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Top Male and Female Performers for 2009: James Scott and Arianne Zucker

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Arianne Zucker James Scott

Arianne Zucker and James Scott as Nicole and E.J. DiMera

Trae Patton / Copyright 2009 NBC Universal

What a year it's been in Salem, with beloved favorites leaving the show, Grace's death, baby-switching drama, murderous plots, and old favorites returning. I must admit that I was not at all crazy about this baby-switching storyline from the beginning, but it undoubtedly gave some top performers on DAYS to showcase some Emmy-worthy scenes. During this whole saga, all the actors involved in this storyline have been top-notch, but James Scott and Arianne Zucker (E.J. and Nicole) are the two who particularly stand out as best actor and best actress in my mind for 2009.

Fans recall that Arianne played the trouble-making, murderous, scheming, sarcastic, and vulnerable Nicole from 1998 until early 2006. She returned in April 2008, and since then, she has not only become a character that many of us love to hate, but also one we hate to love. What makes an Emmy-worthy actress is the range of emotions one can portray, and whether Nicole is showing her comedic, vulnerable, bitchy, conniving, sexy, distraught, or even delusional side, Arianne Zucker always gives nothing less than a riveting performance.

We all know that what Nicole did was completely wrong, stealing Sami's baby and switching her with Mia's, but I'm one of those that still can't help but feel sorry for her. If anyone else other than Arianne Zucker was playing Nicole, I doubt I would feel as much sympathy for Nicole as I do. Many of us thought she deserved an Emmy nod this year for her portrayal of Nicole, and fans notably remember that heartbreaking scene on November 25, 2008, when Nicole suffered a miscarriage and lost her miracle baby.

Arianne has had many Emmy-worthy scenes this past year, but the one that stands out the most to many fans is the November 17, 2009 episode, when Nicole was distraught over losing Sydney to Sami for good. Nicole's heart sank as Rafe brought Sydney back to Sami's townhouse and handed the child over to her real mother. Nicole finally got what had been coming to her for months, and Sami was finally reunited with the daughter she gave birth to. However, many of us couldn't help but feel sympathy for Nicole, even though what she did was wrong on so many levels. "She's mine!" sobbed Nicole, as Rafe stated otherwise. When Nicole finally told E.J. the sordid truth about the whole baby switch, Nicole quivered and looked at him longingly as she recounted how she switched the babies. She also appeared delusional as though she really believed she was doing the right thing in order to make sure E.J. got to raise his daughter. Arianne effortlessly displayed raw emotion in those scenes, as nothing is more painful than losing a child, even though Sydney was never really hers to begin with. At the very least, this leading lady deserves an Emmy, and this is the episode I hope Arianne submits for consideration.

James Scott has portrayed the complex E.J. DiMera since May 2006. The modest actor told me in an interview earlier this year that he decided not to submit anything for Emmy consideration this past year, as he didn't feel as though his material in 2008 was quite good enough. Many fans of course begged to differ, and this actor has undoubtedly had some powerful scenes worthy of garnering an Emmy nod. E.J. has been through an emotional roller coaster this year with learning that Grace was his child AFTER her death, or so he and Sami thought was their child at the time. He also learned the first part of the truth, in that Nicole had a miscarriage and illegally adopted Sydney. From that point on, he kicked Nicole AND Sydney out of the mansion. He finally learned that Sydney was his daughter with Sami, and that Nicole switched his baby with Mia's. James always gives a top-notch performance in any scene, but the one scene that particularly stands out as Emmy worthy is the June 10, 2009 episode.

We've seen many sides of the multilayered E.J. He's a "gray," character and one who is vengeful, assertive, controlling, evil, yet we've also seen his vulnerable, compassionate, and caring side. He is one of those characters we hate one day, but can't help but feel sympathy for him the next. Grace's death was certainly ranked as the most emotional storyline for 2009, and when a grief-stricken Sami finally told E.J. at the end of the June 10, 2009 episode that Grace was his child who died, we saw a side of E.J. we rarely see. E.J.'s eyes widened in disbelief as Sami implored him to think back nine months, asking him who he was sleeping with. He quivered like a child upon hearing the "truth" and had a hard time breathing, as he begged Sami to tell him she wouldn't lie to him about something like Grace being his daughter. His hand was trembling, then he was cowering on the edge of the sofa. E.J. was initially calm as he asked Sami why she didn't tell him about Grace. "Because you're a DiMera," sneered Sami, as she went on to explain how his family represents everything evil. He didn't have to utter a word, as the look on his face said it all: bewilderment, anger, confusion, and betrayal all rolled into one. E.J. soon became filled with rage and bellowed: "Why? Why? Why? Why not in August? Why not in September?" Sadly, he looked like a fool as he insisted that Nicole would never lie to him about something as important as his own child.

The December 8, 2009 issue of Soap Opera Digest revealed that Arianne Zucker would be taking a two-month maternity leave. The December 15, 2009 issue mentioned that she would continue to air as Nicole until January 6, 2010. Nicole has been a front burner character this year and has been seen nearly every day, but for many fans, it will be a long two months without her. At this point, it's highly unlikely that E.J. and Nicole will ever reconcile after all the lies she has told and after all the threats he's made against her. It's not exactly the basis for a trusting, loving relationship. However, after the emotional and climactic payoff of the sordid tale, many of us can hardly wait to see what 2010 brings. With talented, Emmy-worthy actors like James, Arianne, and Alison Sweeney (Sami), we have no doubt it will be must-see DAYS.

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