It's been several months since Ari Zucker last aired as Days of our Lives' Nicole, and all the fans going through withdrawal can finally breathe a sigh of relief because the actress is back on television this week in the new Lifetime film Web Cam Girls.
The dark drama -- scheduled for Saturday, December 30 -- centers around 18-year-old high school senior Alex Hilers (Sedona Legge, The Shallows), who learns her cousin Carolyn (Lorynn York, Dear White People) is getting into online sex camming (an Internet term for women who are featured on webcams and earn money by broadcasting, entertaining, and performing on webcams either from homes or studios). Alex is shocked -- particularly when Carolyn tries to talk her into doing it, too. But Alex knows it's a dangerous game to be playing -- one that could destroy both their futures as aspiring filmmakers. But what neither of them realizes is that Carolyn's wild double life is being closely monitored by someone very close to them -- and that someone is secretly a psychopathic serial killer who kidnaps cam girls and sells them as snuff films on the worldwide dark web!
Baiting an insidious trap for Carolyn, the mysterious online stalker kidnaps the girl, and it falls upon Alex to follow the trail and save Carolyn's life. With time running out, Alex must explore a sleazy underworld she knows nothing about and eventually decides to become a cam girl herself, playing a deadly chess game with a psycho who will stop at nothing to protect his own identity. As Alex gets closer to the truth and the police can no longer help, the deadly stakes get higher and higher. It falls on the shoulders of Alex's resourceful mother, Rachel (Arianne Zucker), to crack the case, and she enlists Carolyn's drunken father, Scott (Jon Briddell, Secrets and Lies), and gives him a chance at redemption.
In the final endgame, Alex, Rachel, and Scott will put their lives on the line for each other as they race to a desperate showdown with a madman who takes no chances... and no prisoners. Web Cam Girls is a pulse-pounding dramatic thriller ripped from today's headlines that will keep both young adults and their parents on the edge of their seats until the very last frame.
soapcentral.com: So, as much as I'd love for this interview to be holly and jolly due to the holiday season, it's nearly impossible given the subject matter of Web Cam Girls. This is some really serious stuff.
Arianne Zucker: It is. It's tough to think of anybody getting caught up in something like this or the things that could take a person to a darker side or a bad choice.
soapcentral.com: It seems quite risqué for Lifetime, but at the same time, relevant, considering these things happen in real life. Was that something that influenced you to take the role, knowing that you'd be portraying a dark issue that plagues modern society?
Zucker: You know, what's funny is that I actually didn't know that this really happens at first. It wasn't until I got on set that I learned that this was a real issue, which is like, "Wow, could I be any more naïve?" But you don't imagine that something like this could really happen, I guess because I try to create this positive world in my life, and that's just not somewhere I would go. So it was an experience going into this movie, like, "Gosh." And I do know a lot that goes on, from my experience modeling and my own experiences just traveling around the world. But I didn't know that it could be a choice, whether good or bad, that someone could actually set this up for themselves.
soapcentral.com: You're a mom yourself, and while your daughter [eight-year-old Isabella] is quite young, I can imagine the subject matter still affects you in a different way than a non-parent might feel. Are you now thinking like, "What kind of world is my daughter living in?!"
Zucker: Well, what the movie made me was realize was, "Okay, this is what my mom was telling me when I was traveling." Because listen, as soon as I turned eighteen and graduated high school, I took off to Paris. And my mom said, "Aagghh!" [Laughs] So she really armed me with knowledge about what happens out there, and as young as I was, [she wanted me to know] that there are things out there that can happen to you. For example, she said to make sure that if you go out, pay attention to your drink, because someone can slip something in it, and we'll never see you again -- things like that. I was like, "Wait, what?" It scared the bejesus out of me! But as scary as it is and direct as it was, it was the right thing for my mom to do. So that's something that I say, okay, at the appropriate age, or as my daughter gets older, I am going to be straightforward without scaring her to death about how crazy the Internet can be. And I just went in to check on her because she's on my computer, and I said, "Hey, what are you watching?" And she's like, "Oh, I'm learning how to code Minecraft" [Laughs] I'm like, "All right, I've got a nerd on my hands." [Laughs] But anyway, the door stays open, and we have a very open relationship, which I hope [stays intact]. She's not a teenager yet, so I don't know if it will stay that way, but I'm hoping I'll have the same sort of communication with her as she gets older. I keep telling her, and maybe it's really telling myself, "You're going to be an amazing teenager. You know why?" And she goes, "Why?" And I say, "Because we communicate!" Maybe I have delusions of grandeur, but I'm hoping that will help.
soapcentral.com: I think it does help if a teenager feels comfortable enough to talk to his or her parents. I mean, even with the film in mind, who knows if Carolyn would have made the same choice had her parents been more involved, you know?
Zucker: Well, actually, Sedona, who plays my daughter in the movie, her character is really based on that. Even though she's a little more gothy, we have this sort of B-storyline about fixing our relationship as mother and daughter, because my character is becoming a captain and has to do this flight training, so she's gone and really relies on her daughter to be a good kid. So her daughter does all the right things to try and help her cousin, but it's actually kind of nice because she really is a good kid, and it's my niece who really kind of has the unfortunate situation of happenings that go on throughout the movie. But it's nice to see that solid kid going, "These aren't good choices." So that was awesome.
soapcentral.com: What was it like working with Sedona, who you seem to share the screen with the most?
Zucker: She's also a model and does a lot of runway work for brands like Gucci. But what I love about her is that in real life, she has a wonderful relationship with her parents. It's especially good, with what she does for a living, that her mom goes with her, or at least drops her off and picks her up, so she's very involved in Sedona's life, and I think that's wonderful. Sedona has a really good head on her shoulders, and it's quite a world, modeling. And I know it, even though I never got to that echelon where she is at, so it's nice to see that she's focused and she knows where she wants to go and what she wants to do. And I must say, I have to give a hand to her parents because they're so involved in her life, and it's so important.
soapcentral.com: Did you talk about modeling at all? As you said, perhaps she's on a different level than you were, but were you still able to give her any advice, having been a model yourself?
Zucker: We did talk about it. We had a great chat about just sort of where she is and the business and the work and acting. It was just like having a conversation with my little sister. She has a great head on her shoulders, so it was like, "Oh, you're going to do just fine kiddo. If you stay like this, you're going to do great." And that's all that matters, is just keeping a solid head on your shoulders.
soapcentral.com: The subject matter of this film is quite uncomfortable, so did that translate to the mood on set? Or did you keep it light in between takes?
Zucker: Oh no, no. It's very much what I did when I was on DAYS and I had to cry all the time: Every heavy scene I ever have, I'm like, "Somebody crack a joke!" It's a weird way to work, but I don't ever want to bring anything home, which I don't do. It's just a job, and I'm not a method actor at all, so I can literally just go from killer or crying or whatever the case is and then step off camera and be me again. I think it's very important and very healthy not to stay there. And the crew is great. We're all hustling to get this film done because we only have so many days to do them. So we're all on a mission for the same goal, and that's to create a really wonderful product, and I have found, and I've been very lucky, that all my work experiences on these TV movies have been wonderful.
soapcentral.com: What can you say about what viewers can expect from Rachel?
Zucker: She's totally not Nicole -- she's a really solid woman who's trying to do the right thing for her child, which is a nice shift from what I've been playing for the last eighteen years. [Laughs] A little more like me and less Nicole.
soapcentral.com: Speaking of Nicole, there was buzz that she was supposed to be back into Salem for the holidays, but...
Zucker: I don't know where anybody was getting that! I'm like, "Did I do an episode and not realize it?" I have no idea where that came from. No clue. My daughter was in the Christmas show, so maybe people saw me on set and they thought I was working? But it was definitely a rumor.
soapcentral.com: But Isabella was on the show?
Zucker: Yeah, you know the scenes they do in the hospital every year? [She was] in that for five and a half seconds. [Laughs]
soapcentral.com: Does she want to be an actress?
Zucker: No! No, she does not. She has a beautiful singing voice, and she sang at the holiday show, she had a solo, and I didn't even know -- I thought she was singing in the front -- and she's like, "No, I don't really want to do it." I'm like, "Hhhmmm, that's because you have a beautiful voice. Of course you don't want to do it!" She might change her mind, but she's really into coding right now. So all right!
soapcentral.com: How does it feel to see her be a part of the show you were a part of for so long?
Zucker: Aw, it's really cute. She's done it a couple of years in a row, and I don't work those days, and it's like proud mama. She's working and making money, and we talk about the importance of saving, and there are so many lessons involved with being on the show, which is really fun for me, teaching her responsibility and things like that.
soapcentral.com: While we're on the subject of DAYS, I heard you were submitting yourself for the Emmys this year. Do you have your submission material finalized yet?
Zucker: I felt like I really didn't have very much stuff this year, because I was only there half a year, so I submitted in supporting. I just threw myself in there to see what happens, to see what sticks. But I think Ladies of the Lake submitted me as well for supporting, so hopefully both.
soapcentral.com: Is it just me, or have you been more busy since you left DAYS than when you were actually on DAYS?! You've got this Lifetime film, you teased that you and Shawn Christian [ex-Daniel Jonas] were filming something together, and you have Ladies of the Lake. It's crazy!
Zucker: It's been nuts! But I love the opportunity. It's definitely a whole different lifestyle working and auditioning... and auditioning some more! [Laughs] It's double the work, I'm not going to lie. But the result is really great, so I'm putting my best foot forward, and the rest is up to the casting gods above.
soapcentral.com: Your name has been brought up in discussion that had nothing to do with your work this past year. Are you hoping that changes in 2018?
Zucker: Well, you know, here's how I'm looking at it now: it's been an interesting thirteen months, and of course with the [Donald Trump] video resurfacing again in my life, it's a really big deal that changes are happening, and they needed to happen -- in a huge way. So for me, I go, "What can I offer in this whole situation? Yes, I was the girl in the video. Great. So now what?" As it resurfaces and it keeps coming up, can I be a mentor? Can I be an inspiration? What can I do? Instead of, "Ugh, I wish it would go away." It happened, and now I want to be a person who can maybe teach people to move forward and make a difference in someone else's life? That's kind of where I'm going with this. And it goes along the lines of the Me Too campaign that came out, with all these women coming forward, which is wonderful. And I'm at that place where I'm like, we're coming out, and now we need to heal. So what's the healing process? What's the healing process like for each individual person that it has happened to? Things like that. How do we take it to the next level?
soapcentral.com: You have a lot of experience in front of the camera, but does it feel a lot different to be on the world stage in this way, with this subject matter, on live national news programs?
Zucker: Yeah, the first time especially. I'm really great at live interviews when it comes to talking about the show, but when it comes to talking about your personal life, you're like, "Bleh!" I'm normally pretty quiet, you know? Unless we're out at events or parties for work, we're a pretty quiet family. So the first time was extremely nerve wracking. It's a whole different platform. And the second time, I was a little more comfortable because Anderson [Cooper] is a really wonderful person, and he really made me feel comfortable, so I felt that the second time and just started thinking maybe this was put in my way because eventually, and I couldn't tell you what it is right now, but maybe I'm supposed to make a difference in some way. But I don't know what that is yet. So that's kind of how I felt the second time around. So now I'm talking about it more, and I'm like, "Yeah, okay, I'll talk about it. I didn't do anything wrong, and all I know is that I want to make whatever I can right."
soapcentral.com: I know I have to let you go, so is there anything else you want to add about Web Cam Girls?
Zucker: We had a really, really lovely cast. I hope when fans watch the movie, you can see that we had a really good time together, and it's really good people. We helped each other out with lines and tried to make each other look good, and so I hope that comes across, that behind the scenes where you're really rooting for each other to do well. So that's kind of nice.
soapcentral.com: Is it a movie you'd let your daughter watch?
Zucker: Nope! [Laughs] Not until she gets older. Maybe when she's sixteen, I'd say, "This is a real thing." But definitely not now. No way!
Be sure to tune in to Lifetime on Saturday, December 30, at 8PM ET/PT to catch the premiere of Web Cam Girls.
What do you think about the premise of Web Cam Girls? How disappointed are you that Zucker didn't drop in to DAYS for the holidays? What would you like to see next from the actress? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.