By Jase Peeples
Originally published on Advocate.com April 01 2014 7:00 AM ET
From surviving demon possession and a plane crash to overcoming a kidnapping and amnesia, Deidre Hall has been part of numerous unforgettable storylines during the 35 years she’s played Dr. Marlena Evans on NBC’s Days of Our Lives. So when the creative minds behind the long-running series decided to make television history with the first wedding between two gay men on a U.S soap opera, it was only appropriate the actress’s iconic character officiate the nuptials.
Calling Sonny and Will “one of the more endearing relationships we’ve had on the show,” Hall said Marlena is an “incredibly clever and a natural choice” to marry the couple “because she was the one who knew Will was gay before he knew he was gay.”
The wedding between her character’s grandson, Will Horton (Guy Wilson), and his fiancé, Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith), will unfold over the next three episodes of Days. It’s a moment many fans have eagerly anticipated, and one Hall says she’s proud to see blossom from a storyline that began in 2011 when Horton first told his grandmother he was questioning his sexuality. “We live in a world where any love is a lucky thing to find, and if you can find it with a person with whom you’re compatible and you trust, lucky you,” she says of the message she hopes viewers take away from the storyline. “I celebrate anyone who has found a wonderful, sustaining love.”
Horton’s coming out and the gentle, loving manner in which his grandmother accepted his sexuality has made a real difference in the lives of viewers. “It is overwhelming,” Hall says of the love she’s received from LGBT fans. “For months after Will’s coming out, I can’t remember a time where I went out and wasn’t stopped by some darling young man saying things like, ‘You saved me,’ or ‘I didn’t know how to tell my parents [and because of this show] I was able to tell them.”
She adds, “I’m still hearing from fans who say, ‘The way you handled it was the way I only wish it had been handled in my own life.’”
The battle for LGBT equality is one that Hall says is dear to her own heart, and as the mother of two children who were born via a surrogate, the 66-year-old says she’s “intolerant” of antigay bigots who use “traditional family values” as an excuse to campaign against parenting and adoption rights for LGBT people. “Every child needs a grownup to stand beside them, to lean on and to trust. Who cares what that looks like?” she says. “Who cares if a black child finds it with a white family or a little girl finds it with gay men? You’ve got a child there who needs a family unit — who needs love, support, nurturing, and guidance. Who cares where they find it? I am intolerant of the mindset that they can only have it in a ‘traditional’ way.”
Hall says she hopes the inclusion of positive LGBT characters in entertainment — and the treatment of them by iconic characters such as Dr. Marlena Evans on Days — will continue to help public opinion evolve on the subject of marriage equality. “I don’t know how much we’re going to change the way of the world with this wedding, but I think what changes the world is role models standing up and saying, ‘Hey, relax. We’re all going to be fine. Everything is fine,’” she says. “There’s so much we deny gay and lesbian couples that we freely give to straight couples and I think that’s shameful. If you have someone in your life to whom you’re devoted and committed and that you’ve promised to be there in every moment, then you need to [be allowed] to be there in every moment. And for those who stand up and say, ‘Not so fast,’ they need to step back. That needs to be the biggest change. Because I don’t know that we’ll ever get acceptance across the board, but humanity — we have to insist upon it.”
Days of Our Lives airs weekdays on NBC.
For more on the fan-favorite romance between Will and Sonny, read The Advocate’s exclusive interview with Guy Wilson and Freddie Smith here.