John Black (Days of Our Lives)
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|Days of Our Lives character|
|Portrayed by||Drake Hogestyn[a]|
|First appearance||November 18, 1985|
|Created by||Sheri Anderson, Thom Racina and Leah Laiman|
|Residence||715 Pinewood Avenue
John Black is a fictional character from Days of Our Lives, an American soap opera on the NBC network. He has been played by actor Drake Hogestyn since 1986, with a break in between from January 2009 to September 2011. John was created by script writers Sheri Anderson, Thom Racina and Leah Laiman as The Pawn in 1985 and introduced by executive producers Betty Corday and Al Rabin. John becomes one of Days of Our Lives' most popular characters when he is revealed to be the presumed dead Roman Brady (Wayne Northrop) with plastic surgery and amnesia. However, Northrop's return in 1991 led to Hogestyn's Roman being retconned into the entirely separate character of John Black, which also establishes the supercouple pairing of John and Marlena, due to John's affair with Roman's wife, Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall). During the time in which he believes he is Roman, John picks up the mantle of Roman's feud with crime lord Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo). John and Stefano's feud is central to the character's history as Stefano is partly responsible for John's memory loss. Their lives are further intertwined in 2008 when the two are falsely led to believe they are half brothers -- a story that was later disproved. Hogestyn's portrayal has made him one of daytime's most popular and recognizable stars. Hogestyn was attributed with helping the series out of its ratings slump in the 1980s. He was often featured in soap opera magazines such as Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly.
John Black was modeled after Robert Ludlum's super-spy, Jason Bourne with some elements of Ian Fleming's James Bond & that of the immortal Bruce Lee as John Black is a practitioner of the art of Jeet Kune Do. Days introduced audiences to the character, "John Black," as a heavily bandaged amnesiac who was recovering from extensive facial reconstructive surgery. Initially known only as "The Pawn," he first appeared in Salem on January 23, 1986. "The Pawn" soon named himself "John Black" (after seeing the name on a war memorial) and met Dr. Marlena Evans. Almost immediately, John and Marlena established a rapport.
In 1991, Marlena reappeared in Salem and was reunited with "Roman". That same year, Wayne Northrop was recast as Roman Brady and the character that Hogestyn had been portraying for five years was retconned to be an entirely different character that had been brainwashed to believe he was Roman Brady. Still suffering from a lack of memories from before the time he arrived in Salem (other than stories told to him by friends and family members, plus details passed into his subconscious via Stefano's brainwashing), and unaware of exactly who he was, the character returned to the "John Black" name that he first used when he arrived in Salem. For a time, Marlena was torn between the two men, but she eventually chose Roman, leaving John to resume his relationship with Isabella Toscano. John then discovered that he was Forrest Alamain, brother to the evil Lawrence Alamain and nephew to wicked Vivian. Villain Stefano DiMera had brainwashed Forrest into believing he was Roman as part of Stefano's vendetta against the Brady family. Despising the Alamains, "Forrest" decided to resume use of the name John Black. During this time, John received help from sometime-ally, sometime-nemesis Victor Kiriakis in figuring out his identity (although with his possession of the aforementioned "John Black file", it was never fully explained whether Victor knew John's true identity, or at least that he wasn't Roman Brady), determining his birthright within the Alamain family, and ultimately setting up his own business. In 1992 John married Isabella Toscano. Two years previously, in the story line, "Cruise of Deception," Isabella discovered that she was Victor's daughter. Isabella's marriage to John was short-lived; she died of pancreatic cancer shortly after giving birth to their son, Brady Victor Black in 1992. Distraught over the death of Isabella, John's feelings for Marlena resurfaced during "The Pit" story line. Marlena fought her feelings for John, but gave in to them when he attempted to leave the country. Boarding John's private jet on the eve of her wedding anniversary with Roman, John and Marlena embarked on a torrid affair of words and heated emotions. During their heated encounter they also conceived their daughter Belle. One month later, Sami, Roman and Marlena's teenage daughter witnessed the couple's second notorious encounter on the Titan Publishing conference room table (part of the prime time story line, "Night Sins"). In an ill-conceived effort to avert the rupture of her family and to protect Roman from the truth, Sami switched the blood tests which proved that John was the unborn baby's father. In 1993, Marlena gave birth to Belle at the Horton cabin. Due to a misunderstanding with Roman, John and his new love interest, Kristen Blake, ended up assisting in the baby's delivery. Spiteful Sami then kidnapped Belle and sought to sell her baby sister on the black market. Fortunately, John foiled Sami's attempts to run away just before the troubled teen boarded a plane. An unrepentant Sami then told Marlena that she knew all about her affair with John. Knowing that their affair had hurt so many people, John moved on to pursue other relationships – most significantly with Kristen Blake, who turned out to be Stefano's adopted daughter, while Marlena fruitlessly struggled to save her marriage to Roman. However, during Belle's baptism, Stefano forced Marlena to reveal the truth of her affair with John to everyone in the church. Stefano then showed up at the Brady residence with Sami's carelessly discarded diary which proved Sami's deception in switching Belle's paternity tests. John and Marlena reunited in 1999, but a serial killer called the "Salem Stalker" began to murder Salem's most prominent citizens: Bradys, Hortons and other Salem notables. Evidence suggested that Marlena was the stalker so that a gun-wielding Marlena was mistakenly killed on a prison rooftop. John's relentless sleuthing eventually uncovered that the Salem Strangler debacle was yet another diabolical DiMera plot; that Marlena and her "victims" were alive on a remote island, "Melaswen" (New Salem spelled backwards). Determined to rescue Marlena and the other stranded Salemites, John was seriously injured during his failed attempt. Addicted to painkillers, John sought solace in the all-too-welcoming arms of—and proposed to—Roman's widow Kate Roberts. John and Kate eventually broke off their engagement when Roman and Marlena managed to escape Melaswen and reappeared in Salem. After a treacherous fall that killed her unborn child conceived with Roman, Marlena became an amnesiac. The specialist summoned to help her – Dr. Alex North – turned out to be her first husband, presumed dead in the Vietnam War. Marlena rejected John's protestations of love and wedded bliss, saying that all her relationships subsequent to hers with Alex North were non-binding. Nevertheless, John discovered that Alex was a fraud who had plotted to marry, then kill Marlena. John and Marlena's subsequent reunion was cut short when a dying Stefano reignited his vendetta with John, by compelling EJ Wells to shoot John. EJ turned out to be the son of Stefano DiMera and Susan Banks, the child whom John had once thought was his own son with Kristen. John eventually came out of his coma in May 2007, but was then hit by a car, dying in Marlena's arms on October 17, 2007.
Frustrated in her inability to reach the old John, Marlena filed for divorce. Discovering that his illicit, all-too carnal lifestyle lacked meaning, John tried to recommit himself to Marlena and remembering their life together. Jealous of Marlena, John's therapist nearly killed him in her plot of revenge against Marlena. John was paralyzed but the memories of his life in Salem were now restored. Hearing of a possible cure for his paralysis, John and Marlena remarried in the hospital, and left Salem for a treatment center in Switzerland on January 23, 2009.
After a two year hiatus, John and Marlena returned to Salem on September 26, 2011 for the dedication of the new Horton Town Square. During their visit, the couple announced that John's physical therapy was a success; that he is now able to walk again. Their shared joy was short-lived however, when the FBI and the Salem PD order Rafe Hernandez to arrest John. Despite Marlena's pleas not to do so, John accepts a guilty plea on charges that he embezzled from Basic Black's pension fund. John believed that this was the only way to insure his family's safety after a rogue Salem PD cop went on a shooting spree at the Brady Pub in a vain attempt to kill John. Given the FBI's compelling case against him, and his own plea, a Salem judge sentenced John to 25 years-to-life in prison without parole. In the following days, Carrie and Rafe conclude that one of the most compelling pieces of evidence against John, a photo of John in Paris, was doctored. With Marlena's assent, Hope and Bo use a recently discovered promissory note from Stefano thanking Alice Horton for saving then-toddler EJ's life in order to gain a crucial piece of evidence from Salem's arch villain. Rafe is finally able to solve the puzzle of the manufactured evidence against John upon which the FBI's case hinges. With all charges against him now dropped, a newly freed John and his supporters begin the painstaking process of unraveling EJ's nefarious plot to win the mayoralty of Salem, embezzle Basic Black's assets, and destroy John.
By then, Bo and Hope had found a key to a lockbox hidden away by the now deceased Alice Horton. They managed to find a second key owned by Stefano which could unlock the mysterious box. Alice's decade-old secreted missive explained that Bo and Hope's marriage was bigamous; that sometime in the 90's in Alamania, Hope, believing herself to be Princess Gina von Amberg, married her partner in crime, priest-turned-art-thief, Father John Black. John and Hope set out for Alamania to get a divorce. Viewers, along with the hapless couple, were forced to revisit two "Days" story lines: "The Pawn," and "Princess Gina."
In December 2012, during a conversation between Hope and Marlena, "Days" viewers learned that John and Hope's divorce was now finalized. By then, Kristen DiMera had returned to Salem after Stefano asked her to reunite the DiMera family. As a part of an ever-widening, malevolent plot to deceive John and Marlena, Kristen insisted to the couple that owing to the restorative powers of therapy, that she had changed her evil ways. John is willing to believe Kristen while Marlena is suspicious, quickly becoming frustrated with John's optimism. Marlena continues to insist that Kristen has not changed, so that John suggests to Marlena that she is obsessed with Kristen.
In January 2014, Hope tells Brady that John has discovered that he is not, after all, the son of Colleen Brady and Santo DiMera. The orphanage where he was supposedly reared misled a desperate Colleen into believing that John was her son, when in reality the real Ryan Brady had died. Hence, John's ancestry is once again unknown. John returns to Salem in 2014, concerned about Brady's drug use and behavior with Theresa Donovan. After Theresa brags about eloping with a drunk Brady in Las Vegas, John shows her he has recorded their conversation and is going to have her arrested. Theresa panics and attacks John with a fireplace poker, sending him into a coma and deleting the recording. After another brief absence in late 2014 to take care of Basic Black business in Europe, a hopeful John returns to Salem to work on salvaging his relationship with Marlena. In early 2015, Police Commissioner Abe Carver asks John to rejoin the Salem Police Department. With Marlena's counsel and blessing, John takes the job despite a not-so-veiled threat from Stefano DiMera.
More drama began to crop up for John in March 2015, when Salem newcomer Paul Narita is revealed to be John's biological son, the result of a relationship with Paul's mother Tori which happened in the mid-1990s, shortly before the time John "returned" to the priesthood (Stefano convinced John that he'd been a priest before coming to Salem, one of a litany of fictional pre-Salem "professions" that John held while under Stefano's control). As John and Paul had a falling-out just before the revelation, John is pursuing mending fences with Paul, and establishing a true father-son relationship.
In August 2015, John was approached once again by the ISA to rejoin that agency's ranks. His consideration of the job offer caused more friction between him and Marlena, and recent conversations between the two revealed that although the pair remain very much in love, they were still separated and living apart at the time. The ISA's offer (and John's subsequent resignation from the Salem Police) coincided with the return of many series favorites of the show's "action-adventure" era, including Steve Johnson, Bo Brady, and Andre DiMera. John later revealed that the motivation for rejoining the ISA was to take advantage of its resources to find his parents and decode the mystery of his past, once and for all.
As of January 2016, John has learned that his birth name was John Robicheaux, he was born sometime during the Korean War (1950–53) in Baton Rouge, the son of a farmer and war hero who died in combat. His mother, Maude, was unable to care for the newborn child alone, so she allowed a wealthy neighboring family to adopt him, but when that couple was killed in a car accident, he was put up for adoption again, and this time adopted by the wealthy and powerful European Alamain family. When the Alamains' other son, Lawrence, allowed John to almost drown, the Alamains realized that Lawrence posed a threat to their adopted son, so they faked his death and sent him to live in a series of American boarding schools. John eventually ended up at a school in Vermont called Winterthorne, which turned out to be a front for a training center for assassins, run by a heretofore unnamed agency. A Soviet defector named Petrov was an instructor at Winterthorne, and as he eventually became a DiMera henchman, it is not a stretch to presume that it was Petrov who was responsible for bringing John into the DiMeras' fold.
Creation and casting
On January 24, 1986, daytime new comer and former minor league baseball player, Drake Hogestyn joined the cast as The Pawn without his bandages, who would later assume the alias John Black. As The Pawn (Glen Vincent, then Robert Poynton) was introduced onscreen in November 1985, the casting department at Days of Our Lives had been searching for an older actor to portray The Pawn when Hogestyn wondered into the NBC casting offices to meet with Doris Sabbagh, the head of the casting department at Columbia Pictures about a guest spot on Crazy Like a Fox. Instead, Sabbagh brought Hogestyn in to audition for Days. Hogestyn later admitted that he didn't know anything about the role and he thought he had auditioned for ABC's One Life to Live. Hogestyn was a fan of daytime soaps and his agent had passed on several soap roles "but Drake wanted this one." He watched some episodes and then went to the audition. Though everyone seemed to love him, Hogestyn almost missed out on the role because he was so young. However, it was his screen test with Deidre Hall that put Hogestyn over the top. Hogestyn was chosen out of five other actors and signed a three year contract.
By the time John is revealed to be Roman in May 1986, Drake Hogestyn had grown quite attached to the character of John. He said "One of the things I'm concerned about now is that it's going to be sad to put John Black to bed. I've had a lot of fun and it's been a stretch for me as an actor." He continued, "I had a chance to be very creative and take chances." Then Hogestyn was suddenly forced to take the character in another direction to see how viewers would react. "But I don't think they'll totally close the door on John Black" Hogestyn suspected. A year later, though he was happy with Roman, Hogestyn said he initially wanted to find success in his own role instead of a recast. The actor later admitted that he never thought of himself as a recast "because I played five months as John Black before they told me I was Roman." During an interview in 1990, Hogestyn said he hoped Northrop could someday return as Roman. "Then you could start a whole new character out of that complication."
In the summer of 1991, it was reported that Wayne Northrop and Deidre Hall were in talks to return to the series and reprise their respective roles as Roman and Marlena, leaving many to wonder what would become of Hogestyn's Roman. It was later revealed that Hogestyn's Roman was actually John Black all along, and Northrop was the "real" Roman. Hogestyn attributed the plot twist two the "producers' own brilliance" despite him suggesting the storyline a year earlier. He also appreciated the decision from a business perspective. When asked about the possibility of being Roman again if/when Northrop inevitably vacated the role -- as the return was expected to be short term -- Hogestyn said "I think I'd like to stay John Black because I've already been Roman and I wasn't him." Supervising executive producer Al Rabin said "This is a story that we've wanted to tell for a long time." Rabin promised that the plot would not affect Hogestyn's future with Days who at the time was locked into a four year contract. The producer also shot down speculation that the story would take a page from the prime time soap Dallas in which Patrick Duffy's Bobby Ewing was killed off in season 8 and revealed to be alive in season 10 discounting all of season 9 as a dream. To avoid confusion during production, the two men were referenced in the script by number -- Hogestyn being Roman II (John). Over the course of six months, the story explores all avenues most significantly, the effects on Roman and Marlena's twins Eric and Samantha who had been raised by Roman II for most of their lives. In 2002 Hogestyn commented on the retcon: "This is daytime television, and you never know where the story is going to take you."
Such a development would be unique to Days of Our Lives. And exactly 20 years later, One Life to Live would do the same thing with Trevor St. John's very popular portrayal of Todd Manning -- a role that was originated by Roger Howarth who was equally as popular -- if not more popular. Ironically, a theory about the Days plot where Roman II turned out to be Roman I's long lost twin brother actually factored into the One Life to Live story in 2011.
Hogestyn always hoped his character would be paired with Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) -- even when his character's identity is in question. Even viewers began to echo his sentiments -- no matter who John Black turned out to be, he and Marlena were meant to be. When Deidre Hall left the series in 1987 and Marlena is killed off, it took quite some for the producers to pair John with another woman. "I get the impression they're trying to keep a low profile because of Deidre's departure." Hogestyn was warned that he wouldn't be getting much story. "I was told I was going to be virtually non-existent" at least until Roman could grieve properly. Though it was difficult wait, Hogestyn understood why the writers chose to put his character in the background. "You can't rush from one love story right into the next" he said. Soap Opera Stars magazine later reported that the show runners weren't sure if Hogestyn would work without Hall and there were plans to write his character out. "Roman's big goodbye scene was nearly in the works." However, after losing several high profile stars after including Hall, and Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso as supercouple Bo and Hope, the network knew they couldn't afford to lose Hogestyn as well. Hogestyn viewed John and Marlena's relationship as a "classic love." It is "the perfect relationship" he said. Hogestyn appreciated that the relationship showed viewers that such a love is possible. When asked about a recast of Marlena instead of a new love interest, Hogestyn admitted that he didn't think viewers would accept it.
Finally trusting that Hogestyn was popular enough to hold his own, the writers introduced a new love interest for him. John/Roman was next paired with Diana Colville played by General Hospital superstar, Genie Francis. Hogestyn revealed that the writers had given the duo much more creative input to establish a more fun dynamic. There weren't any plans to pair Roman/John with Diana but their interactions helped the story write itself. The character of Diana also had a romance with Mike Horton (Michael T. Weiss) and a failed engagement to Victor Kiriakis (John Aniston) and was even considered as a love interest for a returning Bo Brady (Reckell). However, Hogestyn's chemistry with Francis "just couldn't be denied." It is actually John who kidnaps Diana before she marries Victor. While there was initial backlash from staunch Marlena fans fearing John and Diana had developed too soon, majority of viewers quickly became fans of the new pairing not long after their first few scenes together. The duo had really strong scenes from the very beginning. "That was an accident" Hogestyn said. Despite it being seeming too soon, the network ordered the producers to capitalize on the fan reaction. "Genie and I worked hard from day one to make Diana and Roman work" Hogestyn explained. The duo also injected humor into their scenes whenever they could. "That added a nice, little touch to our romance." John/Roman initially tries to keep Diana at arms length because he fears getting so close to another woman, the way he got with Marlena. However, Diana's near death experience is a "turning point in their relationship." Diana and John/Roman are recognized as a supercouple in their own right. When Francis leaves the series in 1989, Hogestyn finds himself on the back burner once again.
The character was next paired with Yvette DuPrés (Lori Hallier) who is also involved with his rival, Victor Kiriakis. John/Roman keeps Yvette "at arm's length." However Hogestyn considered the romance to be a "relationship of convenience." It provides the opportunity for John/Roman to stick it to Victor "and at the same time have some fun." However, insisted that the romance could never live up to his previous two pairings. Hogestyn was surprised by the abrupt ending of John/Roman's romance with Yvette. He really enjoyed working opposite Lori Hallier. "She was very conscientious about wanting to work... working scenes out. That was so refreshing for me." John's short lived romance with Yvette seems to be a precursor to his next great love story. In early 1990, Hogestyn was informed that his character's next great love story was in the works. John/Roman was next paired with Isabella Toscano (Staci Greason) -- the illegitimate daughter of Victor Kiriakis. Hogestyn enjoyed working opposite the newcomer. "She reminds me of me when I first started on the show... I had no soap opera experience, and my energy was boundless."
- Janet Di Lauro, "Hogestyn's Novel Theory," Soap Opera Digest, September 13, 1994; and P.J. Huffstutter, "Days of Our Lives spy John Black may have seen his last comeback," L.A. Times, March 2, 2009.
- Lucille Giordano, Inside Days of Our Lives July 1995.
- Lorraine Zenka, "Will The Real John Please Stand Up?" Soap Opera Magazine January 31, 1995.
- Janet Di Lauro, "In A League of His Own," Soap Opera Digest, May 23, 1993.
- "It Doesn't Matter Which Woman," Soap Opera Digest, March 23, 1993.
- Janet Di Lauro, "Drake Hogestyn – Can I?," Soap Opera Digest, Feb. 22, 2005.
- Stephanie Sloane, "Back In Black," Soap Opera Digest, January 8, 2008.
- On November 21, 2008, NBC released the following statement regarding the decision of the producers of Days of Our Lives to fire the super-couple actors, Deidre Hall (Marlena) and Drake Hogestyn (John): "Days of Our Lives’ has decided to rest the characters of John Black and Dr. Marlena Evans. After a year of separation, John and Marlena will finally reunite before exiting the canvas in early 2009." The news was featured by a number of presses and online sources: "Days Of Our Lives Stars Drake Hogestyn And Deidre Hall Fired," NY Post, November 21, 2008; Dan J. Kroll, "Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn fired as DAYS trims its budget", SoapCentral.com, November 16, 2008; Producer of the long-running daytime soap, Ken Corday confirmed inquiries, saying, "The couple will be happily reunited after a long period of angst and separation and will be off-screen after January for an unknown period of time," Soap Opera Digest, November 2008.
- "When DOOL's Drake Hogestyn Made A Trade...". Soap Opera Now. May 5, 1986.
- Lucille Giordano, Inside Days of Our Lives July 1995.
- "A Former Slugger Hits It Big In Salem!". Daytime TV. 1987.
- Betty Corday and Al Rabin (Executive producers); Sheri Anderson, Thom Racina and Leah Laiman (Head writers) (November 27, 1985). Days of Our Lives. Season 20. Episode 5108. Curlyqgrl's Days of Our Lives Episodes. NBC.
- Johnson, David (February 29, 1988). "A Man of Contradictions". Soap Opera Update (Bauer Media Group).
- "The Major Leagues (Of Acting!)". Daytime TV. 1986.
- Di Lauro, Janet (January 1987). "Days of Our Lives: Hot New Hearttrob". Interview. Soap Opera's Greatest STORIES & STARS.
- Brown, Meredith (November 4, 1986). "Behind The Smiles". Cover Story. Soap Opera Digest (American Media, Inc.).
- "Drake Talks Days". The Soap Set. May 1987.
- Waldman, Allison J. (September 5, 1988). "Exclusive Pullout: Days' Knights!". Soap Opera Update (Bauer Media Group).
- "I'd Like To See Wayne Northrop Return". Daytime Digest. November 1990.
- "Clash Of The Romans". Soap Opera Weekly (Source Interlink). June 25, 1991.
- Lieberman, Bill (September 9, 1991). "Black Like Roman". Soap Opera Update (Bauer Media Group).
- Bonderoff, Jason (October 1, 1991). "Roman Invasion". Soap Opera Digest (American Media, Inc.).
- Havens, Candace (June 15, 2002). "Drake Hogestyn--the Yankees' loss is 'Days of Our Lives' win". The Free Lance–Star (BH Media Group). Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Masters, Megan (April 4, 2011). "Roger Howarth Returns to One Life to Live - And That Fills Us With So, So Many Questions". TVLine. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Jacobs, Damon L (August 27, 2010). "Rumor Alert: Is Roger Howarth Coming Back To ONE LIFE?". We Love Soaps. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- "Should Roman Brady Find Love Again?". Soap Opera People. January 1988.
- Di Lauro, Janet (August 1988). "Roman's New Happiness!". Soap Opera Stars.
- Di Lauro, Janet (May 1988). "Too Hot To Handle?". Soap Opera Stars.
- "His Days Are Getting Better!". Soap Opera People Special. April 1988.
- Leahey, Mimi (August 9, 1988). "The Lady and the Jock". Cover Story. Soap Opera Digest (American Media, Inc.).
- Hogestyn, Drake (December 4, 1989). "Candidly Speaking". Soap Opera Update (Bauer Media Group).
- Di Lauro, Janet (February 20, 1990). "Practically Perfect". Soap Opera Weekly (Source Interlink).
- As the Pawn, the role was originated by Glen Vincent on November 18, 1985. Vincent was quickly replaced by Robert Poynton on November 27 until January 1986 when Hogestyn made his debut. The other two actors are listed in the casting section because their faces never appeared onscreen without the bandages so they would not be recognized in the role.
- A February 2008 revelation led viewers to believe that John was actually Ryan Brady, the illegitimate son of Santo DiMera and Colleen Brady. However, on January 6, 2014, it was revealed that the orphanage lied to a desperate Colleen and that the real Ryan Brady had died as a child.
- Susan was posing as Kristen Blake at the wedding ceremony.