6th Time’s the Charm? ‘DAYS’ Vet Susan Seaforth Hayes on Her Latest Emmy Nod
Days of Our Lives’ Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie Olson Williams), along with her real-life and on-screen husband, Bill Hayes (Doug Williams), was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award two years ago at the 2018 Daytime Emmy Awards. And now she’s up for an award again at this year’s 2020 Daytime Emmys in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Julie’s tale of having a heart attack and facing her mortality earned her that nod. And ironically, the actress’ screen test for the role in 1968 had Julie suffering — you guess it — a heart attack.
TV Insider chatted with the actress/author about her sixth nomination, while this particular story is a standout, and how she and her husband have been using self-quarantining time to finish the sequel to their 2012 novel, Trumpet.
Congratulations on your nomination!
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Thank you! I couldn’t believe it. I’m surprised and pleased. This is two years in a row now.
What’s been keeping you busy during the quarantine?
We have finished going through our novel, which Bill [and I] have been working on for seven years. I finally had time to do an edit and we’re doing one together before we sent it off to an editor [at our publisher’s] in New York. Right now, the title is Lizzie’s Jubilee. It’s a continuation of Trumpet and deals with race relations in 1820s Charleston, South Carolina and a slave uprising that happened there.
What kind of research material is available for that era?
A lot. There are other books about that period and slave and abolitionist narratives. You also want the natural history of the south at that time, pictures paintings — everything that can give you color. Lizzie [our protagonist] is still a performer so, that remains there. It’s been an unintended pause that [we’ve all been given].
We remain productive in our house and our health remains OK. I have nothing terribly negative to say other than to say that I’m depressed that the show has stopped production. We now look like geniuses that we’re so far ahead! (Editor’s note: DAYS has episodes in the can through October.)
One criticism of the show having been so far ahead is that writers and producers can’t factor in audience response to what’s playing on air.
Yes. On a game show, it doesn’t matter. With soap operas and storytelling, it does.
Current head writer Ron Carlivati has written for you and Bill more than we’ve seen in a while.
He has really re-awakened our characters. He also brought back Doug’s Place, which was wonderful.
Didn’t Julie suffer a heart attack in the audition scene you read to win the role?
Yes. My audition scene in 1968 included Julie having a heart attack. Doug’s had a heart attack. I’ve had a heart attack in scenes with Camila [Banus, Gabi]. What I put up for my reel this year was Julie dying. In the past, I’ve submitted anger. I’ve tried wit. They’ve all failed. This will be my sixth time at bat. It won’t necessarily happen, but it’d be nice [to win]. And it’s certainly nice to be alive and in the mix and be a part of the show.
I thought for sure Bill was going to be nominated. His performances were so heartbreaking. Had he thrown his hat in the ring?
Yes. He put in pretty much the same material that I did.
Every year there are head-scratchers. His was the biggest one I can think of, but your nom must feel like a victory for him, too.
It does, of course. You know his personality. The words “jealousy” or “anger” just don’t fit. He doesn’t get that way. Bill was very happy for me. We were thrilled with the Lifetime Achievement Award two years ago. It was a great time. Our family made a huge to-do over it. It was a great bonding experience as many of them live far from Hollywood.
The Daytime Emmys have had many broadcast locales – Radio City Music Hall, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and one year it was on a boat in New York Harbor. Were you there for that one?
I was on the boat. I lost the Emmy on a boat. [Bill and I] were on the first Daytime Emmy show [in 1974], which was broadcast at Rockefeller Center in New York City. I am very pleased that the show is going to be on at night and on network TV [on CBS].
We hear that everyone has already taped an acceptance speech and the winning one will be played.
Yes. We’ve already recorded an acceptance speech on Zoom. Everyone has [to my knowledge]. I’m wearing something in my living room that I like. It shows from the mid-chest up and I’m wearing some of my favorite antique jewelry. I hope it gets on the air. I rehearsed the speech. My husband liked it. We did three takes. The thing is you have to try to give yourself up to that high as they’re opening the envelope and then try to capture that moment while you’re in your pajama bottoms.
Did you use your Lifetime Achievement Emmy in your pre-taped speech?
We were allowed to have them as props. They’re on the piano, where they always are, in the background out of focus. I think it would be really sweet if the show were to win again for Best Drama.
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad; ex-Doug, Loving) told a story during your Lifetime Achievement Award presentation that he’d been a day player at DAYS early on in his career. He’d overslept and felt terrible. When he got to the studio, Bill came to his dressing room and gave him his blocking and welcomed him to the show. Bryan said he carries those gestures with him to this day when guest come onto his shows.
That’s who Bill is. We didn’t know that story [from Bryan] was coming. It was a shock.
Do you have any memories of the late Lee Phillip Bell, co-creator of Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful?
Bill and I had stayed in [the Bells’] apartment in Chicago and we stayed with them in Lake Geneva when Lauralee [Bell, Christine, Y&R] was three years old. Both Bill and Lee were fun and gracious. Lee was always such a lady and such a bright spot for him. I never saw any shadows with her and he must have been under tremendous pressure for years [as a soap opera head writer and executive producer].
Lee seemed to engulf him in support, which counts. As my marriage goes on, I continue to see that that’s what you want to give. You want [your spouse] to know that you’re right there without intruding. Whatever happens, you’re interested and you want it to turn out well. There can’t be any vengeance or pity. You can’t be bothered with jealousy.
What has this nomination meant to you?
In addition to realizing I’m still a part of the show is the realization that the best part of my life is not over yet. Bill’s and my emphasis has changed over the years from our children to our grandchildren and our involvement with them has become intense and loving, and exciting. They’re fulfilling their dreams, doing what they want to do with their lives.
There’s a line in one of Sting’s songs, “Send Your Love,” from his album, Sacred Love. It says, “Send your love into the future.” I think Bill has sent his love of life, music, and family — not in that order — into the future. He’s just remarkable. I have been and wish to be a part of that kind of twilight experience where you’re stepping out of the center of the vortex but you’re still spinning.
Days of Our Lives, weekdays, NBC
The 47th Annual Daytime Emmys, Friday, June 26, 8/7c, CBS