About.com just did a really nice piece on Mary Beth Evans, who is currently starring in Studio C Artists Production of “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s”. The show is running for two more weeks – tonight at 8pm, this Saturday, and next Thursday and Friday – so if you haven’t had a chance to catch the show, don’t forget to get your tickets before it’s sold out!
DAYS’ Mary Beth Evans: Jill of All Trades
Soap Star, Entrepreneur, Wife, Mom… yet Evans still asks “What’s Next?”
By Beth Cochran, About.com Guide
“It’s a solid, funny show, and I’m really proud of it because it was a huge undertaking,” says Mary Beth of her play Murder at the Howard Johnson’s.
Studio C Artists
Mary Beth Evans may be one of the busiest soap stars around. She’s recently returned to Days Of Our Lives, the soap she joined in 1986 as Kayla Brady. She’s the founder and owner of Mary Beth’s Apple Pie Company, which is still going strong after six years, she’s acting in primetime shows like ABC’s Body of Proof, and web soaps like The Bay and Pretty, and she’s currently starring in the comedy Murder at the Howard Johnson’s, now on stage at Studio C Artists in Los Angeles. Oh, and she’s just finished relandscaping her yard… herself.
The incredibly energetic and upbeat actress, entrepreneur, wife and mom took some time out of her crazy schedule to talk with me about her play, her return to DAYS and what else may be on the horizon now that her youngest child has gone off to college.
Tell us about the play you’re doing Murder at the Howard Johnson’s and the character you play.
I call it a quick fifty minutes to an hour of just a fun farce. It never stops moving, there’s no intermission, which is my favorite kind of play. It takes place in the 1930s and was written in the 1970s. I play Arlene, a woman who has been married for a long time and different events have happened that she grew up and away from her husband. The path of the characters is that at different points they all try to kill each other.
It’s been an incredible blast. I’ve done daytime for such a long time… it’s so fun to take a piece and take it apart and add the layers to it. It’s a solid, funny show, and I’m really proud of it because it was a huge undertaking.
What was it like for you doing comedy after doing soaps and drama?
People always tell me I’m funny and I should do comedy. But I have to keep a lid on it because it would be easy to cross over and be slap-sticky. So I have to be careful not to turn it into a cartoon. It’s just so much fun and it’s a bit physical – I’m running around and being thrown around. Every morning I’m like Ow! Ouch!
John Coppola, the director, is so darn funny. When we met with him, I thought, ‘We’ll never be as funny as he is,’ but I think eventually we did implement things that he was happy with. Everyone always says, ‘You do soaps so memorizing must be easy.’ It’s easy because you know your soap character so well, it’s conversational. The scene lasts two pages so you can retain that. This play is sixty-some pages with all three of us on the set the whole time. There is so much dialogue! That was a challenge. It took me a month to learn this. We rehearsed for six or eight weeks. At one point I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe how difficult this is!’ A year ago I did another one act play, and it’s a lot work. But I think it’s so important, especially as we get older, to keep challenging ourselves to do things that scare us. Now we all get together once a week just to run through it, and we are always right on. So now that I have it all in my head, it might be there for the rest of my life!
What has been the response to the show?
Sometimes when I do these things I don’t always know if I want anyone to see it. I go into it for myself and my own personal growth. I did a play last year where I didn’t even tell my husband when opening night was and then the day before he was like, ‘Were you going to tell me opening night is tomorrow!?’ But with this show, I sent out emails to everyone and told people to come and see it. My husband has come to the show three times. I think he could play a part himself!
The other thing I think is interesting is my 18-year-old son… last Thanksgiving, we went to New York, we go there every year because that’s where my mother-in-law lives. So I thought it would be good to go to New York City and give the kids an appreciation for theater, for dramas. I took my son to see a play and afterward I asked him, ‘So what’d you think?’ He said, ‘Oh god, too negative.’
But he came to opening night [of Murder at the Howard Johnson’s] with four friends he plays water polo with in college. They sat in the front row and they loved it. They even told their parents how much they loved it. I had a poster at my house that someone had given me and my son asked, ‘Can I put that up at school?’ So I think it’s a great testimony that it reaches all ages.
You’re coming back to DAYS, have you started shooting yet?
Well, I’m back but they’re so far ahead that I’m not airing until December. They have a lot on their plate right now with trying to get everyone back and reinvent some things on the show. It’s nice that everyone is feeling so upbeat and positive about the show. I’ve always thought what fans want to see is heartfelt stories and love stories and they’re trying to get back to that. I think people really appreciate that it’s more about generations and families. My mother watches and she says, ‘There’s enough going on in the world, we don’t need it on our daytime TV shows. We want to lose ourselves.’
I can tell you there’s a great vibe on the set. [DAYS co-executive producer] Noel Maxam who came in with Ed Scott, he really works to make the scenes better, which I really appreciate because it’s such a quick moving medium.
Can you give us any teasers or tell us what Kayla will be up to when she returns to Salem?
She’s there to help her mother Caroline at the pub, clean it up a bit, maybe make it more modern. Kayla will be hanging out with the men of the show, being their ear. I honestly don’t know which way it’s going. As long as I’ve been with the show, they never tell you in advance what’s going to happen. I just know they’re gearing it more toward love and family and that’s what the fans want.
“I’ve been married to him on the show as long as I’ve been married to my real husband,” says Mary Beth of her former DAYS co-star Stephen Nichols (ex-Steve; now Tucker, Y&R).
Getty Images/David Livingston
It’s been reported that Kayla is returning with her son…
Yes. She comes with her son Joey – but Steve has moved to Genoa City and he’s changed his name to Tucker! So let’s just be honest about that! (laughing)
Do you keep in touch with Stephen Nichols?
Yes. He came to opening night of the play and surprised me. We’ve been friends for so long. I met him three or four months after I got married at 24 years old. I’ve been married to him on the show as long as I’ve been married to my real husband.
Stephen is a really good actor. I think fans should follow him on Y&R. I think they should follow an actor they like, regardless of the character they’re playing. Sometimes people get too stuck on a particular character.
I just did one episode of Pretty. Genie Francis, who I’ve been friends with for a long time, since we met at DAYS, she did it. It’s this hilarious, goofy thing. It’s about these beauty pageant women. It’s just the goofiest thing. You have to check it out.
The Bay is back this month. We’re just having so much fun doing it. These episodes are leaps and bounds from the first couple of episodes we did where we were all a little like, what have we gotten ourselves into? [Mary Beth stars in The Bay and is also a producer]
It’s turned into a great production and it’s really a labor of love for everyone involved. When something needs done everyone pitches it to get it done. Network soaps are more corporate. They’re big with a lot of people involved. You shoot on a set with four cameras. There are costumers, makeup people, all these people doing different jobs. It’s not like that when you do a webseries. This is shot with one camera and it’s beautiful. It looks like film. It’s more intimate. There’s only a couple of people on board. The person who wrote it, Gregori Martin, he also directs and produces it. We can all collaborate and it’s way more personal. The writer/creator/director is sitting right there while you’re doing it and so they’re always there with the answers when you need them.
It’s like doing ensemble theater. I get to work with people I love like Charlie Shaughnessy (ex-Shane, DAYS) and Matt Ashford (Jack, DAYS). I’ve known them for such a long time. This gives us another avenue to work in.
You’ve worked in soaps for a long time, first DAYS and As the World Turns. What did you think about ATWT being canceled, and then All My Children and One Life to Live?
It’s crazy. The soaps are such a standard, they were always there. I know for me, I watched The Young and the Restless when I was a kid and then when I was pregnant with one of my kids, I was bed-ridden for a week, and I turn it on and there’s Nikki and Victor, the same as they were twenty, thirty years ago. Is it a dying breed? It would be nice if it wasn’t. I still think the ratings are there and I know the fans are there.
I don’t know why SOAPnet didn’t take some of them. They say they’re so expensive to produce. I really don’t know much about that end of things. I hope there is a place for it. DAYS looks like it’s sticking around. Y&R, B&B and GH are all very solid shows. So maybe that’s what it will be for a while.
Now we’ll have to see how All My Children and One Life to Live do when they cross over to the Internet. There are these other Internet soaps [like Venice, Pretty, The Bay] and it will be interesting to see if this becomes more mainstream and brings soaps into this new frontier.
I love these shows. As the World Turns was my favorite group of people to work with. They were such hard workers, just a great group of people. It was such a treat for me to go there from California and hang out in Brooklyn. Now a lot of the actors have moved out here and some have stayed in New York and done theater.
Change is always scary but it’s also often good so we’ll have to see what happens. As actors we get very comfortable on shows like that. So it’s good to shake things up sometimes, but I hate to see them go away. These shows are such a big part of people’s lives.
You’ve also still got Mary Beth’s Apple Pie Company. How is that going?
The big sweep is on right now. You can get the pies at the Williams-Sonoma website, through Christmas. If you want to pick up pies in the greater L.A. area, you can go to Mary Beth’s Apple Pie Company website to find markets. It’s been six years, it’s crazy. I sold three-thousand pies on QVC in seven minutes! It was an insane beginning. I do the single serving pies now. I like them better. When I was making the big apple pies, it was a lot harder to do. I’d like to try to get into more markets and that’s something I’m working on. I might be able to take it somewhere but for now the pies come frozen, and my thing is ‘I’ll make it, you bake it.’ They’re still handmade so there’s no machine that can pop them out, which would be great because it’s a lot of work.
You’re already so busy, is there anything else you’d like to get involved with, any other projects you’ve got coming up?
I just did an episode of Body of Proof. And I’m trying to find ways to take my artistic ability and do something good with it. I believe you have to hustle and throw yourself out in a million directions and do something different. I’m not a person who sits still very well and so I’m looking for different avenues to go down all the time. I spent a year relandscaping my yard and when I got to the last tree, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to have to come up with something else to do. What’s next?’ Friends tell me I should open a pie-ice cream shop. You never know. But I’m not sure that’s something I’d really want to do.
I entertain it all. My husband always said, ‘Say yes to everything,’ which can be dangerous for me! My last kid just went to college so I think it’s important for me to have other things that keep me going. It’s important to carve out something that’s just yours.
For tickets or more information on Mary Beth’s play Murder at the Howard Johnson’s, go to the Event Brite website.