Prolific soap writer James E. Reilly dead at 60

Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008 10:50:23 AM
Prolific soap writer James E. Reilly dead at 60

The soap opera world has lost another of its big talents. Legendary head writer James E. Reilly died this weekend. The scribe, who most recently wrote for Days of our Lives and Passions, was 60.

Prolific writer James E. Reilly passed away unexpectedly this week. Reilly, who is known as the former head writer of Days of our Lives and Passions, had been recovering from cardiac surgery in the hospital. He was 60.

"James Reilly was one of the most profoundly lovely human beings in our industry. He was a towering person in our industry who had a tremendous faith in God and Catholicism, as anyone who watched Passions knows. Everyone will miss him," said Reilly's long-time friend and agent, Jonathan Russo.

"The DAYS family is deeply saddened by the recent passing of James E. Reilly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," said Days of our Lives executive producer, Ken Corday, in a statement. "Jim was not only an ingenious storyteller who changed the landscape of daytime drama, but he celebrated life with passion, humour, and an appreciation for the best it has to offer. He was an inspiration for us all ... and will be greatly missed."

Born July 15, 1948 in Bountiful, Utah, Reilly's career in daytime television spannedmore than three decades. His career began as a staff writer for the soaps General Hospital and The Young and the Restless. In 1990, Reilly was named head writer of Guiding Light. He remained in the position for two years before moving to NBC's Days of our Lives. During his five years at the helm of Days of our Lives, Reilly crafted stories that would go down as some of the show's most memorable storylines. Among those plots is the satanic possession of DAYS heroine Marlena Evans.

In 1999, NBC green-lighted the production of a campy, supernatural-tinged soap opera known as Passions. The show became one of the most popular daytime drama series among the younger viewers craved by advertisers. Though ratings-challenged, Passions remained on NBC for eight years. When NBC announced the cancellation of the soap in 2007, satellite television provider DirecTV announced that it had acquired the rights to the show and would spare the show from cancellation. Less than a year later, the axe again fell on Passions, as DirecTV decided not to pick up an additional season of the soap.

During the work stoppage by the Writers Guild of America earlier this year, Reilly opted to invoke the financial core "fi-core" status and continue working during the strike. The decision put him on the Guild's so-called black list.

In an odd twist, soap gossip columns have recently bandied about a rumor that Days of our Lives might have been interested in rehiring Reilly as its head writer.

There are no funeral plans, though a memorial service may be held at a later date.

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