Farewell Caroline Brady! 'DAYS' Vet James Reynolds Shares Memories of Peggy McCay

Michael Maloney
Q&A Chris Haston/NBC

Emmy-winner James Reynolds, who plays Abe Carver, is one of Days of Our Lives' longest-running cast members so he knew the late Peggy McCay (Caroline Brady), who passed away last October, quite well. McCay joined the cast as the Brady matriarch in 1983 and started playing her on a contract basis two years later.

McCay earned five Daytime Emmy nominations for her work in Salem and won a Primetime Emmy in 1991 for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series for The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. Because the show tapes so far in advance, DAYS is only now getting to air the shows that address her passing.

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On Thursday, June 20, Salemites, including Abe, gather to bid a fond farewell to Caroline. Read on as Reynolds shares memories of working with the late, great grand dame!

How long did you know Peggy?

James Reynolds: Quite a long time. I knew her when she came onto the show in a guest role she did before she was cast as Caroline. We all have a lot of memories of Peggy. Overall, she’s remembered for her consummate professionalism. I loved having people on the show who had worked in the industry before [they came to DAYS]. Peggy was a touchstone to that time. We have had others on the show including [the late] Macdonald Carey (ex-Tom) and Frances Reid (ex-Alice), and also Bill Hayes, who’s still on the show as Doug.

I loved hearing Peggy’s stories. I’d see her on an old episode of Gunsmoke or The Andy Griffith Show. I’d heard she’d had over 700 roles including parts on stage. She lived and breathed being an actress. It’s who she was and it’s what she did. That was Peggy. I loved that about her. That made working with her very special. I knew I’d be sharing the stage with someone who was an extraordinary professional.

Susan Hayes, James Reynolds, Bryan Dattilo, Bill Hayes, Blake Berris, Peggy McCay and Camila Banus in 2013 (Skip Bolen/Getty Images for Days of our Lives)

Did you get to spend time with her away from the show?

Yes. I was telling Greg Meng [co-executive producer, DAYS] about an appearance we did in Denver for one of the books that the show did. I was taking Peggy out for dinner and when I came down to the hotel lobby, she was on the floor doing a split! Then, she just hopped right up and was ready to go! That was the indomitable spirit of who Peggy was. She never let anything stand in her way. She loved DAYS and she loved being on the show.

Today’s air show is a celebration of Caroline’s life. Last year, actors on the show gathered to talk about Peggy in a segment that is on the DAYS app (the DOOL APP). 

To be able to talk to about Peggy out of character was [wonderful]. Fans make assumptions of who we are based on what we present in the confines of the story, which is understandable. To speak about a colleague as ourselves was a good way for the audience to share in what we’ve all lost. Today, I still walk into certain sets and I’ll remember scenes with Mac and Frances and now, Peggy. I’ll walk into the Brady Pub and still expect to see her there or [the late] Frank [Parker, ex-Grandpa Shawn] singing a song during a rehearsal. It’s nice to be able to share some of those experiences.

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Can you tease today’s memorial episode?

In general, I can say that the ending of the show gave us all goosebumps.

Peggy truly embraced the Alzheimer’s storyline that she was asked to play as Caroline.

Yes. Peggy wanted to work. She was a working actress. Some actors might have [rejected that story] for a variety of reasons, but Peggy poured herself into every storyline she was given.

Peggy McCay as Caroline Brady, John Aniston as Victor Kiriakis (Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

For viewers who may not follow the show in the media they’ll likely deduce that Peggy has passed away because Caroline has.  

Yes. Some people may not have known Peggy passed away. This episode will bring some sense of closure. I’m not always a fan of that word — closure — but when you’re talking about a TV character, that is who viewers will mourn. I’ve always seen daytime as “legacy entertainment.” The only thing similar is professional sports where one person in a family will pass down [their passion] to another family member. Some fans have come up to me and said that they’ve watched the show since they were six years old. The idea that people watch us as they progress through life [is fascinating].

In addition to being a committed actress, Peggy was also a huge animal advocate.

Huge! You know the famous lobster story?

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No. Please share!

Well, like any story there are several versions of it. Here’s the one I not only remember but I think is the right one. Years ago, a fan sent Matt Ashford (Jack) a lobster only he wasn’t in the day it arrived. So, Peggy “kidnapped” the lobster and took it an animal rights group so that the lobster could be released back into the ocean! Matt never saw the lobster!

Another version of this has Peggy taking the lobster over to the props department at the show and asked them to get the lobster to the right place. In that version, the prop guys had a great lobster dinner that night! Either way, her heart was in the right place no matter which tale you believe!

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