Wait off his mind

A Days of Our Lives vet­eran con­tem­plates an Emmy win, writes Siob­han Duck

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Soap -

TDays of Our Lives, PG Chan­nel 9, week­days, 2pm Long-run­ning saga Du­ra­tion: 1 hour HAAO Pengh­lis was so deep in med­i­ta­tion he al­most missed the flood of con­grat­u­la­tory calls com­ing in.

Af­ter al­most 30 years play­ing Tony DiMera on the day­time soap Days of Our Lives, Syd­ney-born Pengh­lis has fi­nally been nom­i­nated for an Emmy Award.

Though usu­ally non­plussed about Hol­ly­wood ac­co­lades and the other trap­pings of celebrity, the deeply spir­i­tual Pengh­lis ad­mits he’s gen­uinely thrilled to be recog­nised for his work on the soap.

‘‘I was not ex­pect­ing any­thing,’’ he says.

‘‘In fact, I was med­i­tat­ing and didn’t hear the phone ring­ing with peo­ple call­ing to con­grat­u­late me.

‘‘I’ve won awards be­fore, but never an Emmy.

‘‘The Emmy is one of those things, like the Os­car is to film — it’s the award for television.

‘‘Even if I don’t win, it will com­pletely change the way that I’m de­scribed. In ar­ti­cles I’ll now be Emmy-nom­i­nated or Emmy-win­ner Thaao Pengh­lis.’’

He is par­tic­u­larly proud of his re­cent work on Days of Our Lives, which has in­volved play­ing looka­like cousins, one of whom is evil and has a pen­chant for dress­ing up as a clown.

Not all of his sto­ry­lines have been such a hit with Pengh­lis and, he says, a dis­pute with a past writer had been a fac­tor in his de­ci­sion to leave the soap at least once be­fore.

‘‘They were mak­ing me into a car­toon and I re­ally strug­gled to make him hu­man,’’ Pengh­lis says of his once hu­mor­ous and charis­matic char­ac­ter Tony’s turn to the dark side in the early 1990s.

‘‘As an ac­tor, you have to try to make th­ese things work.’’

Pengh­lis says the Friends’ sto­ry­line where Joey’s char­ac­ter is dropped down an el­e­va­tor shaft by a dis­grun­tled Days of Our Lives writer is ac­tu­ally quite close to the mark.

‘‘I know one ac­tor who was killed four times and an­other put in a coma for two years for com­plain­ing about sto­ry­lines,’’ he says.

Pengh­lis says one of the show’s writ­ers had pup­pets made in all the ac­tors’ like­nesses, and would take them from a cup­board to play with from time to time.

Pengh­lis says Hol­ly­wood puts peo­ple on pedestals and he has seen too many young ac­tors buy into their own hype af­ter ‘‘find­ing their 15 min­utes of fame’’ on the show.

He says his fam­ily and his Aus­tralian up­bring­ing helped him keep his ego in check, de­spite be­ing sur­rounded by the glitz of Hol­ly­wood.

Pengh­lis also takes reg­u­lar ‘‘spir­i­tual jour­neys’’ to im­por­tant arche­o­log­i­cal and re­li­gious sites in coun­tries such as Egypt, Jor­dan, Syria and Turkey, where he is re­minded of what life is like in the real world.

Pengh­lis says it is dis­ap­point­ing so many ac­tors are forced to leave Aus­tralia to find work in Hol­ly­wood.

‘‘I am still Aus­tralian in spirit,’’ he says.

‘‘I come home of­ten to see my fam­ily and for work. I would like to re­tire there even­tu­ally.’’

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