‘Days of Our Lives’ Star Arianne Zucker on Nicole’s ‘Mistake’ Sleeping With Xander

Arianne Zucker as Nicole Walker on Days of our Lives - Season 55
Chris Haston/NBC

Will the fifth time be the charm? Days of our Lives Arianne Zucker is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress at the Daytime Emmys, which are set to air this Friday on CBS. The fan favorite earned nods in this category in 2014 and 2020 and was nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actress category in 2010 and 2013.

Zucker is looking forward to many things about this year’s awards including her co-star John Aniston (Victor) receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award and actually getting able to interact with colleagues in the daytime community. TV Insider chatted with Zucker about her nod, her reel, and more. Read on for insights from the dynamic performer.

Congratulations on the nomination. How did you learn the news?

Ariane Zucker: Thank you! I was at work. I found out just a little bit before it was announced on The Talk. It’s always such a wonderful surprise and it’s so nice. You submit yourself and you hope you have a shot. There are always so many great performances.

What’s on your reel?

It’s a scene, of course, with Greg Vaughan [Eric]. He and Nicole and Eric are in turmoil – as they always are. These poor characters! Eric had been away helping villages in Africa. He’s been gone for eight months. Nicole’s been getting lonely and she makes the mistake of sleeping with Xander [Paul Telfer]. When she’s figuring out how to tell him, Eric comes home to surprise her and he finds out what she’s done.

Arianne Zucker as Nicole Walker in Days of Our Lives

Chris Haston/NBC

This is the aftermath of Eric finding out. I loved those scenes because they were about two people who really love each other and have for 20 years but they realize they’re not on the same path. Were they both at fault? Yes. One wasn’t right about a decision to be gone for so long and the other to be with someone else. But they still love each other very much. Nicole had this great line that went something like “I’m a better person when I’m with Eric and he’s a better person when he’s not with me.”

Wow. That nails it.

The scenes were intimate. I loved the camera shots in that episode. I felt that closeness of the shots helped bring people into the scene. I would like to give credit where credit is due and it takes a village for your work to be great. I appreciate when everyone on set is looking out for you and each other. It’s a good feeling. Whenever everyone’s rooting for you, it makes it more fun. I love when the crew claps at the end.

Circling back to what you said earlier… Nicole made the mistake of sleeping with Xander. Is it ever really a mistake to sleep with Xander?

No. It’s not. [Laughs]

Paul’s going to laugh at this, right?

Yes. He has such a great sense of humor. He’s a gentle giant. He couldn’t be more of a gentleman. If I’m going to work with a villain, there couldn’t be a better one that Xander.

Spill the tea. How much tea is spilled at the annual Best Actress nominees luncheon, a tradition started by Susan Flannery (ex-Stephanie, Bold and the Beautiful) years ago.

The ‘Leading Ladies Luncheon’ is always so nice. I’ve met Cynthia [Watros, Nina, General Hospital] and it’s nice to get together and reminisce and share what we’ve all been up to. Phenomenal chicks having a fun time. It’s a special time. Life has changed so much. I’ve always loved being able to get together with other people from other soaps. It’s really fun. We’re connecting again, which is cool. I really miss it. We’re a bunch of humans wanting to have a nice time together and share stories.


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How did you react when you heard John Aniston (Victor) is getting the Lifetime Achievement Award?

I’m so happy. I love John so much. I worked with him mostly when I first started. John taught me how to immerse myself in my character. I didn’t understand sex appeal on TV or how to embody that, but he told me not to feel judged and to go with what I had and to feel good about it. He was very supportive. And, gosh, can that man tell a joke. His delivery is insane.

No matter how many times Nicole did bad things, people wanted her to be happy. How does it make you feel that despite Nicole’s actions fans feel that way?

It makes me feel really good. Nicole’s been a character on this show for so many years and she hasn’t had a major [lasting] family connection. I thought when I got the job, how do I keep the job? We see Nicole’s survival mechanisms kick through. As an actress, the reason Nicole [did everything she did] was that she wanted support and love. She had a terrible childhood in terms of her father [Paul Mendez, played by Eddie Velez]. Her mother [Fay Walker, played by Valerie Wildman] took abuse and was later killed. I am grateful that the fans picked up on why Nicole did what she did. When I learned that Nicole was going to steal Sami’s [Alison Sweeney] baby, I thought I’ll either get backed into a corner or I can try to get the audience to feel for Nicole, too.

What was the turning point on that one?

I think that it’s something I poured into this character. She was stuck at her trauma. Nicole wanted EJ [Daniel Feuerriegel] to be happy and have his own child. Switching the babies wasn’t about getting back at Sami — it was about helping EJ have a family. She thought it was selfless, not selfish.

Circling back to the big night, are you going to have a speech written?

I am. I want to win. I have no idea if the speech will stick in my head if I get up there. I’ll be full of appreciation.

Days of Our Lives, Weekdays, NBC

The 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, Friday, June 24, 9/8c, CBS