Salem is about to get a lot less funny. That great fan favorite, and farceur extraordinaire, Louise Sorel has been pink-slipped from Days of Our Livesand will end her run as badass Vivian Alamain in the coming months. After several years away from Days, Sorel returned to the soap in 2009 with much fanfare and has continued to be one of its most acclaimed players. So what went haywire? TV Guide Magazine spoke with the star about her surprising exit.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the reason for not picking up your contract? Money? The recent change in head writers?
Sorel: My guess is that there's upheaval. The only thing I know for sure is that I'm gone.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your exit date?
Sorel: I don't know yet. My contract ends September 13, though that doesn't mean I'll work until then.
TV Guide Magazine: I'm guessing you got the usual shabby treatment when a Days star is fired? Not a word from the boss, Ken Corday?
Sorel: Nothing from Ken. But [Days co-executive producer] Gary Tomlin did speak with me. He is such a hard worker and has saved the show a lot of money and kept it on the air, all the while paring and paring and paring it down. He was so lovely with me. He didn't know what to say. He has no power in this situation but he couldn't have been nicer. He said, "I've watched you since Santa Barbara and you're always 110 percent there. I marvel at what you do." And that's worth a lot. He's not a bulls----er. He's very succinct. We don't chat on the set. We're not social friends. But he felt awful, and he had the courtesy to express something.
TV Guide Magazine: This is so screwy. Days just brought on this great new guy, Quinn [Bren Foster], who is Vivian's secret son — a story twist that made it seem like you'd be sticking around for quite awhile.
Sorel: I agree. It makes no sense. Bren and I have shot some incredible, really emotional scenes together, scenes about his character's devotion to Vivian, and how she left him. It's been wonderful, and he's a very lovely actor. It's the first time in a while I've felt there was something legitimate to play. But I guess that's out the window. I was told that the show is going back to "core values," whatever that means. The Bradys and the Hortons, I guess. [Laughs] I'm not sure what "core values" actually means on a soap these days when everyone is corrupt and conniving and stealing babies! And there are so few people left from the old guard. They're bringing Deidre Hall [Marlena] and Drake Hogestyn [John] back for the summer, which doesn't mean they won't continue on for the fall, winter and spring. Maybe I'm a financial trading card so the show can afford them. [Laughs] Although I've been making almost nothing — a third of what I was making during my first time on the show — so I don't know what kind of trading card I'd be. I'm not even a Jack of Spades! [Laughs] I'm basically guessing at what happened. I don't know what really went down.
TV Guide Magazine: Maybe there's no logic to be found here. These are shaky times in the soap world and you don't get the feeling too many people are thinking clearly. Still, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that they needed to cut your salary to pay for someone else. These days, even chump change matters.
Sorel: You're absolutely right. There was a big article in the Hollywood Reporter talking about how some of the creators of major primetime shows are being forced to give up characters they love because of budget cuts.
TV Guide Magazine: Perhaps you're better off not knowing why this happened.
Sorel: I don't know if it matters at this point. What if I did know the reason? Then what? At one point, one of the actresses on Days was told she was interfering with the ratings and hurting the show, so certain things were not being written for her. Who needs to hear that? Listen, actors are by nature gypsies. We pick up and move on. I realize in the long run that I'll look back on this and it'll just be one of those things. I would never go back to Days after this, even though Gary said, "You might be back someday." I just can't do it. I love the character. I love the people I'm working with. But I can't deal with it anymore.
TV Guide Magazine: You sure about that?
Sorel: What's that Shakespeare line about Caesar thrice refusing the crown? Well, here it's "twice she accepted the crown and twice she returned it." But this not Shakespeare. It's not an epic matter. And not that important in the scheme of things. It'll be forgotten and nobody will give a damn. But right now I do give a damn, and I would think that maybe the fans will, too. Maybe not. This time around, nothing was really accomplished with Vivian. Even if a villainess is funny or has her follies, she's got to be real and she's got to be scary.
TV Guide Magazine: That's always been a delicate balance with you. Sometimes they've written Viv to be way too Aunt Clara, so that her threats are goofy and meaningless.
Sorel: One doesn't want to be the mustache twirler, but when you do make a threat people need to go, "Oops! Better watch out for her!" If you fail every time with your evil plans and don't follow through, you're not taken seriously. You're just talking hot air. The original buried-alive story worked because it was played for reality. As crazy as it was, it was believable and it was scary. I don't know what that second buried-alive story we did last year really accomplished. Frankly, at this point I think Vivian's rather dispensable, but the show is losing a big source of its humor.
TV Guide Magazine: So no regrets?
Sorel: Gary told me, "You did everything they asked of you and more." This time I wasn't complacent — that's not in my nature — but I did came back to the show thinking, "Oh, Louise, this time just do the work and shut up." Because I used to go up to the office at Days and say, "What's happened to my character's brain? Where's her intelligence?" [Laughs] And they don't want to hear that, not from me or from anyone. So this time, I went in and just did what they wrote for me, doing my best to justify it.
TV Guide Magazine: You and I did an interview when you returned to Days and I recall you were very hesitant to take the gig, which required a move from New York back to L.A. You weren't even sure you still wanted to be in the TV biz.
Sorel: When I left L.A. I had this feeling I was walking away from this town for good. I'm not interested in doing two lines on something. I don't need to do it financially and I don't have the drive to go out and get those bits. For what? They don't mean anything. But when I was asked to do Days again, I felt maybe it was a good thing. I own this character and love her and can really play with her, so that meant something to me. It came as quite a shock because I thought I'd never hear from them again. It was Gary who brought me back. I was quite amazed.
TV Guide Magazine: Maybe you needed one more go-round to really get soaps and L.A. out of your system once and for all. You've been getting fabulous response to your writing. You've done some sensational theatre work. You want to get back to the city you love. Maybe in some weird way this is what you needed to set you back on the right path.
Sorel: That's a good way of looking at it. It was such an upheaval to leave New York and come back to L.A. I've always said I didn't want to grow old and die on a soap opera. That's sort of a joke with me but, at the same time, it isn't a joke. I'm still at a point where I'm trying to find out if I can really do this writing thing and if it will have any significance. I have to go back to it and really commit to it so, yes, maybe this is the catalyst I needed. That's the way I prefer to think about it. [Laughs] I'll opt for the forward movement!