Days Of Our Lives Actors You Didn't Know Died

The following article contains references to alcoholism and suicide.

When "Days of Our Lives" premiered in 1965, viewers were introduced to the fictional town of Salem, set in an unspecified midwestern state. The town is populated by two main families, the Bradys and the Hortons, and throughout the years fans have watched as the families have grown, intermarried, and continued on through generations. Along with the more nefarious Kiriakis family and the villainous DiMeras, the characters on this fan-favorite series have been through every soap opera cliché you can imagine and some wholly original storylines: there have been countless deaths and surprise returns, more marriages and divorces per person than just about anyone alive, several demonic possessions (poor Marlena), multiple serial killers (again, poor Marlena), and an infinite number of shocking, emotional looks just off-camera as the credits start to roll.

Over the years, fans have come to know and love many actors who have been with the show, some for their entire careers. Actors come and go and characters get recast, so it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of favorites once they're no longer appearing regularly onscreen. Keep your Salem family trees handy and read on for a look at some dearly-departed "Days of Our Lives" cast members who are no longer with us.

Macdonald Carey

Macdonald Carey played patriarch Tom Horton from the very first "Day," originating the character in 1965. Carey was a film actor before joining the soap, having been in such films as Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt," where he played the detective on the heels of Joseph Cotten's killer. His move into television ruffled some feathers in Hollywood. "I'm an actor who likes to work, and what's the difference whether it's in the daytime or at night," he protested in his 1991 autobiography, "The Days of My Life" (via

Carey was also a poet, previously telling the Los Angeles Times that his poetry was just as important as his acting. "I want to be remembered for what I am — a poet/actor. I'd like to be the best I can at both of them." His "Days of Our Lives" character was a poet, as well: Tom took on the persona "Norm de Plume" and performed in coffeeshops. "I read my own poems," Carey said. "Best stuff I've ever had to play on TV."

He played the character up through his death in 1994 from lung cancer at age 81. John Clarke, who played his son on "Days," told Soap Opera Digest, "We were very close. I really enjoyed playing his son. ... It grew and became an extension of reality. To us it wasn't acting; it was a real experience." Carey certainly left his mark on the show. His voice still opens every episode, giving the iconic introduction: "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."

Frances Reid

When Frances Reid died in 2010, her death marked the end of an era: She was the last surviving original cast member to still be acting regularly on "Days of Our Lives" in the late 2000s. Reid had played Alice Horton since the soap opera's 1965 debut. Along with Macdonald Carey as husband Tom, Reid's character presided over a family dynasty that includes many of the show's most iconic characters. Initially, per her obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Reid had agreed to be on the show "just for a short while," explaining, "But I found it very interesting ... and I was having fun."

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Reid elaborated on why she felt her character, who she called "a very nice woman," resonated with so many people. "I think the public quite loves her, because she's interested in the family," she said. "... She was there when Mac[donald Carey] was there as the star, and now she's the one who's holding the family together. And they like her for it."

After she died at age 95, her co-stars remembered what it was like to work with such a legend. Deidre Hall, who plays Marlena, recalled to TV Guide Canada (via Daytime Confidential), "Frances was a magnificent teacher, mentor, and friend. I feel a strong sense of personal loss as Frances makes her way to heaven, and know that we shall not look upon the likes of her again."

Joseph Mascolo

For more than three decades, Joseph Mascolo played Stefano DiMera, the fearsome patriarch of the evil DiMera crime family that seems to be involved in every bad thing that happens in Salem. Stefano was the puppet master who pulled the strings of countless cataclysmic events. He "died" and came back to life numerous times on "Days of Our Lives," nicknamed "the Phoenix" because of how often he rose again. Per SoapHub, Stefano was drowned twice, burned alive twice, shot on multiple occasions, and even survived two separate brain tumors that were said to be inoperable.

The actor left the show for good in 2016, when Stefano was shot by Hope Brady (Kristian Alfonso). Mascolo revealed to Soap Opera Digest that the character's death would be final this time, and that he would not be returning due to health reasons. "Last spring, I had a small stroke," he explained, "and during my rehab, I thought this would be a good time for Stefano to leave."

Mascolo himself, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, died that same year at age 87, and his longtime cast members had nothing but wonderful things to share about the actor. Arianne Zucker, who'd played Nicole (Stefano's erstwhile daughter-in-law) since 1998, tweeted in part, "He was an incredible mentor. ... I will miss how he made me laugh." Galen Gering (aka Rafe), remembered, "He was just the biggest, coolest, lovable teddy bear." Meanwhile, Jen Lilley, who played Theresa Donovan, shared poetically on Twitter, "His Phoenix finally took flight."

Frank Parker

Frank Parker initially auditioned for "Days of Our Lives" way back when the show was first being cast, hoping to play Bill Horton. "When 'Days' first went on the air ... I went in and read for it," he recalled in "Days of Our Lives: A Complete History of the Long-Running Soap Opera," adding, "And they said, 'Really good, but I think you might be a bit too young.'" The role of Bill ultimately went to Parker's friend, Ed Mallory.

However, Parker finally joined the cast almost 20 years later, originating the role of Grandpa Shawn Brady in 1983. He was the patriarch of the Brady clan, one of the main families whose feud with the DiMeras has dominated the show's storylines ever since; iconic characters like Roman, Bo, Sami, and Will are all descendants of Shawn. Parker played the character until 2008, when Grandpa Shawn saved the life of his son, Bo, on an ill-fated flight by handing over his oxygen mask before the plane crashed (via Deadline).

Parker himself lived for another decade before he ultimately died at age 79 in 2018 due to complications from Parkinson's disease. Wally Kurth, who plays Justin Kiriakis, memorialized the actor on Twitter, writing in part, "I so enjoyed spending time with this man. He was a natural actor. Very believable — with a twinkle in his eye that matched his Irish brogue."

Peggy McCay

Peggy McCay initiated the role of Caroline Brady in 1983 before stepping away from "Days of Our Lives" for a couple years. She returned in 1985 and played the character for decades to come. As the matriarch of the Brady clan, Caroline's family and descendants drive many of the storylines on the show. Among many other memorable plots, Caroline had a secret affair with the villainous Victor Kiriakis, producing a son named Bo.

In her later years, Caroline developed Alzheimer's disease, a storyline McCay was proud to act. She told We Love Soaps in 2012, "I think it's very important, because when we have millions of viewers like we do, this issue is in their lives." For, McCay elaborated on the fact that her character faced the diagnosis with her trademark comedic timing. "They give my character a sense of humor about this deadly disease, which is very brave and very reassuring to people in the audience," she said.

When McCay died at age 90 in 2018, executive producer Ken Corday stated (via People), "A strong woman and actor, Peggy fought tirelessly for the members of her community, and her spirit lives on in those causes." He added that Peggy felt like "a beloved member of [his own] family," and concluded, "Her wonderful spirit will be deeply missed by all of us at 'Days of our Lives' and her fans."

John Clarke

John Clarke was a part of television history in multiple ways. He appeared on one of the very first episodes of "The Twilight Zone," starring opposite the legendary Ida Lupino in "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine." In 1965, he was cast on "Days of Our Lives" — though like Frances Reid, he originally only planned to stay for a year. Clarke ultimately portrayed Mickey Horton from the very first episode all the way up to 2004, at which point he retired from acting; he received a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award that same year. 

"I look back and think, 'Why did I stay?'" Clarke wondered in Soap Opera Digest back in 1998. "The Cordays [who created the show] were super people, and the show was so well organized," he concluded. Clarke died in 2019 at the age of 88 due to complications from pneumonia (via USA Today). As the news broke, his "Days" co-stars took to social media to share memories of the actor's impact on the show. 

Wesley Eure, who played Mickey's son, Mike, described an unforgettable moment on set on Twitter: "In one scene I kept flinching when he was supposed to hit me so for the final take he hauled off and hit me really hard. I was reeling. He could not stop apologizing!" Meanwhile, Alison Sweeney (aka Sami Brady) wrote, "He was such a talented actor, and as an original cast member of @nbcdays, he's forever a part of the [show's] rich history."

John Callahan

"All My Children" legend John Callahan played Dr. Baker in 119 episodes of "Days of Our Lives" between 1983 and 2010. The character was involved in a memorable baby-brokering storyline that saw him scheme to swap Sami's baby with another so that Nicole could raise him as E.J. DiMera's son, ultimately ending in Dr. Baker faking his own death when the truth was revealed to avoid an assassination attempt from Stefano. (Follow all that?)

The storyline may have been convoluted, but they had fun on set, according to Arianne Zucker, who played Nicole. "He cracks me up," she gushed to MichaelFairmanTV in 2009. "We try to get the laughter out beforehand. Some of the lines coming up with the whole Sami situation are so funny coming from him. We get a kick out of the story."

Callahan's other credits included work on multiple soap operas, like "Falcon Crest" and "Santa Barbara," in addition to his role as Edmund Grey for more than a decade on "All My Children." Callahan sadly died from a massive stroke at age 66 in 2020, per People. His "All My Children" co-star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, memorialized him in an emotional Instagram post, where she shared in part, "He stepped into a lot of moments in my life because I didn't have a father to be there. ... This is all too much, especially right now, but I want the world to know how much you meant to so many people."

Philece Sampler

Philece Sampler played Renee Dumonde, Stefano's daughter, for 390 "Days of Our Lives" episodes in the early '80s. The character was attacked by the Salem Strangler before being ultimately killed by the Salem Slasher. (Ah, soap operas.) Renee was stabbed in the back ... but it turned out she was actually killed by poison that had been rubbed on the blade, not by the stabbing itself, per (We say again... ah, soap operas.)

After leaving "Days," Sampler enjoyed a long career as a beloved voiceover actor on shows like "The Legend of Korra" and "Digimon." She sadly died at age 67 following a heart attack in 2021. Her friend, Nelson Aspen, who worked with her on "Another World," shared in part on Instagram, "[She] was always hopeful that 'Days of Our Lives' would invite her back. Shame on them for not doing so. She was a fan favorite and one of the most hard working, diligent people I've ever known."

Sampler had previously attended the "Days of Our Lives" 50th Anniversary Gala in 2015. "It was more than I ever dreamed it could be," she told the "OutTakes Interviews" podcast. Sharing that she was "so honored" to be invited and noting that it had been more than 30 years since she was on the show, Sampler added, "When I got there, and I got to see so many of the people that I had worked with. ... It was just such a delight and so much fun. Words can almost not express how joyous an occasion it was."

Tony Alda

Antony (aka Tony) Alda played Johnny Corelli on "Days of Our Lives" in the early '90s, a bad boy character that People dubbed a "sexy shark." He was also the younger half-brother of "M*A*S*H" star Alan Alda, who was proud of Tony's talent. "My father [Robert Alda] was one of the most charming actors of his generation," Alan told the outlet. "And there's some of that natural charm and charisma in Tony." 

Meanwhile, Tony himself admitted to the Los Angeles Times that having a famous name was both a blessing and a curse. "People figure you know what you're doing because you grew up around acting," he said, adding that he had to fight the perception that his name was what got him his roles rather than his talent. That said, Tony saw a lot of similarities between himself and conman Johnny. Noting to People that he put the character together by taking aspects of various relatives, he said, "There are even some aspects about Johnny Corelli that are like myself." Tony expanded on the idea in "Tune In Tomorrow," a syndicated soap opera column, explaining that he related to the character because Johnny is also essentially playing a character on the show. "As an actor you enjoy playing different types," he elaborated. "You have to study those types and observe them, observe people in general. That's fun."

Tony Alda died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 52 in 2009. In his memory, his famous clan put together a memorial video that included family photos and clips of his acting work.

Roscoe Born

In 2008, soap veteran Roscoe Born played Trent Robbins on "Days of Our Lives." Born was a daytime television mainstay, having previously appeared on such iconic programs as "All My Children," "Ryan's Hope," "Passions," and "The Young and the Restless." Per, his character on "Days" was "the abusive father of poor, formerly mute Max Brady."

"This guy's going to have a lot of different sides to him," Born told now-defunct network SOAPNet (via TV Fanatic) when his character was first introduced. "Some aren't going to be pleasant, but he won't be a stock villain." The character stuck around for 45 episodes before eventually being stabbed to death as retribution for having abused his daughter, Melanie.

Born, who had bipolar disorder, tragically died by suicide in 2020. He was 69. "We are grateful for the outpouring of kind words and memories. We only wish that Roscoe could have seen how much people still carry his daytime villains in their hearts," Born's family stated in part on Facebook. "May his death remind us of the importance of opening up conversations around mental illness. May those who need help seek it. May those who seek help receive it. And may it serve them."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Brenda Benet

Brenda Benet played the villainous Lee Dumonde on "Days of Our Lives" starting in 1979. Her character was a seductress brought in to cause trouble in the marriage of fan-favorite supercouple Doug and Julie Williams, for which her character was voted the "second most-hated person in television," per Benet's obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via We Love Soaps). Benet had lost her six-year-old son to a tragic allergic reaction, and she struggled with alcoholism in the aftermath of his untimely death, ultimately leading to her own death by suicide in 1982. She was 36. 

"Days" executive producer Al Rabin remembered, "She was a wonderful, warm and caring person. She cared so much about other people." Years after her death, real-life couple Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes, who respectively played Doug and Julie, looked back on the situation and recalled how traumatic the loss of Benet was for the cast of the show. "I'm so sorry she came to the end that she did," Bill told We Love Soaps. "I often felt that we could have done something or said something that would have prevented it." 

Susan added, "It was a terrible blow to the cast, a terrible blow to everyone who loved her. ... But she had been so depressed, so secretive. We just didn't know."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Jay Pickett

Jay Pickett played Dr. Chip Lakin on "Days of Our Lives" from 1991 to 1992. Longtime viewers may remember him thanks to his fling with fan-favorite character Julie, who wound up under his care after being wounded in a bomb blast at a museum; after he saved her life, they had a relationship (via before Julie got back together with Doug. After leaving Salem, Pickett went on to star on two further soap operas, playing Frank Scanlon for seven years on "Port Charles" and Detective David Harper on "General Hospital."

In July 2021, Pickett was on set filming a western called "Treasure Valley," which he wrote. Sadly, he suffered a heart attack during filming, per co-star Jim Heffel, who wrote on Facebook, "Jay died sitting on a horse ready to rope a steer in the movie 'Treasure Valley' in Idaho. The way of a true cowboy." Pickett was 60 years old.

Marie Wilson, who co-starred with Pickett on "Port Charles," remembered her friend in a touching tribute on Instagram. "My heart is broken to hear that this incredible person has passed," she wrote in part. "Words cannot describe how much you touched my life." Meanwhile, Peter Facinelli, who worked alongside Pickett in "Catch the Bullet," told Us Weekly that Pickett was "a beautiful soul."

Lanna Saunders

Between 1979 and 1985, Lanna Saunders played Marie Horton on "Days of Our Lives." The youngest daughter of Tom and Alice Horton, Marie joined a convent and became a nun. Saunders portrayed the character (originated by Maree Cheatham) through storylines involving a daughter with multiple personalities, leaving the nunnery, an infamous catfight over the father of her daughter, and ultimately getting shot while mistaken for a burglar, according to

Suzanne Rogers, who has played Maggie on and off since 1973, recalled to We Love Soaps a time when Saunders helped her through a bout of ill health. When the doctor diagnosed Rogers with myasthenia gravis, Saunders starting to cry with relief. "I'm just glad it's not what I thought it might be," Saunders told Rogers, evidently worried that Rogers had multiple sclerosis. It turned out that Rogers herself was dealing with MS, and she became too ill to continue acting the following year; consequently, Marie Horton was written off of "Days" in 1985.

When Rogers died at age 65 in 2007, executive producer Ken Corday told, "As an actress, as well as a person, Lanna Saunders had an elegance and grace that bespoke the deepest qualities of her soul which made her character, Sister Marie, honest and believable."

Greg Plitt

Greg Plitt enjoyed a mega-successful career as a fitness model, having appeared on numerous romance novel covers and scores of fitness magazines, per SimplyShredded. His sculpted body was even named by Men's Journal as "one of the most iconic physiques of all time." 

Not content to simply model, he told Weik Fitness that an ex-girlfriend who acted inspired him to go into acting himself. "I didn't know the first thing about acting or lines or anything related to the subject," Plitt said, "but what I did know is how amazing it was that this girl I knew had so many different characters within herself. ... A seed was planted that took root quickly." While he was the model for the body of the big blue Dr. Manhattan in Zack Snyder's "Watchmen," as well as a "hybrid" robot in "Terminator: Salvation," Plitt joined the cast of "Days of Our Lives" in 2008, playing Officer Henderson, a cop in Salem.

Sadly, Plitt died in a tragic accident in 2015. While filming a protein shake advertisement in Los Angeles, he stumbled onto train tracks where he regularly filmed workout videos, and was hit and killed by a Metrolink train (via CBS News). He was 37. In the 2000s, Plitt had also starred on the Bravo reality show, "Work Out." After he died, producer Andy Cohen tweeted, "We couldn't take our eyes off Greg Plitt after we cast him on 'Work Out' — was as nice as he was beautiful. Seemed invincible, like Superman."