INTERVIEW: DAYS' Vincent Irizarry on the future of Deimos: “It just gets better and better from here”
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2016 9:15:39 AM
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The story for Days of our Lives' Deimos got off to a bit of a slow start, but portrayer Vincent Irizarry shares that his material is quite an intense and “crazy” roller coaster from here on out.

Longtime soap opera fans were over the moon upon finding out daytime veteran Vincent Irizarry would be joining Days of our Lives as Deimos Kiriakis. Having wowed audiences as All My Children's devilish doctor David Hayward, The Young and the Restless' gambling-addicted David Chow, Guiding Light's musically inclined Lujack/Brandon Luvonaczek, and Santa Barbara's Dr. Scott Clark, anticipation was high for the New York native's Salem debut. And though his acting has been strong since he arrived on the canvas in mid-January, the storyline hasn't exactly gotten off to a fast-paced and exciting start. However, the Emmy winner tells Soap Central that's all about to change -- starting now! Congratulations on your Days of our Lives role. Are you having an absolute blast?

Vincent Irizarry: I'm really having the time of my life. I love the character, I love the people I'm working with, and it's all really wonderful. It's a great environment and everybody is so welcoming and very giving. From day one, it's been a fantastic experience. Even though I've only been airing for a little over eight weeks, I've been there for seven and half months, because of the way they work it there. You've had to wait over a half a year to see your material and what fan reaction has been like, and if I recall, you do like to see your work on screen so you can make adjustments, right? Was not being able to see the material for so long difficult for you?

Irizarry: You know, there are times throughout my career in daytime where I have done that, just to see how things are playing, so in the beginning of this, it was an adjustment for me not to have anything that I could see. I couldn't even see if my hair looked good, if we were doing that right! [Laughs] After I'd been there for a few weeks, I did go into the editing room to see one of the episodes that I had, and I was very happy with it. And overall, it's been okay. I kind of just trust in it now, and I don't need to see it. I'm watching the shows that are airing six months later, and I'm very happy with it. I know where the character is going from here, and I know what's in store for the character and for the story, and I'm really excited about it. It's really great story. Really excellent. And it just gets better and better from here. That's really good to hear, because your fans have been wondering when it would start getting juicy. It's gotten off to a bit of a slow start, so I'm wondering how the role came about and what they told you about Deimos initially?

Irizarry: It's funny, because I was back east with my kids, I think for my daughter's graduation from high school, if I remember correctly. I was supposed to come back a day later, but I got a call from my manager saying they were having meetings for this role the next day, and they really wanted to see me. It was the only day they were going to be able to see people, because they were going to make a decision before they went on a two-week hiatus, right before the Fourth of July break they were having. So I was like, "I've got to get there," because the role, as it was described to me, sounded perfect. I was very grateful to [DAYS' casting associate] Bob Lambert, who was the associate casting director on All My Children when I was there. He has always been very supportive of my work and loved what I was doing on All My Children and was very vocal about it, and he and I communicated via Facebook several months before, and I just let him know, I said, "Look, if anything comes up on [DAYS], let me know. I'd love to read for people or meet with them." So when [my manager said] they were only seeing a few people, I knew I had to get back [to Los Angeles], and I almost didn't make it. Really? Why not?

Irizarry: I was on standby for three or four flights, and I wasn't getting on because all of the flights were full. So I thought, "Great -- I have an opportunity for a great role on a long-running show, and I can't even get there!" But I did; I got the last flight out and I did get there... and it went great. I had a meeting with [executive producer] Ken Corday and [several other producers and the casting directors], and we literally talked for 45 minutes. We just talked about everything: about our lives, our children, our experiences, our music history, playing the piano, because Ken is also a piano player, a musician. So we talked about everything, and we finally got to the character, and I loved the description they were giving me. And Ken said to me, "You're really perfect for this role, and you look perfect for this role." And I said, "Honestly, I feel this character. I know what you're talking about. I get this character." And I walked out after that meeting, and when I was outside, I realized I left my sunglasses in the waiting area of the office, so I went back in, and as I went to grab my glasses, Ken came out of the conference room that we were meeting in. I said, "It was so great meeting you, and I'm so happy you had me come in," and he said, "Yeah, it was really nice to meet with you." And as he started walking away, he turned around and said, "Welcome to Salem." And I was like, "Oh, really?!" And he said, "Yes, we're very excited to have you." And I'm just standing there with my sunglasses going, "I just got this job!" [Laughs] As I was leaving the office, the receptionist said, "Did he just say, 'Welcome to Salem?'" And I said, "Yeah, he did." And she said, "Oh, that's wonderful! I'm a big fan of you from All My Children,'" and I thanked her [for the compliment], and that was it. I left and was like, "Oh, wow." I called my agent and told him, "Guess what? They just offered me the job!" What a perfect way to land a role! You walk in, talk about stuff you love, and BAM! You're part of the show.

Irizarry: Yeah! It was really nice. And I had worked with Josh [Griffith, who was serving as the show's head writer at that time] before. He was a writer on Santa Barbara, and he was the head writer for a period of time when I was on The Young and the Restless. Josh wrote really great story for me. The last year I was on Y&R, my character had a gambling addiction, and that was revealed. That was a great story. It played really well, and I loved playing it. So Josh certainly knew my work, and everyone knew my work one way or another. But I tell you, from the moment I first started working on the show, I've loved working with John Aniston [Victor Kiriakis]. That was my first day of work, and I couldn't have asked for a better person to work a first day with. I felt so at ease and so connected with him regarding storyline and character, and it just catapulted the character for me right out of the gate with a foundation to stand on. And like I said, I know where the story is going, and it's such a great story. I'm very excited about it. Can you reveal what they told you in the meeting that had you really wanting to take on the role of Deimos?

Irizarry: It's hard because I don't want to reveal too much, but I guess I related to the character. I understood that even though he was a person coming from a 30-year jail sentence, wrongfully convicted, that at his core, he's an honorable man. Yes, he's very savvy, he's very shrewd, and he doesn't let anybody take advantage of him. And he certainly has been carrying this chip on his shoulder for 30 years for being in jail because of his own brother -- a brother who views him as a bastard son, because [Deimos doesn't share a mother] with Victor, and he's never been accepted on that front with his family. And then his brother has him thrown in jail for a crime he knows he did not commit for 30 years, and not only that, this woman [he was accused of murdering] was the love of his life. She was his first love, and he experienced that, which is going to come out more. It's a big deal. But what he really genuinely wants is family. He wants the experience of life that's been denied from him for 30 years. He wants to experience love again, and he wants to experience a sense of unity with society. Those are the things that he's been deprived of. A good example is [what happened last week]. Deimos goes to Victor, and Deimos has a plan in place; he's been plotting this for years, this plan to get back at Victor for what he did to him. But he does something which is rather honorable. He goes to him and extends him an olive branch, and he says to him, "Look, I'll stop everything right now if you would just acknowledge what you did to me and then we can move on with our lives, and hopefully rebuild our lives from here and our relationship from here." Given what had been done to him, that was a big price for him to pay, to not exact revenge after spending most of his whole life wanting it. So that was a big deal. And that's the way he is. Deimos, at his core, is a good person. He's a good man who has every reason to have an issue with some of the people in his life. So that's the way I see him. What I related to more than anything is that he's a very complex character, he's a person of substance and a person that I personally could have compassion for. That's what I liked most about the character. Victor didn't accept the olive branch Deimos gave him, so what kind of sparks will fly in the weeks ahead?

Irizarry: That sets everything in motion. That really sets everything in motion. It's a big deal for him to do that, and you know, even what aired with Kate [Lauren Koslow], it was tough, when I first read those scenes, with him sleeping with her for the first time and how it started. It was tough, even just to read it. I was like, "Ugh, this is a hard thing to do," but at the same time, I could certainly understand how that could happen, given the fact that this man had been denied any social interaction with a woman for 30 years. So he's finding his footing here, and when he was given the signs that she wanted to be with him, you can understand how he'd be overly rambunctious and aggressive. It's all because of his excitement taking over, and he's just doing it without knowing how to do it. But the thing that is most telling about it, which I found helpful in playing the scenes, was his reaction to the inappropriateness of it when it was brought to his attention, that this wasn't the way to do it. He immediately withdrew, immediately was apologetic and took responsibility for it. And I think what helped me, and I'm sure helped Lauren because we talked about it, is that he's a man who's very strong and very confident in himself and is shrewd, but his vulnerability was shown. He showed his vulnerability and was at a loss. He didn't know exactly how this was supposed to be done. And that helped her to then reach out to him and be understanding and be compassionate and to show him there's another way to do this, a very caring and loving way, a gentle way. So it was interesting to get to that place with her to do that, but it had to take those stages. It's an interesting pairing, for sure. Kate has a history of being with pretty strong men who don't usually show vulnerability, and Deimos showed his, albeit in a very unique way.

Irizarry: Absolutely, and I think, for him, for Deimos, in all these areas of his life, he's finding his footing. He's lived in a culture that was entirely surrounded by men for 30 years, so he's very attuned to be able to read men very clearly. He knows how to stay one step ahead of people. But where women are concerned, he's going to have to learn... But he has a great desire, like I said earlier, to have a normal life. He feels like he has to do it in hyper-speed because 30 years of his life are gone, and he can't get them back. But he wants the experiences of those 30 years. So that's the challenge he's facing right now, as a man, as an individual. Do you feel that's partially why he's attracted to Kate? As female as she is, she is also quite a "manly" character, being so strong, powerful, and business-minded.

Irizarry: Yeah, I think he sees in her a female version of himself, in some ways. Maybe he sees that she's very shrewd, she has a business sense, and he senses in her that she's a go-getter, that she can take care of herself. So I think on some level, he sees her as someone to balance him, in that regard. But being it's a soap opera, I don't imagine it'll be smooth sailing.

Irizarry: [laughs] No, I don't think these characters are capable of smooth sailing with each other, given those characteristics! I don't think so. Like they say, two Scorpios shouldn't be in a relationship together, and there are reasons for that, because you're too much alike. From your perspective, how do you see the character developing as he makes a home for himself in Salem and starts to find his footing?

Irizarry: I think Deimos has to go through certain changes within himself. He has to go through certain growth spurts. As I said, he wants to know what it's like to have a normal life, to be a normal human being, and share in the normal, everyday experiences of a person that he's been denied all these years. And I think that's one of the reasons he even goes to Victor, because he has a longing for family and he has no family, other than Victor and the people that are part of Victor's family that he doesn't know. He definitely has a yearning for those things. And I would say Deimos wants to experience true love again; he wants that. And I think he wants a family at some point; he'd love to experience having a family. And he also wants to be in a position of power or a position of strength in business -- that's important to him as well, so he feels he has a purpose in his life. So those are the things I feel Deimos is working for, the things he wants. And that's why I believe it could very well be in his future with a lot of work and a lot of various steps along the way. That's what I believe. Do you think there's a chance Deimos and Victor could get along in the future? Or do you foresee this being a lifelong rivalry between the two brothers?

Irizarry: You know, I think there are certainly going to be moments where I believe Victor and Deimos will connect. They know each other from 30 years ago, from their youth, from when I was younger, he was younger. They know each other better than anybody else there. So there's going to be those moments I believe that will avail themselves to them. But I believe those moments will always be concurrent with a sense of suspicion with each other as well, knowing each other's character and knowing the capacity to hurt one another that they have. So I think that could easily be there as well. At this point, that's what I believe. But that could change. Switching gears a bit, after All My Children wrapped, did you immediately start auditioning and looking for other work? Or did you decide to take it easy for a while and sort of take a time out after all the stuff that happened with the cancellation?

Irizarry: Yeah, I mean, I did take it easy for a while. There were roles here and there that would come up. I wasn't overly aggressive in trying to find something. I had worked so much for so long, so I took it easy for a while. Then little things here and there started coming my way, and I was offered the movie with Barbara Hershey that I did for Lifetime [called Left To Die], which was a wonderful experience. I had a great time with that. And then I got to do Homeland, as well. So there were some things that were coming my way here and there, and then we did the online version, which just prolonged the pain of this. It had so much promise and potential, and it was just so sad once again to go through the grieving process of it, of letting a show go. And what made it even worse, which they'd done the first time, was they strung us along for months, giving us the impression that we were definitely coming back, we were definitely coming back, every couple weeks. It was, "Oh, no, no, no, we're going to come back in two weeks, three weeks," and this went on for months, for like six months. And then it ended, and it was really painful, really sad. And I was made to turn down two jobs during that time. That was not an easy thing to do, but they said it would conflict with my schedule with them, and there wasn't a schedule, because it was not going to happen! And these were paying jobs that I was turning down, so that was frustrating. That was upsetting to me, that that happened. But you know, it is what it is, and I think everybody's intentions were good. And I think on the positive side, I believe they did a wonderful job with the production we had. I just think it was mismanaged, the financial end of it. And there we were, left out to float again for months. It was tough. The reason I ask about AMC is, having gone through that whole cancellation experience, were you at all nervous to join DAYS when it wasn't clear at the time whether or not the show was going to be renewed? I mean, you could have had to go through another gut-wrenching cancellation, for all you or anyone knew.

Irizarry: Well, of course you can't help but think about that. Having lived through that experience, you're a little gun shy [laughs]. And not only I, but anybody that I spoke to that was on the show that went through that experience, we all were like-minded in that, with apprehension and concern -- even some of the directors I worked with at All My Children. So, yeah, we all experienced that, and it's a unique experience, to be in a situation like that, and you hope that you're not there, having to go through it again, because it's tough. But then again, you take life one day at a time anyway; there's never a guarantee about anything, so what's the point of worrying about it, rather than just hoping for the best? And I can just say this: from the moment I came on Days of our Lives and started watching the show, I thought the show had a very high standard of quality and storytelling and performance, and the production value I just thought was wonderful. I thought, "Wow, this is a really good show." I really hadn't watched it all those years, but it was my grandparents' favorite show when I was a kid growing up. They're no longer with us, but I have to believe they're in heaven and smiling down about me being on their favorite show. So that meant something to me, too. I remember as a kid, walking through their living room every day in the afternoon, and they'd be sitting in the living room, watching Days of our Lives. It's great, and that makes it even more special for me, that it's linked to my past, my family and my grandparents, who I just loved and adored. I loved them so much; they were very special people. So being on the show is a special gift. And it all worked out, with the show being renewed for another season! And actually Ken Corday just said the show has some huge plans for right after the hiatus that will happen in August for the Olympics. You're on good footing, it seems.

Irizarry: Yeah, and I'm very happy about that. I love this story, and I'm really happy with the people I'm working with. Everybody is wonderful, and without question, it is the most efficient show I've ever been on. It's unbelievable how efficient they are, what we accomplish in the course of a day and the quality of the work. And I attribute that in large part to Albert Alarr and Janet Rider, our producers who are right there on the set with us. And when we do a rehearsal, they walk right onto the set with us, right there, just right off set, and give their notes. And their notes are always right on point. I think Albert is a like a master with a scalpel, going right to the heart of what the issue is, so we go in there and do it right in one take and move on, and we all walk away feeling great about it. It's just a great sense of collaboration, and everybody takes such pride in what they're doing. I love the atmosphere because of that. It's a very stimulating, creative environment in that regard, so I'm very happy about that. How important has it been to you, if at all, so separate Deimos from some of the other major daytime characters you've played? David Hayward especially, because he was such defining character for you.

Irizarry: David was certainly, and so was Lujack, my first character years ago. That was what put me on the map in this medium, without question. But you know, how important is it to separate him from those characters? I think it's always in the writing. This is a different character, and there are different qualities to Deimos that I respond to than I did with David. But what I always try to find in a character is something that I can personally be sympathetic toward with the hope that in turn, the audience feels the same sympathy and passion and understanding for the guy. That's really important for me, and that's what I try to do with it. And that's why it was important when I met with them, that I related to the character and had compassion for the character, for the person. That's very important to me. And then the character will be defined, which will make him different from the other characters, because of the story. It really does start with the writing, so I'm not overly concerned with making sure the character is different from David or the others, because I think this character as a person is different, and I'll bring to it what I see I can identify with or relate to emotionally. I mean, I'm not doing a character that's so divorced from me as a man -- I'm not like doing Rain Man or something [laughs]. It's a man, and this is his story, this is his life, and this is how it will develop. That makes sense. And I have to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Deimos will form and shape in the next three to six months, because I imagine it will be completely different than what we see in the moment.

Irizarry: Yes, definitely. Without question. And that's the one thing that's been kind of tough over the last several weeks, is that... it took a while for the story to kick in, and I was only working once or twice a week, and I knew where they were going to go with it, so I was excited and chomping at the bit to get it going, but now it's happening. It's just starting, and the story is really going to start taking off from this point on, which is great. I'm very grateful to the writers and to the production team and to Ken Corday. This has been such a wonderful experience, and I am excited to see where this character goes. That's really the mark of a great story, when as an actor, you can't wait to open up the script and see what happens next. Every time a script comes to my dressing room, even if I'm done with work and I want to get home, I'm opening up the script and reading it right then and there because I want to know what happens. And that's great. I love to have that kind of sense of enthusiasm when I'm working on a character. It's fun. I'm very excited, and there is a lot of stuff that's about to happen, it's crazy. I'm looking forward to seeing how the audience responds to it. We'll see!

Photo: JPI/

What are your thoughts on Irizarry's Deimos? What kind of storyline do you hope pans out? Do you like him with Kate, or would you rather see him with someone else? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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