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Acting out her life on 'Days'

Alison Sweeney talks about playing the villainous 'Sami' on NBC's classic soap opera. Read an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

“Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.” That famous line has been heard in the homes of daytime TV fans of “Days of Our Lives” for 36 years. NBC's classic soap offers exciting, sometimes twisted, storytelling with colorful characters and actress Alison Sweeney plays one of them — the conniving, clever bad girl of Salem, Sami Brady. She’s written a book, appropriately called, "All the Days of My Life (So Far)," that talks about her life off-screen, dealing with the challenging issues that plague every young woman — from her weight to romance to finding friends. Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter One“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives…”

Sound familiar?

I've been serenaded by that opening mantra of Days of Our Lives for more than ten years now — and loving every minute of it. Since that January morning in 1993 when I walked onto the set of Days for the first time, I've taken a wonderful ride that is as exciting today as it was a decade ago.

For more than a third of my life, the Midwestern town of Salem has been home, and let me tell you, it's never been dull. Because you're reading this book, you're probably a Days fan, and perhaps even a fan of my amazing character, Sami Brady. I've been so lucky to play someone like her who millions of viewers love — or, to be more accurate, often love to hate.

Admit it — there are probably dozens of Sami moments that are indelibly imprinted in your own mind. She has survived a brutal rape, struggled with bulimia, given birth to a beautiful son, spent some terrifying moments on death row, kidnapped and tried to sell her own baby sister on the black market, was stranded at the altar (how many times now?), fought repeatedly and viciously with her mother (and just about everyone else in Salem!), lied about her son's paternity, and slept with her older sister's fiancé. All in a day's work! Yet through it all, Sami's still standing, still scheming, still devious and dangerous, and still winning the hearts, minds (and, let's face it) the animosity of the six million fans who watch the show each week and seem barely able to survive without their daily fix of Days. As the NBC Web site recently said, "Alison Sweeney has become pretty good at playing bad. 1

I know what it's like to be a Days of Our Lives "addict." Before I joined the show, I was already happily hooked on Days.  I had started watching the show during the summer vacation before the ninth grade, and once I returned to school in the fall, I set up the VCR each morning and taped every episode without fail. When I'd watch the show, it was the perfect way for me to "chill out" after school.

The day-to-day turmoil in Salem provided the perfect escape from my own real-life dramas at school. Days was (and is) absolutely habit-forming.

So when I was chosen to play Sami in 1993, at the age of sixteen, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. And in many ways, I still do. The writers of Days have created a character that you can't stop thinking about or trying to figure out. Even if some viewers don't want to admit it, many of them relate to her, even though she certainly isn't the most angelic character on daytime television.

1. You might be wondering why I refer to Sami in the third person throughout this book. Sami is a huge part of my life, and I love playing her. But Sami is her own person, and she and I are not one in the same. If you know her through the show,you'll understand why! keep her separate in my own mind.

While some Days watchers are absolutely baffled by Sami, others love her and are proud of being a "Sami-Fan." I am well known for surfing the Web and stopping by to visit and post at Sami-friendly sites. Still, hardly a week goes by when someone doesn't ask me skeptically, "Do you really like playing Sami?" In fact, I love Sami.

Okay, she does the kinds of unbelievably crazy things that are so outrageous. But admit it, she behaves the way that most of us have wanted to at one time or another, but never had the nerve.

Sami's saving grace is that her behavior — the good, the bad, and the ugly — comes from a genuine place. It's a product of her love for the people in her life, her own insecurities, and her unwavering determination to go after what she wants. You have to respect that about Sami. She's definitely someone who millions of people identify with and even secretly admire, even when her mean streak is creating havoc throughout Salem.

Okay, I admit it--there are moments now and then when Sami even makes my own skin crawl. At times, I even wonder what it would be like to play a heroine who warms people's hearts and souls. I may look like someone with "girl-next-door wholesomeness" (as TV Guide once described me), but I certainly don't play one on TV! So I get plenty of letters and e-mails from fans who need to get things about Sami off their chest. Almost to a person, there's very little holding back.

But that's what makes playing Sami so interesting. She's a character who everyone has an opinion about — and I think I've heard all of them from fans who stop me on the street or interrupt me between bites at restaurants. Some offer warm hugs, telling me how much they adore Sami. Occasionally, however, they'll give me a good tongue-lashing, or (in one unforgettable moment) swing a purse at me in disgust over Sami's eccentric behavior. Viewers have told me that they've actually thrown things at the TV screen when Sami becomes more than they can bear. The most common refrain: "Sami's a real bitch!"

Through it all, I still love portraying Sami. I think she's so much fun. At the same time, I adore every one of my fans, whether they love Sami or hate her. This book is for them and for you.

Excerpted from “All The Days Of My Life (So Far)," by Alison Sweeney. Copyright © 2004 by Alison Sweeney. Published by Kensington Pub Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.