'Days of Our Lives' Melissa Reeves on Her Long-Overdue Daytime Emmy Nomination
What’s 24 years between nominations? The last time Days of Our Lives fan favorite Melissa Reeves was up for a Daytime Emmy was 1992, when she still qualified for the kids category. Now, with her second nomination, she’s a TV grandma. Where the heck did the time go? We sat down with Reeves for a gabfest about her unexpected yet long overdue nod, plus what’s next for her pill-popping character, Jennifer Rose Horton. Oh, and she also has a thing or two to say about the horrors of aging and that damn Days lighting. This diva gets down!
Emmy Award nominee Melissa Reeves! How does that sound to you?
It’s crazy, right? You know what’s even crazier? I have not submitted myself for the Emmys since the first time I was nominated.
Why did you change your mind this time?
I didn’t! Jason Looney in our PR department is the one who did it. He picked the scenes and then said, “I hope you don’t mind that I submitted you.” I thought it was very sweet. I never would have done it myself because, first of all, I’m terrible at picking episodes, and it’s always a rush to do it right before the holidays and so much thought and work has to go into it. So Jason gets the full credit.
There was never any pressure from your bosses to get in the race?
They’ve never said a word. You’d be surprised how many actors don’t submit themselves. Not everyone feels they had enough great work to qualify and they don’t want to take a spot from someone who is more deserving. There are so many actors who should have been nominated this year but weren’t. Where’s Kristian Alfonso [Hope]? Where’s Kate Mansi [Abigail]?
You’ve come to this very interesting, rich place with Jennifer that’s so full of sadness and ennui that I want to put you in a Chekhov play.
Aw, thank you so much. It’s the good part of aging. I guess the more you experience life, the deeper the well you can draw from.
Were you happy with the scenes that were selected for the pre-nom—Jennifer’s catfight with Eve [Kassie DePaiva] in the motel? That was such a great ticking time bomb. Waiting for Jennifer to find out her kid J.J. [Casey Moss] was having sex with her worst enemy is what soap opera is all about.
Classic soap! I loved those scenes. Shooting that stuff was nuts. My lip was so swollen because Kassie accidentally kneed me in the mouth during the first take. Then I went to slap her, which was a fake slap, but the car keys went flying right into her face. It was brutal! And J.J. was standing back going, “I am so not getting into this!” At one point, Casey was standing on my mark and I had to get to that spot so I grabbed him and shoved him right out of the way. Afterwards he said, “I didn’t know you were going to do that!” And I said, “Neither did I!” [Laughs] He was so scared of Kassie and me! I really, really miss her. We still text each other every day. We were texting when we both got nominated. It was such a shock when Days let her go. I was so mad about it.
What do you remember about the first time you went to the Emmys as a nominee?
I was in the hospital giving birth to my daughter, Emily. At the time, my husband, Scott [Reeves], was working on The Young and the Restless with Tricia Cast (Nina) and she won in my category, so it was like the award was still in the family. Besides, I won an Emily Award of my own!
Well, there’s no way you won’t be back on the nominee list next year with Jennifer’s drug addiction story. It’s been terrific.
And it’s going to get really ugly. I love it, but it scares me. When I found out where the car crash and her back pain were headed, I called Scott going, “Oh, my God, they want Jennifer on drugs and I’m freaking out! I never wanted to be an actress! And now they’ve given me this story! I don’t think I can act it!” I was in total panic but Scott’s like, “Honey, it’s gonna be fine. You’re gonna be awesome.” He really had to talk me down.
You’ve always been a reluctant actress. I remember interviewing you way back in your Santa Barbara days. You were, like, “What the hell am I doing in Hollywood? I want to go home!”
To this day, I still don’t know how I have a job. It doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist. If I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it at all, which is really bad. But [Days executive producer] Albert Alarr has been such a big help with that. He’s right down there on the studio floor with us, making it as comfortable as possible. The drug story is especially scary to me because you could really do it wrong and really do it badly. There’s a huge responsibility here, because so many people are dealing with addiction every day of their lives. Everyday people. Everyday housewives. You can’t take it lightly.
It’s so much more shocking that it’s happening to our little Jennifer Rose than, say, one of the town troublemakers.
And it’s much more perfect, because the Horton family was always taught to hide everything and put up good appearances. Scott and I watch Intervention, which is so intense and heartbreaking that I can barely look at the screen sometimes. It’s so hard to imagine how drugs can make someone want to give up everything in their lives, including their children. For research, I also watched this great Lisa Ling documentary about the mom who got hooked on OxyContin. I don’t want that drug stuff anywhere near my life, my family and I can get ugly about it. I’ll tear the house apart. I rip pillows apart. It’s bad.
How bad does it get for Jennifer?
Really bad. When she finally loses it and everything comes crashing down, they do a whole episode with my character falling apart. The entire episode. This drug story has been very well written. It’s sweet because they brought back Matt Ashford [Jack], I guess as a ghost.
The scenes are only Jack and Jennifer. No one else sees him, so he’s either a ghost or she wants to see Jack so much that it’s all in her mind. He shows up and talks her through things when she’s at her worst and it’s pretty wonderful. I’m glad they did that. It’s also times like this when I really miss Macdonald Carey [Tom] and Frances Reid [Alice]. To have her grandparents around to help Jennifer get through this would have been amazing. I also wish Frances had been with us when the ladies in the Salem book club ate the marijuana donuts. [Laughs] She would have been the icing on those scenes!
The Horton Christmas episode always has us sobbing.
Us, too. Every year we just lose it. Plus, we’re like little kids because we all get the warning that we cannot under any circumstances drop and break one of the ornaments or we will be in big trouble. So we’re all scared to death to touch them. The nervousness turns to giggling and everyone gets ridiculously silly. I wish Days would do a behind-the-scenes episode of us shooting the Christmas episode—kind of like a little reality show.
You and Greg Vaughan have made a wild team—Jennifer with her pills and Eric with his booze.
They are such tragic, desperate characters and both are hurting so much. They found solace in each other…and then Greg leaves the show! I’m, like, “Oh, great. I’m abandoned!”
Even if Jennifer goes to rehab and gets a handle on her addiction, it’ll always be haunting her—assuming she’s written realistically, of course.
That’s so true. We will get into that whole thing with Chad [Billy Flynn], when Jennifer tries to get custody of Thomas.
Where is she getting her pill supply, anyway? Does she have a key to the hospital medicine room?
She’s a Horton. [Laughs] They own the place! For some reason we never talk about where Jennifer is getting her drugs. I’m assuming she’s stealing them from the hospital so—on top of her addiction—she’s involved in criminal activity. This is actually even darker than it looks.
We need Anne Milbauer [Meredith Scott Lynn] back in the hospital to bust Jennifer’s ass big time!
Meredith and I have the most fun hating each other! I so used to look forward to the days we’d work together. I mean, it’s great they have Anne working with Theresa [Jen Lilley] now but it’s a loss for the hospital. Days keeps bringing in new writers and if they haven’t followed the Anne-Jennifer rivalry they don’t get it. I feel like saying, “It’s hilarious! I promise! People love it!”
Between all the addiction and the murder cover-ups, you guys have been doing some chancy things to shake up the show.
We’re trying everything to get the people to watch and be interested. We tried safe, now we’ve tried shocking. Albert also wanted to change the look and the tone of the show, and make the lighting edgier, which for us older gals isn’t so great. [Laughs] I’m like, “Can’t we just go back to that beauty lighting we had in the ‘80s? Can’t we just be edgy? Do we have to look edgy, too?” They’re adding like 4000 K or 4 K or something. I don’t know what it is exactly except that it’s higher than high definition, and we girls are going, “No way!” It’s just cruel. I think we should go on strike or something. “We want our diva lights back!” I’m always telling Scott, “Honey, there are only so many years left for this face of mine on television.” And the higher the high definition becomes, the more insecure I get. Forget about 3D. The bags under my eyes are like 5D! Not good.
Gee, maybe I should ask: You will be at the Emmys, won’t you?
Oh, I’ll be there for sure, with my Scott on my arm. I’m thrilled with the nomination but the whole thing has me laughing. Aren’t I getting a little too old for this? Now I have to worry about the dress, the hair, the diet. [Laughs] I had no idea how much stress I was missing out on all these years!