The walls are quickly closing in on Days of our Lives' Abigail, who was admitted to a psychiatric facility following a breakdown that had her attempting murderous revenge on her psycho-killer ex, Ben. And it only gets crazier (um, literally) from here, with a heartbreaking tale that will eventually usher the character's portrayer, Kate Mansi, off the canvas. But Abigail doesn't lose her marbles alone: Anne-Marie Johnson has returned to the NBC soap in the newly created role of Dr. Robinson, Abigail's psychiatrist and confidante from here on out. But don't expect the story to be in the same vein as Johnson's first appearance on the show as Marlena's doctor back in 2012; the actress tells Soap Central that this storyline is a whole new ballgame.
soapcentral.com: Welcome to Days of our Lives, or rather welcome BACK to Days of our Lives!
Anne-Marie Johnson: Right! Thank you.
soapcentral.com: The last time you were on the show, you had the opportunity to work with one of daytime's biggest stars, Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans). And this time, you're smack in the middle of story with one of the show's most popular stars at the moment, Kate Mansi. When did it hit you that the story you were being called in to play this time was such a big deal?
Johnson: Oh, pretty much the first day. I was fortunate enough to have two of the scripts, and obviously for Kate, it was just an important moment in her career. It's always difficult. I've been there, when you've been on a show for many, many seasons, and your storyline is coming to a very dramatic end or change of events. And the atmosphere on the set was, as it should be, respectful and reminiscent and positive. I was honored to participate in that whole process. What a career this young actress has. And it's always great to be busy, it's always great to be appreciated, and that set is certainly an appreciative set. The actors are really prepared to show up each day and do their work.
soapcentral.com: Did anyone remember you from the first time you were on the show as Dr. Patel back in 2012?
Johnson: Gosh, that's a really good question. I have to tell you, many of the crewmembers remembered me! Deidre and I did speak very briefly about the previous role I had, but we both agreed you don't want to focus on other characters, because you're looking at this through fresh eyes, so pretty much you don't talk about the previous character unless you're revisiting the same story. So we didn't spend any time talking about my first time on the show. We agreed we were there to be in the moment and do the work at hand.
soapcentral.com: What did they initially tell you about the role and what they expected from Dr. Robinson?
Johnson: Professionalism. That was important. Dr. Robinson needed to have an air of authority mixed in with empathy and sympathy and definitive action. The part was well written, so I didn't have to work too hard to find it. And I was obviously being directed by several different directors, and everyone was on the same page with the tone that needed to be set and the importance of the whole scheme of things. So I think with Dr. Robinson, it was my obligation to make her firm yet compassionate, which is sometimes hard to do in a limited amount of time. But I think -- I don't know, I guess we'll know when it airs -- but I think I was able to do that.
soapcentral.com: When you go into a role, you normally see an arc and it's obvious where your character is going. For this, did you have an arc, or is the role strictly story support for Abigail's story and her exit from the canvas?
Johnson: That's a good question, and it's definitely not an arc. It's purely story support. It's purely helping laying down the pipe. With that in mind, my organic direction was, "I'm assisting this, and I'm laying down the pipe." And hopefully I moved the story in the direction they wanted it to go.
soapcentral.com: Is the story written in such a way that the door is open for you to return for more appearances in the future?
Johnson: I cannot say that.
soapcentral.com: You're appearing in about six episodes, but they're really spread out over the course of almost four months, which is pretty unique. How long did it take you to film the episodes you've done?
Johnson: It looks like six on the paper, but there are more than that. I don't know the process of how they break it up, but it was incredible to shoot so far in advance. I think it's a luxury for DAYS. I just did an episode of Grey's Anatomy last week that will be airing the first week of May [laughs], so this is a completely different world to me, for a show to have such a wonderful lead time. I don't know how they make the sausage, all I know is that the sausage is delicious! [laughs] However they work it out is the way they work it out.
soapcentral.com: From your perspective, what do you think fans are going to love about the story?
Johnson: Whoa. Oh, gosh. Well, I think they're going to love it because they're in love with Abigail, and they're in love with Abigail's storyline and her trials and tribulations and everyone that orbits around her world. So that alone I think will make the fans very, very satisfied. And the performance that Kate delivers is really strong and quite moving. I think everyone will be very proud of her.
soapcentral.com: Speaking of something to be proud of, how do you feel about the way the role was written in regards to representing ethnicity? DAYS seems to be really looking to amp up the minority character count on the canvas, perhaps with this role, as well.
Johnson: Traditionally soap operas have always done this, but it's always such a pleasure for an actor, and particularly a female actor, to be able to do a role that has a sense of authority, dignity, and compassion. Those roles don't happen that often, and for me, it was a pleasure to not have to worry about, "Oh, how is this going to look for women, how is this going to look for women of color?" Because that is my responsibility as an African American actor, to always make sure that the image that I'm portraying is... an image that is useful as opposed to harmful. So with this role, with Dr. Robinson, I didn't have to worry about that. It was always very positive.
Johnson debuts as Dr. Robinson today, Tuesday, April 26, and will reappear several times throughout the course of spring and summer.
What are you most looking forward to seeing from the role of Dr. Robinson? Do you think Johnson was a good casting choice for the role? How do you hope Abigail's story will unfold in the next several months? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.