Mary Beth Evans NBC

It’s the fourth season of SOAPnet's I Wanna Be A Soap Star with the lucky winner receiving a role on Days of Our Lives. But aside from which show the winner becomes a part of, there a few other changes in store. First of all, the set has been moved to the Days of Our Lives studios. Secondly, the audience will have a hand in picking the winner. Lastly and possibly most importantly for Days fans, Mary Beth Evans (Kayla Johnson) has taken over for Debbi Morgan as one of the judges.

Originally only asked to be on the first show of the season to help narrow 40 or 50 actors down to 10, Mary Beth found that “it was a lot more fun than I thought it was gonna be.” Fearing the thought of hurting people’s feelings by voting them off, she soon found that “It didn’t seem so painful. And then the producers and all the people involved really liked the chemistry between the three of us, Michael Bruno, Hogan Sheffer and myself and they asked if I would come back and do the whole show.”

Feeling that all 10 actors vying for the contract role on DAYS were amazing, it was often a tough choice to decide who to “kill off.” But the three judges didn’t deliberate for long periods of time, as Mary Beth joked, “We didn’t get into a brawl or anything.” And even though her opinions often differed from the other judges simply because she’s a woman, she explained that “The first one of the judges would plead their case to the other two and most the time we would come around and say “Ok I see your point’.” With the talent level at a seemingly all time high, the decision often came down to which actor didn’t screw up that particular day.

Approaching the process by being as “honest and forthcoming” as possible, the actress found critiquing each performance had a positive impact on the actors. Receiving input and making changes based on the judges’ notes improved the actors’ skill level, as they actually admitted that the show was really helpful and changed their lives. Hearing this made Mary Beth feel better about her role as a judge and felt like “we really were trying to give them the best advice we could.”

From a professional point of view, Mary Beth felt it was a great exercise, as the actors essentially presented ten different auditions and received feedback from three different points of view, an actor’s, a writer’s and a talent manager’s. It was a fascinating process that even her fellow Days co-workers appreciated. “We had different cast members from the show be on it, Bryan (Dattilo, Lucas) and Rachel (Melvin, Chelsea) and oh just a bunch…they all said it was so interesting. Bryan came back to work and said, “Who won?! What happened?!” I think it was interesting even for actors to see the process.”

But coming off a reality show, will these aspiring actors be taken seriously? According to Mary Beth that won’t be a problem, “I think even for the people who don’t win in the end, the showcase for them is amazing and if people in the business see them and see how likeable they are, I think they will all get work. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

Clearly impressed with the level of talent, the actress couldn’t help but be moved by one highly emotional performance, as evidenced by the preview of Mary Beth being brought to tears. Explaining what happened, the actress admitted that the entire 10 day voting off process was stressful anyway, but “you know we’re watching them do the scene and watching the monitor, so it was like what we’d see on TV, the close up and all that and I was just really moved. I didn’t mean to kind of cross over into the reality program. They have their camera rolling at all times, there’s no hiding. I found that out the hard way.”

As for the acting challenges, Mary Beth felt they were a good representation of what the actors could expect on a soap, but that the show “ really [gave] these people some challenges that I would not want to do.” For example, “The very first night, right at the end of [the first] show, they had to turn to the person next to them and make out. I think the next one they have a bed scene or something. They don’t even know these people! We usually get to talk to people for a couple of weeks before we have to do that. We get to learn their last name or something (laughs).”

Concerning the outcome, no one knows who the winner is, as the audience gets the chance to vote during the live finale. A change Mary Beth thinks is a great twist, “It gives them a chance to really get involved and make a difference.”

But with the outcome up in the air, judge and head DAYS writer Hogan Sheffer has his work cut out for him. However, having him on the panel created an interesting dynamic as Mary Beth explained, “What’s really interesting about this too is he’s going to write the part for the person. He doesn’t have a preconceived notion of who that person’s gonna be.” She furthered this thought by stating, “We don’t know who the winner is so he’s just waiting. He’s just waiting to find out and he’ll go whichever way it goes. And he even said through this whole program, ‘I could cast any one of these ten people’.”

While the fate of the next Soap Star is up in the air, Mary Beth let it be known that the fate of Days of Our Lives is in good hands. With a new producer on board, Ed Scott (ex-producer, Y&R), the show is being steered in a positive direction. As she enthused, “Things are so great and we’re all so ecstatic. Everybody’s just walking around, you know five inches taller. [Scott] has just come and just grabbed the bull by the horns and the whole show has just improved so much and we’re all so excited and good things are ahead I’m sure.”

As for what’s to come for her character Kayla and long time love Steve, she didn’t have any insight, but she did share a few tidbits on the baby she and Stephen Nichols are working with at the moment. Apparently the little boy they took in on the show, Pocket is actually a girl in real life and she’s more than a little put off by Stephen. “His patch kind of freaks out one of the twins and she starts crying. Sometimes the scene’s written where he’s holding the baby the whole time and I end up taking her mid scene to kind of calm her down.”

She’s been back on the show for over a year now and Ms. Evans couldn’t be more thrilled with how they’ve handled the return of the former 80’s supercouple, “I think they’re doing a great job of evolving these characters. It wasn’t like they brought them back and kept them in a time warp. And now we have our daughter and it’s interesting now because she’s doing the stories that we did, it’s like a full circle.”

Even with a full time gig on Days and a second role as a judge on Soap Star, Mary Beth still finds time for a third job. Running a pre-made mail order pie company, Mary Beth's Apple Pies, this multi-faceted mother of three took her love of baking for family and friends and turned it into a profitable and in-demand business. “It’s been fun, it’s something from nothing and I think that’s a really cool lesson for my kids.”

Preparing to go on QVC, Mary Beth was instructed to have 3300 pies made before she airs on October 21st! That’s a long way from handing out flyers and personally driving her pies to her customers’ homes. As she currently sells thousands of pies, she recognizes what it takes to strike out on your own. Figuring out that fear is often a deterrent to realizing one’s dreams, Mary Beth understands that people “are so afraid and that’s what keeps them back from doing things like this and if you just sort of go slow like it’s a rolodex clicking around, you learn as you go and that’s what happened.”

While you’ll have to wait until October to see Mary Beth on QVC, you can watch as she helps decide who will win I Wanna Be A Soap Star every Tuesday night on SOAPnet. In the meantime we here at would like to thank Mary Beth for talking with us and wish her every success with all her many endeavors.

Lori Wilson
Writer / Journalist