One, Two, and Three of my interview with Ken Corday, the affable and arguably misunderstood Executive Producer discussed writing "The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family's Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives," protecting DAYS from the "sharks" at NBC, and how he has coped with negative criticisms and insults from fans. In this final part he discusses his brother's chronic mental health issues, and the future of DAYS (including good news for "Viggie" fans!).
We Love Soaps: What is “Days Of Our Lives Publications?”
Ken Corday: The overall deal we made with Source Publishing is to give them over the next three years up to ten books. The minimum deal is for five. This is the first. In October we are coming out with a 45th Anniversary coffee table book. It is totally pictorial, no narrative. Close to 400 pages from the beginning of the show to today. Most of them are behind the scenes photos and wonderful candids. Then there is a line of extended romantic novels based on characters that are no longer on the show. The first is John and Marlena. Those three books are being written by Sheri Anderson (DAYS headwriter 1984-1986).
We Love Soaps: In the first few pages of the book, you describe a traumatizing event that took place as a child in front of your apartment in Manhattan, in which your older brother witnessed a woman jump and fall to her death.
Ken Corday: I’m sure that emotionally scarred him for life. That was the inception for the book. I told that story to Jim Reilly a year before he passed. We were at The Carlisle in New York where I always would go to meet him, kiss his ring, listen to him pitch his story. We both grew up in New York. He in the Bronx, me in Manhattan. I told him this story and he said, “Ken, that sounds like the first few pages of a book. Why don’t you write a book about your mom and dad and their history and the family?” I laughed him off.
We Love Soaps: You are so honest about your brother’s mental illness. Your book painfully describes the experience of being a loved one of someone who is ill. You get phone calls in the middle of the night, you never know if he is safe or not. Anyone who taken care of a loved one with mental illness will identify with this experience.
Ken Corday: It’s the disease America sweeps under the carpet.
We Love Soaps: It wasn’t clear to me if you thought the trauma of watching this woman die contributed to his illness?
Ken Corday: As a therapist, you know there is debate as to whether someone who is Bipolar or Paranoid Schizophrenic is that way at birth genetically, or if it’s learned. The more accepted opinion today is that it is genetic. There was an uncle on my father’s side who had a similar situation, similar illness. There was no rhyme or reason. My brother was just a difficult child from the day he was born. He was the first born, the apple of my mother and father’s eye, maybe it was the pressure. But I don’t think it was in any one instance. It wasn’t watching the suicide, or the nights spent alone riding the subways of New York. He certainly was given every opportunity and a lot of love. Some things you just cannot control. His life had it’s own pre-designated track. And I think that is the most difficult thing for a family dealing with a family member who is seriously mentally ill to come to grips with. Especially twenty years ago, when the medications we have today were not around.
Ken Corday: That was intentional. My mother and father, and my brother, were very much part of DAYS OF OUR LIVES. What we saw, what we experienced. My wife and three children are separate from the business, and separate from the show. I don’t want them in the public eye. Especially my children. They have their own lives, and so does my wife. When I come home from work I leave DAYS OF OUR LIVES at the office.
We Love Soaps: Thankfully and gratefully DAYS has gotten another 18 month stay on NBC. What is the plan right now to live on beyond the next 18 months?
Ken Corday: We are at it right now. We are talking to NBC, and there is a bit of chaos over there. Comcast is coming in, and I think that bodes well for us. They are an entertainment entity as opposed to General Electric where we are just another 50 Watt bulb in their light bulb division. I think with a cable entity like Comcast it bodes well. The plan is to strike while the iron is hot. I don’t want to be looking at my cast and crew come Labor Day and say, “Gee, I really don’t know what’s going to happen a year from now.” That’s my responsibility now, to secure another year from that September. We are at it as we speak.
We Love Soaps: What might you say to viewers who have tuned out, and why they might be glad if they came back?
Ken Corday: This is the perfect time to ask that question. Beginning June 9th and going all the way through the 23rd, we are going to see the return of nine very important characters who are all coming back for their last goodbyes with Alice. So this is a great time to tune in. You can touch base again with the faces of old, some of whom who will be returning to stay, most of whom are not returning to stay. As Dena very carefully constructed this, it wasn’t that we were going to stop the show and deal with Alice’s death and memorial. We were going to have another two stories going on at the same time. So as lapsed viewers come back, they are going to see there are other things going on besides the passing of this matriarch.
We Love Soaps: A lot of our readers are excited at the possible pairing of Victor and Maggie.
Ken Corday: That’s wonderful to hear, as am I. We are going to play the hell out of them. It started with one scene where Maggie watched Vivian manipulate Victor. There was just this look and a line. Peggy McCay, who really believes that Caroline is the star-crossed lover for Victor, came screaming into the producer’s office, “What is the story with Victor and Maggie?” We were thrown! We sat down that morning in the meeting and said, “Well, if it really affected her in that way, we should milk this thing.” So we started telling it more and more and more, and where it goes...If I told you right now, it would baffle you how long this story plays out, and how many other characters it involves. It is not a “I love you Maggie/I love you Victor” story. There is a very serious mystery that starts occurring in the beginning of July.
We Love Soaps: That’s great to hear! For those of us watching, we have seen these two characters circulate around each other for 25 years without really talking to each other. Our readers have told me that this kind of story is invigorating because it shows that two people can find love and friendship later in life, even after one or both have lost someone important.
Ken Corday: Nail on the head.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to 1985, when your mother first asked you to take over running the show, what advice would you give yourself?
Ken Corday: That’s a tough question. Would I do anything different? I would say [to myself] that faith and courage get you through. Later I would learn not to second guess myself. That just comes with time. Some people are just blessed. That does sound self-serving, but I consider myself extremely blessed.
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".