Shirley Jones, star of stage, screen, and TV is expanding her large repertoire and doing a stint on the popular NBC daytime soap Days of Our Lives. Her storyline runs from January 31 to February 7 and her fans will see this roll as very different from her Partridge Family character. In the soap Ms. Jones plays Colleen Brady, the older sister of Grandpa Shawn. Everyone in Salem thought Colleen was dead after apparently throwing herself off a cliff. She explains about her character's storyline, "I didn't become a nun (like I was supposed to) because I fell in love and decided that that wasn't what nuns do. So I left my habit on top of the cliffs, faked the suicide and went on to another life." For soap fans, they know things like this often occur on daytime TV.
Jones was admittedly nervous about joining the cast, even if it was for a very limited period. "I was a nervous wreck. A nervous wreck. I had never done six shows in six days, which is how they do it as you well know. And, I had page after page, after page of dialogue to memorize and - as well as an Irish brogue. So it was not easy. But I ended up loving it, had a great time with everybody and they couldn't be more helpful. So I had a good time."
The script was sent to her and she initially hesitated about taking the role. "In the beginning when they first called me, .. I said no I don't think I can do that. I'm not sure I can do that. I'm not sure I want to do that. I don't know. I was very indecisive. And finally, the executive producer who is (a) sweet, wonderful guy - he called me. He said 'Shirley, this is a marvelous part.'
"You know, in my later years -- as I've said to my agents and everybody else -- it's not the money that I work for now, it's the part. And it is a wonderful part. And that's why I decided I wanted to do it."
Ms. Jones came away from the experience with a new admiration for soap actors. "I really came away with great admiration for everybody that does this and does it daily. I mean, it's not easy. It's a lot of memorization, a lot of fast work. As I said, six shows in six days - I'm used to rehearsing for three weeks and going on the stage or rehearsing for months and doing a movie. I mean, this is very hard work, but wonderful and everybody is so good at it." Jones acknowledged that she had not been a soap fan before. "I'm not a soap opera person mostly because, you know, I work myself during the day. So I've never had time really to get involved. But I loved doing this. I ended up loving doing it. I was terrified in the beginning and took on a challenge which I wasn't sure I could meet. But I feel that I did, and now I'm very happy about it."
Shirley Jones has been in the business for a very long time. Her three sons are also involved in various aspects of show business as well. For her, it is what gives her the drive and satisfaction and makes her complete. "I just enjoy doing it. I really do. I just said to my husband, you know, he said, 'are you going to stop ever?' And I said 'no, not as long as there's a role out there and something for me to do out there.' I love doing it. I really do. I've always enjoyed it. I started when I was 18 years old and I don't think I've ever stopped. I remember I was doing it when I was pregnant with my three children. So, it's something that I love."
She has done musicals, drama, stage, movies, television guest appearances as well as starring in the hit series The Partridge Family. And she cannot pinpoint her favorite part of acting. "I love it all. I'm one of these people that loves new challenges and, even at my age now, I welcome them. I mean, it doesn't mean I'm going to be great at it. And I may fail - but, I'm not afraid."
Although Shirley does not have one particular role or film that is her favorite, she does say, "I would have to mention Elmer Gantry (is special) because I won the Academy Award. So, you know, that changed the course of my career. So that has to be up there, in the number one category somewhere. But the musicals - I mean, I'm a singer so the musicals - having had the opportunity to appear in these musicals that would be around long after we're all gone. You know, The Music Man and Carousel, and Oklahoma - I mean, those are really incredible things to have been a part of. And so it's been a good combination.
"I've gone from one medium to another and rather successfully I'm happy to say. You know, I feel very fortunate because The Partridge Family was the first television (I did) basically and it lasted almost five years. So that was a big success and is around still. So yeah, it's just been an incredible career."
Shirley is close to her three sons and they have worked together in the past, however she said they do not actively or aggressively look for projects to do together. "They're also active in their own right, doing things. You know, my oldest son Shaun is now a writer/producer (in) television. And so he's not really acting much anymore. My middle son (Patrick), I do work with. I have to say that Patrick has done seven Broadway shows and we went back four years ago and did 42nd Street together on Broadway. And we made Broadway history for the first time a mother and son had ever appeared together in a Broadway musical." She says with a great deal of pride. "So we have worked together quite a bit. And my youngest son, of course, is an art director/set decorator, so I've been on his sets a few times. But that's about it."
She thinks for a minute before adding, "As a matter of fact, Patrick and I are going to be working together in April. We're going to do The Music Man together up in Hartford, Connecticut. And I'm going to, of course do the Pert Kelton role. I'm not playing the lead, but he's going to play the lead so it'll be fun to work with him again." So this time Shirley will be playing the mother to the character she made famous in the film version.
Shirley is married to comedian Marty Ingels. "Well my husband and I have been married 30 years at this point which is kind of a long time, in particularly our industry." So, what does a long-married couple do for Valentine's Day? "One Valentine's Day, which was about five years ago, he bought me a candy store." It was a chocolate store, she says, "Because I love chocolates. So, since we've sold it but that was my Valentine present (that year)." For Marty Ingels, a box of chocolate was simply not enough! He had to buy the whole store!
Shirley has been acting for over 50 years, and what remarkable years they were. "The beginning of my career was Broadway. Yes, definitely. I was in the chorus of South Pacific - the last six months of the Broadway Company - (I was) one of the nurses. And then my husband, Jack Cassidy and I did a show called Maggie Flynn, which (has) a beautiful score. It didn't last very long. You know, and I - after 38 years, I just went back as I said earlier with my son, Patrick Cassidy, four years ago and we did 42nd Street together for five months."
Jones reminisced about her big break. "Well ... I'll make it short, but I was just out of high school, on my way to college. I wanted to be a veterinarian and I was singing. I could always sing. I was born singing. I was six years old - I was the youngest member of the church choir at age six. So that was a gift. And I stopped off in New York City with my parents on my way to college, went to an open audition (for) Rodgers and Hammerstein's casting director. In turn, he called in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to hear me personally. A lot of other people (were) waiting in line just to sing for them because they had four shows running on Broadway at that time, and they had to keep replacing chorus people. And so this was just a fluke. So I went in and sang. And they asked me what I had done and so forth. And needless to say, I never got to college, never became a veterinarian because three weeks later I was in my first Broadway show, South Pacific. And within that year I was playing the lead in the movie of Oklahoma." She continues, "At the time they were preparing the motion picture of Oklahoma. I mean, this was their baby, you know. And they produced it themselves. And so while I was in South Pacific, I read and sang for the movie people, the director and producer. And then they decided, well maybe I was too young and too inexperienced. So they put me in a show called Me and Juliet, which was another R&H show. I went to Chicago with that show, playing the role of Juliet, which was a featured part. And after they had seen and screen tested every young woman - both in Hollywood and New York - they came back to me, and sent me to California to test for the role. And that all happened within a year of my first audition." Incredible. "Yeah, it was an incredible story." And the rest is entertainment history.