'Days of Our Lives' Vet Susan Seaforth Hayes Looks Back at 50 Years of Playing Julie

Michael Maloney
Q&A Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

She’s been beloved on Days of Our Lives as heroine Julie Horton Williams since 1968. And, today, her portrayer, Susan Seaforth Hayes, is celebrating her 50th anniversary in Salem. Days is honoring this golden moment with a look back at Julie’s drama-filled life.

This is the second big honor Seaforth Hayes has received this year. In April, she and her husband Bill Hayes, who plays Julie’s true love Doug Williams, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys for their contributions not only to Days but to television and show business. During the couple’s speech, they noted that despite the genre facing tough economic times the soaps still command a loyal and vast audience because “these are great shows!”

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The Hayeses, who were featured on a 1976 Time magazine cover story about soaps, have written a fantastic memoir Like Sands through the Hour Glass and also co-authored a novel, Trumpet, about a heroine living in England in the early 1800s.

Read on as Seaforth Hayes talks about playing Julie, what Days has meant to her, and getting back behind the keyboard as she and Hayes write their second novel.

How did it feel when you learned you were getting an episode to honor your 50th anniversary?

Susan Seaforth Hayes: I couldn’t believe it. I’m very grateful. Days of Our Lives has given me a wonderful marriage, my mother [the late Elizabeth Harrower] another career as a soap opera writer, and the opportunity for me to do some acting, some of which I’m very proud of. Days has given me friends all over the world and a continued enthusiasm for life. I look forward to the show going on and on and getting to be a part of it.

Bill Hayes, Susan Seaforth Hayes (Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Julie’s dynamic with Gabi (Camila Banus) is as consistent as it is antagonistic. Unlike some enemies on soaps who suddenly start acting like best friends, Julie and Gabi maintain their conflict.  

Julie is concerned that Gabi has misrepresented her love and affection for all the people she’s been involved with. She’s conniving. True or not, only the writers know, but Julie sees her as a menace. Julie’s concerned about her family. Her love life is settled and accomplished and successful. The love stories around her, however, are in tremendous conflict. Julie’s a “go-to” person. She doles out advice to both ingénues and leading ladies. She’s a reminder to leading men that they really should keep it in their pants and behave decently towards the ladies they say they’re in love with.

Julie has inherited some of the mantel of Alice [her late grandmother, played by the late Frances Reid]. She is still a passionate character. The story we have this month has Julie in a state of fury. It’s fun to play. It is fun to play anything other than ‘Here’s a tray of cookies!’

How great is it that the writers have renamed a local establishment Doug’s Place, which was the place in Salem back in the ‘70s.  

(Laughs) Instead of Club TBD!  I couldn’t believe that Doug’s Place was returning. It’d been decades. It’s always been recalled by the fans, but not always by past writing regimes. Those were golden times for all of us. I’m very pleased, as is Billy. It gives us a set. It gives us a home. (Laughs) I much prefer it to cruising! There’s lots of aquamarine in the set which is my favorite color.

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We hear they’re going to show clips from Julie’s life in today’s show. Once, clips were pretty common, but now they’re rare.   

There is a cost involved. There’s going to be some music, too. Bill recorded ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ [his and Julie’s love theme for today’s show]. That was a big wonderful deal. Ken [Corday, executive producer] decided that they need to back the clips that way. What the clips will be I don’t know. They might use clips from the Emmy show that wasn’t televised. I’m working today, but they gave me a copy of the episode so I can see it.

You and Bill gave one heck of an acceptance speech at the Daytime Emmys. What response did you receive?

We got a standing ovation, which was a surprise. At Day of DAYS [an annual fan gathering held each November at Universal Studios] people said to us, ‘We really liked the speech.’ That was the strongest feedback. Ours was in the middle of the awards and then the show went on to win so many [including Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Drama Series]. My heart was beating fast when it was over and everybody was so kind about it.

Fans always look forward to the Days holiday episode in which the Horton clan gathers to hang bulbs on the Christmas tree. Often family members no longer on the show are referenced.

One of the nicest moments I’ve had in the last few years was being out with Anne Shaughnessy, a former head writer of the show. We were having a bite at Canter’s Deli and a lady who worked behind the counter saw us. Her eyes immediately welled up. She said, ‘You’re Julie! I love the show and I love the Christmas episode when the Hortons hang their ornaments.’ That was the first thing that came to mind when she talked about her love of the show.

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What’s up for 2019? Travel? A sequel to Trumpet?

Yes. We have plans to travel and plans for a sequel. I’m back into it now and it’s exciting. (Laughs) Billy’s been counting the days since I was last at the computer. Our next novel is set directly after our last one ended. It’s set in 1820 in Charleston, [West Virginia]. Years of research goes into it. In the past, people interacted more slowly. Emotions were the same, but because you couldn’t always get to the person you wanted to when you found out something that angered you, you had time to compose yourself. We’re writing around a great historical event that took place at the time. Our characters are not Americans. They’ve come to the slavery south and how it all hits them and how they respond do it is the core of our whole story. It was all Billy’s idea. We’d left our heroine there at the end of our first book. We ask what if? And our ‘what if?’ is very exciting.

Have you thought about pitching this as a TV series?

I don’t have that kind of an agent! We don’t have an agent at all and haven’t for years, but I do have a very good editor who worked with us on Like Sands through the Hourglass. I hope what we’re doing [both on-screen and in our writing] will continue to be delightful, engaging, informative, and full of heart.

(Amazon)

Some feel that soap audiences have dwindled because people are busy, but hasn’t life always been busy?  

We’re working at a faster tempo now. It’s remarkable how we get the show on the air in the time circumstances we have. That’s true of everyone’s job. We’re putting a lot of stuff out there that’s engaging, heart-warming, and fun. We have an extremely devoted backstage crew. Albert [Alarr], our co-executive producer, is watching every line. He’s a passionate director and former actor. He’s one of the good guys. We’re in a lucky place right now. Fingers crossed it can go on. I’d like to stay in Salem…wherever it is.

Any other thoughts on today’s Julie-centric anniversary show?

It’s my 50th anniversary on Days but I wouldn’t be here had I not fallen in love with Bill Hayes and shared our romance with America. That’s what makes me memorable. I love a great human being and I’m loved in return. I’m fortunate that I’m getting this attention, but I really think it’s because I’m a loving wife.

Bill Hayes as Doug Williams, Susan Seaforth Hayes as Julie Williams (NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

Days of Our Lives, Weekdays, NBC

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