In this exclusive new interview with WE LOVE SOAPS TV, Evans tells us about "Howard Johnson's" and shares her thoughts on her web series experiences, RITUALS and more.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: "Murder at the Howard Johnson's" has been described as a screwball comedy. I guess when I think of your work, that's not the first thing that comes to mind. Is that what attracted you to this role, to do something different?
Mary Beth Evans: It's a couple of things for me, and why I did a play last year too. In daytime, and the way daytime is now in particular, you just show up, you've got it memorized and you put it out there. There's one take, people hardly say anything and there's no direction. You go for it and that's just the nature of the train zipping by.
It's fun to go work on something where there's six to eight weeks of rehearsal before you get to the production of it. The director John Coppola is fabulous and incredible. The two guys I get to do it with, Patrick Muñoz and Wilson Green, are hilarious. It's like a work in progress thing. It's so different than daytime, and daytime is so serious. I'm not a serious person so it's fun to do something else.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is this a brand new play?
Mary Beth Evans: No, it was done in the late '70s. It's very fast moving and funny. Everyone's trying to kill each other. It's sort of a farce. It's under an hour so it's a quick night of entrainment then goodbye. Which is my favorite, I like it quick. It's a very fast pace with no intermission.
That also means you don't really leave the stage which is a little frightening because once you step out there you're out there for like 60 pages which is a very long time. It always amazes me how long it takes me to learn a play versus a day working on a daytime show. Those are like 3 or 4 pages and you can look at them between each scene. With this play you never stop talking for 60 pages. It's crazy!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: From the time you started working on soaps the scenes have gotten even shorter.
Mary Beth Evans: It's shorter and shorter and shorter. It's so conversational and relationship, it's not character and certainly very little comedy. It's just fun to do something different and I like the whole process with a play. It's just hard on my relationship being gone Friday and Saturday nights because my husband works a regular job, and those are his nights to do something. Plus my kids were home for so many years and it was just kind of impossible.
About 8 years ago Jim Reynolds, who owns a theater, called me up to do a part so I did a play with him. That got the love back for me and I did that play last year. But I started in theater at South Coast Repertory in Orange County.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You play Arlene in this new play. How would you describe the character?
Mary Beth Evans: It takes place in the late '20s. She's kind of a repressed housewife who finds herself. She gets herself into these whacky situations about who she's going to be with and how to get rid of the person she's not with. It's cute and fun. The guys in it are really fun. She's trying to find personal happiness in a time when women didn't necessarily have that. She's trying to get liberated and that brings on a lot of mischief.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did you get this role?
Mary Beth Evans: Last year when I did "Barbara's Wedding" I auditioned and the director (Coppola) and Wilson Green were in that play. So they called me this year and said, "Hey, we found this great play that we think you'd be really good in an have a fun time with." Then they found Patrick who is so funny.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When are you going to have time to shoot PRETTY?
Mary Beth Evans: I have the craziest couple of weeks. I'm shooting my episode of PRETTY next Saturday morning before we go into tech rehearsals for the play where you do cue-to-cue which takes all day. Then I go back to DAYS OF OUR LIVES on the 22nd which is also opening night of the play. Then on the 23rd I shoot all day with THE BAY (as Sara Garrett). That's why I'm watering my garden as soon as I'm finished with this interview [laughs].
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I interviewed Joan Van Ark and she called Steve Silverman the next Ryan Murphy, having worked with Ryan on NIP/TUCK and Steve on PRETTY.
Mary Beth Evans: I did a NIP/TUCK and that was a fun show. When I watched PRETTY, I was laughing out loud. My character on THE BAY is crossing over to it, but I kind of wish I was getting a character he created. These shows are breaking the rules of how things are done and it's great.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One of the true successes of our Indie Soap Awards this year is how many crossovers have come from producers and actors meeting and getting to know each other.
Mary Beth Evans: Everything is branching out these days. THE BAY is doing so well. Gregori [J. Martin] does so much. He writes, directs, casts. He gets the most incredible people on board. I always tell him he must be the best salesman in town. He's such a professional and gets everyone together. He amazes me. Really. And for me it's fun because he made me the matriarch.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You are the sexiest matriarch ever on a show!
Mary Beth Evans: [Laughs] We're all scrambling. Independent shows like that are a very interesting thing. As a producer too so much of it is scrambling around to find locations, making it happen. It's like a real group effort, an ensemble to make it happen.
I know this acting teacher who was telling me certain people who had done a big body of work are insulted when asked to audition. How an you being insulted? Things are ever changing and we have to just roll with it and throw all your lines in the water and see what happens. None of us can have too big of an ego. You just have to get out there and hustle and make tings happen.
I haven't had bad experiences. Just being game and putting myself out there. I blogged a long time about industry reinvention and not being stuck. I'm kind of a worker type personality anyway so I'm into that. You have to be open to any possibility. And to me, doing THE BAY is so fun because so many of those people have been friends for a long time like Charles Shaughnessy and Matt Ashford.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: With "Far From The Bay" I think the show really came together technically and with a clear focus.
Mary Beth Evans: What New York did too was help make the show a little edgier, which it needed, and Gregori brought in some really interesting guest actors too. It was incredible. The production qualities are great now. It's beautiful.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It's nice to see shows like this grow over time.
Mary Beth Evans: The second season is going to be great. He writes good stories that involves everybody. It's ever evolving, but more power to him. It's a huge undertaking to raise money and get publicity. It's a lot.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So tell me about your return to DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
Mary Beth Evans: I go back for the first shoot on the 22nd, but it doesn't air until December, they are so far ahead.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Are you going to be there for a while?
Mary Beth Evans: I'm giong to be in and out, but way more in and out than I have been recently. I really don't know. So far I'm working the first two weeks I go back.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What do you think about the show shooting so far ahead?
Mary Beth Evans: I think in this case it kind of got them because when things got away from them by the time they fixed it, it was still going to air for a while. Honestly it's changed so much, but to keep them afloat they have to do it a certain way. They have to shoot on the budget of a game show. To pull it off has been amazing. I read an article where Ken Corday said he hoped it made it to its 50 year and I hope that happens. I love the people there, they're like my family. I love going back. For me, it's great and only a plus.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you know the new head writers?
Mary Beth Evans: No, I don't. But I know Noel [Maxam] and I've known Greg forever and a day. For me, it's exciting. As much as it changes, it's still the same. Whenever I go back, it's like I was just there yesterday. It's nice to go back and then go do other things.
I did a BODY OF PROOF episode called "Lazarus Man" and it airs soon (October 18). So I get out and do episodes and always stay busy and always hustle.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Dana Delany starred opposite Peter Reckell on AS THE WORLD TURNS before he became Bo Brady on DAYS. Six degrees of soap connections!
Mary Beth Evans: That's funny. Whenever I say I did that, every guy around 45 or so says, "I've been in love with her since CHINA BEACH!" It's a cool show.
I had the craziest summer because my kids were all home and my last child just went to college. It's been crazy getting everybody in and out and beyond and down comforters and shampoo...
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I've been a fan of yours since RITUALS. You replaced Claire Yarlett as Dakota.
Mary Beth Evans: That show was first run syndication and it hadn't really be done before at nighttime. They didn't really know what to do with it at the time. That was fun and I met Kin Shriner and he took me onto the Merv Griffin show. I saw Kin a couple of years ago in Florida and he took me out on the ocean on his big speed boat in Fort Lauderdale. He's a wild man.
When I go to the Emmys or whatever I know so many people in the industry. They're like cousins almost because I've known them all for such a long time.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What's your dream role?
Mary Beth Evans: I'd love to have a fun nighttime series. But I've never thought much about what that would be. I just really like work. I see older women being grandmas on shows. I just want to be that person who continues to work. Big fat stardom was never my goal. I just wanted to work in the field that that I love. That's what I've done and it's a constant thing for me to keep that going.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here for more on "Murder at the Howard Johnson's."
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps and is currently a producer on THE BAY and executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals.