Though the network has yet to issue an official statement, Soap Central has learned that Dena Higley has been released as the NBC soap's head writer. Higley's ouster comes a day after ABC announced that Robert Guza, Jr., had been let go as head writer of General Hospital.
The show has hired two former associate head writers to take Higley's place.
Higley had been a member of the DAYS writing team since 1985, and, over the subsequent 18 years, worked her way up the ranks to the head writer position. In early 2003, Higley presented DAYS executive producer Ken Corday with a detailed, long-term story outline. Corday liked the pitch so much that he hired Higley as the show's head writer. Her stay at the top, however, was short-lived. Higley was demoted in May 2003, just three months after having been named head writer.
In 2004, Higley joined One Life to Live's writing team. Three years later, Higley was relieved of her duties with the ABC soap.
In April 2008, Dena Higley was reinstated as head writer for Days of our Lives -- but only a few months later, Higley walked out after the show's then-executive producer, Ed Scott, was accused of rewriting her stories without permission.
"He's been writing and re-writing story, dialogue and scenes for weeks and weeks," a source said at the time. "He's also encouraged actors, including one overblown diva, to rewrite not just her own lines, but also her scene partners'."
Scott was shown the door a few weeks after the backstage drama erupted. In an ironic twist, the Writers Guild of America came to Higley's defense, just a few months after Higley refused to participate in the WGA's work stoppage.
Combined with her nominations from her tenure at One Life to Live, Higley has received a total of seven Daytime Emmy nominations. In 2008, while part of One Life to Live, she received the Outstanding Writing Team trophy.
Ironically, Days of our Lives received a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing Team this year. It was the first time in more than a decade that the show had been nominated for the honor.
Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, Jr., meanwhile, have been named co-head writers of Days of our Lives. The pair has previously experience working together. McPherson and Thomas served as associate head writers on NBC's Passions from the series' debut in 1999 through its finale in August 2008. Both have also worked for Days of our Lives. McPherson worked as an associate head writer from 1993 to 1999, and Thomas served in the same capacity from 1998 to 1999.
"McPherson and Thomas will bring Days of our Lives back to its core values by telling exciting stories with a fresh and contemporary approach," Ken Corday, DAYS' executive producer, said in a statement.
McPherson was part of the Emmy-winning Days of our Lives writing team in 1999, which, prior to this year, was the show's most recent nomination in the Outstanding Writing Team category. She's received three other Emmy nominations for her work on DAYS and three nominations for her work on Passions.
Like McPherson, Thomas received three Daytime Emmy nods during his time at Passions.
A Days of our Lives spokesperson had no comment.