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Days Re-signs

[October 15th, 1991]

AFTER MONTHS OF DEADLOCK between Days of Our Lives and Matthew Ashford (Jack) about renewing the actor's contract with the popular NBC soap, a deal has finally been struck. Ashford signed a two-year contract with the show (complete with a few "outs" so he can pursue other projects), effective immediately.

Although negotiations began last spring, they stalled when a difference of opinion arose between Days (specifically the show's owners, Corday Productions and Columbia Pictures Television) and Ashford over salary requirements. The stalemate continued for months, with neither side willing to budge.

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 gap.

"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 directly intervened. 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 really 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 supportive."

Lee is thrilled to have Ashford on Days for two 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 the couple.

"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 Days viewers, it will be a return worth waiting for!

private photos from a personal appearance
[october 12, 1991]


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