Days of our Lives fans were more than shocked when Arianne Zucker announced she was walking away from the role of Nicole Walker after an eighteen-year run with the NBC soap. But considering she made the decision two years before telling anyone -- including show runners -- she reveals to Soap Central that it was more of a shock to everyone else than it was to her.
But what exactly went into her decision to leave DAYS? How will Nicole exit the canvas? And what can viewers expect from the actress' exciting role on Ladies of the Lake, the series co-produced by her ex-husband, Kyle Lowder (ex-Brady Black, DAYS; ex-Rick Forrester, The Bold and the Beautiful), and DeVanity genius Michael Caruso, which is based on the book of the same name by her DAYS' boss, executive producer Ken Corday? We spoke with Zucker to find out.
soapcentral.com: Ladies of the Lake debuts on Amazon on Monday, May 15. What do you think about the big day finally being here?
Arianne Zucker: I'm so excited! There's so much that goes into a production, and I feel like when shows can get not only cast and produced and then edited and all put together, and then finally, they ultimately get picked up or distributed, it's a dream come true. And then the next stage is hopefully our fan base loves it. There are so many steps that go into it, putting the work in, so I'm really excited. And I'm really proud of Kyle and Michael and [Michael's wife] Barbi for putting this all together. It's their blood, sweat, and tears, and I'm happy to be a part of it.
soapcentral.com: Was it your ex-husband, Kyle, who called you to come on board?
Zucker: Both Michael and Kyle spoke about wanting me to be a part of Ladies of the Lake, and obviously I know Kyle well, and I know he's a big fan of mine and expresses it, especially when it comes to work. So he asked me if I would be a part of the series, and I said yes, I'd love to.
soapcentral.com: You guys are an inspiration for couples who weren't able to make the relationship work but can stay friends. It's really cool how well you two seem to get along.
Zucker: I think so too. We pride ourselves on really making it work, because we've got a daughter. She's the most important thing in everything, which makes us create a really great friendship, so it's pretty awesome.
soapcentral.com: So what can you tease about your Ladies of the Lake character?
Zucker: My particular character lays a bit low, and she sort of undermines a little bit of everything that's happening, the chaos, even though she's not in it as much, which is kind of cool. And that's my tease! I don't want to reveal too much.
soapcentral.com: Your costar Jessica Morris [ex-Jennifer Rappaport, One Life to Live] revealed she was originally up for your part, but then the role ended up going to you. Were you aware of that?
Zucker: I was. We flip-flopped some characters around. I was originally supposed to play Martha's [Madison, ex-Belle Black, DAYS] character. But things got flip-flopped, and there were some scheduling [issues], but I was still very happy to be a part of the team -- even though my character is an outsider!
soapcentral.com: Yeah, but aren't you used to that? Nicole has always been an outsider, as well.
Zucker: Oh, my God, she so has! I feel so sad for her. So I definitely understand.
soapcentral.com: What was the process like of playing LOTL's "outsider" woman, Clara, as opposed to Nicole?
Zucker: It's interesting. Having played one character for so many years, you really have to pull yourself out of who you are on a daily basis. I played Nicole for eighteen years, and I had to figure out who this woman was, you know? And I had to put a lot of work in. There are two other TV films I did before Ladies of the Lake that helped to sort of break up [the routine] so I could play this type of woman. So I did have to do some research for her, just to break it up. It's kind of hard to explain, but it was [research to help with] where she came from emotionally. But I really like to do my homework and not just play the same character.
soapcentral.com: I think your fans will really appreciate that. It could be really easy, when you're playing the same character day in and day out, to kind of just check out. So I think it's great that you put in the extra work to avoid that.
Zucker: I just recently booked another film I can't talk much about yet, and it will definitely be a total shift. Even just getting the part, I had to go to a coach and kind of prove myself and prove that I could do this role. So I've been learning a lot the last few years here, stepping outside of DAYS. And not just the work, but character work. And Ladies of the Lake was a nice help, a nice bump, to really get me working deeper. So I appreciated the job for sure.
soapcentral.com: The style of Ladies of the Lake looks really glamorous and over the top, so what that like for you to be a part a project that had that really cool stylization?
Zucker: I feel like Michael and Barbi have a very clear style as to how they work. It's very clear, like when you watch a movie, and you're like, "Oh, my God, that's so Michael Bay!" They're clear on what their style is. I did an episode on DeVanity years and years ago, and they had a very similar look to how they do things, which I really like. And their color correcting and everything, I find it very smart. And it sort of brings back an old school Dallas and Dynasty feel that got us all hooked many, many moons ago. I feel like they bring that back.
soapcentral.com: I love that! I think that's what the soaps currently on the air used to be like, that over-the-top glamour with mansions and fashion and the big hair. They've definitely scaled that back in recent years, though I'm not sure if it's more due to budget constraints or just trying to stay current with the times.
Zucker: Yeah, I think they kind of went with the times. They were trying to stay current, because they still have this kind of cookie-cutter style to how soap operas operate. All of them do. Even though they all try to adjust. But we all shoot so quickly that there's only so much time to do so many things. But, yeah, I think if we were still doing the 80s hairstyles, we'd be totally out of date. And probably not on television! [Laughs]
soapcentral.com: How do you think Ladies of the Lake compares to DAYS, if at all? Are they at all similar, or would you say they're quite different?
Zucker: Quite frankly, pretty much every single show, with the exception of action or cop shows, are all soap operas. Every nighttime show, every drama, every show like Pretty Little Liars, all these shows are soap operas. So we're all in the same boat. If you look at the history in the 80s, when Dynasty and Dallas came about and shows like that became so popular... Desperate Housewives, so many, [took that style]. I really believe soap operas set the tone back then. And it has never really gone away. Look at Grey's Anatomy; it's set in a hospital, and it's just like General Hospital but at night. So I don't believe there's a big difference. The only difference, I believe, is the budget and the time. But with the quality of actors, if we had time, the quality of actors on soaps are really unbelievably good. A lot of us go right to tape.
soapcentral.com: I know you wrestled with the decision to leave DAYS for quite some time, so what made you decide that now is the time?
Zucker: No, actually, I didn't wrestle with it! I made the decision two years ago, so I think it was more of a shock for everybody else than it was for me. I had a plan, but it was nobody else's business except my own to let people know. So I let the show know in November, and they tried to keep me, to see if we could work something out. But I ended up booking other work, so it's really tough for the show to be able to schedule around and for me to be able to commit to them. It's kind of unfair to me. So that was my plan, and the way it worked out for me was kind of cool.
soapcentral.com: What's your opinion about Nicole's exit storyline? Is it something you feel is pretty appropriate for the character?
Zucker: Yes, I do. Nothing is ever super perfect or tied up with a bow. You can never satisfy all the fans, but I hope there's some satisfaction for our fans, for Nicole fans especially. Nicole has never been happy, and I think fans have been waiting for some happiness, and they're waiting for some closure on certain things. But it also leaves the door open for her, as well. So never say never. Never say I'm fully gone. You know with characters on soap operas, we come and we go and we do all sorts of things. But we'll get some good satisfaction, I think.
soapcentral.com: Is there any unfinished business with Nicole that you wish you could have explored?
Zucker: Oh, my goodness, where do I begin? [Laughs] I think with her family, for sure. I wish there was more with her mother, even though her mother passed. The relationship with her sister. And Brandon [Matt Cedeno] left. So I feel like there are some relationships that could have been visited there, because she's just sort of been the lone girl with no family members on the show forever. So that would have been nice, exploring that.
soapcentral.com: I have to admit that I'm kind of sad your departure came around the time Ron Carlivati came on board as head writer, because I bet he would have written the hell out of Nicole. I'm sure he would have had some great ideas for her.
Zucker: Yeah, timing is everything. It is really interesting, because I think personally, as a career woman, you have to take risks. You have to do things that you feel are right in your heart. And as much temptation as there was to stay, I made a decision for me, and I like to stick to my plans. I know plans are meant to change, so I'm open to that, but I have a direction I want to go in, and I'm building that. So as much as I wanted to stay and see what Ron had to write, I also wanted to stick to my heart and my goal and my dreams, because you are never, ever, ever, ever, ever too old to dream. Ever. I always tell my daughter that all the time. I say, "Mommy still has dreams. And I'm going for them." So on a personal level, that's where I'm going.
[Editor's Note: There are published reports that Zucker has, in fact, extended her stay slightly to allow the show to wrap up her storyline. A DAYS spokesperson reminded us that the show does not comments in contracts.]
soapcentral.com: Well one really great thing, as you mentioned, is that your schedule is more free now that you've finished with DAYS. Has the schedule change been an adjustment for you, going from filming every single day to having more free time?
Zucker: I don't know, because I've actually been doing double duty. I just finished a film called Lost Girls, which is a Lifetime movie. And then we had a little bit of a break, so I [was out] auditioning and we had meetings, and I just booked another film, so that's getting weaved into my schedule. So I haven't had a reprieve yet, but it will be nice to have one.
soapcentral.com: Well, I can't wait until you can share more details about your film. We'll be looking forward to connecting again when you can share more! But before I let you go, is there anything else you want to add about Ladies of the Lake?
Zucker: Watch it! [Laughs] I think Michael and Barbi and Kyle make a really amazing team. I think there's going to be more after this. If it's not a continuation of Ladies of the Lake, it will be something else, because I think their work together is pretty incredible. I really think you'll see a future with them. They just make a great dynamic. So please, please watch and support Ladies of the Lake and help these guys to continue their success. I'm proud of them, and I'm really proud of the project.
What do you think about the way Zucker says Nicole will be leaving Salem? What do you think about the actress' decision to leave DAYS? Will you be tuning in to see her in Ladies of the Lake? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.