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DAYS OF OUR LIVES

Bryan Cranston Shares a Touching Tribute to DAYS Legend Bill Hayes

Long before Emmy winner Bryan Cranston made a name for himself as BREAKING BAD’s Walter White, or even as beleaguered dad Hal on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, he got his breakout role in daytime television, playing LOVING’s Doug Donovan. But Cranston’s entire award-winning acting career may not have ever happened if it wasn’t for the late DAYS OF OUR LIVES legend Bill Hayes (Doug).

The veteran actor passed away on Jan. 12 at the age of 98, and in the comments section of Deadline’s announcement of Hayes’ death, an unassuming Cranston joined the mourners, sharing a personal memory of an encounter he shared with the beloved DAYS icon back when he was a wet-behind-the-ears actor starting out in the business.

“One of my first professional acting jobs was on DAYS OF OUR LIVES,” Cranston wrote. “It was 1980 and I won a three-day gig on the show. My first day was a disaster. I failed to fully extend the stem on my alarm clock and missed my call time… Panicked, I raced to NBC and arrived over two hours late. I was embarrassed and failed in my first attempt at making a positive impression.”

After Cranston missed the rehearsal window for his two scenes, he explained that the “irritated stage manager” arranged for an assistant to quickly go over the blocking with him. “Then I was on my own,” he recalled. “Trying not to fall into a shame spiral, I was alone in my tiny dressing room when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to see Bill Hayes — the star of the show. For a moment I thought he was coming to fire me personally!”

DAYS Julie & Doug - NBC/Getty
Hayes, here with his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie) in a ’70s promotional photo, left a lasting impression on Cranston.Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

What happened next was something that Cranston would never forget. “Instead, he said some comforting words, commiserating with my situation, and asked if I wanted to know the backstory to the character and the scene,” he shared. “I was shocked. He spent 20 minutes helping a stranger to feel a little less humiliated. He really cheered me up. I will never forget his kindness and patience.”

The lesson he learned from Hayes that day is one that has stayed with Cranston throughout the years, as he went on to win six Primetime Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, five Screen Actor Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, and nominations for an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award.

“I think of Bill whenever I see an actor in need,” he concluded his reminiscence. “Bill Hayes was a prince, and a damn fine actor. Rest now, Bill, and thank you.” 

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