Days of our Lives' Salem just hasn't been the same since Gabi Hernandez was hauled off to prison after confessing to the murder of bad boy Nick Fallon, but everything is going to change once she's released from prison this week. Camila Banus returns to her Emmy-nominated role on Thursday, September 17, and she spills all the details to soapcentral.com about Gabi's big return to Salem. Hint: it involves a huge storyline twist that may be a bit devastating for both Gabi and fans of the show.
soapcentral.com: Welcome back to Days of our Lives!
Camila Banus: Thank you so much!
soapcentral.com: You've already been filming for months and months now because of the way the show works so far in advance, right?
Banus: Yeah, I've been filming for about two and a half months now.
soapcentral.com: How does it feel for you to be back in the world of Salem?
Banus: Oh, wow. I am so excited to be back and see everybody. It's been super rewarding every time I come into the studio. Everybody is so nice and so welcoming, and everyone makes me feel so homey. It's really great.
soapcentral.com: Does it feel like it did the last time you were on set, or does it feel different because there are so many new faces and changes happening?
Banus: You know, the place, the studio, the history here, it's always going to be very constant. But it does change with people coming in and out. But there's always that original Days of our Lives feel that's never going to go away.
soapcentral.com: Well it's been around for 50 years, so I have no doubt it has its own presence! Are there any former returning actors or new actors you're super excited to be working with? A Martinez (Eduardo), I imagine, as he played your father, Ray Montez, on One Life to Life.
Banus: Yes, of course. I'm very excited to be working with my on-screen father again, A Martinez. He's not an original cast member, but he's really excited to be joining the cast, and he's super excited to be working with me again.
soapcentral.com: Are you two sharing scenes together?
Banus: I don't know if I can say, um... [double checks with publicist]. Yes, yes we are sharing scenes. But that's all I can say.
soapcentral.com: As soon as your One Life to Live fans found out that he was coming to the show and that you were returning, I think many hoped you two would actually work together and share scenes, so I think fans will be happy.
Banus: Yeah, of course. We're definitely working together, and it's so wonderful to work with him again. It feels like we just picked up where we left off.
soapcentral.com: He's playing a totally new character, as are you, so was it at all difficult to find your rhythm?
Banus: No, he's a brilliant man and a brilliant actor. He makes everyone feel so incredibly comfortable. There's no minute of awkwardness. Everything he says is just pure genius, really. He's a very wise man.
soapcentral.com: How about any of the returning actors? Is there anyone from the past that you're getting the chance to work with?
Banus: Yeah, I mean, just working again with people I've been working with before, like Peter Reckell (Bo Brady) and other people who are coming back on the show. I don't know who I can say, so I'll just say that working with everyone has been really nice.
soapcentral.com: Are you returning for a longer time period this time around, or will it be brief like your return in December?
Banus: Yeah, I'm actually back for a little while. I'm back for, I would say, about a year, at least.
soapcentral.com: As we all know from Orange is the New Black, being in prison really changes a person, especially women. How do you think that serving her time in jail has changed Gabi?
Banus: I mean, I definitely think there are many changes that happened and are still happening for Gabi still, mentally, physically, emotionally. All of the experiences that you can imagine, being in a prison, times a hundred. Being away from her daughter, all of these things, she really comes out of there different. But you're also going to see her experiencing new things, and I think the changes will come, but they will come in a subtle way. And I definitely think that there's something that Gabi doesn't even know is inside of her, just the trauma of living in that type of establishment and with that type of people in that system. Just the way that it's organized would have an impact on any human being, and I definitely think the audience will see that.
soapcentral.com: How the heck does she get out of prison? Is it explained how she gets out?
Banus: Um, there's a little bit of an explanation, but we're hoping that people are mainly excited that Gabi is out and appreciating life and appreciating her family and appreciating her brother and her child and her friends and her freedom.
soapcentral.com: Does it seem to you that the show's new writers have a good handle on who Gabi is?
Banus: I definitely think so. I think Gabi has had her ups and downs like everybody on the show, but she puts her cards on the table, and she kind of just lives with her heart on her sleeve. She hasn't been very guarded, and I definitely think that they allow her to just be [like that], and I think that's awesome.
soapcentral.com: Can you tease what her homecoming will be like? Of course her family is happy that she's back in town, but Salem is a very different place than it was when she left.
Banus: Well I'm going to say that being back is going to be a wonderful thing for her, but it also is going to set up a lot of different emotional moments in her and in other people's lives.
soapcentral.com: Can you sort of expand on what you mean by that?
Banus: I can't say a lot! But right when I'm back on the show, you'll see that really, really soon, there's going to be a dramatic event that will shape a lot of people's lives.
soapcentral.com: Ah, okay. Better be something juicy! Does Gabi struggle to find a life for herself now that she's back, or does she kind of seamlessly fit back into things?
Banus: It's been pretty [seamless], especially because the way that we've gone about it is that she's surrounded by family and by love, so anything and everything that she needs is given and provided to her by her family and her friends. And that's one of the biggest things that she has, is appreciation, and she's very grateful to have all of these people, and even the times when Sonny and Will had Arianna, she's very appreciative to all of that.
soapcentral.com: There's been so much drama with Sonny (Freddie Smith) and Will, and you coming back sort of brings their history up a bit. There's a bit of a nostalgia factor, since Gabi was so involved with their relationship. What can you say about what fans can expect from Gabi's relationship with Will now that she's out of prison?
Banus: Fans can definitely expect them having their core foundation, which is ultimately best friends. They have been through a child together, through a murder, essentially, with me being criminalized. We've been through a lot. And the core, the rock of our relationship is we were best friends before we were ever lovers, and definitely, that's what the fans will see.
soapcentral.com: There's a rumor going around that Will may be a victim of the Necktie Killer. I know you can't give anything away, but if Will were to die or something tragic were to happen to him, how do you think it would impact Gabi?
Banus: That would be very difficult for her, I imagine, because imagine hoping for something for a very long time, pretty much in a hole, and then finally being out in the light and experiencing happiness, and then having it taken away. That would be very difficult for her, and not only for her, but for the remainder of her child's life.
soapcentral.com: Speaking of Arianna, will fans get to see any adjustment on her end to having her mom back on the canvas? Or are they still too young to play something like that?
Banus: We haven't aged Arianna. The character is being played by the same girls, and they started doing scenes with words and things like that, but they aren't as emotionally experienced for something like that -- yet!
soapcentral.com: Without being too specific, what do you think is next for Gabi as she starts over again in Salem? I know she'll be focusing on her family, but what else?
Banus: I definitely always want for Gabi to fall in love, and I mean really in love, to the point where she can't think of anything else. That kind of love. And I don't think she's experienced that. I think she's looked for it, and she's tried, but that's what I hope for her.
soapcentral.com: Is there anyone currently on the canvas or coming that you could see her falling in love with?
Banus: I have some ideas, and maybe that's on the horizon. But who knows, we'll have to wait and see!
soapcentral.com: What about jobwise? What can you see her doing now that she's back in town?
Banus: Well, you know, there are a lot of things for Gabi. She's wanted to be a lot of different things. She's worked at the spa, she's worked at the pub, she's wanted to get into photography, and of course she was a model. So there are many possibilities for her, and I definitely think that people in Salem know what she's capable of, so I'd love for her to maybe be a journalist, but I don't know. We'll see.
soapcentral.com: I think with a prison record, she'll definitely have to lean on connections for a job!
Banus: There you go. Not a lot of people are going to want to hire her!
soapcentral.com: What have you been doing while you've been away from DAYS?
Banus: I've been keeping busy. I shot two national commercials, and I was in two films. One was called Wishin' and Hopin', a Christmas film with Molly Ringwald and Chevy Chase. And then I shot a really cool short film for USC that... won a lot of awards and that was really awesome, so I've been keeping busy and staying in shape and staying healthy.
soapcentral.com: While you weren't on the show, did you have it in your mind that you wanted to return to DAYS? Or was this unexpected?
Banus: DAYS is always going to be home for me. The walls are cushioned here. I feel good here. I feel safe here, I feel secure. And so yeah, I always had that in my mind, like, "Okay, Camila, don't freak out. If anything, you can try to see if you can get back on the show, because you've got family and friends there." I always had thoughts, and of course, I missed everyone a lot. That's why I came in in the middle of the year while I was gone, and I shot two episodes, because I do miss everybody. And not only the cast, but the crew, as well. These are like my dads and uncles here. They're very loving and I love them very much. So I definitely had that in my mind, and when I was approached, I thought that it was a good time for me.
soapcentral.com: We all know that really, really great material is ahead. Every actor I've spoken with has said that we need to hold onto our hats, because the next few months are going to be insane. What has been the favorite or best part for you? Why do you think fans should tune in?
Banus: I think right now we're starting to see a setup of a rollercoaster that you're all going to ride. That's what it is. We are bringing back these amazing actors, we're starting this crazy intricate storyline that is going to just start connecting and start interweaving, and then you're going to start to see it unravel, and that's really going to blow people's minds.
soapcentral.com: So Gabi will be involved in a big umbrella story and will be connected to several characters on the canvas?
Banus: Yes. It's super exciting. It's been really awesome.
soapcentral.com: Have they thrown anything to you yet that has been a big challenge, acting-wise?
Banus: Actually, yes! I can't really say a lot about it, because then I'd be disclosing a lot of information, but I will say that I was put in a very, well, let me think about this for a minute. Let's just say, a lot of eyes were on me at that moment, and I felt kind of nervous! It was one of the first times I was actually thinking, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, I don't want all of these people staring at me right now! It's a little overwhelming!" But it was so much fun and so exciting, and I think I did a good job.
soapcentral.com: Anything else you want to add about Gabi's big homecoming?
Banus: I just want to say to everybody, all of the fans who have watched and appreciate Gabi and want her to come back -- even the ones that don't -- just thank you for caring about her -- or not caring about her! It's really important to me that people understand the story and really connect with the story, even if they love her, hate her, can't take her, or want to hug her. As far as I take them on a ride, and they understand what I'm trying to convey, then I'm happy.
Are you happy that Gabi is back in Salem? What do you think is the life-changing experience that will shape her return to the canvas? What would you like to see for Gabi's future? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, on our message boards, or by submitting Feedback.
To stay up-to-date on the latest soap news, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow @soapcentral on Twitter.