Stefano on DAYS OF OUR LIVES truly is a phoenix, rising from the dead over and over again! Originally introduced in 1982, Stefano DiMera was played by Joseph Mascolo on and off until the actor’s death in December of 2016. Scenes he filmed before his passing aired into 2017, but in 2020 The Phoenix rose from the ashes yet again… this time wearing a different face and played by actor Stephen Nichols! Not aware of his legendary history of villainy? Let’s hit some highlights…
Stefano DiMera first arrived in Salem with his son, Tony DiMera, plotting against the townsfolk. As he committed various crimes around town, Stefano delighted in the chase with police detective Roman Brady. The villain also became intrigued with Marlena Evans. After faking his death, Stefano discovered he had another daughter, Megan Hathaway, who was connected to three prisms that could lead to a cure to his brain tumor. In his quest to retrieve one of the prisms, Stefano clashed with Roman, apparently killing him by pushing him off a cliff. After Hope Brady was framed for Megan’s murder, Stefano vowed revenge on the Brady family, kidnapping Roman’s twins, Sami and Eric. Just as Stefano managed to achieve his plans with the prisms, Marlena stood up to the villain, shooting him dead.
Of course, Stefano was very much alive and resurfaced in late 1988 trying to get custody of his son, Benji, back from Steve Johnson and Kayla Johnson. He also planned to use Roman against the Bradys as he had managed to reprogram him into being an assassin. He lured his enemies to an island in the Bahamas, but when his plans began to fall apart, he quickly escaped on his helicopter.
In 1991, Stefano briefly resurfaced when John Black and Roman discovered him in a Mayan temple, where he revealed he was behind Marlena’s disappearance and the return of the real Roman Brady. Although he was again believed killed, The Phoenix rose again in 1993, though weakened from his brain tumor. He manipulated his newly-discovered daughter, Kristen Blake, into hating John so she would marry Tony (actually Andre posing as Tony), then faked his own death again.
Hiding out at Maison Blanche, Stefano abducted John and used him to lure Marlena into his clutches. Later, many Salem residents arrived at the estate for a charity event Kristen was holding and were stunned to find a woman who looked like Hope but calling herself Gina. As the prisoners were released and the mansion went up in flames, Stefano once again slipped away.
In 1994, Stefano moved into the apartment next to Marlena’s and sneaked into her apartment during the nights, opening her soul to possession by the devil. While under the evil influence, Marlena threw Stefano off her terrace, leaving him paralyzed and with amnesia. After her recovery, a guilty Marlena tried to help Stefano get better and he fell in love. Stefano got his memory back after being struck by lightning and tried to keep Marlena for himself by getting John the death penalty for Tony’s murder. When that didn’t work out, Stefano abducted her. His henchwoman, Celeste, tried to get him to stay with her by revealing that he was the father of her daughter, Lexie Carver. But Stefano flew off with Marlena, faking a plane crash to lead everyone to believe them dead.
Stefano was hiding Marlena in the Paris Underground, where John managed to track them down and launch a rescue. Next, Stefano worked to help Kristen keep her claws in John by hiring look-alike Susan Banks to impersonate her and carry a child she would then give up. Another plan involved allowing himself to be captured and then bargaining for his release by providing a cure to Roman’s fatal disease concocted by Dr. Rolf. He also recovered from a heart attack and married Vivian Alamain plotting to kill her and steal back his possessions. Also with Dr. Rolf’s help, Stefano brainwashed Hope into believing she was art thief Princess Gina, who was in love with John. When the Brady’s finally rescued Hope from Stefano’s clutches, she was pregnant and feared the baby was the villain’s child. Stefano convinced Lexie to adopt a child and then switched it with Hope’s, but after the swap was exposed, he quickly skipped town.
In 2006, an ailing Stefano sent Susan’s son Elvis, now going by EJ, to impregnate Sami Brady so they could use the fetus’ stem cells to bring him back to health. Oh, and he also stole John’s kidney! Stefano tried to turn John into The Pawn again, and also blackmailed Kate Roberts into marrying him after he got her out of attempted murder charges. In 2010, it was revealed that Stefano had yet another son, Chad. Stefano helped EJ kidnap Rafe and replace him with a look-alike imposter. The villain was crushed when he learned EJ wasn’t really his son and that daughter Lexi was dying from a brain tumor caused by exposure to toxic gasses during one of his many evil plots.
When Stefano was shot and killed, EJ was the prime suspect, but after a series of explosions rocked Salem, it was revealed that Stefano was alive and prisoner of Ian McAllister. Stefano was happy to learn EJ was still his son, and also forged a bond with Chad. After suffering a stroke, Stefano allowed Andre to run the company since it had been revealed they are father and son. In 2016, Hope killed Stefano to take revenge for Bo Brady‘s death, but was released from prison when the villain resurfaced alive. However, that was actually Shane Donovan posing as Stefano as a plot of his and Steve’s to help set Hope free.
However, the two men wondered if it was possible that Stefano was out there somewhere, and some comments by Dr. Rolf indicated that he was still doing Stefano’s bidding. Then, after a time jump of one year into the future, it was revealed that Stefano was back in Salem, this time wearing Steve Johnson’s face! He immediately set to work with Princess Gina (a brainwashed Hope) to split up John and Marlena. When that failed, Stefano moved on to kidnapping Marlena and having Dr. Rolf implant a chip that would make her forget about John and love him instead. He also manipulated Chad into doing his dirty work, including trying to kill Kate and Gabi!
Thankfully, John rescued Marlena before she and Stefano could consummate their marriage and she was restored to normal. Kayla was then able to operate on Steve to remove the chip and return him to normal as well. Chad and Tony eventually chose to destroy the microchip containing Stefano’s brain to put an end to his evil once and for all.
Keep watching DAYS to see how Stefano’s legacy continues to influence Salem even after he’s gone!