Martha Madison Belle Days
Credit: NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

We all should have a “TV mom” like Deidre Hall.

On Aug. 10, 2004, Martha Madison made her debut on Days of Our Lives as Belle Black. Eighteen years ago seems like yesterday and ancient history at the same time. The funny thing is that when the talented actress stepped onto that set for the first time, she had no clue the role was hers. Revealing that it was “one of the most memorable days” of her life, Madison shares with that she “had not been hired for this job after the screen test” — somebody else had won the role. Yet she was still asked to come to the studio that fateful day, even though neither she nor her agent had any idea why.

“The executive producer essentially said, ‘We want you to be our Belle, and you’re going to shoot two episodes today, so here are your scripts. Don’t panic, go to hair and makeup. We’ll have people helping you all along the way.’ So that was my first day,” she laughs.

Madison already had two episodes under her belt before she could even share the exciting news with her mom. Better still, she was supposed to do a shift at a restaurant that night! “I had to call them after and say, ‘Yeah, I’m actually not coming in, I got a role on Days of Our Lives,'” she recalls.

DAYS OF OUR LIVES, Brandon Beemer, Martha Madison, Deidre Hall, 2007

More: How Martha Madison prepared her co-star for angry fans

Madison credits Stuart Howard, the Days of Our Lives stage manager at the time, and Farah Fath (ex-Mimi), for being fantastic “ambassadors” on her first day on set. She praised Fath for running lines with her and giving her “the lowdown on everything that had been happening up to that point” in Belle’s storyline.

Madison also made fast and lifelong friends with Heather Lindell (Jan), but there was someone else who made it known that she had Madison’s back: TV mom Deidre Hall (Marlena). “She said, ‘If anyone messes with you, you come talk to me. I got you,'” recalls Madison.

With the newcomer having so many on-set guardian angels, you would think she settled into the Belle role quickly, but it wasn’t that simple. Because the major life and career change “happened so abruptly and so quickly,” she didn’t “give much thought” to the fact that this character had been played by a host of young actors before her, including Kirsten Storms, who had a five-year run on the show (before joining General Hospital as Maxie).

“I didn’t really think about it being anybody else’s before mine, mainly because I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do that,” Madison admits. “So it took me a little while. When I settled in, I started to understand that there was going to be fan feedback. It wasn’t part of the equation in my mind. That’s when I started to realize, ‘Oh, oh, OK, I’m going to have to earn this and have to work really hard for this.'”

For more of our chat with Martha Madison — including her thoughts on Belle and Shawn’s breakup — check out the entire interview above. Then visit our photo gallery below to relive Belle’s life, loves and feuds with Jan!

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