Judith Chapman Talks Her Return to 'Days of Our Lives' as the Mother of Greg Rikaart's Leo
She’s baaack! Judith Chapman, who did a stint in Salem as crafty Anjelica Deveraux in the late 1980s, is returning to Salem. But she’s not playing her previous Days of Our Lives role, which she reprised briefly in last year’s Halloween acid-trip episode. On Tuesday, Chapman debuts as Diana Cooper, Leo’s (Greg Rikaart) mom.
Off-screen, the talented actress, who earned rave reviews in Vivien, the one-woman show based on the life of Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind), is taking on another famous actress. She's starring as Tallulah Bankhead in a stage production titled Looped, currently playing at the Desert Rose Playhouse in Palm Springs, Calif.
'Days of Our Lives' Greg Rikaart on the Leo-Xander Dynamic & Reuniting With 'Y&R' Mom Judith Chapman
The daytime TV vet breaks down what makes the ambitious Leo tick.
Read on to get Chapman’s take on being reunited with her Rikaart and who else her character is connected to!
How did this return to DAYS as Diana come about?
Judith Chapman: My agent called me and said DAYS wants to know your availability. I said, ‘Really? For what?’ It was to come back and play Anjelica’s ghost for the Halloween episode. I thought that would never happen since they had previously hired Morgan (Fairchild, ex-Anjelica) to play the role since I was unable to get out of Y&R [where Chapman recurs as Gloria]. I had so much fun revisiting all the actors and Albert [Alaar, co-executive producer], who’s still there [from my first time on the show]. It was like going home. I had mentioned to them at the time that I was doing a little more Y&R, but I’d love to come back and play some more. I put it out there. Then, they called me a few weeks later about this role.
Albert was so wonderful. He said he’d love to see me again and I said I’d love to play with you all again. A few days later, they call me about this wonderful character. I didn’t realize the character [is from John’s past]. I have to give so many thanks to Drake, he’s a DAYS historian. He remembers specific dates and told me [all I needed to know]. I want to bring something to this role that’s completely different from my other alter egos.
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Well, Gloria and Diana both have something in common – they’re both the mother of Greg Rikaart’s characters!
Yes! I had to keep quiet about that for six months [due to DAYS’ production schedule]. I had to zip my mouth! I think it’s wonderful that Diana is so elegant. She’s had her problems, but I wanted to bring an elegance and grace to her along with her having a heart of stone. There’s an element of how damaged she was because of her past with John Black – or whatever name he was going by at the time! She’s a broken soul with a veneer of elegance.
Can you talk about Diana’s dynamic with Leo?
She’s trying to understand her son, Matthew, who is now going by the name Leo. I would say Leo is my good boy. Sometimes I call him Leo, sometimes I call him Matthew. I was told to keep it all a secret, but I asked if I could call Greg and let him know and they said yes – but nobody else! I called Greg and he already knew I was coming on. We were both so excited about being reunited. Leo’s been described as ‘Kevin on steroids.’ I’ve watched the show [prior to coming on] to stay current and I’m in awe and amazed at what he’s getting away with. Kudos to DAYS for being so courageous.
How did playing Tallulah in Looped come about?
I’d done a production of Blithe Spirit at the Palm Canyon Theatre. My character Elvira was jumping around on stage, I was utilizing my yoga! After I won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy at the Desert Theatre League Awards, a director for the theater came up to me, singing my praises; he said he had a play [Looped] and I was the only one who could do it. I looked at him and said I’m not sure I’d cast me as Tallulah but I read the script and it’s delightfully charming.
She had quite the film and stage career. TV fans recall her last appearance, which was as villainess Black Widow on Batman. What research did you do to capture her essence?
There are these brilliant clips of her old radio show. I love her comedic timing. I have all the books and have read her autobiography [Tallulah: My Autobiography], which came out in 1952. Her grandfather was a U.S. senator, her uncle was a U.S. congressman, and her father was Speaker of the House. She had that voice and that look! She didn’t do much after [the Alfred Hitchcock film] Lifeboat. It’s a brilliant film and her work in it is so divine. She was actually Tennessee Williams’ original choice for [Blanche DuBois] in A Street Car Named Desire [which went, ironically, to Leigh]. She turned him down, which was a turning point in her life. But she lived her life to the fullest, especially when she appeared on stage.
Getting back to DAYS, with whom else do you share scenes in addition to Drake and Greg?
Deidre [Hall, Marlena]. Diana sees Drake’s character as the love of her life, but she comes back to try to get him and all hell breaks loose. She’s so damaged.
Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) gave you a nice shout out on Twitter, saying you are missed as Gloria.
I very much miss my alter-ego Gloria.
@real_jchapman we miss you on Y&R! Why you ever left is a mystery...no longer! You are a wonderful actress&i wish you were back gracing is with your great performances! Yours eric
— Eric Braeden (@EBraeden) December 20, 2018
Any chance you’ll ever reprise Ginny Blake Webber on General Hospital?
Well, Greg and I played son and mother on CBS, now NBC… maybe we can someday take our resumes over to ABC?
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