Formidable as she is, the Queen of England probably has nothing on Days of our Lives' Gabi Hernandez, who pretty much rules Salem with a heart of gold and an iron fist. Or is it a heart of iron and a golden fist? Portrayer Camila Banus would probably say both, because her alter ego always has all her bases covered and -- in the words of the actress -- is "a boss."
Playing such a badass character is a huge joy for Banus, who has been wearing Gabi's spiky heels for ten years now. And she says she is extremely thankful for the spicy material that she's been fortunate enough to play this past decade at DAYS.
"I'm super grateful just to have been given the storylines that I have been given, to have been put in the situations that Gabi has been put in, because that is who she is. That is what has made her who she is in general," the actress shares, adding that though she plays a huge part in bringing Gabi to life, there are many others who contribute to the feisty character fans see on-screen every day. "It's such a collaborative effort. I would not be Gabi had it not have been what was written for me, not only with this particular group of writers, but the writers that have been part of Gabi's life through the ten years that she's been there."
As fans know, Gabi has gone through a series of ups and downs during Banus' ten years in Salem. Some of her major moments included coming to terms with her first love, Will (Chandler Massey), coming out as gay; a roller-coaster romance with Chad (Billy Flynn); being raped by Nick Fallon (Blake Berris), who she subsequently murdered; playing a large part in Abigail's (Marci Miller/Kate Mansi) dissociative identity storyline; and a romance with Stefan (Brandon Barash), who died in 2019 from a gunshot wound -- leading Gabi to eventually (though reluctantly) give his heart to her dying nemesis, Julie (Susan Seaforth Hayes). The history includes a lot of storylines connected to men -- which Banus says she hopes will change in the near future.
"I don't think that she [has realized it herself] yet, but she doesn't need a man," the actress opines of Gabi's current romantic situation. "Even though she wants that connection, even though she wants [to bring] back that feeling that she had when she was with Stefan, even though she wants that, she doesn't need it. She doesn't need it right now. She's okay alone, and she's okay to be there for her family. I don't think she's ready to accept that, but that would be my hope for her."
Good thing there are plenty of female characters for Gabi to potentially mix it up with, including two new additions to Salem: Linda Dano as Vivian Alamain and Jackée Harry as an as-yet-unannounced character.
Banus says she hasn't had the chance to work with Dano yet, but she's seen some of her stuff on the monitors at work and was super impressed. "Any time we get to have not only veterans but just new faces in general, we get to learn so much. It keeps leveling us up to a whole new level," she enthuses. "And with Jackée, she brings not only her experience, but also a huge number of fans that love her, that think she's amazing. We're so honored to have her be a part of [the show]."
Unfortunately, the COVID restrictions on set make it pretty difficult to bond with new cast members the way DAYS actors might have previously. That's one of the bad things about the current safety protocols. But as Banus points out, there are also a lot of good things that have come out of the COVID restrictions -- including a brand-new way that she prepares to go on set each day.
"Before COVID, music definitely set the tone for me. But now, after COVID, there's even more layering, because I find that there's this new way [to get into character], kind of like theater, where you arrive to your dressing room and you set up all your makeup and you prepare yourself, and you're watching yourself put your makeup on, and you're getting into the character," she shares. "It brings me back to that 'An Actor Creates,' you know? You make the character. So, in the morning, I particularly, because Gabi is a bit of a boss, have been playing Billy Ocean's 'Caribbean Queen' -- and Brandon [Barash] can attest that I play it sometimes three or four times in a row. Because, you know, it makes me feel like a queen! She walks in the room, and 'Mmmmm!' So I get in that mood, and I get my makeup on, and I step on stage, and I strut! Let's go!"
Another good thing that has come from the current pandemic, shares Banus, is the show's creative new ways of reaching the fans, such as holding the soap's annual Day of Days event virtually.
"The really cool part about this virtual fan event was just what I think it's going to do for the future. I think it's a really nice gateway event," she opines. "It's really unfortunate that we only get once a year to meet with the fans, and it's in Los Angeles. It's incredible to me when I see people that tell me, 'Oh, I'm here from Hawaii, I'm here from New Zealand, I'm here from Australia.' And to be honest with you -- and I don't want to downplay anybody, and I don't want to say anything bad about anybody -- but this should have been done a long time ago. This event should have been able to be virtually attended a long time ago from all over the world. People should have been able to have that access because this show is watched all over the world. We have one of the biggest audiences in South Africa, we have one of the biggest audiences in the U.K. right now."
She continues, "This year was so amazing. Even though [the event] was prerecorded interviews, even if it was a prerecorded [segment of] Mary Beth Evans [Kayla Brady] making cookies in her kitchen, or... [fans] got a behind-the-scenes look of Arianne Zucker [Nicole Walker] and Eric Martsolf [Brady Black], they walked them through the set. That is a wonderful gift that people in the past have actually had to pay a lot of money for. And that it is not something that everybody gets to experience, and I don't really think that's fair. So, I think it was beautiful and amazing, and I think it was a wonderful gift to the fans. I think we should do that every single time -- if not multiple times a year!"
What are your favorite moments from Banus' ten years as DAYS' Gabi Hernandez? What are your hopes and wishes for Gabi in 2021? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.