Thaao Penghlis interview Days
Credit: Howard Wise/JPI

Abigail was Andre DiMera’s savior and downfall.

Days of our Lives star Thaao Penghlis is celebrating his third Daytime Emmy nomination, but he wasn’t waiting by the television to hear his name called on The Talk. He revealed to that he took a more relaxed approach to nominations day. “To be honest with you, I was in bed.” He laughed. “I got a call from Florida from a friend who asked, ‘Did you watch The Talk?’ I hadn’t watched because I thought it was going to be preempted. She said, ‘You are in the Best Actor category!’ I said, ‘Really?'”

Penghlis was surprised about the nomination because he took a different approach this year to his submission reel for playing Tony DiMera. He has one special Corday Productions Inc. employee to thank because he believes their input put him on that Daytime Emmy ballot. “Over the years I’ve put out some work that I’ve been proud of and it didn’t get acknowledged,” Penghlis said. “Yet this work, I had to look at it several times because I wanted to tell a story so that whomever is watching it had a beginning, a middle and an end. It gave it an arc that came because Maya’s [Frangie, Director, Communications and Strategic Initiatives] assistant, Irene, told me I needed a sequence in the beginning to make sense of what happens later. She found it, put it in and it made all of the difference.”

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One major part of his time on Days of our Lives that he’s grateful for is his on-screen relationship and off-screen friendship with Leann Hunley (Anna DiMera). “There’s heart. There’s a great love, great trust and we never upstage each other — we’re a dance team. We are able to become one,” he shared enthusiastically. “She’s a godsend and she will be here the night of the [Daytime Emmy] Awards, along with Lauren Koslow (Kate Roberts),” he revealed. “When she saw me the first time, she said, ‘He’s difficult. Do I have to be with him?’ A producer tried to put Anna with Eugene Bradford (John de Lancie), which would have been a joke. With Tony and Anna, you believe in the love.”

As for characters Days of our Lives’ fans love to hate is Andre DiMera, who Penghlis has a soft spot for. “When I was playing Andre and I saw what they were doing to him, it was just a shade of black. What the character needs and what the audiences looks for is a heart. Where does the heart lie? And that was Abigail (Marci Miller), a woman who was fragile and going through some terrible times. It was a revelation to do that, but it ends up killing me. The heart I showed her, that was Andre’s humanity.”

Penghlis was reflective about the longevity of the DiMera family on Days of our Lives because they are characters who the viewers connect with, even at their most evil moments. He praises the late Joseph Mascolo, who played Stefano DiMera, for being a major part of that success. “Fans still love Andre and Stefano to this day because we were familiar people; they could identify with the ups and downs,” he reflected. “That’s what was incredible about the DiMeras. We were these two ethnic men, who had a lot of passion, but at the same time, you would never turn your back on them. You never knew who had the control between these two characters.”

More: An inside look into the DiMera Family

His inspiration for finding that darkness came from his love for travel. It was advice given to him by one of his mentors, who believed his acting would benefit from learning about other cultures. “What I didn’t realize at the time, I came across a lot of villainous people. I took all that knowledge I discovered and brought it into my work. So when I took a major trip each year, I was able to sustain the character with interest because I just had an extraordinary journey,” Penghlis said. “In my 20s, I planted a lot of seeds from the art world and my travels and I still apply in my senior years. I call it my last renaissance.”