He's sure no poster boy for GLAAD. Will Horton, the Days of Our Lives teenager played by Chandler Massey, is gay and deeply, desperately in denial about it. And his coming-out story won't take the politically safe route. Days currently has another young gay character — Will's friend Sonny, played by former 90210 star Freddie Smith — who is out and proud and inspiringly comfortable in his own skin. But Will's saga will be packed with guilt, rage, violence, drinking and blackmail — and that's weeks before the kid even has his first gay kiss! TV Guide Magazine spoke with Massey to get some exclusive deets on where this landmark plot is headed. Spoiler warning!
TV Guide Magazine: How does it feel to have this story finally kicking in? You were first told about it way back in February, right?
Massey: [Laughs] Yeah. That was two executive producers and a head writer ago!
TV Guide Magazine: Did you think maybe Days would drop the plot given all the seismic shifts at the show?
Massey: I did. Gary Tomlin, the executive producer who first told me about the story, was replaced and then I kinda fell off the screen for a while. And there were a whole lot of cast changes. So, yeah, I was a little worried that they maybe weren't going to go ahead with it after all. But here we are!
TV Guide Magazine: Word even went around that Days was getting cold feet about making Will gay.
Massey: I wondered about that myself, but it was not the case. They had to decide how the new writers would approach the story. It's a sensitive situation and they wanted to handle it with care.
TV Guide Magazine: Let's clarify Will's issues. When Sonny came out to his parents they were completely cool with it, and so is pretty much everyone else in Salem. Nobody's freaking or panicking. Why doesn't Will take this as encouragement?
Massey: Will sees how comfortable Sonny is and he wants to be that way, too — he really envies Sonny — but he doesn't feel he'd have the same support. Will grew up wanting a wife and kids and now he realizes maybe that's going to be impossible. He hasn't yet accepted the fact he's gay so it's impossible to even think about other people accepting him. Seeing Sonny with his gay friends doesn't help. It makes Will even less comfortable. He sees all these people who are out and not shy about it and he's thinking, "What's wrong with me that I can't be that way?" And so he feels like a coward. He wants to be like them. He wants to be happy. But he's afraid. I love the way they're writing Sonny so there's some real balance here. He's the polar opposite of my character — completely confident in his sexuality and totally together. But Will finds that threatening and it makes him loathe himself even more. He is really acting out.
TV Guide Magazine: Why is he so worried about what Sami will think? They already have a crappy relationship and he hates her right now after he found her shtupping EJ.
Massey: Sami has her own stuff going on. She's busy with her other three kids who are always going missing or getting kidnapped. In Will's mind, she doesn't care about him enough to be a real help if he came out to her. When a kid is struggling with something this big, his mother, of all people, should sense it. She's supposed to know her child better than anyone else. In Will's case, Sami doesn't give him the maternal love he needs and that's a big reason he doesn't feel comfortable coming out to her. Sami was so young when Will was born that they sort of grew up together.
TV Guide Magazine: This week Will goes ballistic and trashes his aunt Maggie's kitchen. What's up with that?
Massey: There is so much going on when that happens. He has witnessed his mom having sex with a man who is the devil, basically, but mostly he loses it at Maggie's because Gabi has just broken up with him. Will obviously is gay and doesn't lust after Gabi but the reason he wants to move in with her and needs her so badly is that he's trying to hide something he doesn't want the world to know. She's known for a while that something's really, really wrong. He doesn't want to have sex with her, so that raises a flag. In their conversation that leads up to Will's tantrum, Gabi hints that there's something wrong with him, that he's in denial about something and that is the catalyst. It's the last straw and he loses it. Once she's out of the picture, he has nothing to hide behind.
TV Guide Magazine: Then, in the December 5 episode, Will gets ugly-ass drunk at a Christmas party.
Massey: Hell, yeah! And the whole family plus the mayor is there! Will decides he's been through so much s--t that he deserves a drink. He drinks too much and gets rowdy, telling everybody exactly how he feels, which for an actor is always fun! Those are some of my favorite scenes I've ever shot and a great opportunity to show a wider range and a different side of Will. He's lashing out at his mom, mostly. He's calling her out on everything she's done to everyone present in the room.
TV Guide Magazine: If Sami is so clueless about Will being gay, what does she think is going on with him?
Massey: She thinks it's the alcohol talking. She doesn't know the reason behind his attack at all. She's not even suspecting Will's gay, which pisses him off even more. He needs somebody to talk to and his mother's not there for him. But he does get that intimacy and maternal love from his grandmother, Marlena.
TV Guide Magazine: So that paves the way for Will to come out to Marlena? He makes an effort in the December 30 episode, but chickens out.
Massey: Will and Marlena have an awesome relationship. There's too much history between Will and Sami — and way too many fights — but there's trust with Marlena. It happens that way in real life. Like I maybe will fight with my parents sometimes but with my grandparents the relationship is all pretty much love. I think Marlena's pretty sure Will is gay and tries to be there for him. She's a smart lady, and a shrink, but even she can't get him to come out.
TV Guide Magazine: Word is, EJ will get wise to Will's secret and it leads to mutual blackmail.
Massey: Yeah, when Will's plan to move in with Gabi fails, he doesn't have anywhere else to go. He wants to leave Salem so he tries to blackmail EJ into giving him money. But then EJ turns the tables on Will and threatens to reveal he's gay. It turns into this master-slave relationship.
TV Guide Magazine: Which is so not PC at this point in our planetary evolution. Blackmailing a poor, screwed-up kid about his sexuality is pretty damn low, even for EJ.
Massey: EJ is not afraid to go there, and I think it's great that Days has the nerve. Our writers certainly have balls. I was shocked to read some of the scripts. Other shows might be afraid to go this direction with a story that's this potentially sensitive but I think what we're doing is so much richer and dramatic because of it. Daytime TV has fallen on hard times. Now is the time to take risks. It's time to go big or go home.
TV Guide Magazine: This story will continue to take its sweet time. I'm told Will finally kisses a boy during a drinking game at the Horton Town Square — and Sonny sees it happen — but that's not until the end of February. Any frustration with the pace of this thing?
Massey: As much as I want to see this story get moving, I'm glad they're taking their time because it's realistic. We're all trying to make a storyline that is relevant and powerful, and something like that just doesn't happen overnight. There's a whole lot more to come in February and beyond. It just gets better and better.
TV Guide Magazine: Can we safely assume Will's story will have a happy ending? Will he come to terms with his sexuality and get his s--t together?
Massey: Once Will comes out and is openly gay I think he will find peace. At least I hope so. [Laughs] On a soap, happiness never lasts for very long!