Brandon Barash’s DAYS run has been an unconventional mix of surprise starts, abrupt stops and unexpected returns. Originally hired as an emergency recast to take over the role of Stefan DiMera, the actor was eventually killed off the soap, only to be summoned back a few months later to portray a brand-new character, Stefan’s twin, Jake.

Reflecting on his wild three-year ride, Barash admits, “I was half-shocked and half-not-shocked when they killed Stefan. When I took the job, they said, ‘We’ll work you for a month or two, and then we’re going to write the character out.’ But then I took over the role, and everybody loved what I did with the part, so they extended it. It ended up lasting [seven] months, and I thought it was going to keep going.”

Barash then got a call that the soap planned to kill off Stefan. “I was like, ‘Oh, right. That was the original intention,’ ” he recalls. “I was equally as surprised when they called a few months later and said, ‘Yeah, we made a mistake. Would you like to come back? We’re going to create this character and we welcome your input. We can kind of build it together.’ That’s what we did, and of course, I was very honored. It’s not very often that you get to do that.”

Barash’s most notable input into the rough-around-the-edges Jake, a blue-collar mechanic, was his gruff accent. “They said they wanted something East Coast. I didn’t want to do anything from New York or New Jersey because that’s way too close to Johnny Zacchara,” says Barash, referring to the character he portrayed on GH. “I had recently auditioned for a show and put myself on tape for [the role of a guy] with a Pittsburgh accent. I sent that tape to DAYS. They loved it, so we developed a guy who had kind of bounced around all over Pennsylvania.”

Accents and dialects have long been Barash’s thing. “It’s something I’ve always done,” he notes. “I remember being a kid at family events and making people laugh. I was doing impressions of, like, Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid, which is verboten now. That kind of stuff is frowned upon, but we didn’t know that then. I would do impressions of different people. That’s kind of how I fell in love with acting. I would hear something on TV, sometimes record it on a boom box, and then go to my room and try to replicate it. At the time, I had no idea that was me getting involved in acting. I guess I was putting the pieces together.”

It all helped prepare Barash for his polar opposite DAYS roles, and the actor insists he has no preference between the two. “They’re both kind of like children,” he rationalizes with a laugh. “I like each of them for their independent attributes. Jake is a lot of fun to play because he’s very loose. He’s the antithesis of Stefan. He’s funny. He likes to laugh. He likes to make people laugh. Stefan was intense, brooding and calculating. He was way more deliberate than Jake. Those moments when Stefan died and Jake came into the picture? Feeling the difference between the two was a lot of fun.”

Yet there were a few constants with his Salem alter egos. Namely, Stefan and Jake’s relationships with Gabi and Ben. “They were very different, so it wasn’t, ‘Let’s pick up where we left off,’ ” clarifies Barash. “Jake had to build relationships with both of them. But it was easy in the sense that I had already established a rapport with Camila [Banus, Gabi] and Rob [Scott Wilson, Ben].”

Shifting into a new on-screen romance with Banus was particularly gratifying for Barash. “I love working with her,” he raves. “She’s one of those actresses who’s very generous and down to try anything. I get along well with people like that. It’s like playing a game of tennis. You hit the ball to her a certain way and she’s going to have to react, and she does.”

Barash was also happy to still be a member of the show’s DiMera clan. “They’re an iconic family, not just in daytime television but in television, period,” he points out. “I enjoy that very much. Jake is kind of the black sheep. He broke the mold of DiMera men by being this happy-go-lucky, free-flowing guy.”

As happy as Barash is professionally, he’s even more giddy about his personal life. The divorced actor, who shares 8-year-old daughter Harper with his first wife, Kirsten Storms (Maxie, GH), is engaged to marry longtime girlfriend Isabella Devoto, and the couple has already begun planning their wedding. “We have a date. It’s going to be before the year is over,” reveals Barash, who shared a video of his perfectly orchestrated, cliffside proposal on Instagram. And, let’s just say it could rival any season finale of THE BACHELOR.

“I didn’t want to propose at a sporting event or a crowded restaurant with a ring hidden inside a champagne glass,” he explains. “I wanted to do something personal and intimate. I finally landed on a hike because Harper, Isa and I always hike together, and we commonly hike with Isa’s parents. So I thought, ‘Okay, how can I make it fun and different?’ ”

In short order, Barash arranged for Isabella’s mother to take a casual photo of him, Isabella and Harper with his phone. Then, as Isabella and Harper walked away, he faked an ankle twist and fell to the ground, while Isabella’s mom switched to video record mode. “Eventually, I got down on one knee and had everything ready to go,” recalls Barash proudly.

Barash was adamant about having his daughter involved in the big moment. “Isa and I met because of Harper,” he explains. “She was her Spanish teacher in summer camp. I wanted the day to be equally special for Harper, too. I wanted her to feel part of it. I decided to get her a pair of earrings so she and Isa could both have diamonds on that special day.”

Needless to say, Devoto said yes, and Barash’s short film production was a major hit. “That’s what it ended up being,” concedes the actor. “It’s funny. So many people have said, ‘Oh, my God. I was so nervous you were going to fall off the mountain.’ There was probably 10 or 20 feet you couldn’t see behind that rock [where we were standing]. No one was in danger. No humans or animals were harmed in the making of this film.”

For Barash, finding that special someone to share his life with, let alone live up to his expectations as a stepmother to Harper, was a huge task. How did he know he had found the right woman? “One, she’s not an actress,” he chuckles. “That was the first thing she had going for her. Seriously, she and Harper basically fell in love before we did. They hit it off really well, spent a lot of time together after summer camp, and developed a very special relationship. Being a public person, you always have to keep your guard up about people you’re dating. Do they have pure intentions? Do they love my daughter because they genuinely love my daughter or do they love my daughter because they’re trying to impress me? There was never any bulls**t with Isa. We dated each other for over two years and there were never any red flags. She has always been very real, and she comes from a great family.”

Before meeting Devoto, Barash had resigned himself to the fact that marrying again might not be in the cards. “I had gotten to a point where I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve got this one child. She’s magic. If I never have another child and I die single at 90 or 100 years old, I don’t care. I’m not chasing anything.’ Then I met Isa and thought, ‘I’d love to have kids with her and start a family.’ ”

Fortunately, Harper has been on board for all of it. “Harper has been begging me, pretty much since Isa and I told her we were in a relationship, to make Isa her stepmom,” shares Barash. “So much so that we’d be together in the car and she’d be like, ‘Daddy, do you love Isa?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, more than anything.’ She’d say, ‘Well, Daddy, you need to put a ring on it.’ ”

Storms is also thrilled about his and Devoto’s engagement. “It makes life a lot easier,” notes Barash. “There’s really nothing to dislike about Isa. She’s always very deferential and respectful with Kirsten and never tries to step on her toes. She’s even told Kirsten, ‘I never, ever would want to replace you. I want to have a relationship with Harper, but she only has one mother, and I’m aware of that.’ ”

With a wedding happening in the not-too-distant future, Barash’s daughter is geared up for the next step. In fact, she’s already started asking her dad and Isa when she’s going to have a baby sister or brother. “All the time. All the time,” stresses Barash. “She’ll ask, ‘Is Isa pregnant yet?’ We tell her, ‘Slow down. Slow down.’ ”

The Friend Zone

Teaming Jake and Ben as friends was an easy call for DAYS. “They’re both outcasts,” observes Barash. “Certainly, Jake is an outcast, especially in Salem when he came into the fold and he was running from his past. Ben was running from his past, too.”

The move cashed in on the relationship Barash had already developed with Robert Scott Wilson (Ben) when he was portraying Stefan. “Stefan wasn’t running from his past,” notes Barash. “He saw everybody as a possible enemy or competitor, but let his guard down a little bit with Ben. That’s how that kinship was born with both of those characters.”

As often happens on soaps, Barash and Wilson have forged a real-life friendship, too. “We have a great rapport off screen. We’ve hung out. We get on the phone and shoot the s**t, shoot each other text messages, and catch up at the studio.”

The pair has a lot in common, especially sports. “We cheer for rival teams,” says Barash. “He’s a Pats [New England Patriots] fan. I’m a Chiefs fan. He’s a Celtics fan. I’m a Lakers fan. We go to battle as far as our opposing teams and like talking s**t to each other. Yeah, we definitely bond over that for sure.”

DAYS

JPI

Just The Facts

Birthday: October 4

Hails From: St. Louis, MO

DAYS Deets: Played Stefan from March-October 2019; debuted as Jake in April 2020.

Also Known As: GH’s Johnny Zacchara (2007-13, 2014-15, 2015-16)

Favorite Food: “If I could only eat one type of cuisine for the rest of my life, it would be Japanese. I like sushi.”

Bingeing BARRY: “I’m currently watching season 3 of BARRY, and it’s one of my favorite shows ever. It’s funny and dark as hell. Bill Hader and Anthony Carrigan are both brilliant.”

Getting Technical: “My massage gun is my favorite technical device. I use it after workouts. It helps me with muscle soreness and recovery.”

The Training Game: “I do a lot of HIIT workouts, which is high-intensity interval training. I would say yoga is my favorite workout, but I can’t get the results I want doing just yoga every day. So I bounce back and forth between HIIT, yoga and swimming.”

Daddy/Daughter Days: “Before the pandemic hit, we’d go to the Natural History Museum, which Harper and I would call the dinosaur museum. It was closed for a long time, and we live pretty far away from it now. Our other special place is Legoland. We love Legoland.”




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