SOAP OPERA UPDATE, January 25, 1994
DEVIL IN DISGUISE
DAYTIME: Which roles have been his favorite?
"It was quite spectacular to come into a storyline (on GENERAL HOSPITAL), like the Luke and Laura story with the Cassidines, and the adversaries that we were," he says about his introduction to daytime as Victor Cassidine. "I think it was lavishly produced and there were some pretty good scripts for a character that was to be so short run. Tony Dimera, I think, was an extension of that character because it was (also written by) Pat Falken Smith. He was diabolical and kind of a Machiavellian character. SANTA BARBARA, to me..." the actor pauses, choosing his words carefully. "Sometimes in life you go into something that you would not like to remember and that's where I would like to leave that. It was a sad situation--the way it was handled.
"Whereas coming back to this character, is probably the best experience I've had. It's one of the reasons I did come back. I enjoy this character because I can be anything. I'm a bit that way myself, that's probably why I like him. I'm a person who changes a lot. But I'm about a lot of things. Life certainly hasn't shortchanged me. And I don't like to shortchange life. Same thing in playing this man."
CHARACTER: How does he make Tony his own?
"In one of the scripts, it explained where Tony had been (for the past eight years), but I thought it would be better if we didn't reveal that because if we were going to play that later on, we would be completely stuck. That's part of the responsibility of an actor and that's why we're all part of a team," he says. "They were writing so much of me and Kristen, and I was so placating to her that it was just making me nauseous to say it. I thought, enough! How much can you give in life without being overloaded? So I pulled back. When (the scripts) say 'I love you,' I cut that out sometimes because somewhere along the line I want it to become a reality (with viewers). It's not something that is so easy to say, and I don't want the audience to start knowing what I'm going to say so they get bored with the character."
HOLLYWOOD: How has it changed?
"I love coming to the studio. To me, whether it be television or film, it's a wonderful thing to drive up to the gate and the guard lets you in. I used to watch movies in Hollywood and go, 'Oh my God, isn't that great!' But actors today don't have glamour. Actors today I find boring. They are so ordinary; there is nothing extraordinary about them anymore." The conversation turns to the private revelations of Roseanne Arnold. "I hate all that. It's common. It's disgusting. I don't have anything against her, but what I've seen I find disgusting. All that kind of publicity--I just don't like people using their personal lives for their celebrity lives. I don't think it's necessary. It's important to keep those things separate or else it all becomes one. To me, they're good examples, so I won't do what they're doing. People are trashing their lives and their families. Like the Michael Jackson thing. Where is the dignity? What are we doing to each other?"
LIFE: Why does he consider his life wonderful?
"I look at life like a tree. You watch it grow by the way you take care of it, the way you nurture it, which determines what kind of fruit it bears. I can see mine now because I'm old enough to be able to see what it was I decided upon. People say to me, 'You spend too much money.' But I see people dying at such a young age. Sometimes I'll see a homeless person at the supermarket, and I'll go up and give him 50 dollars," he reveals. "I find it fascinating to see the shock in people's faces when this courtesy is extended. There's such an abundance of homeless people that you cannot be unconscious to the needs of what else is going on in life. The one thing that is needed from people is that you pay attention to them and make them feel as if they have something to offer. To ignore someone is to tell them that they are not necessary. I think that is another part of what is wonderful about what's come to my life. I have spent enough time finding out and revealing this human being, that I now have the strength and time to see other people coming."
HONESTY: Why is it important?
"I'm a person who likes to shuffle up things," he continues. "I don't like to have things get too comfortable. I make people nervous sometimes because I'll call it. The other morning I was on a talk show and Barry Manilow was on and everyone was kissing his ass. And Barry Manilow was fine, but when it came time for me to sit and talk, (the host) goes, 'Isn't Barry just wonderful!' His interview now just bled into mine. And I said, 'Not particularly. I'm not a big fan.' I saw this man totally thrown because he was expecting the obvious. Barry Manilow has some nice ballads, but I wanted to be honest. That's where I am at. I think there's great clarity in my life."
FAMILY: What does it mean to him?
"I love Australia, but I just don't identify with it anymore. It gave me a lot of difficulties and things to overcome," he admits. "I came to America to work them out. America has been the most generous country to me. This is my home. I still call my mother and father twice a week. I've never met anyone I love more than my family, and I've met a lot of people in my life. I trust them. And I have a fantastic mother...the way she would walk into a room, how she would handle gossip, or set the table when we were poor. All of that contributed to how we saw things. I was fortunate because I kind of ran away and took it somewhere else. It's very hard to see it while you're living in it. Some people have to leave their country and go somewhere else to find out what's going on. I don't like taking unnecessary baggage along."
SOAP OPERA DIGEST, February 15, 1994
WHY OUTSPOKEN THAAO PENGHLIS RETURNED TO DAYS
IT'S ALL GREEK (Or I$ It Green?) TO HIM
Count Anthony DiMera did not make a graceful exit from DAYS OF OUR LIVES back in 1985. Despite desperate pleas from Thaao Penghlis, the writers and producers would not let DiMera die in his wife, Anna's, arms while they exchanged a few words of wisdom and pledged their eternal love.
His repeated requests fell on deaf ears as the suave nobleman merely stumbled into a bank of thick fog, pitifully crying out the name, "Anna!" It was deeply disappointing for Penghlis, an incurable romantic, but he was free at last. Licking his wounds, the darkly handsome gentleman of Greek ancestry immediately set out on a long, global journey in a determined effort to search for the meaning of life and his own place in it.
And now, nine years later, Penghlis is back as Tony DiMera, the character he more than once referred to as a "reprehensible bastard with a dangerous romantic side." The decisions to leave the show and come back were equally easy to make, says the flamboyant actor. Dressed in denim jeans and a black, Italian leather jacket, Penghlis seems relaxed and comfortable in his postage stamp-sized dressing room at DAYS's studios on the NBC network lot in Burbank.
"I left because the producers were constantly bringing in new faces and leaving experienced actors with little leverage during contract negotiations," Penghlis explains succintly. "I wasn't happy with the show, and it got to a point where they were playing games I didn't like, where I was always looking over my shoulder. In other words, I like being in charge of my life and my character. And when a fine actor, Jed Allen [ex-Don Craig]--who had done wonderful things for the show over many years--was given a set of golf clubs and shown the door, I decided to leave at the first opportunity."
In the fall of 1993, the fortysomething Penghlis returned with a two-year contract reportedly worth in excess of one million dollars (according to Australia's TV Week magazine). "People always think that to go back to a soap is to fail somehow, but that's ludicrous," he says with a thin smile. "I was offered a series in Greece for the European market, and something in Australia, but I thought this was the right choice. I like being back home. Besides, everything is different about the show. There are different writers and producers. Money is important, too. I have a home in Greece that is part of my retirement; my mother has cancer and I want to take care of her."
Before making his DAYS re-entry on September 22, Penghlis took a one-week trip to Rome and Milan to buy Count DiMera's wardrobe, armed with $20,000 from the producers. He came back in style, bearing an armload of tasteful offerings by Armani, Versace and Byblos. "I love clothes and fabric--I like to move with it. Clothes change my mood for the character. You have to be manipulative with certain things. If I've got great things to say, I'll wear more subdued cuts and colors. If I've got dialogue that isn't quite up to par, I'll wear things that are bright and interesting."
Penghlis found it tough to find his footing during the first couple of days on the set--despite his seven-month stint on SANTA BARBARA as Micah de Angelis with Eileen Davidson (Kristen, DAYS; ex-Kelly, SB) in 1992. "We weren't totally cold, but Eileen is not easily available. She is not a person who allows you to come in saying, 'Jump in! Here I am. Enjoy me!' I like working with Eileen, but my chemistry with Leann [Hunley] was different. She's very special. Hopefully, they will bring her back as Anna."
Penghlis is one of four siblings who were born and raised in Sydney. The children of Greek immigrants, the family can trace its ancestry back over five centuries to the Dodecanese Islands. Penghlis grew up in poverty because his father--a sometime laborer at a General Motors plant--found it difficult to find steady employment. "You learn not to take anything for granted when you grow up in an environment sharing a room with three other kids, and where your bed is also the dining table," he says. "It was nice to go home as the breadwinner, the struggle gone. And it is good to know that my father goes to the club and people buy him a beer because I'm his son."
In between the DAYS gigs, the avid art collector and amateur archaeologist has logged thousands of miles in search of his true self. "I've been everywhere," declares Penghlis with a sigh. "In one year, I went nine times to my house in Athens near the Acropolis. In 1991, I spent several months in a Greek monastery, found St. Francis of Assisi's tiny church-within-a-church in Italy, and crossed the [Middle East's] Sinai Desert before climbing Mount Sinai. And now I think that I've been really blessed. I'm not saying that I like exactly who I am, but I'm more understanding of who I am--and it's not as painful as it used to be."
From the same article: JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: December 15
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Growing up: "As a schoolboy, I set the New South Wales 110-meter hurdles record, which stood for 10 years. I studied very hard, and I used to think it was for my family. Now I think that I'm doing things on my own terms. I don't want to prove anything anymore."
Why he's single: "I've had a couple of relationships, and there is one I'm very serious about now. But I don't know about marriage. Marriage scares me."
SOAP OPERA WEEKLY, April 5, 1994
DAYS' THAAO PENGHLIS HAS WORKED HARD ALL HIS LIFE TO EARN THE RIGHT TO SPEAK HIS MIND
After just a few months back on the job as Count Antony DiMera, Thaao Penghlis admits he's beginning to feel at home at Days of Our Lives. "I can always tell when I'm comfortable in the sense that I speak up," explains Penghlis. "I was real nice my first few weeks back, but it didn't take me very long." So far, however, Penghlis notes that he's only gotten "upset" once. That episode took place during a pivotal scene in which Tony was left at the altar by his bride-to-be, Kristin (Eileen Davidson). "I was trying to make a transition in my character," he explains. "I felt it was a turning point for Tony. He was suspicious about what was going on."
Penghlis believed it was imperative that the camera catch his reaction to the ordeal. "How does a man respond to a situation where the girl he's marrying stops the wedding?" When he realized the shot would only show Davidson, he erupted. "I said, 'This is not about a f---ing close up! It's not about her face. This is about a two-shot.' Things like that bother me."
Penghlis, who garnered a reputation as a hell-raiser during his first Days stint (1981-1985), admits he's still "confrontational." Yet, the current regime's response is different from its predecessors'. "There's a softer leadership than there was with Al Rabin (former supervising executive producer), for instance," says Penghlis. "He'd come out like a real warrior. You don't fear much from this group. They're kind of quiet. I don't know if that's as dangerous or more dangerous. I want to see how they respond to my bark."
He's never been afraid to talk to people or confront them, he says, be they friend, foe or daytime honcho. "I keep thinking, 'Well, what's the big deal? You just happen to be upstairs sitting in a chair behind a desk, and I'm downstairs in my dressing room. We're both here to do a job,' " he says. "That's always been my only argument. I've never been a difficult person just for the sake of it. It's been because I've felt I was either being shortchanged or that we were overlooking something important."
Penghlis has been going at it since his early days on the soaps. During his run as Victor Cassidine on General Hospital, he recalls stopping a scene with Anthony Geary (Luke) midstream because it lacked credibility. "Victor was in his boat looking over plans and deciding where to strike next, and Luke was disguised as a servant," recounts Penghlis. "He was supposed to be spying on me, but the director had him almost dusting on top of the table and listening to all our plans. I thought, 'No way!' and refused to do the beginning of the scene.
"Gloria Monty (then GH's executive producer) came out and said, 'What is going on here?' At that point, I remember the director's hands going down in front of his crotch," laughs Penghlis, noting that the poor guy seemed to be in fear of losing his private parts. "I said, 'If you're going to play reality and keep the adversary strong, which you need in a good story, put Luke far enough away so I can't see him.' Gloria said 'You're absolutely right.' The next thing I remember was Tony Geary jumping up, grabbing me, throwing me into the air and saying, 'Oh, my god, an actor's here!' "
According to Penghlis, the incident not only taught him "to stand up for what your character believes in, but also set my pace in realizing that if you're going to say no, you'd better pick the right moment and you'd better be right about it. Otherwise, it could mean your ass out the door," he laughs loudly.
A widely traveled and broadly educated man, Penghlis believes he has a well-trained eye for the business. "My eye has had a certain overview that the average actor may not have," he says. "All the treks that I've done, climbing to the top of Mount Sinai..."
In addition, Penghlis has had the good fortune to have worked with "teachers who were the last of a dying school--Stella Adler, Robert Ellsworth of the art world, Roland Meledandri of the fashion world. All of that was part of my schooling."
Born in Sydney, Australia to parents of Greek descent, Penghlis' childhood wasn't the storybook variety. "We lived in a small house and were very, very poor. My brother slept on the dining room table. But we had 'beginnings,' " he says proudly. "It's very hard to have beginnings in a rich family. Great beginnings come from struggles."
He credits those humble beginnings with inspiring him to seek bigger and better things. "I was brought up in a country that was very much against the ethnic. I was surrounded by restrictions," he says. "I was looking for answers, but not getting them."
After he graduated from New South Wales College, where he majored in history, Penghlis began working for the Australian Diplomatic Service. Eventually he relocated to New York and joined Australia's mission to the United Nations. "Then I got into fashion," recalls Penghlis, who was hired to work for the designer Roland Meledandri. "We were doing Robert Redford's clothes, Robert Evans' clothes, and a lot of very important people at Paramount."
According to Penghlis, Meledandri hired him "because I had a great color sense and was able to put big bodies into thin suits. That was my expertise. I remember standing in front of a mirror with Robert Redford one day. He was slightly chunky in the hips at the time. As my hand went down to describe the style of the suit, I grabbed his sides and said, 'You better get rid of that, if you want to wear this suit,' " laughs the actor, who was outspoken even then. "Another time I remember Robert Evans ripping the sleeves off a suit that we were just starting, and storming out. I was the one who called him back up, because no one else had the audacity. I told him, 'Robert, get back into this office. This is not a movie. We're trying to make a suit. We're trying to make you look good.' "
Penghlis' fashion industry adventures ended after two years, when Meledandri died. His next job was as an apprentice art dealer for Robert Ellsworth and James Goldie. "I worked at their gallery," he says. "We dealt with private collectors, the Rockefellers, Jacqueline Kennedy, and major stars. They'd say 'This is what I'm looking for,' and we'd search for it."
He terms his stints in the fashion and art worlds prominent parts of his education. "If I look back at the way things happened in my life and what I have around me today...," he muses, "if I'd done nothing with that, it was a waste of time. But it's been part of what I express today. It's part of why I play Tony DiMera the way I do. Because sometimes, in those early days, somebody told me I couldn't put a tea or coffee cup on an 18th-century piece of furniture--it would stain it. Someone told me I had to sit in an 18th-century chair a certain way. I couldn't slouch in it, because it would damage the furniture in the long run. So there's education in knowing."
It was while working in the art world by day that Penghlis began studying acting by night. His interest in the profession was prompted because "that's the only way I thought I could get rich," he says half seriously.
Penghlis studied with the legends--Stella Adler, Mary Tarcar and Milton Katselas. "Basically, I did seven years of training before I uttered a word professionally," he says, explaining that it took plenty of drive and determination. "Mary (Tarcar) told me she couldn't tell the difference between me and the chair at my first reading. I was devastated. It was the hardest thing to go back into that class and sit down with all those other actors looking at me. It was not a very auspicious beginning.
"It was like my first meeting with my first spiritual counselor, Katherine Hayworth," Penghlis recalls. "I walked in and she said, 'How dare you come here with the kind of mind you have and the trash you associate with!' She kicked me out. I didn't go back for six months.
"It's interesting," he says. "Those two teachers have been profound channels for me. Mary, because two years later she said to me, 'You're going to be a terrific actor.' She started to believe in me. And Katherine, because she really brought about the good side of me.
"Women have been a great influence in my life," he says. "I'm not saying that men haven't, because we need both. But women [have affected] the feminine side, that intuitive side of me. Men have helped me make decisions; women have helped me kind of get there." As for his major male influence, Penghlis cites Katselas. "The women worked on my inner self," he notes. "Milton shaped the way for me to go." That way, of course, was on the stage, but it took Penghlis a while to get there. He recalls always being cast as the understudy but never the lead during his early days at the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson, two Los Angeles theaters. Penghlis remembers Gordon Davidson, the Taper's artistic director, saying of him: "I don't know what to do with him. His face bothers me. It's too striking. It will distract from the rest of the cast."
Once Penghlis' strking face was finally out onstage, he was a hit. "I remember when I did Play with Fire at the Westwood Playhouse," he says. "I got the best reviews of my life. Then Jockeys came. I went to New York with Jockeys off-Broadway. I got John Avildsen, the film director who won an Oscar for Rocky, to see me in that, and he cast me in Slow Dancing in the Big City. Suddenly, I realized, 'I can do this. It's not just a game. I don't have to just believe I was a poor kid, because the truth is, so many things are within my [reach],' "
The financial rewards of a successful acting career became apparent to Penghlis when he landed his GH role. "That was when I got my first taste of real money," he says. However, he nearly didn't get the job. "At that time, daytime wasn't hiring foreign people," Penghlis says. "That's why I didn't get the first (Cassidine brother) role...because I had an accent." Instead, the role of Tony went to Andre Lanzatt.
He credits GH's then head writer, Pat Falken Smith, with making it "OK to be foreign in daytime," when she went to bat to cast him as Victor. When Penghlis' short-term part ended and Falken Smith, in turn, moved over to write for Days, she took her new find with her.
"I think Victor Cassidine became Tony DiMera," says Penghlis, who made a name for himself as Salem's first international heartthrob. He stayed there for four years before deciding to try his luck in other media. Some of his successes include the prime-time series Mission: Impossible, the TV-movie Under Siege and the miniseries Memories of Midnight. "I've been in that 2-percent bracket of actors who have worked for 15 years, basically nonstop," he notes proudly.
For that reason, the actor had no qualms about returning to daytime last year. "Having come from a place of winning, I came back with a stronger position," he says. "I come from a place of having tasted other things. Daytime hasn't been my whole life." Penghlis believes, "The quality of shows that they do on nighttime is not any better than daytime. In fact, most of the nighttime stuff is terrible." To the prime-time honchos who pan soaps, Penghlis says, "People have to kick something in order to make theirs look better.
"The money I've made through acting has given me the ability to go out and see how other people live," Penghlis notes. "It's allowed me to be with monks, hermits and in places where supposedly God met Moses. I've been blessed to be able to do them, as well as have a home here and in Greece where I'm surrounded by things I enjoy."
Penghlis notes that he's "made dreams become realities" for himself and for others. "I've fixed up the house where my parents live," he says. "I had the whole place painted and brought in new furniture. I enjoy doing things like that. My reward is seeing how someone feels afterward." Penghlis seems to have tackled it all--except for marriage. "I've come close to being married. I've actually been married without the laws. [The marriages] went as long as the relationships. I was not very good at nurturing relationships," he confesses.
"I'm a person who doesn't want to be asked, 'Where are you going?' I want to be trusted," he says. "I want them to know that if I go out tonight I'm not going to get laid by someone else. Or if I go overseas, I'm not going to be a whore over there. That's not what my game is about."
Penghlis attributes his matrimonial hesitance, in part, to his roots: "Because my first 20 years were tough, because I didn't like my father's relationship with my mother. I didn't like the way women were treated in those days or what they stood for, which was weakness, kind of. Then, I came to America and saw women had opinions. I thought that was exciting.
"Now, as I get older, I'm thinking, 'What about my retirement?' I probably will [marry]," he says. "But I don't think it's necessary or the answer to life. I don't think that we all have to be here to get married and have children to say, 'Well, I've done my job to society.'
"I've seen that when people get married, they ignore their families," Penghlis says. "They have a new family. Well, my family is still my family. Since I've been away from them for so long, I've learned to love them more. I've gotten closer to them from a distance."
DAYTIME DIGEST'S INSIDE DAYS OF OUR LIVES, July 1994
THE RAW TRUTH
FROM THE HEART OF THAAO PENGHLIS
Ever since Thaao Penghlis returned to Days as the suave and sophisticated Tony DiMera, Salem has never been the same. He may not, as of yet, be as diabolical as he used to be, but there is still an underlying mystique about the character fans have never let go of, and never stopped admiring.
What is happening in your personal life these days?
Thaao: Well, things have changed tremendously in the world recently. You can't walk around being unconscious anymore. People's struggles are suddenly your struggles, people's problems are your problems and the dangers of society are yours. We're in a youth oriented world these days, and youth doesn't give anything back. They're just pretty. I've been there, so it's not jealousy. I would never be twenty again! We have a society today that doesn't want us to go through the aging process with elegance, but with fear. You can't help, when you're traveling, to see what other people don't have. I've stopped giving to charities. Sometimes you never know where the money goes. I'm helping individual people and my five Christian children that I support each month.
Tell us about them. Where are they?
Thaao: Well, let's see. Kenya, the United States, Italy, Brazil and Greece. Each month I send a certain amount of money for each child. I've been doing it for about ten years now. The Christian Children's Fund is the organization that handles all the details. The one child in Kenya has polio and as a young child, was sort of thrown out by the family, but once she was sponsored, there was enough money to help the whole family and put her through school. Suddenly, she was looked upon as a godsend.
That's a wonderful story. There are so many children suffering around the world, it must be a good feeling to know you're helping a few.
Thaao: That's right. I was in Yugoslavia recently, doing a picture with Omar Sharif and Jane Seymour titled Memories of Midnight, based on the Sidney Sheldon book. I loved the experience, but you could hear the war going on. When you think about what's been happening to people in that area, it is depressing.
Have you been home to Australia recently?
Thaao: Yes, I've been there twice this year. My mom's been very sick with cancer and I wanted to be with her. It's been very rough. When I visited her in the hospital, I was not happy with the food she was getting, so for the two weeks she was there, I prepared all her meals myself. Then, when we brought her home, I told her she had to get control of the cancer herself, that she had the power to do it. I also promised her that if she did beat it, I would take her to America. She loves America. So, by giving her purpose, it gives her the reason to be around, a future. I believe if you're lucky enough to have a good life, you just don't hoard it. You've got to share it and share it now, before it's too late! You can't claim anything back before it's too late!
STARLINE PRESENTS A TRIBUTE TO DAYS OF OUR LIVES!
THAAO PENGHLIS: THE GREEK GOD OF SALEM
The Greek God of Days, Thaao Penghlis, captured the hearts of his female audience nine years ago, and history repeated itself upon his return as Count Antony DiMera--the good son of Stefano. Although it was determined back then that he was not the offspring of the sinister madman, his reappearance on Days has clarified that he is indeed a DiMera.
On countless occasions, Thaao has referred to his character as a "reprehensible bastard with a dangerous romantic side." He originally left the show due to plot decreases. But his return has proved successful with the fans. Although his on-screen chemistry appears intense with Eileen Davidson (Kristin), he still hopes that they will resurrect his ex-wife Anna's role (Leann Hunley), who happens to be Carrie's mom and Roman's first wife. Thaao states that their chemistry on-screen was "very special," he does enjoy working with Eileen.
This isn't the first daytime powerful family (their way of putting that, not mine, I'm trying to stick to how it was done typos and all) that Thaao has been linked to. Fans of General Hospital will remember him as Victor Cassidine, the son of the evil Miko. That entire family was killed in a deep freeze, ending the Ice Princess saga. Thaao carried his seductive demeanor from that role over to his Days character. So does he hail from family similar to his character? Well, not really. He's one of four siblings born to Greek immigrant parents in Australia. Other roles that he's played have been on prime time such as Mission: Impossible, Magnum P.I. and Who's The Boss?, as well as the films The Bell Jar and Altered States.
When he's out doing promotional appearances, he's usually met with adoring admiration by the females. He recalls one odd incident where a woman wouldn't look at him because her boyfriend was close at hand and didn't want the two to exchange any glances definitely the overly jealous type (me: this is exactly how it is in the mag). But most men that accompany their women to Thaao's autograph signings ask for wardrobe tips, because "their girlfriends are always asking them to dress like I do."
As for his off-screen love life, Thaao remains single, but has a special lady in his life who lives back in Greece. Says Thaao, "I do have a great love in my life and its been helping me sort of touch things differently. It's made me a happier person. It's kind of painful that she's so far away, but I sustain it with phone calls and visits." So is there wedding bells in the future? Thaao says, "I've had a couple of relationships, and there is one I'm very serious about now. But I don't know about marriage. Marriage scares me."
Me here: I know, I know....the interviews are getting repetitive. They REALLY are if you're typing them in! LOL!!
SOAP OPERA UPDATE, September 20, 1994
INTERIOR DECORATING 101
The end seems to be somewhere in sight for a major home overhaul undertaken by Thaao Penghlis (Tony, DAYS OF OUR LIVES). The actor is wrapping up a $130,000 refurbishing project on his 1964 hilltop home in Hollywood. Besides adding a waterfall and pond to the landscape, one of the most notable changes he's made is repainting the three-bedroom, 2,400 square-foot house from its original grey. To complement his vast collection of Greek pots and Oriental screens and vases, Penghlis painted the outside cobalt blue and the inside in earth tones of yellow with gold and touches of red. The actor admits to having eclectic tastes in art, and jokes, "If you've ever been to the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, recall what you see when you get to the treasure. That's how I always wanted my house to look." Penghlis, who also owns a home in Greece, says that the remodeling of his home parallels changes in his life. "You know the old saying, the outside changes and the inside's already manifested. That's why when you go to people's houses and it's really messy, you can understand that there's a lot of chaos going on inside of them." If he hasn't already lived amidst plaster and sawdust long enough, now he's in the process of tearing out the kitchen to modernize the built-ins and appliances. "It's endless," he sighs. "You'd think I was making a masterpiece."
SOAP OPERA DIGEST, September 27, 1994
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Thaao Penghlis Reflects On The Changing DAYS Of His Life
Thaao Penghlis believes in adjusting to the times. When he first played Tony DiMera on DAYS OF OUR LIVES in 1981, the character was dashing and protective, the ultimate gallant suitor. But now it's 1994, and Tony's a new man.
"Everyone expects Tony to go charging back to his double character, dancing someone off their feet," Penghlis says with a laugh. "But there's a greater reality now. The old Tony used to control everything. A man of the '90s is on more equal footing with women--not a man who says, 'Stand behind me, I'll protect you,' but 'Stand next to me, and let's share.' "
Penghlis credits co-star Eileen Davidson (Kristin) with helping him create this new Tony, although they'd trod some rocky footing along the way. "We come from different places and values," explains Penghlis. "I had to stop and say, 'Uh, oh, I can't step there because it will upset her.' We both had to find ways of unlocking each other's hearts and saying, 'Let's make this as successful as possible.' But what I like about Eileen is that she's upfront. A very strong and talented individual."
DAYS clearly takes up a great deal of Penghlis' time, but the actor still carves out time for charity work. At the time of this interview, he had just returned from Baltimore, Maryland, where he'd put himself up for auction to help children with cancer. The highest bidder won dinner with Penghlis, as well as a tour of DAYS.
Penghlis also supports five children through a foster care program. The kids live in Kenya, India, Greece, Italy and Brazil. "The girl in Kenya is a polio victim," explains Penghlis. "By getting the money [from me], it's not only paying for her school and medical bills, but also for the entire family's food. She's become the angel of the family. I think I'm going to add a child every year, as long as I can afford to do it."
Perhaps one reason that Penghlis feels compelled to assist others is that he knows what it means to be down and out. "In my late twenties, I was really struggling," he recalls. "And I went to the Actor's Fund to borrow some money. You didn't have to pay it back. They said,' When you make some money, it would be nice if you could contribute.' The wonderful thing is that it was done so easily. They didn't take away one's integrity."
Penghlis has had to be strong over the last years, as his 77-year-old mother fights a crippling cancer in her native Australia. "She's had cancer for 20 years," Penghlis says somberly. "I get all this [medication] from the U.S. and bring it to her. I tell her to picture things while she's taking it--about my bringing her to America in September, taking her to Palm Springs and the Grand Canyon, to give her something to look forward to."
While having a sick parent so far away is a heavy burden, Penghlis seems to be soldiering through by acknowledging the power of the relationship he has with his mother. "I feel like I'm joined at the hip with her," he says thoughtfully. "European men--Italians and Greeks--have incredible ties to our mothers. In a way, it's very passionate."
Even with phone bills soaring to $1000 a month, Penghlis admits that sometimes, he has to follow his gut. "I raced home a few weeks ago because I sensed that if I didn't, my mom was going to make a transition. I sat next to her and told her what a wonderful job she did bringing up her children, putting us through school when we were really poor. This is what I've learned in America--how to tell a human being what's wonderful about her."
SOAP OPERA UPDATE, November 1, 1994
THAAO PENGHLIS (DAYS OF OUR LIVES' Tony DiMera)
Birthday: December 15
Height: 5'11" and a bit
Hair: Dark Brown
how he stays in such great shape..."I have a trainer and I go to the gym 45 times a week. I go to the gym a lot."
what he does to get away from it all..."I go on journeys. My next journey is Jerusalem and Jordan."
first thing that attracts him to a woman..."I suppose the first thing is that you don't hear her, but you look at her, you see it. It's her style, the way she presents herself, the way she walks. Then it depends when she opens her mouth. That also is very important. I can always tell a lot by sound. In a word: grace!"
his perfect evening..."I certainly haven't found it in Hollywood."
if he could live anywhere in the world..."Italy--they have a greater respect for their culture."
fantasy vacation..."To spend a week up on Mount Sinai with the Monks."
how his friends would describe him..."Ask them."
what he would title his autobiography..."These Trousers Don't Fit Anymore."
best qualities..."I'm a catalyst. I like to stir up trouble. I'm influential, a great listener, generous, and I finally know how to say 'No.' And if you don't know how to treat me, let me show you."
worst qualities..."I'm confrontational (I don't know if it's bad, but it certainly upsets people), don't ever think you know me, and I love Jason Brooks (Peter, DAYS)."
hopes for the future..."That I meet my parents in Israel during Easter of '95, that I retire in Greece, and that my mother overcomes cancer."