The State of the LGBT Storyline & Characters on Days of Our Lives

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Christopher Sean, Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson played “the gays of Salem” on Days of our Lives. They are seen here at the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2015.

The cut below is from a good article by Jim Halterman regarding the loss of the big LGBT storyline on NBC’s Days of our Lives.

While I understand new writers coming in with their own objectives and vision for the show as well as the preoccupation with celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the show, the fact that the LGBT presence (which has brought the show accolades over the past few years) is dwindling is definitely disconcerting.

Source: The State of the LGBT Storyline & Characters on ‘Days of Our Lives.’ | XFINITY TV Blog by Comcast

Like many people, I was extremely invested in the so-called WilSon story over the last four years and DAYS’ blockheaded move — certainly in my estimation — to take this story off the table led me to say good riddance to the show and stop watching.

Here again is my take to augment Halterman’s.

Hasta Luego, Mr. Smith

(Aug. 18, 2015) — With today’s program, Freddie Smith aired his last contract scenes after a four-year run as Sonny Kiriakis on the venerable daytime drama Days of our Lives. Smith, 27, was this year’s recipient of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor for his work in the role.

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Christopher Sean (Paul), Freddie Smith (Sonny) and Guy Wilson (Will) attend the GLAAD Media Awards earlier this year. The three were part of a particularly soapy love triangle that drove much of Smith’s last months on the show.

Sonny, one half of the WilSon supercouple, was a good guy; a rarity in the world of soap. As an out, well-adjusted young man, he helped Will Horton (Chandler Massey, then Guy Wilson) come out, fell in love with him and, in a daytime first, married him in a nearly-weeklong event in April 2014 that harkened back to the “good old days” of soap extravaganzas when audiences were large and budgets were larger.

And the plotting that led up to the wedding was some of the best I’d ever seen on American soaps, but I haven’t thought it was that great since. Oh, there’s been plenty of drama, but a lot of it has been kind of absurd and typical of American serial writers. Still, in spite of the ham-fisted plotting of Sonny’s exit, Smith has never disappointed, always playing true to the character.

Rumor has it that Smith will return to Salem briefly for the show’s 50th anniversary event in November.

Freddie Smith left an indelible mark on the canvas of Days of our Lives, but serials keep going; that’s just what they do by their very nature. Like, you know, sands through the hourglass….

Thanks, Freddie for the hours of entertainment. You’ll be well and truly missed.


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Some Other DAYS/WilSon-Related Posts
I, Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising
Like Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Ticked-Off at American Dramas. Again.
WilSon, Love & Thanks – Thoughts for Valentine’s Day
‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem
Christopher Sean and Seeing More Asian Men On Television

I, Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist

I’ll be honest with you: I used to hate weddings. Now, because I can have one of my own, I guess, I’ve come to embrace them — real or pretend. For example, I’ve done a lot of television watching and crying for the last week as Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis got married on the daytime drama Days of our Lives.

This is NOT normal behavior. Certainly not from this curmudgeon!

But I can’t help it.

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A veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of Days of our Lives’ royalty flank Sonny (Freddie Smith) and Will (Guy Wilson) at their wedding. On the far left: Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) and Justin and Adrienne Kiriakis (Wally Kurth and Judi Evans). On the right: Sami Brady (Alison Sweeney), Lucas Horton (Bryan Dattilo) and Kate Roberts (Lauren Koslow).

And it’s a perfect example of why I’ve always been a fan of the genre of serial storytelling. It’s not because of any giant spectacle or sweeps month ratings grab: it’s because these important stories, told slowly over time can fundamentally alter behavior, lead public perception and change people’s lives.

I came out as a soap opera lover as a teen — years before I came out as gay — and I even studied soaps in college! Often, it’s been a maddening relationship. While soaps have sometimes been on the cutting edge telling some sociologically important stories, in others they have been unbearably slow in embracing a changing society.

Some Gay Soap History
Let’s take LGBT issues, for instance. In the seven years — yes, only seven — since the first gay male kiss on daytime, we’ve come to the first same-sex wedding*. That’s an impressively short amount of time, especially given how late Days came to the party by introducing Sonny Kiriakis in 2011 as an openly gay man and developing the long, sometimes painfully slow arc of Will Horton coming to terms with his own sexuality and falling for Sonny.

No, I won’t fault Days for finally coming to the table around the desert course, because they seized the zeitgeist by the horns, stopped the music and reset the conventions of the genre and committed to telling a contemporary love story in modern terms using today’s social norms and not relying on unfounded paralytic fears of an older, less wiser, generation. When so many people were predicting the end of soaps, Ken Corday did the right thing in trying to save his: he decided to shift the focus to contemporary values, begin to compress the time it took to tell stories in serial drama and let the naysayers be damned.

It’s the only way you make change happen. It’s the only way you become relevant.

No one should wonder — at all — why Days of our Lives won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama last year.

Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson portray Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton, daytime’s happiest gay supercouple. Would that we all looked this good in our own wedding pictures!

Why We Love Them
Nick Fallon, nefarious ‘smarmy’ evildoer — assayed brilliantly by Blake Berris — tried, in the days leading up to the wedding, to undermine Will’s confidence, something that was pretty easy to do in the past. He said that the reason that people in Salem were captivated by Will and Sonny was that it was a good old-fashioned romance where the worldly guy (Sonny) came back home and fell in love with the golly-gee wholesomeness of the hometown “total newbie” (Will). And, do you know what? He was right.

That’s why we love this story. It IS a good old-fashioned romance. We love this story for the same reasons that people have been crying at the end of romantic movies, plays and television shows since those media were invented: humans fall in love with love and we love nothing more than watching people fall in love. Oh, and we love happy endings.

The Grooms
When Sonny begins to come up the aisle, on the arm of his mother, there’s a moment when you think he may bolt and run up to Will. His is a character that knows his own mind and he knows what he wants and he has always known that he wanted Will more than anyone or anything else.

When Will sees Sonny coming up the aisle, realizing that he’s there for him, it almost takes his breath away. Forever questioning, forever wondering about his self-worth, forever feeling inferior, you realize at this moment that Will gets all of his strength from Sonny. Sonny has infused him with power, allowed him to be himself, allowed him to grow up and become his own man.

When Will says at the end of his vows, “But most of all, Sonny, I love you,” everyone knows how full of truth and how redolent with meaning that short sentence is.

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Wilson and Smith’s off-screen friendship and chemistry along with their respect for Will and Sonny’s relationship infuses and elevates their on-screen portrayals.| Image: @THEguywilson

Telling the Tale
The writing of the wedding arc has been as superlative as it gets throughout — careful and nuanced — and, in the very best traditions of serials, reaching deep into the story for anchors to bring everything together. Tad references getting told off by Victor Kiriakis in his best man speech; that’s from the summer of 2011, when Sonny came to town. Victor’s own arc from telling Tad “no one talks to a Kiriakis like that” to showing a bigoted associate the door with a “Family values, my ass!” has shown masterful continuity.

And more than that, the short scene in the park on the way to the wedding with Will and T seems like a throwaway, but, without saying it aloud, what Will is remembering is exactly where Sonny kissed him for the first time — an occurrence that began after Tad disowns Will. Then comes Sonny’s kiss, which Will is not ready for, leading Will to sleep with Gabi, T punching out Sonny, Gabi getting pregnant and setting the whole plot in motion.

In other words, they played the long game. Soaps NEVER play the long game. It’s so astonishing, I can’t even think of a time when a story was so well plotted and so well written in a multi-year arc. I was infuriated — just infuriated — when Gabi got pregnant by Will because it seemed an easy way to bust up Will and Sonny’s nascent relationship with every tiresome, hackneyed, eye-rolling, old-fashioned soap opera cliche in the book. Why? Because soaps NEVER play the long game. But here? Son of a bitch, if they haven’t neatly tied up every loose end.

As such, OF COURSE a reformed T is the best man, standing up for them proudly. OF COURSE Lucas has become one of Will and Sonny’s biggest champions. OF COURSE Marlena is the one to marry them, her long arc with Will’s struggles comprising some of the most special scenes over the last several years. OF COURSE EJ DiMera saves the day for a Kiriakis wedding. OF COURSE Sami, however inadvertently, throws a spanner into the gearbox. OF COURSE Justin and Adrienne are the most supportive parents in the world. OF COURSE there’s no “DAYSaster” event [Sami’s wedding is coming!] because it would ruin everything that’s absolutely, positively right about this story.

The Guys
What I think elevates it further is the power of the central performers. Guy Wilson, while a seasoned actor, had only been playing this role for a very short amount of time before these scenes were shot and his roughly four months of screen time — including many days where this story has not been shown — is an awfully compressed interval for someone to claim a character, stamp it as their own and make the audience believe in your characterization — especially an important character previously played by a popular actor.

I’ve watched Guy’s performances closely since he began and he started to charm me early on. He’s a subtle performer who commits readily to the material. His innate intelligence and commitment to the role and the story show through in his performances. As Will is now an older and maturing adult, some of Guy’s choices are bolder than his predecessor, but he plays true to the character brief. The character continues to grow.

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Freddie Smith as Salem’s ‘white knight.’ Sonny generally keeps true, but we all know he has an edge. His last name is Kiriakis, after all.

On the other hand, he plays most of his scenes opposite Freddie Smith, the young man who created Sonny Kiriakis and who is, for my money, one of the finest young actors on the air, so Guy has had to hit a pretty high bar every time he’s up. (You’ll note that I did not say “on daytime.” That’s because I believe that differentiating between actors on daytime and primetime — or now online — is a meaningless and often demeaning construct.)

Freddie is such an easy performer — smooth, solid, layered, confident — everything that Sonny needs to be. He always matches the show’s veterans note for note and lifts up the entire scene, not merely playing his own sides to showcase himself. It is the hallmark of understanding of what it means to be an ensemble player. And it’s damn rare, in this day and age, to find that understanding and ability in someone so young.

New Order Built on the Past
The thing about serials is that, for an audience to buy into them over the long-term, they need to develop relationships with certain characters and certain families. That multi-generational feeling was very much in evidence in Sonny and Will’s wedding and the powerful turns by veterans Deidre Hall, Wally Kurth and Bryan Dattilo [who made me weep like a baby, damn him!] and a lengthy knock-out of a monologue masterfully delivered by the peerless 86-year-old Peggy McCay, served to cement the couple firmly into the bedrock of this show.

I received a tweet awhile back in which the writer called Will and Sonny the modern day Tom and Alice. It was the perfect response. Perfect.

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Frances Reid and Macdonald Carey as Tom and Alice Horton, the original central “tent pole” characters of the long running NBC drama Days of our Lives.

If Days of our Lives is to have a promising and relevant future, its anchors must be placed in characters that both mirror modern life and reflect back on the long history of the show. For decades, Tom and Alice Horton were that center. Plenty of things happened to them, plenty of drama swirled around them, but Tom and Alice as a unit did not waver. Looking back, it’s hard not to think of one without the other. As the show nears the half-century mark, it seems to me that the next generation’s standard bearers of a rare solid soap opera relationship should be Tom and Alice’s great-grandson and the man that he loves.

It is the perfect way to honor the rich history of the program, to honor the genre and to show that the deep, deep roots of serial storytelling have a place in the modern world to tell today’s stories and tackle today’s issues.

In five years, I would love to see Will and Sonny raising their child — or maybe even more than one child by then — and interacting in fundamental ways with the other denizens of Salem while creating a loving and stable home at the center. It would be a powerful statement, one that Days seems to be on the cusp of making. It is certainly one that I would relish.

For the nonce, though, I’m just happy that this story has come into my living room (and smart phone and laptop) and that I was able to share in it. It was simply magnificent.


*Okay, okay, okay, fine! TECHNICALLY this is not the first same-sex wedding. Bianca and Reese on All My Children in 2009 were the first, but that’s a storyline fraught with controversy, not to mention poor plotting and lack of integration into the canvas. Also, their marriage would not have been legal where they lived, because Pennsylvania, where fictional Pine Valley is located, was not — and still is not — an equality state. Days has made Salem’s locale into an equality state in the plot — by fiat — and this is the first daytime TV same sex marriage in the post-DOMA era.

Other Days Ramblings:

See for yourself. Edit by 477mrfixit.

All images and video, unless otherwise noted, originated with and/or are the property of NBC, Sony Pictures Television or Corday Productions.

That was the Gay Week That Was

The Week of February 10, 2014 is really one for the history books. The LGBT history books, for sure.

February 10 would have also been my dad’s 84th birthday. I wonder if he would recognize this brave new world?

Red EqualsMy old home, the Commonwealth of Virginia, had its constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage struck down this week. This comes after the new Virginia attorney general determined that he could find no legal foundation, since the Windsor decision, to support upholding the statute, outraging conservatives.

The courts also held this week that Kentucky had to recognize same-sex marriages of Kentuckians who were married in Equality States but who resided in the commonwealth. Now same-sex couples are asking that Kentucky allow same-sex marriages to happen within its borders. So, keep a weather eye out for this; still a developing story.

Also in Nevada, the Silver State’s attorney general said that his state’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban was “no longer defensible.” An about-face from a state where the constitutional restriction was put in place more than a decade ago.

Of course, this comes on the heels of recent decisions in Utah, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

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#52 from Mizzou, Michael Sam comes out. |Image: nbcnews.com

College football’s best defensive end, an odds-on favorite in the upcoming NFL draft, boldly came out this week before the draft. Michael Sam‘s decision set the entire sports world on its ear and prompted lots of conversations about gays in pro sports in places where they normally wouldn’t talk about such things. Good on him.

It also elicited this:

Dale Hansen is my new hero. Other people think so, too, which is how he got a trip here:

The magnificent Ellen Page came out at an HRC event and gave a terrific, moving and uplifting speech. Overnight, she has gone from quirky young star to just full-on awesome.

It wasn’t all good LGBT news, of course, because it seldom is, when you are fighting for what is right. The legislature in Indiana passed the first round of a same-sex marriage constitutional ban. The only good thing about this is that the earliest it could possibly go before Hoosier voters is 2016. Hopefully by that time, it will be so out-of-step with the rest of the country that it won’t go forward.

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Kansas: Trying to become the Inequality Heartland of America

And in Kansas — Oh, Kansas, moan ‘Friends of Dorothy’ everywhere — the legislature was caught up in a time-travel drama that sent their collective consciousness back to concocting Reconstruction Era policies. Some say the Kansas bill to enshrine LGBT discrimination into law under the (laughable) guise of being non-discriminatory — I know, I know — won’t pass, but I am afraid that stranger things have happened.

And there’s Sochi, and Nigeria, and, and, and ….

But, on Valentine’s Day, daytime television’s only gay supercouple, Days of our LivesWill and Sonny, officially got engaged. I am fairly confident that this is a first for daytime, although some have said that Kyle and Oliver of One Life to Live were the first. I’m not sure that’s correct, but I’ll happily be proven wrong. We’ve come a long way since January 2009 when As The World Turns’ Luke and Noah, daytime’s very first gay male couple finally consummated their relationship, but were never shown in bed together! DAYS gets a gold star in my book for the way they’ve been treating these guys. Here’s a sample:

I wonder what next week will bring? An early spring? Please? Anyone?

WilSon, Love & Thanks – Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

This is a “Thank You Letter” of sorts.

On Valentine’s Day, after an elongated mulling-it-over period, the character of Will Horton on Days of our Lives is going to accept the marriage proposal of his longtime love, Sonny Kiriakis.

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Guy Wilson (l) and Freddie Smith play Will and Sonny, a young gay couple set to be married on NBC’s Days of our Lives.

I thank the DAYS producers and writers and NBC for that. For making a same-sex couple a part of the landscape. For treating that couple no different than any other young lovers. For weaving them into the fabric of the core families and for understanding the importance of allowing this relationship to play out over time. They should definitely be thanked.

I also want to thank the young men who portray these characters — Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson. They are doing yeoman’s work and they’re excited about doing it, which is even nicer.

“Will said no when Sonny popped the question last month because it’s a soap and it has to be dramatic,” said Smith in an interview with The Advocate that was published online on Feb. 13. “But when I found out they were finally getting engaged, I was thrilled.”

Also last month, when I wrote about the significance of Sonny asking Will to marry him, I got this:

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I was really quite shocked, I have to say, even though I had already heard through the grapevine that he’s a genuinely nice guy. No one, least of all me, expected him to (A) read what I had to say, (B) care that I was saying it, or (C) think it was important to let me know. That’s rare.

So, thanks, Guy. Not only was it nice, but he turned me from someone who was a fan of the character to a fan of the actor. In my loooong tenure in the theatre, I learned that while the business is full of prima donnas, the nice folks who persevere always finish first.

(Also, in my other life, part of what I do is explain branding and marketing and relationship-building to people. That tweet? That’s marketing.)

In the Advocate article, Smith also said that he’s received many letters from fans telling him of the impact of this story.

“In fact, one of those letters that touched me the most was from a young man who told me he was able to come out to his grandmother by saying, ‘Grandma, I want you to know that I’m just like Sonny.’ That really tugged at my heart because without this storyline he may have continued to keep his feelings to himself, but he was able to be comfortable enough to be honest instead. That’s why I’m so happy DAYS is showing this, because it’s part of life and people need to see themselves reflected on TV.”

So, thanks Freddie, for understanding the broad reach and importance that can come from telling bold, yet distinctly human stories over the long term and telling them well.

I’ve said it forever — and often loudly in defense of the importance of the continuing drama — but we humans only exist by storytelling, by sharing our experiences with one another, by finding out what we have in common with others and what sets us apart.

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Will said no to Sonny, when he proposed last month. How he could resist that face is beyond me!

I am so excited, as a gay man, that we are seeing so much more inclusion and diversity in society and having it being reflected back by touchstones of cultural significance, like DAYS; it’s such a positive step forward. We have to press on and not let this fall by the wayside.

As I write this, I do wonder how it would have been if, when I was in my early 20s and coming out, I had been able to say to my own grandmother, “I want you to know that I’m just like Sonny.” That’s probably how I would have done it, too. Grandmother did love her ‘stories!’ Guess that’s where I get it from.

Anyhow, thanks world, for changing and for welcoming our “tribe” more and more into the rich polyglot of society.

My own husband is upstairs in bed. I’ll join him in a bit. He said he wanted a nice dinner for Valentine’s Day, so, not being the roses and chocolates type, I took him at his word and I will cook something a little fancy for dinner. Maybe we’ll uncork a bottle of wine.

The rest of the day, we’ll both do a lot of “gay things” that are so foreign to the rest of the world: work, run errands, walk the dogs through the infernal never-to-melt snowbanks that surround us. I may even do what I’ve been threatening and look for work in the warm part of California! We’ll end the day talking about our future, how happy we are, and how we met more than a decade ago because, even though it’s OUR story, it’s a good and funny one. Maybe we’ll put on a movie. Or maybe we’ll watch Will say yes to Sonny all over again. After all, it’s good to warm your heart before turning in.

Thanks, finally, to those who read these scratchings. Your thoughts, comments, shares and likes are well and truly appreciated.

Go love somebody. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Saying Goodbye to the First WilSon Incarnation with a Bit of Snark

(Jan. 7, 2014) — Chandler Massey walked along a fake riverbank with Freddie Smith a few months ago and then was “handed his cards,” as they used to say in vaudeville, before being shown the door at the venerable NBC soap Days of our Lives.

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Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith, right) will have to start rubbing noses with a different Will Horton when Guy Wilson takes over the plum role from Chandler Massey (left).

Tomorrow, the angsty blonde half of DAYS’ preeminent (and only) same-sex couple will come back from their journey to that fake riverbank looking a bit different than when he left. That’s because Guy Wilson debuts in the role that won Massey two consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards: Will Horton.

It could be a painful transition, except that, thanks to The Backlot’s pop culture maven, known only as “snicks,” we have “Will & Sonny: A Love Story in Pictures, Part Two” to bring Wilson up to speed on WilSon. Make sure to click on Part I and Will’s California Adventure, too.

This is just about the best way to watch, I think!

Will and Sonny Scare the Mormons

Days of our Lives - Season 46

Days of our Lives’ ongoing front-burner gay storyline featuring Will and Sonny (Chandler Massey and Freddie Smith, far right couple) is the reason that some have alleged that KSL-TV in Utah has moved the program to an overnight timeslot.

from Huffington Post Gay Voices

“Days Of Our Lives” fans in the Salt Lake City area won’t be able to watch their daytime soap during the day anymore. KSL, NBC’s Salt Lake City affiliate, has announced it will move the long-running soap from 2 p.m. to 1:05 a.m.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, KSL won’t say why it’s moved “Days” to late night — or why it airs “Dr. Phil” twice — but it could be because of the show’s ongoing gay storyline.

KSL is owned by the Mormon Church. In the past, they’ve refused to air many network shows.