Interview: Martha Madison’s Real-life Parallels to Belle’s Storyline
Image: John Pascal/JPI
Days actress shares why Belle’s storyline is so personal.
Martha Madison opened up to Soap Opera Digest about the storyline her character Belle Brady is going through on Days of our Lives and why it is so close to her heart. As detailed in Soaps.com’s Days’ recaps, Belle has gone against the wishes of her father, John Black, in executing her mother, Marlena Evans’ DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. Madison’s own mother Barbara suffers from frontal temporal dementia and currently lives in a Texas hospice facility. Frontal temporal dementia is a group of related conditions resulting from the progressive degeneration of the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. “This story was a really special intersection between real life and my fiction life. It felt really special to me,” she tells the magazine. “My mom is at the end of her life now. I have two sisters, and through this 15-year experience, we haven’t always agreed on the best way to approach her care. So I feel like I got to draw on a lot of personal experience for this story.” On screen, Madison’s character Belle has clashed not only with her father, but half-sister Sami Brady, both who oppose turning off Marlena’s life support. Her real-life experiences have aptly prepared her for this storyline arc. “Caring for a dying parent is one of the things I know as much about as you can probably know. I’ve prepared myself for it as much as I think a human can prepare. When you have some personal experiences to draw on for a story like this, the outcome can be really relatable and, hopefully, moving.”
During her latest run at Days, Madison enjoyed getting to work with Alison Sweeny, who plays Sami Brady. In the past she hadn’t shared much screen time with Sweeney. “This was one of the first times we’d ever really gotten some material together and we loved it. It was so fun. I loved it because I have sisters and we definitely have faced off in a not-so-unsimilar fashion at times in the past.” She also enjoyed reconnecting with Brandon Beemer, who plays her husband Shawn Brady, and who she’s stayed in contact with through the years. “He’s someone I can always call when I’m feeling worried or insecure about my position over [at Days] because he’s always in the same boat as I am. She was also thrilled to reconnect with Farah Fath, who is reprising the role of Mimi Lockhart. It had been over a decade since the two had played best friends on the show. Madison also feels the work she and Drake Hogestyn, her on-screen dad John Black, did as part of this story was some of their best.
Madison’s character has returned and exited numerous times over the past few years, as the actress is not on contract with the show. Still, she appreciates the chance to work. “I love the work. I love the people, and I’ve watched the show my whole life. Of course, I wish it was more consistent. But you know, it’s not up to me.” The break, however, has allowed her, her husband A.J. Gilbert, a chef and restaurateur, along with their four-year-old daughter Charley to move home to Texas to be closer to her mother. She and her husband made the decision based on her mother’s condition, the fact she wasn’t steadily working in LA, and the cost of living in the city with a child. She also wanted to help relieve some of the burdens of her sisters, who had been caring for their mother most of the time. “It just felt like a good time to come home, be an extra set of hands, eyes and ears, and really settle into a more domestic life with our daughter.” When the call came to return to Days, Madison had to do some juggling traveling back and forth between Dallas and LA to tape the show. Fortunately, her husband was there to support her. She admits that he is a real-life Mr. Mom. “I don’t cook. I work a full-time job. A.J. has a more flexible schedule and really tends to our child, which is nice. He focuses on raising Charley while I’m working. He’s definitely hands-on with her. And he’s the cook of our house.” While working in LA she was able to keep connected with her family back home through FaceTime, in which her daughter would sometimes call her on at 5:00 AM. Madison didn’t mind, noting “What better way to start off the day?” Our thoughts and prayers are with Madison and her family during this difficult time of their lives.
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