Retired U.S. Army general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell once said: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” An individual who is the epitome of this quotation is veteran actor James Reynolds.
Reynolds is known for his longtime portrayal of Abe Carver on the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives, a role that he has played since October of 1981. His role is the longest-running black character in the history of daytime television
For his powerful performance as Abe, Reynolds took home the 2018 Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. James is only the third black actor to have won that award.
Through his 41 years on the show, the character of Abe Carver has a few loves interest but none has been as dynamic as when Paulina Price hit the scene. The strong-willed businesswoman has been shaking up Salem since she arrived. Portrayed by the legendary Jackée Harry.
After 35 years, Jackée returned to the world of daytime high drama. Harry is best known for her memorable characters as Sandra Clark on 227, Lisa Landry on Sister, Sister, and as Vanessa on Everyone Hates Chris, and countless other television and film productions. Harry went on to become the first Black woman to win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy back in 1987
The actress’s first big break started in soaps back in 1983, when she played Lily Mason on Another World. She remained with the soap until 1986, working simultaneously on “227.” Her grand return, then, is a come-full-circle moment.
We spoke with James Reynolds and Jackée Harry at the fan event Day of Days held at XBOX Live in LA. Read below as we discuss representation on screen, surviving the entertainment industry and more.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
This is the first fan event since the pandemic. How was that time period for you?
Jackée – Well, I had a boyfriend and then I didn’t have a boyfriend. He got me through the first 18 months, and it got to him and a lot of other people. Look at Tom Brady and his ex-wife Giselle, I think it made people negative. Because you’re scared, you’re up and down, up and down. You feel great maybe at 10 o’clock in the morning, then about 12 you’re like why am I feeling this way because things were uncertain. But coming out to an event like this and socializing gives you much more confidence in mankind.
James – People do better when they’re with each other, when they’re socializing with each other. So, it was hard being forced to withdraw for a couple of years. I think that’s one of the issues that we have going on in the country. [James has been married to his wife Lissa since 1986] We were lucky because we like spending time together, but there were a lot of people out there that didn’t have that. They could have been married for 50 years and never got along anyways. Luckily, we didn’t have that problem.
‘Days of Our Lives’ has been showing black excellence on screen as of late, how does it feel to be on a show that continues to invest in telling diverse stories.
James – To see the growth of that has been amazing. Back in the day I used to have to write position papers to production and the network saying look you know this percentage of the audience are people of color. Daytime television has always had a huge black audience, people loved watching their stories. And that was a struggle, I did that for years, years, and years. But there becomes a time where things become clear, and I think we saw this even more clearly around the time of lock down and everybody being at home. You saw how important representation was, you can’t have a community in America unless that community is diverse. And this show responded, the numbers change, they go up and down but now we’re seeing people of various backgrounds, Asians, Black folks, Hispanics and gay couples. It’s very important.
Jackée – Much more diverse than I ever thought it would be.
You play Paulina so authentically; I don’t know if it’s the writing or your cadence.
Jackée – It’s the writing, but I do it the way you were raised. There’s a reality in the household, there’s a reality at church, there’s a reality when you go to school, a reality when you go to your job. Your mom say you act right when you get there. But then there’s a day when someone put their hands on you and all that goes out the window, you are like let’s get it on. You gotta be an authentic person.
Is there anyone on the show that you don’t interact with character wise, but you would like to work with more?
James – Yeah, there always are, in fact one of the things now is that we’re all kind of separated a little bit in story and on the show. The cast has grown so we have two makeup rooms now. There are characters out there now that I don’t know.
Jackée – Mines is Alex. I want to be with one of those fine ass white boys. Robert Wilson, I would love to take him to the back shed. I want Paulina to be scandalized and have Abe bust her on all of that. But I don’t want to hurt him. But he could be somewhere doing it too.
How has the reaction been on social to you being on the show? One thing about you everyone knows is that you match energies. Is the feedback mostly positive, supportive, or do people think you took a step down in career because you are doing a soap opera?
Jackée – Yeah, but I don’t deal with that because oatmeal is better than no meal. You ain’t got no job and you are home, what? Not working. So, no I don’t deal with that, but I understand it. I just try to do better than my best and I do. It is what it ain’t. Which is the reality is you are a working actor, or you are not. If you aren’t working, then you aren’t acting. Being a movie star is a rarity, I agree with Jennifer Aniston there are no more movie stars. Being a star television and having a series is becoming even more of a rarity. And being on a soap is great training ground they say. Blah, blah, blah, you still got to do the work. No one else can do it for you. I’m enjoying this, it’s been very powerful. The only negative is I don’t want to talk negative about anybody, because social media is so negative. But if someone says something wrong, then I’m coming for your ass.
You both have had long careers, so it just goes to show if you want to last in Hollywood, the key is to do the work.
James – Yeah you got to do the work. Henry Fonda did everything, he did commercials, he did movies, he did TV. He was a huge star. But I remember reading about him and he said, “I want to work, I just want to work.” So, there was nothing beneath him, as long as the role was interesting, and he enjoyed it he could do the work. And I remember reading that when I was 20 years old, and it’s always stuck with me.
Watch James and Jackée everyday on Days of Our Lives, now streaming exclusively on Peacock.