Ken Corday is
Executive Producer of "Days of Our Lives" as well as music producer. His
father Ted started the show, and his mother continued the show after his
father died, for many years. This interview was conducted over the phone
in February, 2012.
Suzanne: How are you today?
Ken: I'm doing very well. Thanks! How are you?
Suzanne: Good! You sound busy today.
Ken: Every day is busy, especially Mondays and Fridays -
Ken: No complaints in this climate. To be busy is a
Suzanne: Yes. Well, first, if you don't mind, I have a few
questions from some people that work for my website.
Suzanne: My friend Stacy – she's actually more of an ABC
soaps fan, but I think she watches Days as well. Now, she
had asked what your thoughts were on ABC canceling their
soaps, but it's in your book, so I know how you feel about
that. You call it the "Day of Infamy". Does it help or hurt
Days in the long run, that ABC and CBS are canceling their
Ken: I don't think it can ever help. I mean, the more the
better. There is a visibility factor with, more so ....
People think, it's the thing to do, it's on all the networks
at the same time, it never bodes well. When one goes off the
air, people are concerned and sometimes have the propensity
to say, well, if one's gone, mostly likely the others will
be gone soon, so why even watch?
Suzanne: Right. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Suzanne: Let me ask you this. In the short run, has it
helped Days’ ratings at all?
Ken: Strangely enough, we thought we would pick up a lot of
viewers from the loss of the ABC shows, and initially the
loss of the CBS shows. There was, I would call it, a little
bit of uptick with the loss of the CBS shows, As The World
Turns and Guiding Light, but with the cancellation of All My
Children and One Life to Live, none of the soaps really
benefited from their loss. We're back to our original point,
"Well, this show's not on ABC anymore, I'll find something
else to watch on ABC, or I just won't watch my soaps
anymore." Soaps are a habitual kind of viewing, and you have
to watch at least a few times a week to stay up with things.
So, it's a habit that, if people break after a few weeks,
sometimes it's easy to break the habit and difficult to get
Suzanne: I understand. I keep telling everyone on the
Internet, "Watch Days of Our Lives. It's really good!" on
all the ABC soap groups.
Ken: I think, especially, it's as good as it's been in a
Ken: We’re seeing characters that we really care about,
doing things that are understandable, so for that reason –
the passion grows on the show again.
Suzanne: Which reminds me, as a Days fan, I want to thank
you for bringing back John and Marlena because I love them.
Ken: You're welcome. I love them, too. That was a difficult,
um, separation (I'll put it that way). Very difficult for
me, as I said in the book. Yep, just glad to have 'em back.
Suzanne: Yes, I actually stopped watching the show when you
got rid of them, and Steve and Kayla, but... it wasn't
entirely the show's fault because I just got busy as well.
Ken: Well, it was entirely the show's fault because the
decisions are made at the executive level. It was a
different regime. It was a different writing regime, and it
was a different producing regime. Still, the buck stops
here. It was a real sea change of the show. In hindsight...
There's no point in hindsight. I'm just really glad to have
them back .
Suzanne: That's good, and I also really like Madison and
Brady. They're really good.
Ken: Oh, good! That's good to hear. This is a difficult fan
base to set up because Brady has been with quite a few
characters on the show. She, Sarah Brown, is new, so that
usually takes a little bit more time for the viewers to, as
you say, really like them.
Suzanne: Well, it helps that I'm already a Sarah Brown fan.
Ken: Yes, she's marvelous. She brings a large fan base to
Suzanne: Yes, and I've always liked Brady, and the actor,
and her character sort of redeemed him because he'd been
having problems with drinking and been in such a dark way.
Ken: Let me ask you a question.
Ken: Do you like this Brady more than the original Brady?
Suzanne: Well, you know, it's so hard to compare because the
original was a teenager for most of the time. It's almost
like a different character.
Ken: Oh yeah, very much so. I only ask the question for that
reason, because one has played as a much more adult part,
and the other played it as a person becoming an adult part.
Suzanne: Right, and sometimes when you recast characters...
You take so many chances, in a way, because it is like a
different character, a different person, and if they're in a
couple, it usually ruins the couple.
Ken: Yes, it's very, very dangerous. I do not like
recasting. Having to recast, usually, we will take the
character off-screen from 3 to 6 months and then bring the
new character back as we did with Brady.
Suzanne: It certainly helped that a lot.
Ken: Oh yes, it helps a lot. The audience more readily
accepts it, rather than just - Monday, here's the new Brady.
Suzanne: And he's a really good actor. He doesn't get nearly
the credit he deserves.
Ken: No, Eric is wonderful. He's also an amazing
performer... Singer/performer. We did a Fan Fest at
Universal... We put a large band behind eight or nine of our
actors, and he's the one that got the ladies throwing their
panties on the stage.
Suzanne: [Laughs] That's great. Stacy says that she has
great respect for what NBC and Days have accomplished and
how they have fought to keep the show on the air. I know you
Ken: "Fight" is not the right word. It's more of a
dedication to do the right thing, to try to hear what the
viewers want and yet not let the viewers write the story. To
try to keep true to the characters, to the families that
have driven the show. It is a family show, much as it is a
family-owned show. Much as "The Bold and The Beautiful" is
and, to a certain point, "The Young and The Restless", and
those are the three shows out of four that are surviving.
Suzanne: What's amazing is that you been in charge of the
show since, what, 1979?
Ken: 1979 as a full-time coffee getter, and letter-answerer,
and then full-time producer by 1980 or 81. For 30 years.
Suzanne: Yes, none of the other shows have that kind of
continuity. I think you do get the credit for that in a way
because fans tend not to blame you when they don't like the
show because they know that you were in charge when it was
really good, too..
Ken: Oh, thank you for that. They do blame me, though.
Sometimes fans' comments are little biting, and that's the
reason I tend to stay off the Internet websites because some
of the things they call you there make it difficult to sleep
Suzanne: You quoted your mom in the book about people who
are temporary making long-term decisions... That really does
make a huge impact, especially with the soap operas, because
sometimes people come in, and they really don't care about
the show, and then they move on.
Ken: "Let's do the work. Okay. Gotta go".
Suzanne: That's true. And not just at your level, but above
you as well... The people in charge of daytime, or NBC or
whatever - they're just there to mark their time, or to get
a better job. They don't really care. It's better when you
have that continuity.
Ken: I live with that on my lips every day. We have to be
most careful. I have respect for this network. It's a new
game with Comcast running the network as opposed to General
Electric. But, I mean, they are the ones that sign my check
at the end of the day. So, there is due respect there, and I
need to listen to them, right or wrong, there has to be a
synergy. In the end, it's my legacy; it's my parents’
legacy. It's the one I need to protect.
Suzanne: What made you decide to write the book, and why
Ken: That's a question that I've been asked many times. Easy
answer. My children are now 23, 19, and 11. They never knew
my mother or father. You know, my father passed when I was
14. My mother passed - I think it was a year after I got
married. My first was born two years after we got married.
So, I said, "I should write down the story of Betty and Ted
Corday, so my children have something to read long after..."
And that's how it started, and when I came to the time of my
father's death and the inception of Days, I said to myself,
well, I might as well keep writing. The story before this
was great, but there's still 45 years after that, that needs
to be told. So, that was the original reason for writing the
book, was for my children. To put down in writing my mother
and father's history, and then the rest told itself. A novel
and a book are very different. You have to tell the truth in
a book. In a novel, you have the right to be fictitious.
This book – I shouldn't say it wrote itself because there
are a lot of my personal feelings I infused in the book.
But, back to your point, it is really written for my mother
and father, and for my children, and secondarily, and more
importantly, for the viewers.
Suzanne: How long did it take you to write it?
Ken: Funny you should ask. The spark of the idea happened in
a meeting with James Reilly, God rest his soul, when he was
alive. I told him the little vignette about my brother's
seeing this woman commit suicide on the West side of New
York, and he was a native New Yorker, and he went, "Wow,
sounds like the opening chapter in a book, Ken"... And it
was three years later that the first copy came out.
Suzanne: Wow. Okay.
Ken: Sometimes, you know, you just... We had gone through a
number of agents and a number of publishers, and finally
found one we were comfortable enough. Curiously enough,
based in Chicago, where Irna Phillips, the creator of the
show was based, where Bill Bell was born and lived in, and
my father went to the university there and met her,
so...Chicago has been good to us.
Suzanne: And what would you say was the most difficult part
in writing the book?
Ken: Well, obviously, on a personal level, what was
difficult was talking about the loss of my mother, father,
and brother. As they say, pulling the scab off the wound and
taking a deep look at what really happened... Not so much
with my father and mother because I knew it was coming with
both of them, but my brother's suicide was quite difficult
to deal with. So those three instances, most difficult.
Suzanne: You really did bare your soul there.
Ken: Well, one needs to do that if honesty is what people
want to read.
Suzanne: Yes. Now, you wrote it solely by yourself?
Ken: Solely by myself. Draft after draft. [Chuckles] Someone
explained to me, a good writer explained to me when I
started the project, "Oh, your first draft will be 500 or
600 pages, and your final draft will be about 350. And when
the book goes to print, if you're at 300 pages, you're
lucky. So, yeah, it took a long time, and no one else's pen
is in that book.
Suzanne: Did you just sit down and write it, or did you make
an outline first?
Ken: That's a good question. I outlined it in a page or two
. (I asked myself) “What are the big beats, where are the
transitions in the book, what sort of voice is the writer,
and what is the viewer - who am I writing this book for?”
Who, what, when and why, that kind of thing. Then I started
outlining it chapter-by-chapter and knew what each chapter
was going to be. I had a basic idea of the 30 chapters
before I sat down to write each one.
Suzanne: It sounds like, in a way, you learned to write from
Ken: Very apt point. Yes, I did. I learned to write from
working with so many talented writers. The phrase is "talent
does what it can, and genius does what it must." I can count
them on one hand, but there have been that many writers on
the show that are geniuses, or were geniuses in the soap
medium. There are three of them that are no longer with us:
Irna Phillips, Bill Bell, and Pat Smith. And yet, their
fingerprints are still all over the show. I mean, as
creators and as brilliant writers... so just being around
them from the age of 14 until recently. You always learn
from writers – even bad writers can teach you what not to
Suzanne: Did the cast and crew know about the book before it
Ken: They did not. We had a book unveiling/party/signing. I
think it caught some people quite off-guard, especially the
cast because they came, and I read a bit of each of a couple
of chapters... It was a large turn-out, and I looked around
the room, and it was quite interesting because (I imagine
they were thinking) "Oh, here's Ken, we know he's a producer
and composer, and we've seen him doing his job, but we
didn't know he could write." Not that I'm saying that I can
... No, but they had no forewarning. There were only a few
people that knew I was writing a book because I had gone to
them and said, "I'm going to write about you personally. Are
you okay with that?" Those were certain actors mentioned
there... that I wrote my personal feelings about- Suzanne
Rogers, Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, Jim Reynolds... I just
wanted to let them know that I was cooking this up, but I
asked them to please keep it to themselves.
Suzanne: So they were all very supportive?
Ken: Oh, very much so. Actually, with some of them, I read
them the pages, and I asked them, "Are you going to be okay
with this?" One or two had a line that they didn't want to
have written, and let's just leave it at that.
Suzanne: Okay. And so did everyone pretty much like it after
it came out? Were there any comments you'd like to share?
Ken: I never had any negative comments. In fact, it was
quite funny. The press was there. It was at the Museum of
Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. The cast lined
up like they were at a book signing, having me inscribe the
book. This, that and the other thing [chuckles] . I said,
"This is silly, I see you guys every day at work... Here's a
free copy." (They replied) "No, no, no, this is a book
signing. Write something down." I got a hand cramp and
enjoyed it very much.
Suzanne: [Laughs] That's great. Have you received many
comments or letters from fans about the book?
Ken: I have. Again, not to beat my own drum – all positive.
I have not gotten one hate letter, like, "Why did you write
about this? Or why didn’t you write about that?" It's been
very positive because I think, for many of the viewers, this
was a story they didn't know. They were a number of stories
they didn't know, especially about my mom and dad. 26 years
covers, what, four generations. If we're playing on the
liberal side, or probably more like three on the
conservative side. These current generations do not know
about Doug and Julie, and Don and Marlena (before John and
Marlena), and how much went on before people really started
watching in the 80’s.
Suzanne: Yes, I wish I could go back and watch the show in
the 80s. I didn’t watch until ‘91, so...
Ken: It was quite a kick! We were spending a lot of money on
the shows back then, that we would now consider absurd
things. Shoots on location, just lavish--there was so much
more money in the business. NBC was making a fortune off us,
as they were the Tonight Show and the Today Show. We were
paying the bills there and licensing fees dictated that I
could, you know, if we wanted to use a real waterfall, or go
to Greece, or run the rapid in the Sacramento River, or
wherever we went. And we did.
Suzanne: Speaking of e-mails and letters, do you get a lot
of fans writing to you personally, and do you read them, and
do you reply?
Ken: Yes, yes, and yes. Because it’s sometimes impossible
for me to read each one, I have someone sort through them,
extract and summarize what everyone is saying, on a weekly
basis, that's important to know. Or a monthly basis. It
becomes part of our research. And there if is a letter or
two that is very specific, you know, is asking for, or
pleading for an answer. Sometimes people just need.. They're
coming to Los Angeles, or this sort of thing... The direct
answer comes from me.
Suzanne: That's good.
Ken: Oh yeah, you have to be hands-on. The reason we're on
the air is the viewers. It's not because we think we think
we're this, or that, or the other thing. We're only as good
as our last week of ratings and what the viewers think.
Suzanne: Back to your book – was there a time when you were
writing it that you were tempted to share more gossip about
people from the show, more of a tell-all?
Ken: Oh, yes! There are pages that ended up in another
drawer, deeply filed and locked away. There were some things
I was tempted to expose, or talk about, both in a personal
or a professional level, and I said, "Wait a minute, do I
need to cross the line on a personal level?" People want to
read about Days, not some tantrums, issues that happened,
familial or otherwise, and there are certain secret stories,
whatever, that don't belong to the public here. They were
just too personal.
Suzanne: Right. Do you think that in the future, maybe if
you retire or something, you would edit the book and add
more of a tell-all, gossip kind of thing?
Ken: Actually, you know, what I’ve done is I’ve taken those
chapters, changed names to protect the innocence, and I’m
now writing my first work of fiction, a real novel, and used
that material as characters for source in my new novel.
Suzanne: Oh, cool. Well, that takes care of my other
question, which was about whether you were planning to write
Ken: Oh, yeah, I will write a follow-up to this book, God
willing, until we hit 50. We have other publications that
are doing quite well. We have the coffee table book, the
chronological pictorial history book of Days, which sold
like hotcakes, and a second book coming out, more of a
lifestyles kind of book about the cast, and a look inside
their lives. But, no, my passion now is trying to learn how
to write fiction, which is no easy task.
Suzanne: No, it’s not.
Ken: It’s much more difficult. I would’ve thought that the
free rein it would afford me would be freeing, but you don’t
have a path that’s already been trod. You have to find your
Suzanne: Well, you know, if you need help, you should call
Eileen Davidson. She’s written all those fiction books now.
Ken: I know. I’ve been tempted to call her…there were a
number of other people that I’ve spoken to. Advice is always
well taken, but in the end, it’s me alone with a pen and
paper. I don’t write on the computer. My brain races way too
fast for the computer. I have a shorthand. I just feel
better if it’s all coming from me. Help is one thing;
partnering is another.
Suzanne: That’s good to know. I had an observation question,
sort of thing. Days of Our Lives has Stefano, E.J., and
Victor, who are, you might say, what, mobsters?
Ken: Bad guys.
Suzanne: You never use the word mobsters on the show.
Ken: Mobsters is a little heavy because they love their
families…but of course, so did Don Corleone.
Suzanne: Right, exactly. You know, General Hospital gets a
lot of flak because they have prominent mobsters on the
Suzanne: But no one makes a complaint about Days. Why do you
think that is?
Ken: No, no, we try to balance things…I don’t want to
discourage my competition, but we try to balance the dark
with the light, and if there is a “villain” or bad guy, he
is well-rounded because he loves his family, XYZ. There’s
sympathy for all three of these characters. People do
sympathize with Victor. Victor is a much nicer man now than
he was years ago. Stefano is Stefano. He will always be that
kind of arch-villain. He even calls himself the diavolo in
the room. And E.J. – still finding his way. I don’t know if
he’s going to become exactly like his father, but he sure
has put his foot in it. But again, to your point, we want
the audience to feel like they’re redeemable. Maybe
Stefano’s crossed that line. I don’t know if Stefano is
redeemable, but he certainly loves his family and he
certainly loves whoever it is he’s married to at the time.
Suzanne: Good answer. It’s really great that you’re doing a
gay story on Days. It seems to be moving very slowly. Are
you purposely doing that because you’re being cautious, and
Ken: Nope, you better fasten your seatbelts.
Suzanne: It’s gonna take off, huh?
Ken: We felt that it was important just to ease the audience
into this story, you know? We know what this country is
today; it’s very divided on certain issues. So we didn’t
want to slam this story into the front of the show. So
Will’s coming out has been very, very slow. He is still a
man who’s not sure of his sexuality. Yet you will see that
in the next week or so really get ramped up.
Suzanne: Okay, great.
Ken: Yeah, we’re gonna go for it.
Suzanne: And is there anything that you’re doing or that NBC
is doing to move Days forward more into the future with
technology or other ideas?
Ken: Interesting question. After high definition, which we
went to, basically at the 45th anniversary…it was January
two years ago. We’ve tried 3D. We’ve actually done a
broadcast in 3D. I don’t know who watches anything at home
in 3D, so as far as the digital answer to that, I think
that’s as far as we’re going to go with it right now.
Technologically, you know, they have the show on the
internet every day on nbc.com and it is hugely followed I
think the number of viewers or hits they get each month is 4
and a ½ million.
Ken: Well, it’s such a double-edge sword. We’d rather have
people watch the show when it is telecast because then it
counts like a rating as opposed to, if it’s watched on the
Web or on Soapnet, it is not counted in or factored in to
our national Nielsen rating, which is what makes or breaks
us--the every day from 12 to1 or 1 to 2 viewing. “Very
pithy. Good answer. Hmm…”
Suzanne: So if they’re watching it on the Web, with ads on
the Web, the advertisers do take that into account, don’t
they? They like that.
Ken: Yes, you’re a very bright woman. They certainly do.
That money must be going into somebody’s pocket at NBC, but
we do not benefit directly from the viewing on the Web. Of
course, it does keep people involved. If they can’t get to a
computer, they can either watch it on the broadcast every
day or on Soapnet, but as far as a financial revenue stream
for us, or a measure of the audience, it’s not inclusive.
Suzanne: Wow, that’s not fair.
Ken: You took the words out of my mouth. What’s up with
Suzanne: So the average ratings for the TV viewing are,
what, 2? 3?
Ken: Yeah, in the neighborhood of 1.8 to 2, which translate
to 2-3 million people because a ratings point is not quite a
Suzanne: Is there anything else you’d like to tell your
fans, or the fans of the show, about your book or the show?
Ken: What a great question. Well, number one, stay tuned.
Number two, we always listen to what the fans say, whether
in writing or on the internet, or if they show up at the
studio (chuckles) which we discourage. And number three, I
realize after this much time, you can’t change the wheel.
It’s not broken. The show is about romance, and that’s it.
That’s what we need to give the audience on an hourly,
daily, weekly basis, is great romantic stories.
Suzanne: That’s great. I had another question from the two
people who run the Days of Our Lives section on our site,
Michele and Cheryl. They’ve been running it since they were
teenagers, and they’re now in their twenties, so it’s pretty
Suzanne: And they’re big Passions fans, too.
Ken: Oh, we do miss that show.
Suzanne: They were asking if there’s anyone else that you
plan on bringing back to the show.
Ken: Yes, but stay tuned. There’s going to be a big
Suzanne: Ah, someone you can’t say, huh?
Ken: Someone very popular will be returning.
Suzanne: Besides Lucas?
Ken: How’d you know about him?
Suzanne: The soap opera magazine…
Ken: Oh, well, darn.
Ken: Yes, Lucas will be returning. I don’t see any other
characters coming back…oh, wait, there’s another one, too,
but I think you know about Lisa Rinna, Billie, coming back.
After that, the Salem Inn is full. Our cast is very full
Suzanne: Well, let me just pitch it – if you ever want to
bring more people in, I really miss Tony and Anna.
Ken: I do, too. There’s two issues there. One is, even
though anything can happen on soaps, Tony did die, die. I
mean, he was impaled on a sheer piece of glass, buried
and…you know, that would be a hard one to sell the fans,
really not dead, then their trust goes away. But I love
Thaao and Thaao Penghlis is a marvelous actor who brings out
a special color to the character and to the show. Leann
Hunley who plays Anna – I don’t think you’ve seen the last
Suzanne: Oh, good.
Ken: Yeah, she’s marvelous.
Suzanne: Their other question is, what has your favorite
Ken: No fair. No fair!
Suzanne: Too hard to pick just one?
Ken: That makes a lot of people unhappy no matter what I
say. My favorite storyline is in the first show where Tom
says, “Alice”, and Alice says, “Tom”. And Tom says, “Alice”,
and Alice says, “Tom, dear” as he comes down the stair and
picks up his pipe, and they talk about their children, and
this, that and the other thing, and their grandchild Julie,
and that’s episode one . And that dynamic continues today
although we don’t have either of those actors. My favorite
story on the show is the one when Tom and Alice started.
Suzanne: Well, that’s a good diplomatic answer.
Ken: It’s the basis of the show.
Suzanne: I understand.
Ken: And then we can see that Shawn and Caroline perpetuated
that once they came on the show in the early 80’s.
Read our Review of his book
"The Days of our Lives: The True Story of
Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives"
I wish I could have told Mr. Corday some more of what I
think about the show...I was trying to be kind, and
positive. Yes, the show is much better than it's been in a
long time. I'm very glad to get some of our favorite stars
back and they are focusing on romance. However, the show is
kind of boring. It does have romance but needs more good
stories as well. I think it was a bad idea to keep Hope and
John out of Salem for so long and to keep Bo in a coma for a
long time. They are getting rid of Carrie, Austin, Jack, Bo
and Madison. I don't know if it's for money or story. It's
the writers that are boring, not the actors or their
characters. As Caroline Hinsley said in her recent column in
Soap Opera Digest, we need to see more of Victor and Maggie
again. The stories need to be more innovative, the way they
were back in the 1980's on all the soaps.
I hope they get it working and the ratings come up again!
Page updated 5/16/12
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