Melissa Reeves: The WE LOVE SOAPS TV Interview, Part Three

In Parts One and Two of our interview with Melissa Reeves, the beloved actress shared her early "rebellious" determination to be a New York dancer, her year on SANTA BARBARA, and some of Jennifer Rose's highs and lows on DAYS OF OUR LIVES in the 1980s.  In Part Three below, Reeves recalls the Jack & Jennifer phenomenon, how she resisted the pressures that went along with the popularity, and the downside of fame following Matt Ashford's firing.  Why exactly did she cut her hair? Find out below! 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In 1989, after three-and-a-half years of being on the show your screen time increased, your popularity increased, your media attention increased.  What was that like?
Melissa Reeves: Matt and I both said the same thing.  We didn’t realize what was happening until after it had happened.  We were so busy working, having so much fun, and enjoying what we were doing, that we weren’t paying that much attention to the status it had become, which is probably a good thing.  I can look back on it now and see people really liked what we were doing and that is great.  That’s what we were trying to accomplish. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Jennifer had typically been on 2-3 times a week, and then for the next few years was featured 3-4, even sometimes 5 times a week.  Was that pressure on you?
Melissa Reeves: No.  As long as you’re not getting caught up in ratings.  You kind of have to stay away from all that because that can really mess with your head.  Frances [Reid] always told me, “You just come here, you do your work, and you go home.  You don’t ask questions, you don’t ask about the ratings, you don’t ask about the focus groups, you don’t ask about any of that.”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you ever have producers that you wanted to focus on those things?
Melissa Reeves: Never. I think it’s just an actor’s natural insecurity to watch the ratings, watch the focus groups, look at where you are in this position and that position.  Actors are so insecure as it is.  If you threw that into the loop, then forget it. You have to just do what you do, love what you do, and let the rest fall into place. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In any profession, if we’re guided by ego, we lose the joy.
Melissa Reeves: You are so right about that.  That’s why it is better not to look at any of that.  And it is certain people’s jobs to pay attention to all of that.  Whenever we weren’t doing the scene they wanted they would come out and say, “Let’s do it this way, we want it to be like this...” And that is our job, to make their vision clear.  We are so separated from all the business anyway.  Our job is to be downstairs, in the make-up room, hair room, on stage, running lines.  That’s really our hub and where we need to be.  Upstairs is where all that business stuff happens.  They keep it all in order.  I’m glad it’s there. Ignorance is bliss. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: After five years on the show, Jennifer finally had sex with Jack.
Melissa Reeves: I know! That was after the shipwreck, right?

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: After The Cruise of Deception.  And again, this was so far away from the typical couple thing you mentioned with the flowing wind and flowers.  They were in a dirty cave. 
Melissa Reeves: [Laughs] We were dirty with sand all over and it was totally uncomfortable.  Everything for Jack and Jennifer was absolutely against the norm.  Their whole relationship followed no formula. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: They were the only couple on the show that I could recall discussing birth control. Despite being shipwrecked on an island, Jennifer had her diaphragm.
Melissa Reeves: Yes! That was our joke every day on set.  We would laugh every day on set about how the diaphragm survived the shipwreck.  We would laugh so hard about that.  Fun times!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: All of this culminated in a huge and unconventional wedding for Jack and Jennifer in 1991.  What are your memories of that experience?
Melissa Reeves: That was comical.  This was during the time when our show would go to Greece, South Carolina, they were doing the most amazing wedding locations.  Matt and I kept saying, “This is going to be so great, I wonder where we’re going to go, we are so excited...” And they finally tell us it was going to be Universal Studios.  Our mouths dropped open, like, “WHAT? We have to be in Burbank in the summer for our wedding?” We were so sad [laughs].  But of course it was hysterical, it was fun, we got to do stunts, and have a house fall on us. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was it like to be on the set for the taping?
Melissa Reeves: They had given me this long poem for the ceremony and I thought Jennifer was going to read it to Jack.  That morning at Universal, they said, “Oh no! You were supposed to say this to him, you were supposed to memorize this!” I was like, “Oh my Gosh!” So I’m sitting in this super too-tight wedding dress that I was sewn into, I could barely walk, and I’m trying to memorize this three page poem! They kept saying, “You absolutely cannot read it to him, it won’t work.”  I memorized it, I got it down. 



WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You also worked with Edward Mallory at that time, he came back briefly to reprise his role as Jennifer’s father, Bill Horton.  He is an actor who I happen to think does not get the accolades he deserves.
Melissa Reeves: I agree.  I hate when people get lost in the shuffle of all the actors.  Each one has something so specific and wonderful to add to the show.  No one should be left out or made less of.  He was an old pro, a total veteran.  He was on time, he knew his lines, he knew what to do.  There’s nothing like working with a pro.  You learn so much just by watching them on set, it’s a great education.  A lot of our pros are gone. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Jack & Jennifer had some cute stories after their wedding.  Then sadly enough, in late 1993, Matt was let go. What was that like for you to get that news?
Melissa Reeves: It was such a weird time.  There was a new producer [Tom Langan], a new headwriter [James E. Reilly] and they just didn’t get Matt.  They didn’t get us at all.  I guess that was the best part of being a Horton family—you got to stay.  It was that awkward time where they didn’t really have a story for us, the new head writer didn’t want to write for us.  Matt, I think, was sort of okay with going.  For me it was horrible, it was awful.  Here we had this great thing.  Then you get new people in, they decide they don’t like it, and it’s done, and you really don’t have a say.  It was intense.  People said, “How can Melissa Reeves stay with Matt Ashford not there?” You get blamed for staying, it was weird.  I think that was just the audience missing this couple.  I had to work at not taking that personally. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you get negative reactions directly from fans?
Melissa Reeves: Oh yes, like, “Why don’t you leave too?” Or, “How can you stay when he got fired?” At the same time people would tell me they were glad I was still there.  But it was a rough time. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How do you not take that personally?
Melissa Reeves: You do, but then you say, “Okay, it is just a television show.  We are doing our best.  There are certain decisions that are completely out of our control.” There is nothing you can do about it.  I learned to just be thankful that they were so passionate about this couple and that they cared that much. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It sounds like this was the first time in your career that you experienced the downside of fame.
Melissa Reeves: I understood it because I was mad too! I also thought, “How can you fire Matt Ashford? This is the middle of Jack and Jennifer’s life!” Obviously though everything works out for a reason, and Matt did eventually come back. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You cut your hair very short at that same time.  Was that a statement?
Melissa Reeves: Maybe it was a little of that “Jersey” coming out.  Kind of like saying, “I’ll show you, I’ll cut my hair off!” But I’m not really sure.  I felt I needed a change, I needed something different.  Afterward I thought, “What did I just do?” It was a transition period.  We were so used to working together, having this great thing, and then someone comes in and says, “No, we don’t like it. Done.” I had just had Emily and it was kind of like that whole new mom thing.  You want to cut your hair off, I don’t know why. 



WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I have publicly said in interviews that James Reilly’s writing was not to my taste.  I felt like he wrote for caricatures, not characters.  His characters were archetypes, not complex and unique individuals. 
Melissa Reeves: That’s a great way to put it.  He did not get me and Matt at all.  We were not his style.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So Jennifer was paired then with Peter [Jason Brooks].
Melissa Reeves: Yes, and Mark Valley came in to play Jack. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was it like to have a new actor playing Jack?
Melissa Reeves: It was really, really strange.  But Mark Valley is such a great guy, and it really worked.  It wasn’t the same dynamic for sure, but it did work.  He served in the Gulf War. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It was in this time period that you won the Soap Opera Digest was for Hottest Female Star.
Melissa Reeves: That is so funny.  I never think of myself like that.  My kids will crack up.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for Part Four in which we review Jennifer's relationship with Peter Blake, leaving the show in 1995, and yes, the rumors.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at Amazon.com. For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at Shouldless@gmail.com.

4 comments:

  1. Great in-depth interview - thanks!
    You did miss one point...maybe it's coming later... :) asking her what it was like, meeting her husband Scott when he had a role on Days in the late 80s! If I recall correctly, he had a small recurring role and was involved with Eve (Charlotte Ross)

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  2. Kudos to you, Damon -- I have learned more about who Melissa Reeves really is in this interview than any I've read in the last 25 years. I think I have a greater understanding of some of the things that transpired in her life. And I love the image of her and Frances Reid kicking back in Reid's dressing room and shooting the s***.

    Also, I want to agree with you on Jim Reilly's work. It's often noted that his success influenced other soaps to introduce bizarre and over-the-top plots, but I think his most significant impact was in the way soaps to this day still write, as you say, "caricatures, not characters." There is not a single soap character today that is as complex as a pre-Reilly Jennifer Horton, Jack Deveraux or Marlena Evans (the character that suffered the most under his pen, even as her popularity soared).

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  3. @Scott - Thank you! There were so many things we didn't cover in this long but brief interview. Meeting her husband and so many other things were skipped, but hopefully will be covered again in a future discussion

    @Eplin - I can't tell you what an honor it is to read your words. I happen to think Reilly did a lot of damage. Did the ends justify the means? Maybe. But the supernatural direction and dumbing down of daytime has done little to help the genre IMO. Thank you again!

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  4. Damon, this was a great interview. I am such a fan of Missy's and love watching her on DAYS! Can you do another interview with her again soon? I have to agree, not a fan of James Reilly either. He SUCKED! How can you not like Matt Ashford? How can you not like JACK AND JENNIFER? They are one of the best supercouples on DAYS! When they brought Matt back in 2011 just to kill him off again in 2012 I was so mad. I was finally getting to see J&J again after years of waiting and bam all that was killed just a few months later.

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