you, when can you come in?” I said, “Well, to tell you the truth I’m working every day but Wednesday this week. He said, “Then I need to see you on Wednesday.” This was Monday. I said, “Oh, is this serious?” He said, “Yes.” So I go into his office, and he told me.
We Love Soaps: How did he say it?
Suzanne Rogers: He said, “We’re killing the character of Maggie off.” I don’t remember hearing much else of what he said.
We Love Soaps: What did that feel like?
Suzanne Rogers: Awful. I said, “Why?” I remember that. He said, “Well, basically they’re killing one unit out of each family. One person.” And for years John Clarke [Mickey] had said, “I want to quit, I’m tired, I’m ready to retire.” And I thought to myself, “Why don't you kill off somebody who wants to leave? Why are you killing off me, I don’t want to leave!” But they wanted to kill a woman. They felt my character was a strong woman and it turned out it was a good ploy. But it was hard. He said, “Now for seven weeks you can’t tip this.” Those seven weeks I had to just play it like I didn’t know what was going to happen.
We Love Soaps: How did you feel about the way she was murdered—by being bludgeoned to death with an alcohol bottle?
Suzanne Rogers: In hindsight I say, “Well, I should have done this, I should have done that. When Marlena put me in a trance I should have kept my eyes open, that would have been more interesting.” In hindsight you go back over the choices that you made and you say, “Why didn’t I do that? I should have done that?” But you really do have to put that away. You have to do the present, today. The script that you get is what you have to do. You can’t go down that road. You can’t go back. You have to do the day you have to do in order for that to be real and in order for that to work. So I really didn’t know how it was going to end until I got the script. I did not know. And I was very thankful for that. It was bad enough to know I was going to die so the rest is immaterial. You’re told you’re going to die, and you say, “Okay, I’ve got to put this out of my mind because I have to work for seven more weeks.” It’s kind of immaterial as to how you’re going to die. That’s how I felt. Of course when I found out how I was going to die, I thought, “Ooh, that’s pretty raw,” and that Marlena was the one who was going to do it!
We Love Soaps: Did you know that in the script at the time?
Suzanne Rogers: No. So it was so weird. It was so surreal that day. The crew that I worked with .... [Pause] This is breaking me up. The crew that I worked with were crying, and so were the make-up people. It was just awful. It was such a violent...a lot of stuff they couldn’t put on. They said, “It’s too violent, we can’t show it.” They edited a lot of stuff. It was just hard. It was hard to do and the camera guys were having a really hard time photographing it. We had been together for so long and we knew each other so well.
We Love Soaps: So it’s clear that you really did not know that the intent was to bring her back six months later?
Suzanne Rogers: No! Not at all.
We Love Soaps: Given that in the past stress from the show contributed to your symptoms of myasthenia gravis, were you concerned about the symptoms coming back?
Suzanne Rogers: Well, the whole thing about those seven weeks is that there was a lot of upheaval, and a lot of tears. So I was letting it go. I was letting it out. And I think that helped. Because when you do that, that’s what the therapist had said [to do]. She said, “You’ve got to let this stuff out. You have to find a way of releasing these things that build up in you and not keeping these things to yourself.” See, this is the way I raised. I was raised that you keep your business to yourself. I had to change that. I had to change it and calm myself down. I’ve always been a high strung person. I still have a lot of energy. It’s doubly hard for me because I have a lot to let out. But I have to get it out. I’ll yell at the cat or yell at the dog. [Laughs] But I have to get it out.
We Love Soaps: That’s great that the tools you learned earlier in therapy helped you get through this stressful time.
Suzanne Rogers: Yes, absolutely.
We Love Soaps: So as you said, John Clarke retired soon after Maggie's “death,” and we never did get a reunion with those two.
Suzanne Rogers: No, they brought in John Ingle. By that time the storyline had completely changed to Bonnie and Mickey, and that was fun, but everything was so very different. Now what’s going on is that Mickey is sort of... traveling. He’s going to different places and doing trials in different places. Or he’s at work. He’s just not there. That affords my character [the opportunity] to work with the kids. And it’s a complete reversal. Where Mickey used to be the strong one and Maggie was by his side, I was always sitting in the back of the court room or not doing so much, now he’s not around and I’m the one doing more of the work. And I’m enjoying it! I can’t say I’m not. Over the years I’d say, “Give me something to do, give me a job, anything!” And so that’s why I owned different restaurants or whatever. But still, it was just so I wouldn’t be stuck at home. I had no children at home. So why was I home? It’s really nice now to have things to do. I’m with someone, and working with people I have never worked with before.
We Love Soaps: How is John Clarke?
Suzanne Rogers: I spoke to him and Patty [his wife] not so recently. But the last time I spoke to him he had a mild stroke. He was fine. He answered the phone. And I certainly couldn’t tell in his voice anything. I can’t imagine him not being in charge of things. I’m sure things are fine or I would have heard something. I think he was ready to go when they killed me off, that’s when he got so upset. He just really didn’t want to be there when I wasn’t there. And that’s what happened. He didn’t know I was coming back. So in the interim they brought in John Ingle and completely changed the character. All those wonderful pieces of film they can’t use because we didn’t have that Mickey. So I look at people doing their flashbacks and I think, [Groan] “We had so many flashbacks they could have used, but they couldn’t.” So that’s the sad part about that.
We Love Soaps: Looking back, what was your favorite story as Maggie?
Suzanne Rogers: I guess the red shoes for the uplifting story, because eventually it was uplifting. The best storyline was probably losing my daughter. It gave me the teeth to have the arguments with Mickey, and then to show the emotion of losing a child. She was an adopted child, and her natural mother came and took her from us. So that was the meat I enjoyed doing. I can’t say I enjoyed the killing storyline because it’s hard to say you enjoyed getting killed. [Laughs] I don’t want to go down that road. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now with everyone. I enjoyed the scenes I had about a month ago with Lauren [Koslow, who plays Kate], and the scenes I’ve had with Chloe and Daniel and Lucas. It’s been wonderful.
Stay tuned for the final part of this interview in which Suzanne Rogers reflects on Maggie's legacy, her recent resurgence in Salem, and hopes for the future.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." He blogs regularly at www.shouldless.com.