"Days of Our Lives" veteran Frank Parker says goodbye to Salem on February 15, after portraying Grandpa Shawn Brady for a majority of the past 25 years. Parker debuted as Grandpa Shawn on February 7, 1983 when he appeared in his first scene at Roman and Marlena's first wedding. His history with "Days", however, goes back to beginning, in 1965. As stated in Maureen Russell's "Days of Our Lives: A Complete History of the Long-Running Soap Opera" (1994): "[Parker] remembers auditioning...in 1965. 'When Days first went on the air, I read for the part of Bill Horton...I went in and read for it, and they said 'Really good, but I think you might be a bit too young [Parker was 26 at the time]. So I told them 'There is a buddy of mine out here from Pittsburgh. He is a really good actor: Ed Mallory." Mallory would be cast in the role in 1966 and go on to play Bill Horton for the next 14 years.
Frank Russell Parker was born in Darby, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1939. He was raised in upstate New York and earned a bachelor's degree in acting from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Soon after, he began to pursue a career in acting in the early 1960's. He has made appearances on five of the eight soaps which are still on the air today: "All My Children", "One Life to Live", "The Young and the Restless", "General Hospital" and "Days." He also appeared on many primetime series, including "Wonder Woman", "Battlestar Gallactica", "Chips", "Quincy", "Hart to Hart", "The Fall Guy", and "Crazy Like a Fox".
In 1977, Parker made his first appearance on "Days" as a car salesman. He followed this up in 1982 by playing another bit part, Dr. Patrick Hennesy. On February 7, 1983, he and Peggy McCay made their debut as Shawn and Caroline Brady. He spoke only two lines of dialogue that day. His first line-ever was to Bill Hayes (Doug): "I understand you're singing tonight, Doug", and later in the scene said to James Reynolds (Abe): "You look great in that tux, Abe. I didn't think I'd ever see you all decked out." While Roman's parents had never been seen before on-camera, it is clear from these lines that they were supposedly already living in Salem and knew most of the Salemites already. Who would have ever thought that these two lines of dialogue from a day-player role would blossom into a quarter-century of playing Shawn Brady, and that the two men he spoke to that day would still also be on "Days"?
Frank Parker continued to recur as Shawn into 1984, when he was replaced by actor Lew Brown. Brown continued in the role through November 1985, just as the Victor/Caroline storyline was heating up. When "Days" decided to make Shawn a contract role in December 1985, Parker returned. As budget cuts were made in the fall of 1989, many actors were taken off contract. Parker left the show briefly from September 1989-May 1990, while Peter MacLean assumed the role of Shawn. Parker returned to the role in May 1990 and has been on contract ever since, celebrating the 25th anniversary of playing Grandpa Shawn this past February 7.
Mr. Parker has always been a private man. In the two major soap publications, Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly, he has never done a feature interview about himself. In fact, the only interview he ever did in either of those magazines was a one-on-one chat with his long-time on-screen wife Peggy McCay (Caroline) in 1997 (see below for links to that interview). Of the few other interviews he has given, in the 1986 and 1987 "Everything You Want to Know About Days of Our Lives" and the 1992 "The Wonderful World of Days of Our Lives" magazines, Parker had this to say.
Q: How do you like the role of Shawn Brady?
A: I love the character. They write so well for him, they really do. It is just a lot of fun to play. It is not a chore at all. The Days set is like going to a party every day. There's a great cast here. One of the best companies I've ever worked with. Talent all the way around.
Q: Do you enjoy your co-stars?
A: Drake Hogestyn and I have a great rapport together. Deidre Hall is without saying. She is the lady that keeps my head up on the show. I couldn't learn my lines without her. Patsy Pease [returning later this month as Kimberly] is amazing. A very talented girl.
Q: On the show [in 1987], Kim was just married and Bo and Hope left Salem. Is it getting lonely in the Brady household?
A: It will never be lonely at the Brady house! Shawn and Caroline are two caring, loving people and they'll never be at a loss for friends and family.
Q: Do you ever feel, especially when you are on the set, that you and Peggy McCay are really married?
A: There is no way that woman and I could ever be married! (Laughs) I have the utmost respect for her. I admire her talent and she is one of the greatest women I have ever known in my life. Married? We could never be, we'd fight all the time. She is marvelous and so much fun to work with.
Q: Describe what you think Shawn is all about?
A: He is just a simple man. His family is the forefront of everything that he believes in. The family is the most important thing. The Irish are like that. Family and church- basic beliefs. Nothing fancy, that's the way you do it.
Even though that last statement was said by Mr. Parker back in 1992, it still holds true 16 years later for his character, as the love for his family is the reason Grandpa Shawn passes away. Shawn and Caroline also enjoyed such a long-time marriage, not only by soap opera standards, but by anyone's standards. Shawn and Caroline were married on April 8, 1948. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on-air on the April 8, 1988 episode. They were nearing their 60th wedding anniversary on April 8, 2008. Thanks, Frank, for 25 great years as Grandpa Shawn! Not only will you be missed by the cast and crew, but by all of the long-time "Days" fans.
Frank's first month on contract...with Peggy McCay & John Aniston...December 1985
Frank, Scott Groff (Shawn Douglas), Lisa Williams (Brady Pub Waitress Lisa) and Peggy McCay in 1994.
Grandpa Shawn making the famous Brady clam chowder.
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