We Love Soaps recently spoke to DAYS OF OUR LIVES actress Mary Beth Evans, who plays Kayla Johnson, and also stars as Sara Garrett on hit indie soap THE BAY. Her hilarious crossover to PRETTY The Series last year earned her an Indie Soap Award nomination, and she will be appearing on the telecast of the 3rd Annual Indie Soap Awards on March 18 airing on The SFN at 9 p.m. ET.
In our interview below, Evans talks about landing her role on DAYS just before she was going to be forced back into waiting tables, playing complicated characters, and shares her thoughts on working with Genie Francis and their appearance on the Indie Soap Awards.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When you started as Kayla, would you have ever imagined you would be playing the role a quarter of a century later?
Mary Beth Evans: When you're 25 years old, can you imagine doing anything for that long? No... in fact, I have the worst foresight of anybody on the planet. And I have really bad hindsight! I'm such an in-the-minute person, for better or for worse.
In fact, when I went to read for Kayla, I had been trying to audition for episodic television, and I had done RITUALS, this nighttime soap. My husband and I got married, and he was a resident, a doctor. He wasn't making any money, and we bought a house, and then he was like, “You're going to have to go get something like a waitress job, or do something, because we have to pay the mortgage.”
I had gone and interviewed at this restaurant. It was a bad shift, and I hadn't waitressed in like, five years. So I just said to my husband, “Well, let's just wait and see what happens with that DAYS OF OUR LIVES job. You know, before I pick up my uniform for the restaurant.” [She laughs.]
And then everything changed! And I remember the contract, it was like, a three-year contract, and it just felt like, “Oh my goodness, three years? I really signed for three years? Really?” And then it turned into six, then GENERAL HOSPITAL for seven, then AS THE WORLD TURNS for six, then back to DAYS. So, no, I could have never guessed it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It seems like the pace of production keeps getting faster and faster as time goes on. Do you feel any pressure?
Mary Beth Evans: Well, you know. . . for a long time they've been doing one take. We were talking about this the other day; it used to be (when I was there in the beginning) that we ran through the show like three, four times before we ever taped it. The entire cast was there all day, and you would have [a couple of blocking rehearsals], then a dress rehearsal, and then you'd shoot the show, like, after lunch. After notes, and the dress rehearsal, and all that.
It seemed like we got out at a reasonable time, but it was just a totally different way of doing it. You were there all day with your partner, running the lines and working on it. And also, the rest of the cast was there. Everybody would be, you know, in the make-up room for the notes, with the director, trying to find the different people, and yelling, and--it was such craziness. But it was so much fun!
Now, it's not like that at all. Now, they block until eight, then you show up and they may have told you a little. But sometimes, you've never said anything out loud before you have that little rehearsal. So there's a big difference. You've got to be on your toes. It's a sink or swim mentality, you know?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What can you tell us about what's going to happen to Kayla in the future?
Mary Beth Evans: Well, I don't know exactly. [She laughs.]
I help my mother out with the bar; to keep our family business running. I'm part of the Brady family force there. That's been pretty much what I've done: been a sounding board for people, or give advice. Shoring up the other people.
They mentioned something coming up, so we'll see what happens. Anything would be fun. I like being there, it's fun for me. They're my friends, and we've all been there for such a long time, that we can move on that fast train like that. It's usually a pretty fun afternoon, and then I'm on my way.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you have a dream storyline for Kayla?
Mary Beth Evans: Hm, I don't know. Maybe she does something—maybe something where she means well, but it becomes... [she whispers] something really bad!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I love asking that question. So often, people say they want to be a villain, or at least be naughty. But how about this: maybe Kayla will be the first major soap opera matriarch who's also a sex symbol? Does that make any sense to you?
Mary Beth Evans: In THE BAY, that's what they wrote, which is really fun. She has these kids, and she has bad relationships with them, but she's not sure how that happened, really. She was just following her heart... marrying all these different guys! But it's that sort of thing.
One thing that's great about soap operas in general is that older women are still pretty viable characters. Usually, they have their love interest, and there are lots of things going on, so that part's nice. I just wonder if... being a strong woman, we can find some connection—well, Stephen [Nichols] being on Y&R makes it a little complicated, and so far, we did some things in Africa--but I know where he really is. [She laughs.]
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In addition to DAYS, I've seen you on THE BAY, and also, on the series PRETTY. Your character has an hilarious crossover. What was it like taking Sara over to PRETTY?
Mary Beth Evans: It was funny. The people on PRETTY are hilarious! And like THE BAY, it's shot like an independent film. The guy who created it, and wrote it, and is directing it and producing it, [Steve Silverman], that guy is always sitting right there. On a more corporate show, the writer's not sitting right there. You can't ask them what they thought, or what their intention is. These independent soaps are pretty fun like that.
It's really collaborative. Genie [Francis] and I have known each other forever, so that was funny, doing PRETTY together. My real bent in life is comedy—I just did a comedy play that closed before Christmas—so it was so fun. It was almost like Lucille Ball type comedy. That really is more my personality, and I don't know... somehow I got hung up in this drama world. [She laughs.]
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Let me wrap things up by congratulating you. You were nominated for an Indie Soap Award for your work on THE BAY and PRETTY! Is it true that you and Genie help open the awards show? And I heard something about a kiss? Do you remember anything like that?
Mary Beth Evans: Yes. Do I remember that! Yes. It's going to air on the web, isn't it?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think it's part of the broadcast of the show that's going to air on The SFN on March 18th.
Mary Beth Evans: How fun!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It really looked like you surprised Genie, there.
Mary Beth Evans: She's funny. [She laughs.] No, she knew. We were—we were improv-ing, you know.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Well, you're both great--really funny. You always seem so energetic and so happy, Mary Beth, thank you so much for your time!
Mary Beth Evans: Thank you, Kevin. Bye-bye!
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Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at welovesoaps.com writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.