It's no wonder Deidre Hall one of the most put-upon characters in daytime TV history as the sweet-as-pie Dr. Marlena Evans Brady on NBC's Days of Our Lives took a four-year hiatus from her high-profile role. She probably had no tear ducts left. You want pain and suffering? Marlena's kids have been kidnapped, she has been stalked by a strangler who ultimately killed her twin (played by Hall's real-life twin sister, Andrea Hall-Lovell), and, at the moment, her supposedly dead husband is back, and the guy she thought was her husband doesn't know who he is and, well, it gets more convoluted from there. It has also been confusing to Hall. ''I remember when story lines took forever to play out,'' says the 44-year-old actress. ''Now we move like wildfire. Sometimes I'm not even sure what's going on.''
Since last summer, when Hall came back as Marlena, Days fans have been in a lather trying to keep up with plot shenanigans that are weird even for daytime television. Hall's popularity with viewers prompted a healthy 10 percent ratings boost for Days upon her return, although recently the show's Nielsens have returned to their previous middle-of-the-pack level. Hall says it wasn't solely the lure of a six-figure salary that led her back to the show she calls ''my baby.''
''I truly missed daytime's creative outlet,'' she explains. And, using her soap stardom as leverage, Hall also signed to produce and act in two prime-time NBC movies. Hall, who starred in Our House (1986-88) and several miniseries for the network, admits that getting her to return to Days wasn't easy for NBC's negotiators. ''I knew what people called me,'' she says matter-of-factly, ''and it starts with a B. When you demand your value, and you're a woman, they call you a bitch. I can live with that. I'm a businesswoman. I'm also easy to work with, nice, professional, and always prepared. I know the real me.''
Now, if she could only figure out who Marlena is married to.