Straight from NBC's number-one daytime program, Deidre Hall inhabited the role of Marlena Evans in 1976 on Days of Our Lives. She has garnered her several awards over the years five of them for Best Actress from Soap Opera Digest as well as the honor of the American Women in Radio and Television Award. The year she celebrates her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On Dec. 7, Hall will be in Chicago at Hell in a Handbag's annual benefit "A Very Special Rudolph" Sunday, Dec. 7, 5-10 p.m., at Dank Haus German American Cultural Center.
Windy City called Hall to chat about about Hell in a Handbag, being possessed on Days, and twin sisters before her upcoming appearance in Chicago.
Windy City Times: Hi, Deidre. How are you today?
Deidre Hall: Great, but I am not sitting in a ton of snow, like some people.
WCT: You were born in Milwaukee so you know how frigid weather is.
Deidre Hall: I was, but I didn't stick around. It was too cold for me there.
WCT: How was it growing up with a twin sister?
Deidre Hall: It is all I know but I will never know what it is like to be a single child. The advantages are living the same life as another human being. It is like stepping in the same river twice; you usually can't do it. We were born the same time, with the same parents, same schools, and same life experiences. We really are identical.
WCT: Directors love to use twins as doubles and stand-ins for productions so that could have been an advantage in the business.
Deidre Hall: We don't do that but she did play my twin on the show. She was an extraordinary special-education teacher in Virginia Beach. She was twice awarded Teacher of the Year. She is an amazing woman. There was no reason to do what I am doing. She is such a source of pride and inspiration.
WCT: Speaking of awards, congrats on your [star on the] Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Deidre Hall: Thank you! I can't even tell you how surreal it is to me. It's such an acknowledgement. I don't think there is anything as timeless as the star on the Walk. What it means to me is at some point my children will bring their children to see it and talk about their grandma.
WCT: How long have you been in the business?
Deidre Hall: I have been on Days of Our Lives for almost 40 years. Before that I was doing The Young and the Restless for a minute; then, I did some TV movies.
WCT: Do you have a favorite moment from that show?
Deidre Hall: Like everything else, it was off camera. My best friend Jane Elliot, who plays Tracy Quartermaine on General Hospital, came on our show to play Cleopatra. She was such a rabble-rouser that we became fast friends. When we were filming I had the director tell her that we needed a wild line from her, which just means a random line, and I came up behind her with cream pie to the face! She grabbed me, we went down to the floor and it was hilarious.
WCT: How did you get involved with Hell in a Handbag?
Deidre Hall: My other best friend in Los Angeles is Kim Penning. She lived here for several years, then had to move back to Chicago. I was back there several months ago and we went to see a production of Hell in a Handbag. As the play was going on one character said, "I can't help you now. I have to go watch Days of Our Lives." A lot of the actors were fans of the show and we met afterwards. David Cerda invited me to come back and do a fundraiser. It was an excuse to see my best friend again and I have done very little stage work. They are truly having so much fun up there.
WCT: With 40 years of Days of Our Lives, what have been some standout storylines for you?
Deidre Hall: Well, once I was possessed by the devil, which had oddly never been done before. Our show is known for firsts. I did the first-ever crib death on television. I remember a state of concern from the producers over how to do it. I walk in to find my infant child has died. They didn't know whether to warn people in a promo or not. They decided not to warn people. There was a huge outpouring of mail and phone calls. We outed it because it happens to people and they do the best they can to survive.
My twin sister was on the show for two different stints. She played my evil twin, Samantha, and then she played Hattie Adams, who was a chunky buck-toothed curmudgeon in love with Marlena's ex-husband. She does a transformation to look like me. American women love a transformation story. She fixed her teeth and lost weight but they changed writers who didn't understand the story.
WCT: How was it being on Oprah: Where Are They Now? recently?
Deidre Hall: They do a lovely job of making you feel comfortable. You take your time and have time to think. There is nothing rushed about it. No one is looking for you to reveal some unbelievable secret. They are interested in truth and integrity. They let their audience know what was going on with me.
WCT: Is Christmas your favorite time of year?
Deidre Hall: No. This year it is because my son is in college in Paris and he will be home for Christmas. I tend to like holidays that don't have a lot of fanfare like Thanksgiving. It is an excuse to spend four days with people you really care about. There are no expectations and no gift giving. If the turkey is not cooked all the way through then whatever.
Halloween I adore. I live in a neighborhood with lots of trick or treaters. When my boys were small I would build a haunted house that took over my house for the school kids.
Hall wrestles Claus at Hell in a Handbag's benefit Sunday, Dec. 7, at The DANK Haus Cultural Center, 4740 N. Western Ave., at 5 p.m. Tickets and various packages are available at handbagproductions.org or 800-838-3006.