Judi Evans

Mother knows best — but it's making Days of Our Lives' Adrienne Kiriakis a pariah in her own family. The hell-bent matriarch, played by Emmy winner Judi Evans, is determined to get her gay son, Sonny (Freddie Smith), away from his lover, Will (Chandler Massey), and that has the two young men — and their many fans — in a tizzy. Won't anyone come to Adrienne's defense? Evans will! TV Guide Magazine spoke with the luminous star about her sudden "villainy" and the unusual, real-world job that keeps her in life in check. Get this: She's in the funeral biz!

TV Guide Magazine: How did your character go from totally cool supermom to Salem's public enemy No. 1?
Evans: It came out of left field but stories like this don't happen often so I'm eating it up with a spoon! I love having Adrienne at the center of controversy. Bring it on! But let's make it clear that she's not trying to bust up Will and Sonny because she has a problem with Sonny being gay. She's totally okay with that. She just doesn't want her son anywhere near Will's family. And she sure doesn't want him going to jail for something Will's mom Sami [Alison Sweeney] did. Oh, hell no!

TV Guide Magazine: To the point where Adrienne sent Sami to the slammer. Isn't that going a bit far? And now, because of that, she's got E.J. [James Scott] on her ass. Not good.
Evans: No! She's not going too far! [Laughs] Okay, maybe Adrienne is a little off her rocker with this, but she's blowing up a lot of people's lives for all the right reasons. There are always bullets flying left and right when Sami and E.J. are around and she doesn't want Sonny in the crossfire. Sonny's so young. In Adrienne's mind, he needs to take his time with love. There are a lot of other guys for him out there. But, if he sticks with Will, he may as well be married to the mob!

TV Guide Magazine: Do you think Adrienne would try to pull this stuff if Sonny and Will were older, rather than being borderline teens?
Evans: She couldn't get away with this if those kids were 25 or 30. That'd be totally different. She probably wouldn't dare! But she still thinks of herself as the mother bird. [Laughs] Well, more like the mother bear.

TV Guide Magazine: This could bring down Adrienne's marriage to Justin [Wally Kurth]. Is she ready for that?
Evans: She's not thinking that far ahead but I think she'd make that sacrifice. I know I would. In my real life, I love my husband and I love my son but, if it came down to a choice, I'd take my son over my husband any day — and my husband knows that! I can totally relate to Adrienne!

TV Guide Magazine: Have you been worried about fan backlash?
Evans: I saw it coming a mile away! I just hoped that some viewers would think that Adrienne has a valid point. [Laughs] Somebody? Anybody? I'm kind of drowning here! I've purposely stayed away from the message boards. I knew it was going to get rough and I didn't want to take it personally.

TV Guide Magazine: Let's talk about your life in the funeral business. How does it feel to juggle a front-burner gig on Days and a full-time job in the real world?
Evans: It's fantastic! I'm about to start my fifth year at Rose Hills Memorial Park [in Whittier, California] and was just promoted to sales manager, so I'm now working with people on arranging their funeral services and cemetery properties in advance. Up to this point I've been involved with at-need families, people who've just had a passing. I really miss that a lot, but this new position is a great learning opportunity for me.

TV Guide Magazine: Do you ever draw on your acting skills?
Evans: My approach to my work in the funeral business is much like my approach to acting — keep it real and in the moment. I am so grateful for my job at Rose Hills because it so grounds me! Days is serious work but, let's face it, it's mostly fun and there's a hell of a lot of pampering and special favors. When I'm at the funeral home I'm dealing with reality, and that brings a beautiful balance to my life. There's a lot of integrity, dignity and respect involved in this line of work. In some ways, I feel like I should have been doing this all along. I love it that much.

TV Guide Magazine: A lot of well-known actors would be embarrassed to take a regular job and risk being recognized.
Evans: I'm sure they'd see it as a sign of failure but it's not! I feel bad for anyone who can't get past that. I don't mind it at all when people recognize me from Days. They get a kick out of it, a little joy. What's wrong with that? I got into funeral work because, ever since I turned 30, I've been told, "There's not a lot in the entertainment industry for women your age." And I did hit a time when I was getting no jobs, no auditions, no nothing. When they wrote Adrienne off of Days in 2008, I couldn't sit home waiting for the phone to ring so I applied at Rose Hills. I wish everyone could spend half a day in the lobby of our funeral arrangements department and just watch what goes on as the people come and go. When you see people in the worst kind of pain most of your "issues" don't seem so bad anymore. You're mad at your man because he won't take out the trash? Big deal! We could all use a little more perspective in this world.

TV Guide Magazine: Well, it's certainly doing you a world of good. You're always so spirited and, on top of that, you look like a billion bucks these days!
Evans: Oh, thank you so much! I'm trying, I'm trying. [Laughs] But let's wait and see how good I look after Sami gets hold of me! There's just gotta be a catfight, right?

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