days joseph Mascolo gallery stefano
Credit: Dana Fineman/NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

The Phoenix is ready to rise from the ashes, so watch out, Salem! 

Days of Our Lives‘ Rolf wasn’t the only one who took it hard upon learning that Chad and Tony had “killed” Stefano. After all, we’ve had a love/hate relationship with the indefatigable baddie since first he appeared back in 1982. Between populating one half of Salem and tormenting the other, it’s no wonder the DiMeras’ twisted patriarch landed as high on the list as he did when we recently counted down the soap’s all-time best characters.

When Joseph Mascolo — the man who’d so perfectly breathed life into the character — passed away in 2016, it was assumed that Stefano’s reign of terror had come to an end. But then, thanks to the maddest doctor since Frankenstein, Stefano’s “essence” was downloaded onto a microchip which was inserted into Steve’s brain. It was that chip, supposedly the last remnant of the once-great villain, which Chad and Tony destroyed. That, Chad told the heartbroken Rolf, was that. Stefano was really, most sincerely dead and gone.

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Yet when the grief-stricken doctor sought to avenge the latest demise of his former boss, Chad changed his tune. “My father is the Phoenix,” declared Stefano’s heir. “Chip or no chip, he will rise again, and when that time comes, and you know it will, you gonna be ready?”

“For what?” asked Rolf, the gun trembling a bit in his hand at the words being spoken by his living target.

“You kill my father’s favorite son,” continued Chad, “and he will never forgive you. He will hunt you to the end of hell, and he will not stop until you’re dead.”

Perhaps the words were nothing more than a tactic being used to throw Rolf off his game, in which case, they worked. But even as Chad said them, they had a ring of truth. We’ve seen Stefano die time and again, always rising later to the constant surprise of those who make the potentially fatal error of forgetting who he is and of what he’s capable.

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Not us, however. Chad’s words left us anticipating Stefano’s seemingly inevitable return even as we wondered how the show would make it happen. Could Chad have been lying when he claimed to have destroyed the chip? Or perhaps Stefano found another way to assure his continued existence. Who’s to say that Rolf is the only demented doc on the DiMera payroll?

While Mascolo will always be Stefano in our hearts, we’ve been soap fans long enough to understand that sometimes, beloved characters get new faces. The real question is who out there could possibly do justice to the larger-than-life persona, were the show to take a stab at recasting.

The first person who comes immediately to mind is as perfect as he is unavailable: Eric Braeden, who is about as likely to leave the role of The Young and the Restless‘ Victor as John is to happily hand Marlena over to Stefano. That said, it’s surprisingly easy to see Braeden strutting into the DiMera mansion and declaring, “I have arisen!”

Having played a similarly ruthless patriarch in Guiding Lights Alan, Ron Raines might also easily step into Stefano’s loafers. Like the late Mascolo, Raines always played the Spaulding patriarch as a tough talker with a soft spot for family and a twinkle in his mischievous eyes.

Of course, if the show opted to say that Stefano cloned himself, that would open the door to the possibility of the character returning far younger, creating a slew of both storyline and casting possibilities. Imagine if when the cloned version of Stefano showed up, he happened to look exactly like one of his sons, affording Brandon Barash (Jake) or Billy Flynn (Chad) the acting opportunity of a lifetime. From a storytelling perspective, imagine poor Gabi being torn between a lookalike father and son!

Can you picture someone new stepping into the role of Stefano — and if so, who would you cast? Hit the comments with your suggestions, then check out the gallery below in which we look at actors who could play another member of the DiMera clan, Sami’s beloved EJ.