days of our lives philip kiriakis mashup
Credit: Paul Skipper/JPI (2), Jill Johnson/JPI (2), Jesse Grant/JPI

One of daytime’s bumpiest — but oh so deliciously enjoyable — rides began December 27, 1999.

Just days after Christmas, Days of Our Lives fans get to celebrate another birthday, of sorts. It was 23 years ago today when Jay Kenneth Johnson first debuted as a teenaged Philip Kiriakis in one of soapdom’s most extreme cases of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome ever committed to film. Philip had been born onscreen just four years earlier in 1995.

The four-year-old was now 16, and he had a slew of teenage problems to deal with. Say what you want about Philip (and right now, fans have plenty to say) but his life’s never been dull. Over the years, Johnson’s taken Philip from bad boy to bad guy, but no matter how reprehensible his actions, he never lets the tortured Kiriakis lose his heart. Though sometimes, we have to admit, we have a harder time of finding it than others.

To say he’s complicated would be an understatement. But what else can we expect from the offspring of Kate Roberts and Victor Kiriakis, carried to term and given birth by Vivian Alamain? Heroism doesn’t exactly run in his veins — but a strong independent streak certainly does.

At Basic Black, Philip's hands are on Chloe's shoulders, as they face Brady. Days of Our Lives

When Johnson first brought Philip back for his most recent stint, we were convinced he needed to get back together with his first love, Chloe. Boy did that take a dark turn.

Still, it’s hard not to feel at least a little sympathy for the Kiriakis scion. Things just never seem to work out for him. He joined the military and went after bad guys like Tony DiMera, only to lose a leg and need a face transplant in the process.

He’s fathered four kids — or so he thought at one time or another — but has ended up childless. Claire belonged to Shawn, Parker was Daniel’s, Melanie miscarried, and Tyler… Well, Tyler’s been living with a foster family his entire life.

But more often than not, we’ve got to admit that much of Philip’s misfortune is his own doing. Chloe moved on with Brady all those years ago because Philip shamed and dumped her after nude photos of her turned up. He lost Belle to Shawn but tried winning her back by blackmailing his ex back into bed. And then there was his business feud with John, which culminated in Philip planting drugs on the Basic Black owner’s ships. His attempts to do right are so often thwarted by his instincts to do wrong.

Kate rests her hand on Philip's shoulder, as they talk in her Brady Pub room. Days of Our Lives

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Philip is, in short, complex, and that’s part of the reason he’s been in and out of Salem so often over the years. From time to time he needs to leave, reset, come back and try his hand at life in Salem one more time before it goes horribly wrong. Which is why we have hope that after his last exit to seek mental help, we’ll see Philip return calmer, less paranoid and more back to his troubled but generally well-meaning roots.

And maybe he can make an actual go of it with Chloe! Lord knows she and Brady were a snooze and she and Stefan are on the fast-track to nowhere once he gets his true memories of Gabi back! Plus, we know we’ve sadly just seen the last of John Aniston’s scenes, which means when the show finally catches up to real life, they’ll have to bid a heartbreaking farewell to Victor. And Philip should be there when that happens.

But through most of it, Johnson’s been there. Though others have stepped into Philip’s shoes, the role always returns to the man who created it. Johnson’s the beating heart at the center of Philip’s sometimes twisted actions, and no matter the mischief, he’s one actor who makes sure we always have a hell of a ride.

Take a deep dive into a gallery stuffed full of photos of Philip’s tumultuous life in Salem.