In Parts One and Two of the four-part We Love Soaps interview with Peggy McCay, the Emmy-winning talent shared details of her upcoming appearance as Zelda the Knife Thrower on COLD CASE, airing this Sunday, February 21st on CBS, 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT. She also shared more about her history of appearing on primetime and daytime television over the past sixty years. In this part, she discusses beginning on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, her beloved co-stars, and how she took a stand against the "Ma Perkins" approach to dressing grandmothers on daytime.
We Love Soaps: After doing a fair amount of primetime appearances you returned to daytime on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, originally in 1983 as Caroline Brady. How did that come about?
Peggy McCay: It came about from GENERAL HOSPITAL. Al Rabin, who had been the co-Executive Producer on GENERAL HOSPITAL liked my work. He sent me for me to come in to DAYS OF OUR LIVES. He liked what I did as an actress, so there I was. Do you remember Al?
We Love Soaps: Yes I do. As a matter of fact, I was just talking about him with Robert S. Woods at the ONE LIFE TO LIVE studio earlier today.
Peggy McCay: That’s right! I taught a drama class that Robert was in. I always see him at the Emmys. He was so good. I told him, “You don’t need this acting class. Just go out there and get yourself an agent. You don’t need to spend the money on this.” He’s never forgotten that. It was true, he knew what he was doing, he was very talented. He came on our show and it was a not a good experience, unfortunately. It just didn’t work out. They didn’t use him, they’d act strange. I thought it was terrible. But it turned out okay for him in the end and that’s what counts. I love that guy, we find one another at the Emmys and say hi.
We Love Soaps: So Al Rabin wanted you to come on as the matriarch of this new family in Salem.
Peggy McCay: Well, the matriarch was Frances Reid. I came on the show for three days when Marlena and Roman married as the mother of Roman. The role had no contract, I had nothing to say. So I thanked Al Rabin and said, “I can’t do this. This is very hard work. If I don’t have a contract and some kind of storyline I just can’t do it.” I did leave and I was gone a few years before they brought me back [in 1985]. So there’s a misconception I’ve been there all along when I haven’t been.
We Love Soaps: I remember in your absence they had a different actress portraying Caroline Brady, who seemed much quieter and matronly. You came back in 1985 which a much different take on the character, and much better clothes I might add.
Peggy McCay: I had to fight for that. When I came back the costumer gave me a navy blue crepe dress with a crochet collar and a broach. It looked like Betty Crocker. I said, “Is this for me?” He said, “Yes, that’s how we see the character.” I said, “That’s not how I see the character.” So I worked it out that I bought my own clothes until I got tired of wearing my own clothes. By that time they were willing to let me wear something other than Ma Perkins outfits. The only place you see that kind of dressing is on commercials. I have cousins who live all over the midwest and they never dress like that. And their grandmothers never looked like that. It’s somebody’s idea of how these women should look. They don’t look like that, at least I haven’t seen any in my family. They had this concept of what they wanted, and I didn’t go that way.
We Love Soaps: So Caroline came back in 1985 with a secret.
Peggy McCay: I was the shady lady who had a past, an illegitimate son by this handsome debonair guy named Victor Kiriakis. I had kept it a secret. That was a very good storyline and very dramatic.
We Love Soaps: This back and forth pull between Caroline and Victor has now been playing out for 25 years. Are they ever ever ever going to get together?
Peggy McCay: I don’t know. They obviously don’t want us to get together, I don’t know why. My fans do. They always say, “Now that Shawn is gone, when are you going to marry Victor?”
We Love Soaps: We know they had some time together on Melaswen when they were presumed dead.
Peggy McCay: Yes, I wish more had happened with that.
We Love Soaps: Do you and John [Aniston] ever talk about what happened with Caroline and Victor off camera on that island?
Peggy McCay: Well, it’s not good behavior. I mean, I couldn’t write the story. I have to say I’m grateful we have the writers we have. We laugh about it sometimes, but we never do anything about it.
We Love Soaps: Peter Reckell has played your son for most of these 25 years, and Caroline has always had a special connection to Bo. What has it been like to work with him?
Peggy McCay: It’s wonderful to work with Peter. He wants to do his best. He’s prepared, he works hard. We have a real nice closeness when we work. That’s one of the good things about working with some of the same people for a long time. You can establish that kind of relationship, whereas as a guest star you come and go. I really love working with him a lot. He’s a great guy. He has a little girl now and she’s just precious. He’s crazy about her.
We Love Soaps: I did an interview last summer with Patsy Pease. She shared how much she has always valued your friendship and support.
Peggy McCay: I love Patsy Pease. I think she is a beautiful actress. I think they made a mistake with her. She gave so much to that role, I think she was exhausted. She asked for time off, and they got really huffy about it and thought she was being unreasonable. She wasn’t. She gave such a brilliant performance as those three personalities. I know a director on YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS watched her work and said, “This girl is fabulous.” I thought so too. It’s most unfortunate that they don’t bring her back. I am really sorry about that.
We Love Soaps: I agree. Those performances you mentioned in 1992 was some of the best acting I have seen on daytime, or anytime.
Peggy McCay: Absolutely. Instead of appreciating it...it bothers me when they don’t appreciate what an actor gives. To do a role like that, that takes a lot. It’s too bad they didn’t appreciate it. It’s very difficult when one doesn’t have any real influence, or I don’t, as an actor. It’s always strange to me. On other shows I’ve done we could always talk to the writers. On this show you cannot. It’s forbidden, but that’s the way it is.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for the final part of our interview in which this inspiring talent reflects more on her years in Salem including the Exorcism story, Caroline's "murder," and life-lessons learned. PLUS: How many times has Peggy McCay been fired from DAYS? The answer may surprise you! Don't forget to watch Peggy on COLD CASE on CBS, Sunday, February 21st, 10/9c.
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 is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.