She wants her life back. According to the statisticians, Renee Jones has set a broadcasting record as Lexie Carver on Days of Our Lives, the longest-running African-American female character on television. But the luminous beauty is abandoning her role to give retirement a try. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Jones, who will exit the NBC soap in June, and we got the exclusive scoop on her reasons for quitting, her future plans and — spoiler alert! — how Days will say goodbye to her beloved character.
TV Guide Magazine: Actresses don't quit show biz. Show biz quits them!
Jones: Like they say, life is not a dress rehearsal! I am so excited about this decision. It's been on my mind for over a year. I am so grateful to Days for 20 years of steady employment — it's been a fantastic opportunity — but I finally had to stop and ask myself, "What really makes me happy? What really brings me joy in life?" And it's not acting. I just don't want to do this anymore. I was raised on a farm in Georgia and I want to get back to that silence, that solitude. I want to spend all day enjoying nature, experiencing God. Every so often production at Days will go dark for a couple of weeks and I feel relived. I feel free. I'm like, "Wow, there's a whole other world out there!" Acting now feels like a chore and I need a break — maybe for a good long time, maybe forever.
TV Guide Magazine: You've always been a very private actress, rarely granting interviews, never playing the Hollywood game. Are you pulling a Garbo? Do you want to be left alone?
Jones: You know what I want? A good solid year — maybe two — to do absolutely nothing. No plans, no commitments, no stress, no pressure. I want to hike, read books, take yoga classes. And then I'll think about what I want to do with my life. I would love to do charity work, especially something where I'm working with sick babies, holding them, just giving them love, helping them heal. That would be a dream. If something really, really great comes along acting-wise, maybe I would consider it. But I don't think so. I've been saving my money like crazy since the day I started at Days, so I'm okay in that respect.
TV Guide Magazine: You're an actress with no need of attention? How the heck did that happen?
Jones: My ego isn't involved in my career. Never has been. I have never desired fame. I just wanted to be the best actor I could be and I feel I've done that with Lexie, which is why I can walk away with pride. Maybe I feel this way because I got into the business through the back door. I was a receptionist working in a radiology lab when I was quote "discovered" and got into modeling. And that turned into an acting career. For me, it's always been about the work only, and now it's at the point where I'm not even enjoying the work anymore because it's such a strain on my brain and psyche. It's too much pressure and too much drama! There is enough pain and stress with the normal things that happen in the circle of life, I don't need to recreate that on camera. Lexie's been everything from a cop to a doctor to the mayor's wife, the First Lady of Salem. She's been a kidnapper. She's been in an insane asylum. She's had three affairs on her husband Abe — with his brother, his friend and his son. [Laughs] I don't think there's anything left do with Lexie but let her die!
TV Guide Magazine: She recently started having mysterious headaches. Cue the organ music! Are they giving her a brain tumor?
Jones: Inoperable! When I broke it to [the Days execs] about my decision to leave it was very harmonious. I said, "Guys, it's been amazing and I appreciate all that Days has done for me, but I am ready to go." They were very understanding and really wanted to honor my character with a great exit story and asked if I would be opposed to having her die. I said, "Not at all. But I don't want to be in a coffin." And I had one other stipulation. I didn't want a horrible cancer death. I was worried about my mother because my sister died of cancer a few years ago and my mom watches the show religiously and I didn't want her to have to watch that. So they came up with the idea of a brain tumor. There will be lots of crying, lots of goodbyes but it will be very beautiful. The writers have done a fabulous job.
TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, but is this death for reals? After all, this is Days and mad man Stefano is Lexie's dad. How do we know he won't steal her body and send it off to some crazy-ass scientist who specializes in reanimation?
Jones: [Laughs] That's what I said [to the execs]! How will we know Lexie's really gone? Practically everyone in Salem has come back from the dead! They said, "We will do something that guarantees it." And they did. I can't tell you what it is, but it is definitely the end for Lexie.
TV Guide Magazine: So no fears? No regrets?
Jones: None! People are already asking, "Aren't you gonna get bored? What will you do with all that time?" [Laughs] I so want to know what it's like to get bored! Some people are outraged. "You're too young to retire!" Hey, it's not like I'm guaranteed to live to be 100, you know? It could all end next year, next month, next week. I don't want to be all pissed on my deathbed thinking, "Why didn't I leave sooner?" My boyfriend has a favorite saying from The Shawshank Redemption — "You either get busy living, or get busy dying." And that's my new mantra!
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