‘Days of Our Lives (DOOL)’ and ‘The Bold and the Beautiful (B&B)’ stars have opened up to Soap Opera Digest about playing comatose. Eric Martsolf (Brady Black) and John McCook (Eric Forrester) should know all the secrets, their characters have been in plenty of them!
Martsolf admits the first time his character, Ethan on his first soap, Passions was written into a coma, he thought it was because the director didn’t like his acting! But fear not, as Ethan woke up after 3 long months.
Eric Martsolf (Brady Black- Days of Our Lives) and John McCook (Eric Forrester- The Bold and the Beautiful): Had his character not come out of his coma?
“If you don’t wake up then yeah, maybe you should go to acting class, or something went wrong,” Martsolf laughs.
He went on to say he no longer feels like it’s a punishment when his character is written into a coma as he realizes it’s a vehicle to move forward, a “necessary evil to perpetuate storyline”.
He drew the example of his current Days of Our Lives character, Brady Black’s recent coma after being shot, which was instrumental in drawing out Chloe Lane’s (Nadia Bjorlin) true feelings for her ex.
This then spurred a series of unfortunate events for Brady’s jealous current girlfriend and baby-mama, Kristen DiMera (Stacy Haiduk) that inadvertently led to a crime spree as she attempted to cover her tracks and sent one character – Sarah Horton (Linsey Godfrey) completely off canvas.
That’s one heck of a coma.
So, what’s it really like, lying there in a hospital bed, with no lines to memorize? Surprisingly less cushy than it sounds.
Going back to his 2005 Passions days, Martsolf recalls that the director wanted Ethan to have his eyes open through the coma. Unfortunately, the air-conditioner above was blowing directly into Marsolf’s face, the Freon causing tears to drip from his eyes.
In a happy accident, this led to Martsolf being praised for his acting as audiences believed he was tearing up as he could, in his vegetative state, still hear his hospital visitors speaking to him at his bedside.
“All of your loved ones come to you and tell you how much they love you and miss you and hope you’re getting through, and I would be crying because of the air going into my eyes,” he recalled, but allowed his fans to believe he was emoting through the coma. “Yeah, that’s what I was going for,” he kidded. “Meanwhile, it’s like, ‘Can you turn the air- conditioning off?’ ”
Martsolf attests that the worst part about being in a coma is the set-up. Being attached to all the wires, plugs, tubes, machines and monitors takes time and effort from the props department. If lunch or a beak is call, you’re out of luck.
Clearly Martsolf can still see the props department staring him down, doing their own eye-emoting as they begged him to not to ask to be unhooked from everything again.
“Nine times out of 10 you do [stay], so the entire set leaves for a 10 or 15-minute break and you’ll just sit there all alone, hooked up to this equipment for fear of upsetting the Prop Department because it is a pain in the butt to put you all back into that bed, so you just lay there and look at the ceiling.”
So, Martsolf wasn’t able to chow down a sandwich, yet we’re led to believe that Jan Spears (Heather Lindell) managed to unhook herself from all those machines so she could go spy on Belle Black (Martha Madison) then go shoot Charlie Dale (Mike Manning) and come back to her hospital bed, rehook herself back up and not one doctor was the wiser?
Okay, I’m picking now. It’s a soap, not a documentary.
When asked by Soap Opera Digest how difficult it is to stay still and not join the conversations happening at his bedside, Martsolf agrees it isn’t the easiest of situations. He combats his instincts to jump into the action by tuning himself out completely. One way to do that? Go over his grocery list!
When he is all alone, if the director has called cut for a break and the entire team is chowing down at craft services, Martsolf has admitted to getting in his own head and thinking about the possibility of being in a coma for real. “You are alone on this giant soundstage hooked up to the machines and it’s surreal. You do have moments where you’re thinking, ‘Geez, I hope this never happens.”
It doesn’t help if they have just finished an emotional scene, as what usually happens when filming these kinds of storylines. “When you feel like you’re going to lose somebody, that’s when you let it all out. It’s a shame that it takes tragedy for those feelings to come through.”
Soap legend John McCook was also asked by Soap Opera Digest about his many coma playing opportunities.
His experiences seemed to echo Martsolf’s as he laughed about being happy his character hadn’t outright, died leaving him unemployed, and the challenges of trying to not distract the actors by burping or farting!
McCook also jokingly refers to coma scenes as the other actors having the chance to ”pull up a chair to your hospital bed and work on their Emmy reel for days and days.”
McCook does enjoy a poignant and well-written wake-up scene. He describes how underplaying the scene tugs at the viewers heartstrings more and likes how, though the loved ones are delighted the patient has come to, the patient is not in a celebratory mood, often confused, scared and unbeknownst as to how much time has passed.
“Those are nice moments, always,” McCook commented.
As for advice to other actors going into their first soap coma?
“Enjoy the fact that you get to come to work and you don’t have to know any lines!” McCook said. The long time soap star also said he enjoyed the lack of wardrobe and make-up, saying the more alarming a character looks, stuck in bed, the better. A secret he likes to tell others- he wears his jeans under his hospital gown to avoid and wardrobe malfunctions.
We need to introduce John to cozy, elastic waisted sweatpants, but we get the drift.
McCook’s last piece of advice about playing the bed-ridden coma victim is: “It is not about you. When you’re in a coma, it’s never about you. It’s about all the other people around you.”
Always a team player!
Catch Days of Our Lives, weekdays on NBC and The Bold and the Beautiful , weekdays on CBS.
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