Thaao Penghlis previews his 2019 Days of Our Lives return, his new chapter, talks soap past and much more. Read here---->
We got the chance to talk to the one and only Thaao Penghlis. We discussed the beginning of his career, Joe Mascolo, Salem, USA, him being a trailblazer in the genre, what he's doing now and everything in between.
Thaao began his career in Off-Off-Broadway before moving to Off-Broadway. He made his theatre debut in Jockey's.
Thaao played a leading role in the 1980's remake of the popular television series Mission Impossible. He also starred in the television miniseries adaption of Sidney Sheldon's, Memories of Midnight.
Some of his other credits include the TV miniseries Tribe, TV movie Under Siege, motion pictures; Altered States and Slow Dancing in the Big City and the theatre production of Play with Fire.
Thaao's successful career, as noted above, has extended well beyond daytime. But daytime held his destiny. Destiny can be tricky, slow, take unexpected turns and sometimes you can never be quite certain how you will arrive. But you will. It was the SAG strike of all things, in the early 80's (there was limited work available) that steered Thaao toward Victor Cassadine and General Hospital which ultimately led him to his place of destiny in Salem and at Days of our Lives (thank you writer's strike!)
It was then that the soap heavens opened and Tony and Andre DiMera rained down. Tony and Andre's characters would entertain and delight us for many years to come.
We asked Thaao about bringing these compelling iconic characters to life and how he was able to masterfully distinguish one from the other. "One I made the model of a character. The other one I did an interpretation of the character. So, Andre was an impostor whereas Tony was the real deal. I was very clear about making those choices. It was not always easy to do especially when I had to face myself and then turn around and change."
Thaao made sure each character had its own specific different nuisances i.e. "Tony wearing glasses but not Andre. I would think Andre would want to become Tony and therefore he became a bit of a klutz at times. That's where I found the humor with Andre because he was always doing things that were not quite perfect. For example, Tony DiMera, I looked upon as a man who wore a tux whereas Andre would walk through the door and some part of the tux got stuck in the door. So, I tried to make a contrast of the characters. Also, in the walk it was a different kind of a strut. I made Andre's voice deeper than Tony's voice. It was all that."
The pronouncement of Anna Frederick's, one-half of the supercouple Tony and Anna, name was another tell sign created by Thaao to differentiate Tony from Andre. "I allowed that Tony would pronounce Anna as "Ah-na" and Andre would pronounce her as "Ann-a. I made one common sounding and the other one more sophisticated sounding."
Thaao let us in on the most important key to his success as the mastermind behind the doppelganger duo "all in all the clue to all of it was to enjoy."
And enjoy we did. We have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches with the Dimera family, Thaao, Joe Moscalo, Renee Jones, James Scott, Billy Flynn, Eileen Davidson, etc.
Thaao and Joe were the pioneers. How awesome were they in scenes together? It was a joy to behold. Their (Joe and Thaao) history was a long-standing one. "The great thing of why Joe and I resonated so well is we came out of the same workshop." In fact, Thaao was instrumental in bringing Joe to Salem. "I started out, cast as Tony DiMera, who then went looking for his father. I told the people at Days there is a guy in my class, Joe Mascolo, who's just fabulous. That's how it all started."
One thing became crystal clear while talking to Thaao'; his strong love for his characters, the history of and the DiMera family as a whole. His voice was full of pride for what all the actors involved created.
Thaao's latest arc on Days began in 2015. When Thaao was in talks to return, it was discussed that based on how Tony had last died, Days didn't think it was feasible to bring him back. Therefore, it would be Andre who would rise from the ashes.
Andre was on screen for about three years. He was fully integrated into the canvas, we thought he was the heir apparent to the DiMera throne (with the passing of Joe) and Thaao and Lauren Koslow were such a delight to watch; we were more than a bit surprised when Andre was killed off. Thaao echoed that sentiment. "It was such a shock and I thought why kill this character, especially with Kate. Those two characters have humor in the show. I don't think there are too many characters on the show that have humor. Those two characters had wonderful repartee. They also dressed differently than everyone else. Kate and Andre were very contemporary characters who had wonderful wit and who were both very mischievous. And you never quite knew who was going to get the upper hand. Plus, we liked each other. Lauren and I always enjoyed each other."
Thaao counted Andre's latest death as the seventh, counting both characters. He has always returned and thought this time he would return sooner rather than later after Andre got whacked on the head by his sister-in-law, Abigail Dimera. "I was told not to worry because I'd be back next month. I was supposed to have come back after nine shows. And we are still here. I just got sick of waiting. There was always the-you're coming back, you're coming back."
Some returns from the dead can be a stretch (to say the least). But as Thaao and I talked about, another Andre return wouldn't be. That death wasn't a violent one, "getting hit over the head with a thermos. Maybe Andre just got a bad headache." We got a good chuckle over that one.
Thankfully we've seen Thaao since then. We did get him this year as a ghost/Kate's conscience giving Kate a much needed chastising about her teaming up with Gabi and lying to Chad about him not being the father of Abby's baby. More recently he was a part of the ensemble cast in the Halloween centric episode (Hattie's dream) where he was the standout character, "baby Andre."
But we want more so we were ecstatic to hear Thaao will make another appearance in Salem. "I have another show that's coming up but it's not until March and that's with Deidre. It's a great show. One of the best I've done with Dee. We have most of the dialogue. It's a very interesting approach. Something I've not done before. I can't tell you who is in it or who is playing what. It was well done."
We are so happy we will see Thaao again. But we couldn't help but touch on the long-term future for the DiMera's in Salem. Joe is resting in peace. Andre and Kristen are "dead". It's no secret Chad will be leaving soon. EJ is "alive" but there is no indication Sami will be back in Salem for any long length of time which means EJ most likely will stay off-screen with her. Stefan's future on the show is unclear.
A Salem without DiMera's? Um, no. Absolutely not. I told Thaao what I've always loved about the DiMeras was that they were so-called villains but there was still a humanness, a vulnerability and a rootability about them. And while they were terrorizing everybody, we still loved them. We still rooted for them. We want the DiMeras in Salem. We need the DiMeras in Salem. There is so much history there.
As Thaao pointed out, "Joe Mascolo and I created those two characters so many years ago and gave the DiMera a family foundation, that to me, had the greatest storylines, greatest drama and humor. Joe and I established the passion the DiMera family has and the love of family."
The DiMeras are no ordinary soap crime family. From the moment each one set foot in Salem you knew they had it. Each possessed an aura, an energy and Salem has never been the same. Once again, Thaao put my thoughts perfectly into words. "They gave you something to think about something to feel. Even in their love stories, they were human. James had a sophistication. Joe, the family had a lot of style as opposed to the Horton's who were kind of your average Americans. Not that they didn't have style. They certainly had their own style but it was a wonderful contrast."
Thaao spoke very candidly about another contrast they brought to Salem. "Some color and some ethnicity, it wasn't so white. The show wasn't so white anymore. I said to Joe 'we darkies are a very good contrast to the white boys.' I mean that in a good sense because everybody gets politically incorrect, correct or whatever. But to me, it's just calling it what it is. My background coming from Australia is that we are straight shooters. Joe and I used to say what it was."
Thaao pioneered another aspect in daytime. He broke what he called the "Americana" spell. "When I first tested for Victor Cassadine, they thought this is daytime we don't have British sounding actors. And then when my brother who was cast, who had a slight Dutch accent, came on he wasn't particularly strong against, John Colicos, who played the head Cassadine. They brought me on as a contrast. I became the first English sounding character on daytime. Then Dynasty brought Joan Collins in. I broke that kind of spell where everybody was "Americana". The international field came in."
Thaao also spoke candidly about his experiences and insights from his years of working with various head writers, showrunners and executive producers throughout his career and his perspective based on those experiences. "I remember a head writer said to me one day that he thought my character was very complicated. It was not said to me as a compliment. I would think writers would like that kind of complication because it gives them a broader spectrum as far as a character. A while back, there was one producer I told that I didn't understand the story that was about to go up. He told me 'this isn't really about acting anymore.' To me, everybody has different things they want. Some producers and writers love having guys taking their shirts off. Others who are more serious and deeper like to write deeper broader stories. Across the spectrum, I've had a lot of wonderful things to play. There is no complaint here. Every writer creates a different format or they see you differently or they are better with characters that are not so foreign. Writers with a broader spectrum, I think like more international actors. But also I think because of budget cuts and everything, it's just more simplistic. It is what it is."
Thaao is currently penning his third book. His first two books are, Places: The Journey of My Days, My Lives (his personal memoir) and Seducing Celebrities One Meal at a Time.
He's developing more as a producer with several projects in development. "I'm on my new chapter. You keep moving."
But he and us still hope to see him back in Salem long term. "The nice thing is I left well. And the crew-I love my crew. They miss you. I do miss Lauren and my team members and my crew. Who knows? You can't always force an issue and things change. All you can hope for is that you are ahead of your game and that you are a cause in your life and not an effect. People do their jobs and you do yours."
It was an honor to talk to this icon of daytime.
We hope to see him back in Salem soon.