Deidre Hall & Drake Hogestyn (NBC)

“There’s still some darkness in John that Marlena is worried about.” recently sat down to chat with “Days of Our Lives” veteran Drake Hogestyn, who will make his highly anticipated return to Salem next month as John Black. Read as Drake discusses his return to Daytime television, why John and Marlena are back, which form of John the viewers can expect to see, and much more! What have you been up to since we last saw you on “Days?”

Drake: You know, I have worn a lot of different hats and there’s been a lot of different things I’ve wanted to do over the years. But since leaving “Days,” I’ve been left emotionally void. I don’t get the sweaty palms, I don’t get the creative juices flowing. I realized in stepping back for two-and-a-half years that, my God, I’m an actor! [chuckles] I had never really embraced that moniker before. But realizing that I did it for 23 straight years, to the day, on “Days of Our Lives,” this is what I am. I couldn’t be happier to be back and to know that Deidre [Hall, Marlena Evans] is right there with me. Discuss your shocking exit from the show in early 2009.

Drake: Things were changing rapidly with the budget, with all shows. That was kind of like the first shot across the bow to wake up Daytime that we had a serious problem. Nothing was being done, so that was the first shakeup. Did Deidre and myself welcome it? On my behalf, I would say, “No.” I didn’t want to leave. I’m emotionally attached to the show, and even not being a part of the physical fabric of the show, I remained emotionally attached. I was hoping somewhere down the line that there would be a return, but that wasn’t a guarantee. How did your return come about?

Drake: “Days” has been on the air for 45 years. It still has a huge audience out there that left for whatever reason, maybe because some of their emotional favorites had left the show. My take on the whole thing is that the older audience needed to be respected. They’ve been faithful year in and year out, and once they find out that “John and Marlena” are coming back to the show, they’re going to turn that set back on. Once the TV’s tuned in, the younger eyeballs will ask, “Hey, Mom, what are you watching?” Check this out, I had a guy here the other day that was pumping my septic tank and was like, “Oh my God, you were on “Days of Our Lives!” My mom used to watch and I’d think she was crazy, but then I started to watch a bit myself.” [laughs] Was anyone in particular responsible for asking you back?

Drake: What sort of precipitated this whole thing was that Greg Meng, who’s now an executive producer on the show with Noel Maxam, called and wanted to know if I’d be interested in going to Houston as part of his book tour. I said, “I would love to!” So I went down there, and was just overwhelmed by the support from the fans. I was sitting next to Greg and all the people coming up would say, “When are you coming back to the show? Who do we need to talk to?” And I would say, “You could probably start by talking to Greg right here!” [laughs] Greg was very perceptive and one thing led to another. I got a phone call from him and it was time to go to work. That was the best day. Well the “Days” audience is certainly glad to have both you and Deidre coming back…

Drake: I’ve got to tell you just one more thing about this. There’s an unusual saga behind my return. I had talked to Greg on May 12, which is my father’s birthday. I lost my dad last year on July 11. Well, Greg sent over the contract and said my starting date would be… July 11! I was like, “Oh my God. Thanks, Dad. I was wondering when you were going to get in contact with me!” [laughs] How long are you back for?