The Big Mac Blog: Did you see coming any of this rapid change in soaps the way it has played out?
Drake Hogestyn: We all knew big changes were happening. We were losing shows, and long-time names. There was all kinds of talk because so many shows were over budget.
When I say we were working 90 hour weeks I wasn’t kidding; we would wrap at 2 a.m. and be on the set at 6 a.m. I was sleeping in my dressing room. We were so over budget with all of the overtime the crew and production staffs that something had to change.
The Big Mac Blog: What do you think was the trigger in this change?
Drake Hogestyn: Well, in 1986 when I started we just had three networks and we would carry an 11 or 12 share. Now there are 300 networks and we are competing with this explosion of everything. Shows can show nudity and everything else now.
When Deidre Hall and I were let go a few different media outlets said this was a shot across the bow and that daytime is in trouble. Other soaps called their actors in and made massive budget cuts. Shows started to get cancelled. There is a lot of talk about some shows going to the Internet.
We’re all going to keep a close eye on Katie Couric’s new show and the affect it could have. We could only have three (daytime) soaps on here pretty soon.
What happened was talk shows came on, which are much easier and cheaper to produce. That’s the same with any business. But if you look at all of the popular shows, they are really all soap operas. It’s all a saga. It’s about engaging writing and compelling actors. If you get that people will turn it in.
The Big Mac Blog: What is going to be new about Days of our Lives that is going to allow it to stick around?
Drake Hogestyn: It’s a whole rejuvination of the show. They brought in two new executive producers to replace one. They are redefining the characters on Sept. 26 and put them in character-driven stories that are topical to today. These are the situations that are happening today, like the economy or other social issues that are affecting people right now.
John and Marlena will be back, and they are in situations that are problems but if you hold hands and face it together you can survive it. The theme is love and we will intertwine mystery and intrigue, that is a soap opera. But the underlying theme is love.
The Big Mac Blog: Are you identified as John Black with Deidre Hall, even though you aren’t that couple off-screen?
Drake Hogestyn: Sure. I was in Atlanta at this convention and someone asked me, ‘Where is Marlena?’ I said she was back at the hotel. I do realize we really created this magic over the years that people really like. Sometime I’m almost too close to the trees to see the forest. Sometimes we’ll have scenes sent to us, like a montage of our past work together, and Deidre and I will be like, ‘We were really good back then.’ We do have a connection and we do like each other and we do protect each other. We complete each other’s thoughts. She’s a wonderful person and a powerful actress.
The Big Mac Blog: How did you land this role?
Drake Hogestyn: It's amazing, really. It was December of 1985 and I had given up on Hollywood. I was going to return to Indiana and Victoria and I were going to start our life together there. I got one more audition, and it was on the Columbia set, which I thought when I was driving up that it was appropriate because that's where I started. Before I got out of the car I thought, 'What a horse s--- attitude.' So I stayed in the jeep, drove around the block once more and said, 'Let's give 'em hell.' And it changed the whole spin of the ball.
I was reading at the time the Robert Ludlum book about Jason Bourne. The people at Days wanted a brief character that was a man without a past, that was based on Jason Bourne. They couldn't use the name so they used his initials.
I got the part, and it was only supposed to last a few months but the character was so popular they brought it back. I first appeared on Jan. 23 1986. Marlena and John shot to the top of the polls and we were there for 23 years.
The Big Mac Blog: How much longer do you want to do this?
Drake Hogestyn: I have this expression, ‘You are going to have to take me out dragging and screaming because your name can come off the dressing room fast. So come in and be prepared to show America what you’ve got every day.’ I want to be a part of the process that is this show. There are rumblings that soaps will go south, but I’m rejuvenated and ready for another 60,000 miles.
The Big Mac Blog: Do you still follow Major League Baseball?
Drake Hogestyn: Oh yeah. Always be a Yankee fan. Always. Always. (Former Texas Rangers and current Orioles manager) Buck Showalter and I were teammates. A lot of my buddies are still in baseball as announcers or managers. (Former Texas Rangers manager) Doug Melvin is a friend. Pat Gillick is a friend; he was the scout that drafted me and he just went into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball is a great fraternity. You go into a stadium and you close life behind you. Between the lines your life dissolves. It’s like walking onto a set; it’s another life.
The Big Mac Blog: Favorite baseball memory?
Drake Hogestyn: (This is a long story so I’ll condense it). I was in the Florida state league. We were playing a double-header against the Daytona Beach Royals. I was normally a third baseman but they moved me to second because Damaso Garcia got hurt. We had a pickoff play and we had the runner in a pickle; he slides into me and I got a spike in the right thigh. They asked me to sit out the second game and I’m like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ But they make me sit out and I’m pissed. It’s the top of the 9th and we’re down 6-3. The bases are loaded and they bring in Craig Eaton to pitch; now I owned Craig Eaton in Junior College. I told the manager Ed Napoli, ‘Nap, I’m going in’. First pitch I see I hit it dead center field. It’s the furthest I ever hit a ball.
The Big Mac Blog: Drake, I could talk to you another 40 hours but I know you have a life so I’ll say I appreciate your time and look forward to your return.
Drake Hogestyn: OK, next time I’m in Dallas/Fort Worth let’s grab a beer. Go Rangers.
That last part isn’t a joke. I gave him my number, and anxiously await the phone call to have a beer with John Black.
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