INTERVIEW: Days of our Lives' Paul Telfer on his Emmy nomination and the MANY sides of Xander

Posted Friday, May 29, 2020 8:59:08 AM

Find out how Paul Telfer feels about receiving his very first Daytime Emmy nomination, what he loves most about playing Days of our Lives' Xander, and why he thinks a roll of toilet paper might come in handy on awards night.

Days of our Lives' Paul Telfer (Xander Kiriakis) is one heck of a talented performer. Somebody get this guy a roll of toilet paper! Wait, that's not what we meant! What we meant was somebody get this guy a Daytime Emmy award, which might happen, considering he's been nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actor category this year. To find out why toilet paper might actually be a part of that, keep reading our interview with the actor, who says he is incredibly honored and grateful to have his DAYS work recognized by his fans and colleagues.

Soap Central: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination!

Paul Telfer: Oh, thank you so much. It's such a treat.

Soap Central: This is your first nomination, so is it a surreal and extra special feeling?

Telfer: Yeah, it's really nice and such a lovely surprise. I wasn't expecting it at all. I had no idea that the nominations were coming out that day and had no idea that they were going to be announced on the TV show or that the ceremony was going to be televised this year, so lovely surprises all the way around! I had kind of gotten out of the habit of getting good news, so this was a very nice thing to have happen. [Laughs] It was the first time I submitted, and I basically did it as a little favor to myself because I said that if I ever did a full year on the show, then I would probably submit, and that was my first time completing an actual contract on the show, so I said, "You know what? Let's do it!" So, like I said, I really wasn't expecting to be nominated, so it's a really lovely treat and surprise.

Soap Central: How did you find out that you'd been nominated?

Telfer: Like I said, I didn't know the nominations were coming out, so I was just chilling in bed at 11:00 in the morning. [Laughs] I was with my wife, Carmen [Cusack], and we were just chilling, watching some TV, and my phone started buzzing with texts, and I thought, "Well, I don't care. Nothing important can happen right now. There's no pressing deadlines or anything, so I'll just check them when I check them." But it kept happening! So, I finally looked, and it was a bunch of people saying, "Congratulations," but with no context, so I was like, "Congratulations? For what?" I didn't know what was going on. [Laughs] I produced and starred in a film that came out a couple of weeks ago, so I was like, "Maybe it's that? Oh, that's nice. But wait, why are they all watching it right now? What happened?" So, I go online, and then on Twitter, it was a lot more obvious, because many of my followers had written, "Congratulations on your Emmy nomination." And then, because you just cannot trust any information anymore, I had to go and verify it before I started to feel good! And sure enough, there it was. And I said, "Oh, I'm nominated! That's so lovely!" I then had a lovely 48-hour period of just being happy until, you know, all the terrible news that the world is facing slowly started to accumulate and beat me back down to normalcy again. [Laughs]

Soap Central: I love that you weren't even checking your phone and were thinking, "Eh, I'll get to it later," because that is one of the upsides of everything that is going on.

Telfer: For sure. Yes! What's funny is that I am so addicted to the stream of information that is coming down, but I'm not necessarily looking to see who got nominated for an Emmy. [Laughs] I could have even been on my phone and not known unless people were reaching out specifically to tell me, but yeah, very funny.

Soap Central: Have you been in contact with any of your show's other nominees or vice versa with congratulations?

Telfer: We see each other a fair amount on the show, and we're always tweeting and DM'ing each other, so the other nominees in my category, the other two that I know and I work with -- Wally [Kurth, Justin Kirkiakis] and Chandler [Massey, Will Horton] -- we all immediately congratulated each other and commented publicly on that, but I did send pretty much immediately, as soon as it all felt real, an email to Arianne Zucker [Nicole Walker], just because she's so awesome. When Xander was first brought on, my main interactions were with Arianne and Melissa Archer, who was playing Serena, and obviously Melissa is no longer on the show, but Arianne has been pretty much constant [in my time there]. I mean, she has been away a lot, but I have been away a lot since I started, but she has always been there for me and been so generous and so supportive. She really took me under her wing and educated me, not only in the ways of daytime drama, but DAYS specifically, because she knows everybody. So, to see her be nominated after that incredible storyline with the mask and everything, and what an amazing job she did and all of the comedy she got to do on top of all the heavy melodrama and heavy emotional stuff that she's so great at, it was just really lovely to be nominated the same year as her. So, we had a very nice back-and-forth about that.

Soap Central: So, what scenes did you choose for your reel, and was it hard to narrow it down?

Telfer: I was very lucky to have our wonderful publicity department at DAYS, who have to deal with so many different actors. I don't know how many of us actually submitted, but I'm sure it was a bunch! And it's hard enough to get actors to do anything, let alone a bunch of actors to do one thing on a deadline. It must be like herding cats! [Laughs] But they were very patient with me. It was my first time doing it all, and I was very conflicted about whether I wanted to submit, anyway, because I'm not the biggest fan [of it all]. I understand why we need award ceremonies and why they are important for the industry and publicity and also just so everybody can feel good about themselves and acknowledge each other, but the actual thing of having been on the other side of it and watching my wife go through the whole process on the Tonys and the Grammys, I was going in with my eyes open to what it feels like to subject yourself to that kind of scrutiny and evaluation. But luckily, like I said, the publicity team holds your hand through it all, and I just felt really lucky. I'm submitting in the Supporting Actor category, and I'm not sure of the actual ratio, but it feels like half the stuff that I submitted was before I was even on contract, because the eligibility period for that year covered both my off-contract time and on-contact time, so when I was off-contract, I got to do a lot of villainous things and different things. Like, I had that whole funny storyline where I came in and was messing around with Leo [Greg Rikaart], and I had this whole bisexual flirtation and manipulation with him, but then I had this whole straight villain storyline where I'm going after Eve [Kassie DePaiva] and harassing her and manipulating her, but then I had this whole, "Will they or won't they?" weird sexually frustrated thing with Kristen [Stacy Haiduk] going on, with whether or not they were friends or enemies, and they hate each other, but it always feels like they're about to make out! And then with Sarah's [Linsey Godfrey] character, I had the whole beginning of a flirtation thing that went to full-on falling in love. So, I just felt really lucky to have such a variety.

Soap Central: Wow, yeah. It's almost as if you were playing multiple characters instead of just one.

Telfer: Yes, there was such variety, and not just of different scenes, but with completely different looks, because I would be on the show, do a few weeks or a month or so, leave, go off and do another job or go audition or whatever, and come back with a different haircut or a beard! So, to get a reel that shows a year's worth of work, I just felt really good that it was all so diverse. You go, "Wow, this is all the same year?" Anybody looking at it would be like, "He's not just one thing!" At the very least, there's some variety there. So, that's what we aimed for, to have a fun scene, followed by a dramatic scene, followed by a scary scene, followed by a sexy scene, just so there was a constant juxtaposition of the various things that Xander can be, depending on who he's with at any time. Because that's the biggest thing about the character, is that he is very different with different people, so I wanted to show all of those differences. I was really lucky to have so much variety to choose from, especially being off contract. I felt very fortunate that even when I was on as recurring, I was always at the center of whatever storyline they were giving me. I'm very grateful.

Soap Central: You've had some time to flesh him out, and he's around a lot more obviously, with you being on contract. He's had huge storylines this year, with the baby swap and all of that shady stuff. But he also showed somewhat of a good side during all of that, so do you think he's finally going to learn his lesson and become a better person?

Telfer: No, I don't think so. [Laughs] Xander is a terrible person, and I would never try to justify what he does, morally or ethically or anything like that. I just want him to not be boring. I want him to be interesting. I don't care if he's good, morally, you know what I mean? Ultimately, I think he's incredibly selfish, and if on occasion he can do a good thing that helps him and his selfish ways, then now he will choose to do the good thing as well as the just bad things, you know? ... And so, to give him all of that conflict [of being a father to Sarah's child and showing a better side to him], even if he doesn't become "redeemed," it added value and depth to the character, and it allowed a whole chunk of the audience that might have only seen Xander as a certain type of character to be slowly pulled in and find him sympathetic.

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Huge @nbcdays episode tomorrow My first soap wedding! 🤞 for a happy ending 👰💍🤵 The perfect way to get ready to watch GREEN RUSH - which also comes out tomorrow! @greenrushmovie #Xarah

A post shared by Paul Telfer (@paultelfer) on

Soap Central: The Emmys are going to be televised this year, which the fans are super happy about. How do you feel about it?

Telfer: I'm very happy, obviously! I feel very lucky that I was nominated at all, and if they're going to do it, that it will be televised. It's lovely to be acknowledged, and it's lovely to feel that your peers don't feel that you're absolutely terrible! But ultimately, the whole point of an awards show is promoting yourself and the show -- that's why these things are sustained. So, it's really lovely that we'll have a great platform this year, that it's going to be on national network television. Last year, I remember they had the ceremony in Pasadena, and it was streamed online, and the stream kept cutting out. I didn't go, but I wanted to see everybody in their outfits and my buddies from the cast, so I tried to watch a bit of the stream, and it was all just a bit hard to watch. I'm not saying it won't be this year, because who knows what the technical difficulties will be with however they're going to try to do this remote ceremony [laughs], but at least we'll have the opportunity to promote ourselves and promote the show on the biggest possible platform. It's nice to see the network give daytime a bit more support than usual, and hopefully it becomes a bit of a habit.

Soap Central: Speaking of the technological difficulties, how do you feel about the potential of accepting an award via something like Zoom?

Telfer: I'm very happy to be nominated, and I'm not anticipating a win or anything, but it'll be interesting to see how [it all plays out]. We haven't heard anything about how this is going to work, but it would be fun to make our own little home prop, like a toilet roll Emmy that somebody can hand to me if I win it. That would be kind of fun. Because you want to have something in your hand if you're giving a speech! But, yeah, I haven't thought that far ahead. I'm just to the point of thinking like, "Well, what would I wear?" [Laughs] What does one wear to a Zoom ceremony? I've been joking since the first day when people first started congratulating me, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to iron my sweatpants now!"

Soap Central: And don't forget that not only are you going to have to think about that, you also have to think about your background, because people are going to see what's behind you!

Telfer: Right! Yes. I was thinking it would be funny to try and get one of those fake backgrounds and have it be from the Oscars, something like that famous picture of Meryl Streep standing up and pointing at the stage. That would be good, maybe a selection of various, classic images from the Oscars and Emmys, like Tom Hanks behind me or something. That could be kind of fun. But I don't have that kind of follow-through, so it's not gonna happen! [Laughs]

Soap Central: You're the first person to mention the fact that you won't actually have an Emmy in your hands if you win. I hadn't even thought of that! I wonder what they'll do.

Telfer: Well, even at a normal awards show, I think you only hold it for a second, and then you go backstage and they take it off you and they send another one in the mail a few weeks later. But, yeah, Carmen and I will do these game nights with our friends in Kentucky and spread all over the world, and like, when we tried to play Monopoly, that's kind of fun, handing the money to somebody in Kentucky, and you put it over the back of the computer and drop it, and then they take the money out of the bank on their end and mime pulling it from the camera. We've done several things like that, which is fun.

Soap Central: Well, we will keep our fingers crossed that if you win, you can find something better than a toilet paper roll to hold during your acceptance speech!

Telfer: Ha, thank you! We'll see what we can put together.

Soap Central: Is there anything else that you want to add before we let you go?

Telfer: Just that I hope everybody stays safe, and follow your best practices with coronavirus so we can all get back to work as soon as possible, that would be great!

What do you think about Paul Telfer receiving an Emmy nomination for his work as DAYS' Xander? Do you think he'll take home the gold? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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