Click here to find out more --->
Interview with Days of Our Lives' actor James Reynolds
After 35 years on DAYS, James Reynolds is still going strong as Abe Carver — and has no plans to slow down.
What do you remember about your audition?
I remember my audition very well. I had heard about the role a while before my audition. I actually had an offer from another show. I had just finished a nighttime series. There was a lot going on, so I had to let that role kind of sit for a while. My agent told me that Days had seen a lot of people, but they were interested in seeing me. So I went over and read for the role. I believe it was a Wednesday. By the time I got home, I had a call that they wanted me to come in and read for the producers on Friday. Literally when I got home from that, they called and told me I had the role. No cell phones in those days, so I had to come home and answer. The other role was still on the table at that time, but I really felt like this was the one to take.
When I went in for that original interview, the casting director asked me how I did with learning lines. I had never worked on a soap, so I didn’t really realize the significance of that question. I always remembered lines, so I didn’t feel that was an issue. I didn’t really realize I’d be learning new ones every day. But I got home that Friday, they offered, and I said “okay.” They told me I’d be working on Monday. An hour later, someone knocked on the door and handed me six scripts.
How long did you expect to be there?
I thought a year would be nice if I were really lucky. I had never worked on a soap before. I hadn’t even thought about it. I wasn’t against it. It just wasn’t in my consciousness. I thought a year would be great and that would be the extent of it. Lo and behold…
Your first story was The Salem Strangler.
Yes. That turned out to be a very significant story in Days history and even in daytime television history. I think that story along with General Hospital’s Luke and Laura kind of changed television in a lot of ways. It certainly changed daytime TV. That story introduced a lot of Days characters, not only mine. Abe and Roman were kind of created as the dynamic duo. Abe showed up about 4 or 5 weeks ahead of Roman, and then Roman came on which of course lead to the Brady family. Then a little bit later the DiMeras showed up. The DiMeras weren’t part of that story, though.
You had an early relationship with Valerie Grant who has just shown back up.
My memory is a little muddy on that.
Valerie broke up with Abe because she said that he was not the marrying kind. That’s a little funny now.
Yes! It was true for a long, long time. There was one summer during that period that Abe almost had a girlfriend of the week. Every week there was somebody new. For a long time there was sort of a string of faces. She was right at that time.
One of those faces was Renee Jones’.
Yes. She was Nikki Wade! Absolutely. I think she was there for quite a while as Abe’s secretary. He was really taken with her. Then he found out that she was secretly wealthy. I don’t know why that was a problem, but somehow Abe thought that was an issue. Renee played that role, and was wonderful. So when the time came for Lexie to return (Lexie had been there and left), we were talking to them about it, and Renee was a name some other people and I threw out.
We skipped a little past this earlier, but I want to go back. Abe was shot during the Salem Strangler story. How many times do you think Abe has been shot?
It’s a lot. I may be off by one or two bullets, but I think Abe has somewhere between three and five bullets in his head. He’s been shot in the head a lot. And they never get taken out. Abe walks through the airport and you think there’s a fire. The machine is just dinging. He’s been shot quite a few times. I’ve lost count. I think it might be around seven times.
Not too long after the first serial killer story you were brought in for, Abe got involved in another serial killer story: The Salem Slasher.
Well that was interesting. I thought it was an interesting story that he had to arrest Roman. At one time or another Abe has arrested just about everyone. If you recall, he’s also had to arrest Alice Horton. There are fewer closer relationships on the show now. Abe’s relationship with Roman, Hope, and Marlena actually may be some of the closest ones in daytime. He and Roman were best friends and had grown up together. They really were almost like brothers. The undercurrent of how difficult it was for this man to lock up his brother was an important part of that story.
In the next phase of that story, Abe had to tell Marlena that Roman had died.
It’s one of those difficult scenes in a relationship that is extremely close. Abe is telling a woman that is almost like a sister to him about the death of his “brother” and her husband. A person they both love. That was very difficult. Deidre and I had established a really strong working relationship I think before then. One of the early consistent compliments I got from the show was about my scenes with Deidre. The writing was very good, and we both seemed to respond and have chemistry. Those are scenes that felt important. Those highly emotional scenes are just fun to do.
Of course it turned out that he wasn’t actually dead, and Marlena got to tell Abe.
I’m going to have to YouTube that. That’s one of the interesting things now. Certainly 20 years ago you couldn’t do that. I have a lot of VHS tapes. You can’t tape off the air anymore, but I have a lot of them that I haven’t watched in forever. I have occasionally checked out a scene or two when someone draws my attention to something. Usually I’m not as pleased…you know, actors make choices and sometimes it doesn’t hold up.
Once Roman really was dead for the foreseeable future. Abe moved into the story with Richard Cates and his brother Theo.
Roman was dead, and Richard Cates came in as police chief. We found out later he was a very evil man. He became very involved with Marlena, and it looked like she was going to be moving on. He and Abe had very different ideas about things. They butted heads. I thought it was a very interesting, complex story. Having his brother Theo around added something to that.
I really enjoyed that. There were a lot of levels to those stories, and a lot going on. A lot was swirling around Abe as a central figure of the story, and I really did enjoy that. Of course losing Theo was very important to Abe. I thought that was also a very strong moment in the Marlena/Abe relationship as well. They grew very close at that time because Roman was gone and she was getting more and more involved with Cates. And he had lost Valerie Grant. So you had these two people that both needed a friend. I thought that was an interesting time.
That story ended with Abe having to kill Cates.
As an actor, and having been very comfortable with this character for a couple of years, I loved that story and that moment. It came completely out of grief for his brother and even a protectiveness of his friend Marlena. He felt that Cates had been using her, possibly abusing her. The levels of anger and hatred were overwhelming. That was quite a story.
Shortly after that Roman came back with a different face.
I’ve always liked that all three Romans were people I enjoyed working with. I thought the relationship between Abe and Roman in the beginning was a key ingredient in making those characters people that fans like and enjoyed. I think that was carried on through Drake and then of course Josh later. Wayne’s Roman was pushed off a cliff, and then John Black showed up. We all thought he was Roman. We had a variety of things going on at that time, but we didn’t have that major driving plot like we had the first few years with the Salem Strangler or the DiMeras.
As far as Abe was concerned, John was Roman. There was no confusion. He was Roman. A few years later when Wayne returned we had that question of “who is the real Roman” and of course Drake went back to being John Black.
There was never a real explanation. We still find out things about John Black’s character and history. We saw his father just a year ago. Of course the fact that none of us figured out that the guy who had curly hair, now had straight hair…he was a left hander, now he’s a right hander. We didn’t figure that out. But it really didn’t change his relationship with Abe because he had grown so fond of him anyway. That relationship remained strong and firm, and he joined the brother/sisterhood of Abe Carver’s friends.
Abe did have another relationship that ended up being relevant many years later. Tamara Price.
Marlena’s good friend. And then some time after that Lexie came. I think there was at least one person in between them. There were a lot of little relationships along the way. Lexie was a police officer when they first met. I believe Abe was shot again. Lexie was working undercover, and somehow in that story Abe rushes into save and gets shot…yet again. That’s when their love for each other kind of blossomed.
You left to do the show Generations
The show was kind of moving away from Abe and others at that time. They were very gracious when I got the offer and made it very clear that the door would be open. It wasn’t in my plans to come back at all, but when Generations was cancelled I got a call about six months later asking if I’d like to return. At that point Marlena and Roman were back. I did. I seem to remember wearing a floral shirt, so we were somewhere in a warm weather tropical place, and Abe and the real Roman met up again. That adventure began again.
In the late 80s, Abe’s other brother Jonah was around as a child. In the 90s, he was there as an adult.
Yes. They had their issues. And of course Lexie and Jonah had their fantasy relationship that I remind everyone didn’t really happen. It was in their heads. They had an attraction to each other, but it never came to fruition. I think we’ve all been there. There were a lot of crimes going on at the time, and they both felt that there were too many constraints in being cops. They decided to take on this kind of cape crusader role. They went off on their own. That’s ultimately what led to Lexie leaving the police department and going to medical school. Jonah ended up realizing the conflict and trouble it would cause, especially for Lexie, and he ended up leaving Salem.
The next few years for you were mostly focused on searching for Stefano and learning about Lexie’s biological family.
This was another kind of fascinating era in Abe’s history. All of those family central stories really helped layer him. I’m thinking back to even Roman, Chief Cates, Marelna, and Theo. It was just such a layered story. Now we’re getting in to a time where things didn’t necessarily come together, but it did work.
We all went to Aremid…you know, DiMera spelled backwards. During that period of time is when we discovered that Lexie was raised by the Brooks but Celeste was actually her mother. Then it was revealed that she’s also Stefano’s daughter. That poses all kinds of problems for Abe. Lexie embraced it, not unlike a lot of children who are adopted but want to know about their birth parents. But it posed a lot of problems for Abe because the DiMeras were the embodiment of evil in Salem, and he had dedicated his life to fighting them. Now he is part of that family.
Down the road, Stefano began to use that to manipulate Lexie and use her for his own purposes. Later, it was Abe and Lexie’s great desire to have a family, and that led to Stefano realizing that he could inflict pain on Bo and Hope and kind of win over his daughter by making us believe that Bo and Hope’s son was our son. That began the kind of interesting trek of Lexie in the darkness.
When you found out you would be a part of this big baby switch story, what did you think?
I thought it was fascinating. I thought it was funny that this baby that we thought was ours was white. He was adopted, but that was very interesting. It wasn’t acknowledged at all. It certainly wasn’t an issue as far as the audience was concerned, but in retrospect I wish we would have addressed that to a degree.
I loved the story. I thought it was really wonderful. It was a clear question of right and wrong. Abe knew it was wrong to keep this baby that he knew wasn’t theirs. And his wife was so besotted with the fact that she was now a mother and was so convinced by her conniving father that this was the right thing and she should keep the baby even when she realized it was actually her best friend’s child.
Around the same time, you also had the Faye/Brandon sage starting.
That’s still one of my favorite stories. I like that we found out more about Abe. Also we found out that Abe was much more a human being that we were sometimes led to believe. His morality was kind of faulty. We had some flashbacks during that time to when they were younger. I’ve always kind of regretted that that story didn’t play out more. Brandon was gone as soon as it was revealed.
Before that, Faye’s husband was not a nice guy and we found out about his treatment of Nicole. It’s one of the things Ari and I have talked about quite a bit. We play with the fact that Abe and Nicole are kind of father/daughter in spirit because Abe was around when she was younger and her father was such a horrible person. Clearly they’re not biological, but when she needed a father figure, she would have/could have latched on to Abe. We’ve always been disappointed that they haven’t picked that up over time because we try to bring that into our scenes. There’s an interesting dynamic there. That was an important time for Abe.
That all led to the birth of Theo, which led right into another serial killer story where Abe had a very different role.
Of course. How could I forget that one? The island! My wife pronounced me dead. Leads you to wonder about her medical degree, doesn’t it? That was an interesting moment. That was actually a very difficult moment for the show. It turned out that we all found out months later that we weren’t actually dead, but a lot of us had moved on. As far as we knew, we were dead. That was difficult. Pretty much everyone that was killed was a staple character. There were ten of us all together including Alice Horton. That was not an easy time for many of us. The good thing about it was we found out we were alive…and in tropical shirts again. I got to team up with Roman again, and of course we found out that the DiMeras were behind it.
Abe didn’t come home to great circumstances. He started to go blind and Lexie had gotten really close to TEK.
He was not a happy man being blind. TEK had become a friend to Lexie, and I think his intentions were initially really good. Their affection grew and Abe was gone. It was a natural thing from their standpoint, but then Abe came back. It’s an age-old story. It wasn’t easy for Lexie either. Abe being blind was difficult for both of them. Here’s a man who is action-oriented, very much a problem solver, and a very active human being. But now he feels held back by this blindness. He has to change everything. He can’t even make a living the way he did before. There was just a lot going on with him having to deal with this new affliction.
And along with that, I hope I brought a little of this out, some PTSD. We know more and more about that now, but that was part of what I tried to bring across with Abe while he was struggling with his blindness and his marriage. When the TEK and Lexie affair blew up, what I wanted was a huge explosion. There was so much pent up inside Abe. More than just his wife being with another man. Hopefully that came across.
Obviously before he found them, he got his sight back. That came in a very poignant way. He received Zack’s donated corneas.
It was also part of healing Abe/Lexie and Bo/Hope. Abe never agreed to the baby switch and hated that it happened. Lexie was a willing participant of sorts, but that affected their friendship with Bo and Hope, obviously. More with Lexie than Abe. There was a lot of healing that had to take place with Bo and Hope. I don’t think they blamed Abe. They understood. But for him to get Isaac’s eyes, that was a real act of giving and healing.
After Abe discovered TEK and Lexie, Lexie ended up disappearing.
I’ll tell you what I like about that now. Over the years a lot of writers have come in and done different things and had different understandings of what Days of our Lives is. Lexie was taken by her family. She got out and there were other stories, but then a few years later that ended up being the cause of her death. I like when the show uses things like that and shows how the past influences the future.
Lexie did escape though, and Abe and Lexie got to kind of settle down a bit and raise their son who was starting to have some challenges.
Then there was the struggle of realizing that their son was autistic. I think Abe really had a hard time believing it. It had nothing to do with not loving or caring for his son, but it was really hard for him to accept that his son had challenges. I thought it was interesting that Abe was the one who was resistant and Lexie was the one facing facts.
Abe decided to run for mayor.
Another interesting time. Another layered story at that point. Abe was getting a lot of pressure from the current mayor, so he decided that the only way to really deal with it was to get involved himself. One of the things I liked about the later part of that story was that I got to work with Missy Reeves. Abe and Jennifer became a team. Obviously we’ve known each other for years, but you don’t often see those two characters together. We got to work very closely for several months.
Tell us about the last few months working with Renee Jones.
It was always fun working with Renee. We’re very similar. We never, ever, ever had an issue working together…which isnt’ true for everybody. We always, I think, respected each other and enjoyed each other. My wife would refer to Renee as her sister wife. I’ve been with my wife for thirty-one years, but I was with Renee for 20 years. Granted, that relationship was much more rocky! But we were linked in that way for a long, long time. We’re very similar in a lot of ways and enjoyed working with each other. That relationship was very real for us in a way, and we had established a strong working bond. I think that’s what made it work. We felt what the characters felt.
The last few months…I’m not going to say it was difficult. Renee was happy. She had made a decision she was happy with, so it would have been really selfish of me to walk around depressed all the time. I understood that and supported that. We’re in touch periodically, and she and Kristian were very good friends. We talk about that and try to have lunch with her when we can. It was hard after so long together, though.
Your next phase on the show was playing single dad to Theo.
I’m keenly aware when I’m doing something that’s part of my story that speaks to real life. I feel I have a responsibility to the people who are experiencing that. I was a single dad for a while as well, so I understood what that was. I was grateful to the show for telling that. Also the fact that Theo continues even now to have those challenges is something I appreciate. I like having that ongoing thread of story.
Can you classify Abe through each of the decades you’ve been on the show?
The 80s were full of a lot of action, a lot of good battling evil. Those forces coming together. The Salem Strangler and then the DiMeras and Cates. I see the 80s as a very strong crime fighting, action hero time.
I think in the 90s he became much more of a man finding his maturity and beginning to grow into himself and taking his place as a family man and a friend. Honestly, it kind of mirrors my own life. He was finding where he fit in society and in his family, and seeing the broader picture of things. The 80s were a much more narrow scope.
Then in the 21st century, I think he’s a man who has solidified his place in society. He’s the mayor; he’s a father. He has big responsibilities. He’s been through a relationship, so he’s much more aware of the nuances of relationships, and he’s much more tactful in how he deals with danger and obstacles that come his way. At this point it’s the story of a man who’s trying to blend all of that together. He’s not at all world-weary, but he is worldly.
What are some of your favorite scenes?
The one with TEK and Lexie was a favorite. And my real life wife was the motel owner who let me in the room. There’s some trivia. There are quite a few from the Faye/Brandon story. There was a confrontation with Brandon that I really liked. It was a physical confrontation. And I also really liked the scene with Marlena talking about John and Roman.
You were wearing your tropical shirt for that one, too.
Oh good! I keep it handy just in case. I’m sure we’ll be back on some tropical island at some point.
Have you had any moments with the character where you’ve felt like they were taking things too far?
Well, we all have that. That’s kind of the challenge of doing 200 shows a year. The nice thing for me has been that really since day 1, I don’t know that everyone can say this, but everybody has been very willing to work with me if I’ve had a problem or issue over the years. I’ve always been able to walk up to the producers and share opinions if something doesn’t feel quite right to me. They’ve been very respectful of those opinions over the years. I’ve been grateful for that. I won’t go into specifics, but there have been some fairly major developments for Abe that actually came from the fact that I mentioned it to the producers and they were responsive. I’ve always been grateful for that.
Get Exclusive Updates
Win exclusive member-only Soap prizes, and more: sign up here! Get our free email alerts on the shows, topics and the author of this article.
Having problems on our site? try Troubleshooting | Message Boards