Bill and Susan Hays on their marriage both on and off the soap.
Actors Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth were married in 1974. Or was it 1976? It was both! The pair tied the knot when their Days
of Our Lives characters (Doug and Julie) married two years after the couple wed in real life.
Some 50 years and a collective 5,000 episodes later, the Emmy Award-winning stars of the perennial NBC daytime soap opera are still together on- and off-screen. They recently produced a website, Secrets of Soap Opera Lovers, explaining how the two have lived, loved, and worked together for five decades.
“Our grandson, David Samuel, came up with the idea,” said Bill, from the couple’s home in Los Angeles. “He had been divorced and wanted to know the secrets of our long and happy marriage.”
“So we wrote them down for him, and he suggested we share them with others on the Internet,” Susan added.
Their secrets are in a collection of personal tips for building a successful long-term relationship, including singing and dancing together, saying I love you every day, keeping promises, and supporting your partner’s dreams.
Another involves kissing, an activity their TV characters frequently embrace. On-screen and in real life, the couple’s first kiss was in a premarital episode airing on July 23, 1970.
“That’s our number one secret,” Bill said. “Give your lover a kiss first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.”
Added Susan: “We have love scenes on the screen, so, naturally, we have to rehearse them at home.”
Bill laughed in the background.
“We need to practice a lot,” Susan said. “We have to perfect them!” Bill and Susan explain their secrets on the website in a series of short videos filmed in the couple’s living room, each reinforced by an illustrative clip of their characters from the show.
“We chose scenes from Days of Our Lives that demonstrate the point we make in each video,” Susan said. Bill, who is 96, and Susan, who is 78, expect their characters to continue displaying on-screen affection through 2022 and beyond. “The show is produced five days a week. They used to shoot day-for-day, but now they shoot eight episodes in five days,” Susan said. “Bill and I have been working about four to seven times a month, which is plenty right now.”
In addition to their daytime soap duties, both Bill and Susan have each appeared (separately) in a dozen feature films and numerous TV movies, series, and theatrical productions throughout their careers.
Bill even enjoyed a smash hit in the 50s singing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” outselling versions by Fess Parker and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
“We recorded it on the first take in one day,” Bill said. “I still get a royalty check each year for about $3,000. So someone must still be buying it!”
Long-time fans of Days of Our Lives are still buying the love that Bill’s and Susan’s characters share on-screen.
“It’s not Shakespeare, but the writers continue to make Doug and Julie fresh as the times change and as we age,” Susan said. “We haven’t even thought about stopping. Old actors don’t retire; they just lose their agents.”
But this iconic daytime TV couple can expect to retain their management for quite some time.
“It’s been hard work for many years, but we still love it,” Susan said. “We’re proud to be producing a quality product as the matriarch and patriarch of the show.”