Talks suddenly resumed as his contracted neared its Sept. 25
expiration, and an agreement was reached Sept. 23.
Although rumors have been circulating that NBC (which, as the
network that airs Days
, has special approval)
intervened to keep Ashford in Salem, Susan Lee, vice president
of daytime programs, insists that's not the case.
"It's been a tricky situation," says Lee, who came
on the job Sept. 9, in the midst of the Ashford deadlock. "Jackie
Smith left her positions (as NBC vice-president of daytime programs,
East Coast) in charge. Since no one was in California, NBC [couldn't]
attend any actual negotiation meetings. So there wasn't much
network involvement. This was all because there had been a network
"When I came on, Al Rabin (supervising executive producer)
and I spoke. Ken Corday (executive producer) and I spoke. I
got to put my opinion in," she continues. "But we
all agreed, creatively that we wanted to keep Matthew...that
he was very valuable. NBC never
It's not as if we rushed to the rescue on a white horse. In
discussions, NBC, Columbia and Corday all agreed, `Let's not
lose this guy.'"
When word of the stalemate became public, the Days
studio was inundated with phone calls and letters from the actor's
fans. How many people responded was not known, but apparently
the outpouring didn't go unnoticed. "We respond to viewers,"
says Lee. "We look at the mail and [take into account]
the phone calls we receive. But we also react to what makes
a good show, regardless of audience reaction. We knew, ourselves,
how important Matthew is. This was not a time we needed the
audience to say, `Don't get rid of him.' Matthew plays a unique
character. He's a unique actor."
Rabin notes: "It was never Matthew's wish to leave the
show nor our hope that he do so. With that in mind, we had every
confidence that we could reach an agreement, and I'm pleased
that we now have."
Ashford is delighted to be able to continue as the complex Jack"
"I spoke with Al, and we're all really happy that things
worked out. "I'm just looking forward to moving on to what's
important, and that is the storyline...getting
Jack and Jennifer back on track.
"I'm especially glad I'm going to continue to work with
Melissa Reeves (Jennifer
he continues. "There's so much more to do with Jack and
Jennifer. I would have hated to leave not only Jack and Jennifer
hanging, but the fans hanging as well. I really want to say
a special thanks to all the fans out there who have been so
Lee is thrilled to have Ashford on Days
more years. "I know I slept better that night," she
laughs. "I think we all breathed a great big sigh of relief
when he re-signed. The writers already had [a] future storyline
with Matthew in mind."
Fortunately, that story can now be told. But even if Ashford
hadn't signed on the dotted line, the show would go on. "If
we had lost him , would would have tried to recast the role,"
admits Lee. "Although we knew that would have been very
difficult, we also knew if a deal was not made, it was something
we had to do."
In the months ahead, there is plenty in store for Jack and Jennifer,
but first the pair will have to endure a brief separation when
Jack leaves Salem. (His exit was written weeks ago in case Ashford
didn't renew.) Look for Jack to leave later this month to protect
Jennifer after his stock-market dabbling gets out of hand. Before
Jack's departure, there will also be a misunderstanding between
"After two or three weeks, Jack will resurface. How remains
a secret, but Lee reveals: "Wen the audience first sees
Jack again, it will be in a very Jack-ian way." For
viewers, it will be a return worth waiting for!
JANET DI LAURO