When she wasn't busy raising hell as Sami on Days of Our Lives, hosting The Biggest Loser and being a wife and mom, Alison Sweeney somehow managed to knock out her fourth book — the frisky, funny beach read, Scared Scriptless (arriving June 3 from Hyperion). TV Guide Magazine spoke with Sweeney about her latest literary venture, her upcoming exit from Salem (she swears she's coming back) and why she has never — not even once! — been nominated for an Emmy.
TV Guide Magazine: Your lead character in Scared Scriptless, Maddy Carson, is a script supervisor on a hit TV show who refuses to date actors. What do you have against narcissistic pretty boys?
Sweeney: There are a lot of guys — especially in soaps — who are unfairly maligned by that stereotype. But I'd be very wary of any girlfriend of mine dating an actor. I'm always, like, "What the hell are you doing?" It's even harder when there are two actors in a relationship because there's that sense of competition. [Laughs] Let's put it this way: I'm married to a cop. The healthiest part of my day is to come home from work and not talk about myself.
TV Guide Magazine: Why make Maddy a script supervisor? It's hardly the most riveting of show-biz jobs.
Sweeney: We'd be nowhere in show business — or in life — without the detail people. It's people like Maddy who are the true foundation of a show, who know all the backstage scoop and are the most irritated by all those bad actor habits, like not sticking to the script.
TV Guide Magazine: Would that be you?
Sweeney: I am definitely making fun of myself in this book. [Laughs] And everyone at Days will recognize that!
TV Guide Magazine: There's a crazy rumor going around that you wrote every single word of this book. True?
Sweeney: I had an editor who changed a few things and threw some of it out but, yeah, I wrote the whole damn thing. And I'm already working on my next one.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you nuts? Every other actor who does a book goes out and hires a ghost writer.
Sweeney: I know! [Laughs] I only found that out later. Why didn't someone tell me that? But you know what? I don't think I could have written it with anyone else. I want to tell a story my way. For me, writing is therapy. There's something so relaxing about it. I go out for a run and work out the scenes in my head. I love escaping into a whole other world and love a good romance story about a strong chick, someone you can relate to and maybe learn from. Nothing heavy or deep or torturous. That's why I love a good beach book. You can set it down, go deal with the kids or throw yourself in the pool, and then get right back into the story. You don't need to think too much. [Laughs] It's summer. Who wants to think?
TV Guide Magazine: So let's talk Days. You recently went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and hinted that Sami's exit from Salem wasn't going to be all that dynamic. You want to revise that so it sounds a little more, um, interesting?
Sweeney: Well, it's still a soap opera and it's still Sami, so it's always going to be interesting. She won't just vanish into the night. I had no say over what they wrote, so my only leverage with [executive producer] Ken Corday was to promise that I'll come back to the show if someone gets married or dies, or for Christmas or the 50th. I could not handle it if I was not there for the show's 50th anniversary next year. I very much wanted that door left open and Gary Tomlin wrote a great send-off story that allows that to happen. I will always be a Days champion. I hope Salem is still here in five years and that there's still a job for me. I want that town to be around forever.
TV Guide Magazine: How exactly did it go down when you told Corday you were quitting? Spare no details. Was he pissed?
Sweeney: It was a million times harder than I thought it would be. I made an appointment and went to Ken's office. He is so important to my life and I respect him tremendously. I told him my plans and he was so kind and wonderful and supportive. He said, "Is there anything I can do to change your mind?" I said, "No," and he was very respectful of that.
TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, but was he also pissed?
Sweeney: Well, I hope so. Is that bad to say?
TV Guide Magazine: Hey, if I were Corday, I would have been absolutely furious that you're leaving. Respectful and gracious, but furious. Because this is a massive loss!
Sweeney: I would hope that he's a little pissed off because I want to matter that much to him. That man means so much to me. That's why I went in to see him as soon as I made my decision, which was back in October. I wanted to give everyone enough time to handle this however they wanted to, rather than forcing them to create some last-minute, thrown-together exit story because they didn't see it coming. [Laughs] I'm sure the second I left Ken's office, he called 10 people going, "Get in here! Now!"
TV Guide Magazine: Did he suspect you were going to quit when you walked in?
Sweeney: He said that he did, I'm guessing based on my tone and the look on my face. It's not the kind of situation where you want to walk in all happy making small talk. That would have been insensitive.
TV Guide Magazine: We gotta discuss that fantasy episode where Sami found out EJ was having an affair with Abigail. It was insanely fantastic —total go-for-broke acting and writing — but we were left wondering what you all will do when the affair is really exposed. Why blow your wad like that?
Sweeney: I felt the same way! The script required such full-on commitment and the producers and writers were so invested in the idea. So, yeah, I was worried. But they said, "Don't hold back because, when it really happens, it's going to be very different." Often in soaps you play certain scenes over and over again, so going into something this epic and important you think, "Should I hedge my bets? Maybe save something for later?" But they were very clear to us that the real thing won't be the same at all, so we really went for it.
TV Guide Magazine: Some of the fans suspect Sami has known about the affair for quite some time and that she's setting EJ up for a big revenge — Emily Thorne-style. But isn't she way too transparent to pull that off? Sami wears her heart, and everything else, on her sleeve.
Sweeney: Exactly! Everything you've seen on screen is sincere. There is no secret agenda or revenge plot. The idea that she has known all along just couldn't happen, especially not with this story going on for so long. Sami could never pull that off because you're right — she does wear her heart on her sleeve. There's another fan theory floating around that Sami knows what EJ did but she's already forgiven him. That's so not happening, either.
TV Guide Magazine: This all comes out of the fans wanting to spare Sami the heartache, don't you think?
Sweeney: As a big Sami fan myself, I get that! It's hard to look ahead at that inevitable pain that's waiting for her. I will say this: There is one theory circulating out there on social media that is actually very close to accurate.
TV Guide Magazine: Sami has committed so many horrid crimes over the years — from trying to sell her baby sister on the black market to, most recently, trying to drown Nick — yet somehow she's remained in the heroine category. How did you pull that off?
Sweeney: [Laughs] Sami is leaving Salem with a lot of dead bodies in her wake! Ultimately, I think that all rests with [former head writer] Jim Reilly, who set up this character from the beginning as someone with really relatable insecurities. Sami wasn't pretty and perfect like her big sister, Carrie. Nobody loved Sami like they loved Carrie. In the beginning, even Sami loved Carrie more than she loved herself. She was on that train, too! She was always the girl who had something to prove, and a lot of people in the audience connect with that. There have been times when her quest for love has been pathetic, but I find her lack of pride when it comes to love to be really admirable and endearing. Jim laid that out so cleverly.
TV Guide Magazine: What, in your mind, is Sami's worst crime ever?
Sweeney: God, that's a hard question. It's gotta be shooting EJ in the head. That was the single worst thing she ever did. Second to that was raping Austin. That was inexcusable. I still can't believe it.
TV Guide Magazine: Damn good TV though! Favorite scene?
Sweeney: I absolutely loved the scene after one of Sami's 15 non-weddings, where she went back to her apartment and went to the closet and started pulling out all the gowns from her other non-weddings. She had kept them all! [Laughs] Like I said, she can be so pathetic.
TV Guide Magazine: This is all such a drag! It's like that movie Groundhog Day. I keep hoping for a different outcome. Why are you leaving again?
Sweeney: How much time do you have? There are a lot of reasons but, most important, it's a huge time commitment doing both Days and The Biggest Loser and I want to be home more with my kids. Plus, the emotional commitment to Days has taken a huge toll on me and I need a break from that. I also think other opportunities are out there. I want to do more writing. I've directed at Days a bunch and I'm looking forward to pursuing that, too. And I want to get out and audition again. I want to see if there are other great characters inside me besides Sami.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you ever wake up at 3 a.m. going, "What the hell have I done?"
Sweeney: Well, you've caught me on a very sentimental day. I was doing fine until just last night when it suddenly hit me hard that all the defining moments of my life — graduating high school, falling in love, getting married, having babies — were shared with the people at Days. Now it's really hard to imagine my life without them, but it's my choice and it's the right one. I gotta live it. I may lose sleep at night but, in the waking hours, I feel very confident about the decision I've made.
TV Guide Magazine: You're one of the best actresses in daytime. How is it possible that you're leaving without even one Emmy nomination?
Sweeney: I know, right? I would have loved that honor — who wouldn't? — but after all these years without a nomination I have found my peace in the fan reaction. Their emotional attachment to Days and to Sami, and how much they say they're going to miss her, means much more to me than a statue ever could. The response has affected me deeply. I am so proud to have been a part of Days and so happy to know I've held up my end of the bargain.