This hurts. The spectacular Eileen Davidson has chosen to leave her role as whackjob villainess Kristen DiMera on NBC's Days of Our Livesand will last be seen during November sweeps. TV Guide Magazine landed the first exit interview with the actress, who reveals why she's taking a hike from a gig that's winning her wide acclaim. How come Days didn'ttry to keep her? Will she return to CBS's The Young and the Restlessand her role as Ashley Abbott? And why, dear God, are you doing this to us?
TV Guide Magazine: You sure know how to stir it up. Everyone's in a tizzy with the news of your departure, me included. So give us the deets. What went down?
Davidson: It was nothing financial. I've known about this since last March when they came to renegotiate my deal. We discussed it for, like, a minute, but then I told them I really felt the need to leave. They've asked me to stay quiet about it since I'll still be on the air for another three or four months. But then I saw that [executive producer] Ken Corday spilled the beans, so the word is out.
TV Guide Magazine: My spies tell me you gave a pretty tearful goodbye on your last day of shooting [July 16].
Davidson: Yeah, it was a very emotional speech made with a very heavy heart. The cast and crew are fantastic and, given what they are up against and how quickly they work, their attitudes and their commitment to doing a great job is unparalleled. And that has helped me do some of the best work of my life. It's been a real privilege to be there. But the speed is brutal! More often than not, I'd drive home from work feeling like I should have done better or that I wish I'd been allowed just one more take. That part of the job is very frustrating. I was doing seven or eight shows a week, with tons of dialogue and very long days, and I just couldn't keep doing that. They said, "What can we do to work around you and make it easier?" But I didn't want to do that to Days. This show is trying hard to stay on the air and they've already had to trim any and all fat and shoot the show super fast. I didn't want to be that actor who needs to be out by noon so she can pick up her kid or whatever. I don't want anyone resenting me or feeling that I'm making their work day longer or more difficult. So I let them know my feelings and they didn't fight me on it.
TV Guide Magazine: Why couldn't they consolidate all your scenes to, say, two days a week? You're gold. You are the reason to watch Days. Steve Burton has 20 days a month off at Y&R. Why couldn't Sony, which oversees both soaps, work a similar deal?
Davidson: It's just not feasible. At Days they work around other people like that and I have no bad feelings about it, but that's just not me. I don't want to keep the show from doing what it needs to do in order to stay on the air. And you can't put Kristen on the back burner because then there's no point to her. She's always got that foot on the pedal, and that's exhausting. Even when we were dark one week a month, I'd go home with 10 scripts. I was driving my son to school or taking him on outings, and always had scripts with me in the car. My stepsons are both going to be in college, as of this year, and I've been watching their lives fly by because I am at work. I needed to get off the train for a minute.
TV Guide Magazine: Just for a minute? So then you might come back? Leave us with some hope here!
Davidson: I'm not leaving Days to go to another show, nor am I retiring. When I told Eric Martsolf [Brady] I was leaving, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Oh, you're going back to Y&R." No, I'm not. First of all, they haven't approached me and I'm sure they've known since March that I was leaving Days since both shows are Sony productions. I will definitely work again. Who knows? Maybe two weeks or a month from now I'll be ready. But there's another big reason I feel it's time to leave Days. The characters I play there have a very short shelf life. How can you have Kristen keep doing her shenanigans year after year without it getting old? How many times can she reunite with Brady before he starts to look like a complete dunce? Days has asked me to come back for shorter story arcs down the line, and that could happen. They wanted a commitment as to when, but I couldn't give them that right now. I'm actually kind of excited about being in such a not-knowing place! I'm happy! I feel really blessed and really lucky that there are two daytime shows where I'm held in high esteem but my needs and desires as an actor have changed. Where acting fits into my life has changed. I was treading water on Y&R, so being written off that show was for the best. When it happened I sure didn't think so. I was, like, "What the f---?" But I soon saw it as amazing. I went back to Days and have had the most extraordinary time!
TV Guide Magazine: Are you sorry you didn't get a chance to really take a crack at Susan again?
Davidson: Well, I did Kristen's very loose impression of a Susan-type person. I was super open to playing Susan again, or even Sister Mary Moira, especially now that they have that great rectory set. But then, without having [the late Days head writer] Jimmy Reilly around, I don't know if we should really go there. We did a little nod to him and I think that it was just right.
TV Guide Magazine: How would you describe the remaining months of your run? Will we continue to be dazzled?
Davidson: I've had directors and others at the show say they've read my last month of shows and they call it great, epic soap opera, as only Days and a character like Kristen can do. I was really blown away by it myself. It's pretty amazing. I'm not exactly sure how they're going to tie it all up because they've cast someone who kind of looks like me — and I don't know what that means or how she'll be used. But, obviously, Kristen is not being considered over and done. I'm definitely not saying no to coming back but, right now, I'm in a place of great gratitude that, at my age, I can make these kinds of life decisions. I can say "This is what I want" and "This is what I don't want." [Laughs] And I am loving that!