'Days of Our Lives' Boss on the Show Leaping One Year Into The Future

Jim Halterman
Q&A XJJohnson/jpistudios.com

Days of Our Lives has just gone where no other daytime soap has gone before — into the future.

Of course, the longtime NBC soap, which celebrates its 54th anniversary on Friday, has played with over-the-top storylines over the years, like visiting a version of purgatory, the demonic possession of Dr. Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall), and killing off the entire town of Salem only to have them actually survive. But no daytime soap has employed the story device of a time jump to skip ahead into the future.

Starting with the November 8 episode, when Jennifer Horton (Melissa Reeves) wakes up from her coma, she's told by husband Jack Devereaux (Matthew Ashford) that she's been asleep for a year, and she's missed a lot of life in the town of Salem. Will she remember that it was Princess Gina (Kristian Alfonso) who pushed her over a balcony just after Jennifer remarried the love of her life, Jack? And what else has happened in Salem over the past year?

To find out more, TV Insider talked to head writer Ron Carlivati about why now was the right time for a time jump and what we can expect from our favorite characters and their storylines. One thing we found out — expect the unexpected!

The obvious first question is why the time jump?

Ron Carlivati: I have to admit, it's something that I've wanted to do for a long time. And it's a concept I pitched at One Life to Live and at General Hospital, and for various reasons we did not do it. And then at Days we thought about doing it a year ago and the timing just did not work out even though we were all excited about the idea, the pieces weren't falling into place. I kept it in the back of my mind and finally the stars aligned, and we realized with the anniversary show coming up, it would be a perfect time and stories were in the right place, and we started to steer in that direction.

Is the opportunity to reset the stories across the board the main impetus to do this?

Definitely, that's part of it. It's this idea of almost a reboot thing where you can suddenly just take stories to a new place. It allows you to jettison some stuff, start new stuff. And the exciting thing for me, and for the rest of the writers was just the creativity of it all. Just having to look at the whole canvas and think, 'OK, if a year went by, what could have changed? What's changed since Salem? Who's together? Who's apart, who's alive, who's dead?'

A lot can happen in a year, especially on a soap opera. So we thought, 'Wow, wouldn't it be fun that all of that stuff has happened and the audience is thrown in at once, and then we slowly peel back and reveal what happened.'

XJJohnson/jpistudios.com

How did you arrive on Jennifer Horton being the starting point for leaping ahead a year?

This [time jump] is a lot for the audience to digest and take in and we were mindful of that. I thought the best way is if a character is going through the same thing as the audience and we finally hit upon Jennifer. So Jennifer wakes up [from her coma], and the audience only saw her fall into a coma that same week and so when she wakes up, you assume it's been like a day or two. And then finally at the end, Jack says to her, "Sweetheart, you've been asleep for a year." So that's the shock. As Jennifer learns about all the changes that have happened in Salem, the audience is finding out along with her.

Was it always going to be a year? You could’ve done five years or 10 years or even six months.

It always seemed like a year was the right thing to do. To make it longer would probably be too much. I also wanted it to be an exact amount of time, an exact year because that way Valentine's Day is still Valentine's Day, Christmas is still Christmas. So a year was perfect.

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'This is a great way to reset things in Salem,' says executive producer Ken Corday of the time jump.

How do you decide where the various stories are a year later? We’re going to see some characters in places we would’ve never expected, right?

Right! We sat down with the whole canvas and for me there needed to be big enough changes to justify doing this. You want the audience to be shocked by some stuff. Why pass a year if some big changes aren't going to happen? But at the same time, also it's not an entirely new show. For every couple we broke up, there's a couple that stays together. So we wanted to change enough big things in Salem that it was worthwhile to go on this journey. But at the same time keep some stuff that's familiar because we are asking a lot of the audience to go on this little journey with us.

I’m guessing if John and Marlena were not together, people would flip out.

Because we have some big couples that we did pull apart but if you pull apart every couple, it's just a little bit of a downer. And it's a little unbelievable that every couple in Salem broke up in the course of one year, even in Salem. For John and Marlena, there are obstacles still in their path like Princess Gina. But, the love between them is there and it's strong and it's something that they're going to battle together, although they are separated in a way when we first come back from the jump.

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We caught up with the cast — Cin! Jarlena! Elani! — at the annual fan event, just as the show jumps forward a year.

And we’ll see returning faces. How did you decide who would come back?

To start, Chad and Abigail are such a popular couple and it was always in our mind to bring them back at some point. And [Abby’s mother] Jennifer has been in this terrible way so wouldn't it make sense that they might've come back to town? And, yes, there are people who may look a little different, there are a couple of new sets in town. A lot of people's circumstances have changed, some are pretty outrageous. I can't wait for the audience to see it! I've been waiting so long for these episodes to air. I really think it's going to be a lot of fun to see what's different and, also, there's some mystery to it. You learn about certain things that have changed but you don't find out exactly why. This couple's apart but what happened? Or this person's dead and what happened? You learn a lot up front but it allows us to let the story unfold over time.

Will we actually see flashbacks of the past year or will it be done more in dialogue?

You will see some flashbacks in the missing year for the sake of clarity. Some that won't happen for awhile, some that you won't even see for months. But we did feel it was important that if we were going to make the audience miss a year, show them some of it. What I didn't realize at the time what a big undertaking this was. There were production issues for how many flashbacks to do because it means, let's say in one show we have to recreate something from six months ago, those characters have to be in different clothes, maybe a different time of day, lighting changes, all of that. So stuff that I don't necessarily always think about as a writer but production is quick to remind me. But everybody stepped up and was like, ‘OK, we're going to do this!’ We just had to pick and choose our moments, the things that we really needed to show the audience.

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What do you predict will be the audience's first big question when they see these episodes?

Wow. That's hard to say because, look, a lot of the show is about romance. It's about love and it's about family. I think they're going to want to see who's together, who's apart, why has this changed? They want to see the love stories. What has happened to everybody's love story? And really, you'll see there's some dramatic changes and most of them are rooted in the love stories of the show.

The holiday episodes are always so big on the show so safe to say we’ll see some Thanksgiving and/or Christmas episodes coming up?

Yes. I love to play the holidays on the show, depending on the circumstances of the story. But especially with Christmas in Salem, if we didn't hang our ornaments then the audience would hang me. And New Year's Eve, I like to do something big and fun at midnight. So we are doing that this year as well. There are some familiar faces coming back and I think some people may have a hint or two about that. So yeah, you just have to see how it unfolds.

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