After years on the back burner, veteran actress Peggy McCay is taking center stage in a riveting Days of Our Lives storyline. Caroline Brady is about to begin displaying the early signs of Alzheimer's disease. McCay is overjoyed by the powerful plot twist. "I'm having the time of my life," she admits with a smile. McCay discusses Caroline's upcoming battle and her determination to do the story justice.First things first, when you learned Caroline was getting Alzheimer's, did you wonder, Uh oh. What does this mean for my future with the show?
Of course. Every actor thinks that. (Laughs.)
How did you find out about the story?
Greg (Meng, Days' co-executive producer) actually told me about it and then Gary Tomlin, (Days' head writer), the man making the story really good. My first question was, "Oh my God! How does this end?" They said, "Well, you're going to be here." They said I would survive in some manner. There are advances in this disease. Hopefully, we'll be able to use some of that in the story. I don't know whether there are severe or less severe cases of this, but so far I'm functioning.
With the support and love of the Brady clan...
Yes, the family and my own sense of humor and spirit. I'm active. I'm at the pub. I'm working. I'm not just sitting around. I think the fact that this character never has sat around is hopeful.
It's been decades since you were the focal point of a storyline. Was there any hesitation on your part where you thought, Do I still have it in me to do this?
I have great belief in myself as an actress. I just welcomed it. It was, Thank God I've got something to do. That's how I see it. Good, I can feel my chops, as the musicians say. I can bring out my stuff.
It sounds like you've fully embraced this story.
I have. I also did a lot of research on this at the Mayo Clinic and other places. It's encouraging, because they have a better grasp on Alzheimer's now, than they had years ago. [There's been research] into preventative [strategies] and how to deal with having it. What the writers have done is given Caroline a tremendous sense of humor as she deals with this.
Has that been fun to play?
Oh yes. I love it. I actually like comedy better than anything as an actress. [The kids] say, "Stop worrying, mom." And I walk away and say, "Worry about what?" Then, I turn around and say, "That was a joke. It was a joke." There's a lot of that. Like I say, "I won't blab to anybody, because I can't remember what they say to me anyway." Caroline has kind of a brave sense of humor. That's a wonderful quality. I think that helps people, who know people who have Alzheimer's, deal with the subject.
This story brings the Brady family to the forefront, as you share pivotal scenes with Peter Reckell(Bo), Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) and Josh Taylor (Roman).
It does and it's good seeing that. I love working with them.
So Bo is there to support his mother, even though Peter is exiting the show?
Yes. He is there for Caroline and does support her before he leaves. Peter and I have beautiful scenes together.
Caroline faces this disease head-on with a lot of fervor, which appears to be a reflection of you. You've got that fire in you, too. Don't you?
Well, yes. When I see a cause, that I think is unjust, I just march in there. It's part of my nature. I fight for animals. I've spoken at meetings in Sacramento on behalf of animals. I call it as I see it. So far, there haven't been repercussions on my career. That can happen to you. So far, I've escaped.
Speaking of your career, you were recently honored for a role you tackled back in 1963: portraying Sharon DeSpain, Andy Taylor's high school sweetheart, on The Andy Griffith Show.
Yes, I attended Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, North Carolina, where Andy was born, and they gave me the key to the city. That's an unusual and magnificent thing to have in your life.
This is an annual event. Is this the first time you attended?
They've had this event for 15 years, but this was the first one I went to. There were shows. I was in two of them. I did a rap in one show and read a poem I wrote in another. We sang in memory of Andy. There were thousands of people there, and they were so warm and caring. They hug you and thank you. It was so rewarding.
What do you recall about the show and working with Andy Griffith?
I only appeared in one episode (Class Reunion), but it was the most watched episode and sold the most DVDs. I enjoyed working with Andy. He had great humor and talent. My character was the love of his life, who came back. Scenes were written that they fell in love again, and there was a kiss. Andy was a shy man. Before the scene, he said, "Do you think we really have to kiss?" I said, "Andy, yes, we do, because that's what brings us back to where we were years ago." Andy said, "Alright." He was such a sweet man.