Thursday, November 17, 2011

INTERVIEW: Renee Jones On DAYS OF OUR LIVES Past & Present, And The State Of Diversity On TV

Renee Jones has been playing Lexie Carver on DAYS OF OUR LIVES since 1993. Over the past 18 years her character has faced many ups and downs including finding out that Stefano DiMera was her father! But what were her favorite storylines? And how does she think about the current election twist? And how does she feel about the current state of diversity on television? Find out all this and more in our new interview below.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It's been several months since you started shooting with the "rebooted" DAYS OF OUR LIVES. How have the changes been for you, and for Lexie?
Renee Jones: Well, I seem to be more in the mix of things now. I seem to be --let's see, I have something going on with EJ and my father, and Abe. I seem to not just be a doctor anymore, and that's good for Lexie. Also, what's happening for Lexie is that I'm starting to show my strengths again, and that DiMera in me is coming out more, which was so dormant for so long.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We have been seeing a little more Lexi. Was that intentional? Will it continue?
Renee Jones: I think it was intentional. I know a lot of fans were complaining. Every event I would go to, every time I would talk to fans, they would ask, "When are you going to get some chutzpah again?" You know: "When are you going to be bad and evil like you used to be?"

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Have you enjoyed the election storyline? Is there anything that would make you vote for EJ?
Renee Jones: No. [laughter] There's nothing that would make me change my mind. This is my husband. And, he is the best person. EJ is crooked; we don't want a crooked mayor!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How would Lexie react to a political scandal involving Abe?
Renee Jones: I think that, maybe in the beginning, I would be really disappointed and angry, because I have Abe upon such a pedestal. Abe has never done anything bad. But I think I would think about it after and say, "Wait a second, I've done some pretty unscrupulous things, and Abe always forgave me, eventually, and took me back." This is what happens in a marriage. But who knows how long it would be before I got to that point? I think at first, I would be so pissed that I wouldn't even want to look at him.

You're still going to see a lot more of her defending Abe, and being in Abe's corner. This election process goes on for a while. It will be a lot of me confronting EJ and Stefano about their ways, and sticking up for Abe, and being on Abe's side. Also, trying to get EJ (especially) to tap into some sort of humanity he must have deep down inside? [laughter]

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One reason it's great to talk to you is that Lexie has been through so much, and you've been on DAYS for so many years. What was your favorite story line so far?
Renee Jones: Lexie finding out who she is. First, Lexie finding out that Celeste wasn't her mom, and then finding out that Celeste is her mom, and then, well, if you are my mom, then who is my dad? And then finding out that Stefano is my father!

So that whole narrative arc I loved, and then the whole baby situation, with Stefano having me raise someone who wasn't even my child, and me kidnapping a child. That whole arc went on for a couple of years and that was my favorite time for me being on the show, period, because there was so much going on in Lexi's life.

That's what's so great, it's that my real life is so calm, and I'm all about balance, so it's so nice to just let it rip. Do things that you watch other people do, but you would never have the nerve to do yourself. To be able to do that, that is so much fun.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Looking forward, if Lexie could do anything you wanted her to do, what would you like to see?
Renee Jones: I would love to... Wow, that's a good question. I try not look to the future like that. Let me think...

There's a two-fold answer, I guess. One is that I would really love to be the catalyst for EJ and Stefano really changing their ways. Realizing that the way they were in the past, that's who they were, but they can use their power for good. I think the world needs that right now, needs powerful people using that power for good. Now, how would she do that? I don't know. But that would be nice to see.

Secondly, I would like to explore the autism more. I've had so many people approach me and thank me for the autism story line, but there's so much more to it than we portrayed on screen. I would like to explore that more. What goes on when he is at home, and he has a bad bout? We touched on how it affects the family, even financially--but we never got deeper into all that stuff: emotionally, financially, all that.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Who would you like to share more scenes with?
Renee Jones: I felt that from the minute Daniel Jonas came on, Shawn Christian, we had a really great relationship. They just kind of ended it. Not that I think they should have a romantic relationship; I think as a male and female friend, they have great, great chemistry. I would love to explore that friendship more. I think it would be nice to see a man and a woman being good friends, You don't see that very often, without it going further than that. Just being there for each other.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I'm curious, what are your thoughts on how much progress (in front of the camera, and behind the camera) we've made toward showcasing the talents of minorities?
Renee Jones: We still have a long way to go. I don't even have to explain that to you deeper, just turn the television on. I don't know, it just seems like the whole thing about showcasing minorities is interesting. My agent said to me recently that Hispanic and Indian are the new black, as far as shows casting minorities.

Basically, that seems to be what's happening more. When they feel they need to put a minority in a situation, that's where they're going more so now, because that seems to be more popular. Hispanics are growing, they have huge buying power, and the soaps are trying to catch that audience. Not just soaps, all the television shows, basically.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What can we do to improve?
Renee Jones: I don't know. Honestly, I see it going backwards. When I first got into the business, I saw more blacks on TV. THE COSBY SHOW, DIFFERENT STROKES, THE JEFFERSONS, and all those shows. There were lots that showcased black actors, and not just being in a stereotypical role. I don't see that anymore.

It just seems to have dried up? I'm hopeful that we'll see more, but I don't know what to say other than, hire more! The talent is there, it's not like the talent isn't there. It's not in the world of the people creating these shows. They're not around enough black people to even think of them when they're casting the shows? That's all I can think of,

Thank God for Tyler Perry, who's starting to do more stuff, deeper projects. But, we need more than one producer!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You've played so many roles in your career. But if you could go back 30 years, to when you first started appearing on TV, and give yourself a piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?
Renee Jones: Don't take the rejection personally! When I would get rejected, oh my gosh, my world would just fall apart. And you're rejected nine times out of ten, for all these auditions you go on. So I think that would be the biggest thing, to have the strong foundation in knowing who you are. You are special just the way you are, Renee, and don't let these people's opinions of you define who you are.

One of the things that I learned is that sometimes you don't get cast not because you're not the better actor, but because maybe somebody's girlfriend is being cast... like that. There are all these other aspects to why you're not cast, but you immediately take it so personal, telling yourself that it's you. The way you look, the way you act, everything about you--and you put yourself down. So, I think that's what I would tell myself.

And also, "Just hang in there. Life is going to get so much better!"

Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email [email protected].

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