Actor Keeps Busy On and Off Screen

19 March 2009

James Reynolds
James Reynolds
While he is not a household name, James Reynolds is one of Hollywood's most visible actors.  A regular on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives, Reynolds often logs 100 hours a year on network television.  The actor is just as busy off the screen.

For 26 years, James Reynolds has been known to fans as Abe Carver, police commissioner, then mayor, of the fictional town of Salem.  Through that role and others, he has become one of the most prominent African Americans on daytime television.

"I'm an officer of the law investigating a crime.  If you try to interfere with that investigation, I'll arrest you."

Reynolds' journey to Hollywood started in Kansas.  He served a stint in Vietnam as a combat journalist for the U.S. Marine Corps, and later enrolled in college and studied theater by chance.  He recalls that he was talking with a friend one day.

"And we were talking about where to meet girls," said James Reynolds. "And he said, the theater department, come to the theater department.  He was a theater major and just by chance they were auditioning for a play that night, Mad Woman of Chaillot."

Reynolds got a role in the French satirical play and that would whet his appetite for the stage. Leaving college, he worked in theaters around the United States, from New York to San Francisco, honing his acting skills while supplementing his income as a reporter and arts writer.

He got a chance for a role in a Hollywood movie that was filmed in Colorado.

"It was a feature film.  It was called Mr. Majestyk with Charles Bronson," he said. "And so it was fun to do, enjoyable working with him and everybody else in that cast and I had great time.  Now, if it had been a different film and I hadn't, who knows what would have happened.  But it was on location.  I was there a month and a half, and it had persuaded me that I really needed to try film and television."

Heading to Hollywood, he started getting roles on television shows.  Reynolds received Emmy nominations for his long-running role in Days of Our Lives and for the shorter-running series Generations.  He has also had guest appearances on many prime-time shows.

For the last 10 years, the actor has made appearances of another kind, visiting military bases in programs sponsored by the Department of Defense and the service group USO.  Reynolds has met with fans in the military and their families in more than a dozen countries and territories.  He names a few:

"Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Germany, Kosovo, Serbia, such a long list, Kyrgyzstan," said Reynolds.

Days of Our Lives has 40 million viewers in the United States and oversees, and Reynolds encounters fans of his character, Abe Carver, in unexpected places, such as Holland.

"I didn't realize the show was broadcast there," he said. "And literally, about every 10 feet somebody would come up and say, Hey, Abe, what are you doing here, and they were just shocked.  All the Dutch were amazed we were there.  And it was great."

Reynolds and his wife, the actress Lissa Layng, operate a community theater in the small city of South Pasadena, often recruiting Hollywood colleagues to appear in plays.  Called the Fremont Centre Theatre, it offers original productions and each year hosts a play produced by science fiction author Ray Bradbury.  The famous writer is there for opening night and often for other performances.

Reynolds says new productions are in the works at his theater, and that his ongoing character, Abe Carver, has no plans of retiring.  The actor says, neither does he.