We Love Soaps: In 1982, under a new head writer [Margaret DePriest], the character of Doug started being written in a very different way.
Bill Hayes: Quite. We had a new head of daytime for NBC and basically changed our story from families of all ages to [the idea] “we have to go for the 12-22 age demographic and tell stories about young people.” Only young people. My character had always been a free swinger.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Cool, his character was cool.
Bill Hayes: He could cope with anything. He was wise. He suddenly became an old jerk.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: A nay-saying alarmed father.
Bill Hayes: I suddenly was saying all old lines like “When I was your age...” All his lines were old. He griped at Hope all the time. I was very uncomfortable.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: He was very uncomfortable. Bill had raised five children. We went to the head writer at the time. She, of course would not be criticized for the material she was writing for us, and suggested that Bill perhaps did not really know how to raise children.
Bill Hayes: I asked if we could have a meeting. We all gathered. Susan, the head writer, the associate head writer. I said, “I feel like I’ve been Magic Johnson. But now you have suddenly put me on the bench and not allowed me to play anymore.” The writing was so stifling to the character. They didn’t buy it. Perhaps they were under orders to write these characters as antagonists. But it was a very hard change for me.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: We probably should have rode it out and not left. We were in contract negotiations and they stopped negotiating. If we had not have had that meeting, if we hadn’t said anything, if we had just put up with it, he probably would have had many more episodes of employment, which I regret. All of this has taught me to follow orders and keep my mouth shut. If you want to have your own production, then go out and have your own production. If it means that much to you, get off the train!
Bill Hayes: I still think they had done a disservice to the audience by changing my character, and maybe others. I thought they were not treating their audience right. Okay, bring in young characters, that is fine. Mine was an older character with a teenage daughter, that is fine. Make the story about Hope, but don’t change my character in the meantime. I’m still upset about that.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: He’s still upset about it. I have watched enough soaps, and listened to enough actors, and listened to my mother talk about enough actors who would come to the writers with their take of what is going on, to realize you cannot criticize anything the writer ever gives you to do. And you cannot expect any idea you bring forward to be honored. Unless it is convenient and fits in with their pattern.
We Love Soaps: This was true even when your mother [Elizabeth Harrower] was head writer in 1979?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Most especially. That was the worst year of my life. Everyone had input to me, through my mother, including my husband. And my mother was not used to being an executive. She wanted to please, and was told she had to please a long list of people before it ever got around to the actors whom she loved. She received lots of notes from the upper echelons at NBC. I saw her blink rate go down to nothing. And I saw her physically implode with all this “guidance” she was getting. She didn’t have enough self confidence to tell them all to take a walk. So let it go. Have a happy homelife. Plant a garden. Write a book.
We Love Soaps: So come 1984, you two walked.
Bill Hayes: Or we were bumped.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: We were bumped.
We Love Soaps: There was no huge goodbye, no closure for the audience. What was that like?
Bill Hayes: It was stunning. We had been an integral part of the show since 1970. Seriously part of it until 1982. And even then still a good part of the show until 1984. The head writer said, “I cannot write for them anymore.” She just stopped. So at the end of a scene, we were done.
We Love Soaps: Bill, you were brought back without Susan in early 1986. I remember being very excited about your return and then...
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Nothing.
Bill Hayes: It was a strange period. It’s like the writers didn’t know what to do with Doug. I was there, I had a few Doug and Hope conversations, and it’s like they didn’t know what to do. They hadn’t made a plan for a story. I was happy to be there, but it was a brief interlude.
We Love Soaps: Robert Clary was there, Kristian Alfonso and Peter Reckell were winding down to leave.
Bill Hayes: That’s right. I guess they just didn’t know what to do.
We Love Soaps: Then Al Rabin contacted Susan in late 1989 to hire her back.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: And they never explained what had happened with Doug and Julie. [They said] “Don’t ask. Don’t ask.”
We Love Soaps: So when you did ask you were told...
Susan Seaforth Hayes: “We’re not going to mention it, we’re not going to address it.” And they never did. One had to carry around the idea that something awful had happened.
We Love Soaps: There was a huge amount of fanfare and publicity about your return in 1990.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: And I had a lot to do then. I was fairly busy. Then by the time we came back together in another era in the '90s, the Vivian character was on the map, and you could not have two strong, interesting, funny women at the same time. I lost ground there. I began to wonder if it was how I looked. I never had much to chew on for many years.
We Love Soaps: Your first year back in 1990 you were central in one of fan's most favorite stories of all time.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: The Cruise Of Deception. That was a lot of fun.
We Love Soaps: That introduced a romance for Julie and Victor, and then nothing. What happened?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: I couldn’t stand working with anybody besides Bill. I didn’t throw myself into that for sure. That was short sided. I don’t know. Then I certainly had the feeling I was being let go for looking bad. For aging.
Bill Hayes: I don’t believe that.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: That was mentioned. By a lady producer. “You have to do something about your hair.” When they start talking about doing something about your “hair,” then you know what they are REALLY saying. They want you to do something about everything. I was pink-slipped again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please press here for the final part of our interview in which Bill and Susan discuss their future plans, past regrets, and what they would do to keep DAYS on the air.
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Bill and Susan's history on television and stage, please read their outstanding autobiography "Like Sands Through The Hourglass."
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve".