After portraying steady and loyal police commissioner and Mayor of Salem, Abe Carver, on “Days of Our Lives” for 37 years, actor James Reynolds was awarded the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series while the show received Emmys in writing and directing as well as the big prize, Outstanding Drama Series. For longtime fans of the show, it is an honor that is long overdue as Reynolds has always been one of the foundational characters on the show, turning in great performances year after year.
We caught up with Reynolds and his wife, Lissa, after what they described as one of the most unforgettable nights of their lives. “We had such great support, not just from people on the show, but a lot of people going into this,” says Reynolds, “but I always try to manage the expectations; one day someone will say something and I think “oh, it sounds like it might happen”, and then the next day you think “I better get prepared for it not to happen”. It’s an interesting bit of an emotional rollercoaster.”
Having been nominated four times before, three times as Abe Carver, and once for his role on “Generations”, the actor knows what it’s like to not hear your name called. He began his run on Days in 1981, left briefly in 1990 for “Generations” and returned to playing Carver in ’91.
When he heard “Days of Our lives” followed by his first name, he says he knew he had won. Laughing now at the thought, “I completely lost consciousness for a while. I leaned over and kissed Lissa and I actually don’t know what I was thinking for a few seconds”. He goes on to say, “maybe the calmest moment was walking up on stage; it’s interesting, sort of like being in the eye of the hurricane, everything swirling around you.” Once on stage he said he could see everyone’s faces and says that the crowd was very supportive, cheering and applauding, “it was just wonderful.”
Reynolds had written a little cheat sheet but forgot it on his kitchen counter so he had to rely on his rapidfire memorization skills to remember what he had written and basically wing it. He says he did forget a couple of names but feels it turned out pretty good and that he got the highlights. One of which was his heartfelt thank you to wife when he said, “Lissa, my love for you is like the universe; it is boundless and it expands every single day.” The camera cut to a clearly emotional Lissa Layng Reynolds who tells us, “I knew the camera was on me so I didn’t want to just start sobbing! But it was just so sweet to have him say it at that moment. Very unexpected. How can you not be touched by that?”
When she heard his name announced she says “it was pure joy! People said they could tell by the way I looked. I think it was one of the happiest moments of my life next to the day I married my husband. I was so proud of him and he so deserves it and I wanted this for him. It’s such a wonderful honor to have after such a long career on a show that is sort of a second family to us.”
When asked what it means to win after all these years, Reynolds reflects, “it’s deeply meaningful. Lissa was saying earlier, this is the award for reaching the pinnacle of your profession and leading male actor, it doesn’t get much better than that.” He went on to explain that it was meaningful on many levels in that he has the distinction of being the first Best Actor win for Days of Our Lives since Macdonald Carey won in 1975, as well as being only the fourth actor of color to win the award ever. A. Martinez won in 1990 and before that, Al Freeman Jr., Darnell Williams and now Reynolds, “there was a lot of meaning for all of those reasons and the show and all the people on the show are so important to me. I was so happy to be able to thank Ken Corday (Days producer) and his family for the years of friendship, to be able to publicly thank them was great, in and of itself.”
Reynolds mentions this is Days third win in the last ten years and says, “you know I did have this feeling that if I were to win, the show would win too. So that makes it even more special, more sweet. It was just a wonderful night for the show with Greg Vaughan winning for best supporting actor and the writers and directors winning. What could be better than that than to share it with the writers and directors?”
The couple says they keep looking at the Emmy, not wanting to let go of it and Reynolds says, “it really hasn’t quite set in yet.” Lissa chimes in “it’s really heavy!” They share a laugh and James says, “it’s really exciting. When you’re around for a long time, you get nominated and your name doesn’t get called, you start to think well this is simply not to be. But here it is.”
In addition to starring on Days, James and Lissa Reynolds own the beloved Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena and are both proud South Pasadenans, active in the community and Lissa is a co-founder of the South Pasadena Arts Council. The couple have been named Business Persons of the Year as well as one of Pasadena Weekly’s One Hundred Most Influential Couples in Pasadena.