WE LOVE SOAPS TV: With Peter Blake we saw a more adult side to Jennifer. She even had a line about him bringing out the “woman” in her.
Melissa Reeves: He was the ultimate bad guy. And she fell for him knowing he was a DiMera. This was Jennifer’s rebellious side. It kind of worked because Jack was played by Mark [Valley] instead of Matt [Ashford]. People weren’t exactly accepting of it, but more than they would have been if it had been Matt.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: At the end of 1995 you left the show.
Melissa Reeves: Yes, I left for five years, amid ridiculous crazy speculation. But that’s life. It was a time to be with my family. I was so burnt out at that point, I needed a break. People just couldn’t understand that. They there were like, “WHAT?” So the rumors started flying. I could name every one of them. I thought, “There is nothing I can do about this. I’m just going to be home. It will die down after awhile.” And it did. When you choose this life you have to take everything that goes along with it. And when you make a decision that doesn’t go along with normal decisions, people can’t accept it. You have to just let it go.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did you cope with that level of negative attention?
Melissa Reeves: Well, it’s totally out of your control. You get to the point of saying, “The people who know me know me. The people who don’t know me—I just have to trust they know me enough.” Everyone said to me, “Next week they’ll be talking about somebody else so don’t even worry about it.” I had to put that in my head. I said, “You know what? I’m going let this go.” 15 years later it’s not even a memory.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did your faith help you get through?
Melissa Reeves: Without a doubt. Our faith is what drives our family. I didn’t even have that until I met Scott [Reeves] and his family. Yes, our faith comes into play in the great times in our lives, and the really hard times. There is no family that escapes the hard times. We are not bulletproof. But yes, our faith helped. And now to pass that on to our children and see them grow up so differently and make the decisions they make, I am floored.
My son the other day was getting math tutoring. He said to me, “Mom, I can’t believe it, he said the 'f' word as I was getting math tutored.” At his age, I never would have told my parents that, I would have been the one saying that! I thought, “This is my son. Thank you, God! How did you even give me these kids?” They are both so devoted to their faith. Young people are crazy awesome. I am floored by their strength and their commitment to what they believe. I was not that kind of kid. And Scott, I can safely say, was not that kind of kid either. We talk about that a lot. Like, “We can’t really tell our kids what we did when we were their age!”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Something that has concerned me personally and professionally this past year is this epidemic of gay suicide that is still taking place that is often a result of bullying and negative gossip. As someone who received an intense level of public speculation and gossip in 1995-96, what might you say to someone who is coping with that negative focus now?
Melissa Reeves: I just think that we are called to love each other. That is one of God’s main commandments. If we are not loving each other then that is wicked, it is evil, it is wrong. The fact that some people can push others to the point of thinking that their lives are not worthy is catastrophic. It is a tragedy. That is one of the great lies of our world—that we are not good enough, we’re not doing it right, we’re not doing it the way others think we should be doing it. That is so wrong.
It breaks my heart that children are learning this in their home. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to love and not to look at skin color, or at what they like to do or what they don’t like to do. It’s ridiculous. And I am telling you it is coming from their parents. Kids are not born prejudiced. It is what they are hearing in their homes. I see the way parents speak to their children, and then they can’t understand why their children are speaking that way to other children. We need to step up our role as parents and guide our children better.
Our role as parents is to be parents for all kids. To say to other parents, “If your kids need a place to stay, bring them to our house. We will love them, we will pray with them, we will feed them, we will give them clothes, whatever." We can say we have two children, but any child who needs anything, our children know, can come to our house. We are not going to judge them, we’re not going to treat them the way they are being treated in another situation. That’s what we are called to do.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: By the mid '90s, many of your co-stars from DAYS had migrated to GENERAL HOSPITAL including Matt Ashford, Billy Warlock, Mary Beth Evans, Stephen Nichols, and others. Was that ever a consideration for you?
Melissa Reeves: Never. I always planned to stay at home for a couple of years. The other part of that is that I wanted another baby. That was frowned upon at that time. As I said we had a new executive producer and a new head writer and they weren’t really into that. We had our son [in 1997] and I really wanted to be with home with him the first couple of years.
By 2000 I remember thinking, “It would be really cool to go back to work now.” Larry was three years old, the work schedule had gotten better there. So we talked and it worked out. I worked there six more years, Matt came back, Billy Warlock came back, and it was so fun, like the old days. Then they fired Matt again. I thought, “Oh golly, okay.” You kind of get these spurts where things are great for a couple of years, and then they change their mind and move on to something else.
By 2006, Scott’s music career was going really great, we had been visiting Tennessee a lot. I said to him, “Let’s move here. I’m going to leave the show so let's sell everything, take the kids and go.” We are really crazy spontaneous like that, it cracks me up. We laughed the whole time saying, “We are crazy, what are we doing?” And our kids go with it, they’re not even phased by it. Maybe they’re in denial, maybe they know we’re crazy, but they just go with it. Wherever the four of us are is wherever we are having the best time. I did say to Scott that I felt it was bittersweet. I thought I would never walk through the door at DAYS OF OUR LIVES again. I said to Scott, “There is no way, once I leave now, that they are ever going to have me back again.” He asked if I was okay with that. I said, “I’m okay with that. I’m really good with that.” Then go figure. Four years later he is on GENERAL HOSPITAL and I’m back on DAYS. That was not in our plans at all.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And as you said earlier, this is what happens when we make plans with our lives.
Melissa Reeves: That is so true.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Part of what made your return in the early 2000s difficult as a viewer was seeing Reilly come in and once again make decisions that were not favorable to me, and certainly not favorable of Jack & Jennifer. Matt Ashford’s character “died” three times in three years. It sure seemed like Reilly had a grudge against Matt.
Melissa Reeves: We thought the same thing. When we knew Reilly was coming back in, Matt was like, "Okay, here I go again [Laughs]." We would laugh about it. It was kind of ridiculous how much he didn’t like Matt.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I asked Matt Ashford this same question, he is such a gentleman about this issue.
Melissa Reeves: I always say, “Matt, let me speak for you, because I don’t care.” But how could you not look it like that? Matt would just have to say, “Look, I know I didn’t do anything to any of these people personally. But they just don’t get what I like to do. It’s what I do, it’s what I’ve done for years with this character.” Matt just loves what he does. He loves to work, he loves to create this character of Jack. They wanted him to be so different. Matt is so devoted. He came from the perspective of, “I would rather not be here, and stay true to what I created, than to be here and be made a fool of.” It’s his life. He is a phenomenal actor. He is totally committed and he loves it. It happens at every job. Eventually you clash with the powers that be.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Which is true in any profession. I know myself and many of our readers have faced this.
Melissa Reeves: Right. I would joke with Matt by asking, “What did you do to him?” We would start laughing because he’d say, “Nothing! I don’t get it!” I said to him,”Well, guess what, you are dying again, you goon!” And we would start laughing because it was so ridiculous. We were like, “The audience loves what we do, why can’t you just write it and do it? They like it! It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, the audience likes it. Let us do what we do.” But he was 100% against it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Billy Warlock came back in 2005. What was that like to work with him after a 14 year break?
Melissa Reeves: We had remained friends all those years. When he was dating Erica Eleniak, they were the first people at the hospital when Emily was born. We would go out to dinner with them, camping with them, they were our best friends. So when he came back it was so much fun. And Matt and Billy and I get along so well, it was great. Then they didn’t know what to do with Billy. They didn’t know how to write for all three of us. It just wasn’t working out.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back for final part of our interview in which we discuss Frances Reid's passing, returning to DAYS, life lessons learned, and Jennifer's future. Are DAYS viewers going to get to see Jack & Jenn 3.0? Come back for the final part!
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.