The year 2013 is an important milestone year for Alison Sweeney. It’s the year that’s she’s celebrating her 20th anniversary on “Days of Our Lives,” the last soap opera to remain on NBC after the network cancelled its other daytime dramas over the years. She’s also back as host of the 14th season of NBC’s weight-loss reality competition “The Biggest Loser.” The show’s 14th season (which has a two-part premiere on January 6 and January 7, 2013) will feature, for the first time, underage teenage participants (two 13-year-olds and one 16-year-old) on the show. The teens won’t be competing with the adults or with each other but will be losing weight as their own personal challenges.
The 14th season of “The Biggest Loser” will also feature the return of trainer Jillian Michaels, who joins fellow trainers Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince in getting the contestants into shape. During Michaels’ absence, she had a short-lived stint on the talk show “The Doctors” and became a mother of two adopted children. Sweeney also kicked off 2013 by co-hosting NBC’s Tournament of Roses Parade with Al Roker on January 1. Here is what Sweeney said when she did a recent interview by telephone conference call with journalists.
On a personal level, given the impact and influence of “The Biggest Loser” how do you feel about the show taking on child obesity?
I'm a mom, and it’s such an important issue for our country and to the world. And on a personal level, I see kids all the time who are struggling with obesity and I think it's so important to start talking about it, really figure out what we can do as a community and a society to heal, heal our kids.
You know, it's tough. I'm not going to lie. It's hard to say goodbye to shows that have been on the air for so long and I have such loyal fans that I can only imagine what it's like for the fans of the shows that have had to say goodbye. These are characters that you have seen for sometimes over 40 years and they feel like family but for us at “Days of Our Lives” we have really embraced the challenge and tried to stay relevant and stay current and give our fans something to keep watching for and the network to keep re-signing us and we hope to keep fighting and keep entertaining our audience for a long time to come. So we're looking at it like a challenge and we hope to keep going.
What are your impressions of “The Biggest Loser” contestant Thomas “TC” Pool?
He's such a sweetheart and such a nice guy and really was committed to make this change and what I loved about meeting him right off the bat was what a fan he was. He made it clear from the moment I met him how much it's meant to him to be part of “The Biggest Loser.” And he's a great example of why you shouldn't give up. He's made it clear he's auditioned a number of times to make it on the show and that he was not going to quit trying and I loved that. I loved his persistence to keep going and he turned that into energy in the gym too.
What is the dynamic like with the three trainers, you've got Jillian Michaels back and it's her first time working with Dolvett Quince? What's that dynamic been like?
It's been amazing. It's actually super-awesome to watch the three of them [Jillian Michaels, Dolvett Quince and Bob Harper] interact, to watch in unfold. I think it's going to be a great part of the season because I think like all the audience was sort of wondering that same question. How are Jillian and Dolvett going to interact and it's been so interesting and cool to see all these different styles of trainer. And to see how they see the contestants differently and but to mostly just to see the respect they have for each other and how they really acknowledge that like everybody has their own style and that they really complement each other in an amazing way.
There’s been a little scattered criticism about having kids on the show considering how intense it is. What kind of precautions are you putting place to ensure that the kids get the most out of this experience without any due harm?
It's certainly an interesting thing to criticize something that like they haven't even seen. So nobody cares more about these kids than we do, and the first thing we did was take into consideration their age and how we can best help them and guide them.
So they aren't ever on the scale and they don't work out in “The Biggest Loser” gym and they don't live on the ranch. And they have their own journeys, never mind school. We're really trying to help them learn how to care for themselves in their environment at home with their families, which is a huge task. I
It's not just as though these kids, these teenagers are sort of on an island. It's their community and their family who need to make these changes too. So we are really hoping to not only encourage their families to change their nutrition or not only encouraging them to change their nutrition but their whole family. And get the whole family outside and exercising.
I think the trainers have done an amazing job expecting these kids to change their fitness level but in a kid friendly way. So hopefully kids, will watch the show and really be inspired for the things that they can do that are really relatable to their age range that challenge them and get them healthier. I don't know without putting the same pressure on them that you can expect from an adult, right.
In what way do you think your “Days of Our Lives” character Sami Brady has changed the most significantly in 20 years?
You must read my tweets or my Twitter followers. It's a funny thing to read on Twitter because half of the fans feel like she's not at all like the Sami that started and the other half moan and groan that she hasn't changed a bit. I think there has been tons of change in her.
Obviously, when she first started there was a lot of childhood pranks and antics. I think back on some of those like storylines, I have my own flashbacks from time to time about some of the crazy things that I've done on the show, especially in the first 10 years say. She did some really horrible schemes. And then you see her today and in some ways I think there is an nice through-line of that I think she does have sort of a questionable moral compass. I think that she does have like this attitude of sort of whatever it takes to get the results that you're looking for is sort of acceptable to her.
But at the same time I think she's really wised up a lot and her goals maybe have changed in terms of she's not willing to do some crazy scheme to fall in love with her anymore, steal Austin away from Carrie. So in some ways she has grown up in that way, but I think still for her all bets are off, like there's not a lot she won't do.
Sami’s been through a lot of men. Was there a romance that was your favorite time to play?
It's funny. Galen and James have both come to the show in the last five years and I think that would really be the beginning of a change in Sami's character. Whereas for the first 15 [years], she did have men in her life, but she was the one who was always sort of chasing after them and pulling them away from someone else that they were interested in.
And for me, that was a really different character, a really different story to play. So when they came on the scene and it sort of became about these men fighting over Sami and they don't know any different. They're always like, Sami's always got these men fighting over her, I'm like are you kidding me, what do you mean always, that just happened it just started, that's new for me.
I think the most obvious answer would be over the course of 20 years this thing she's had with Lucas and all the different ways that their relationship has manifested itself has been a wonderful through-line for me. I'm going to give you a totally a PC answer and you have to print it all … but I also love the challenge of like E.J. and how hard that dynamic is to balance with like how horrible the things are that they do to each other.
And how much fun it is to play the different sides of it and then raises really sort of this wonderful storybook romance and the safe house and that fun first story where he held her at gunpoint and then they kind of fell in love while he was protecting her like just had a really different feel to it than anything else she'd done. And so, for me, I think they're three very different stories and it was really fun to have the opportunity to play all three.
Much has been said about all of the different jobs that you have on a daily basis. Why do you like to stay so busy and have your fingers in so many pies at once?
That's a great question because it's true. I do a lot of different stuff. Certainly most recently, I've started directing at “Days,” and that's brought a new level of expectation for me creatively. And I think that's the answer: I love about being busy and trying all these new things. It's just how it keeps me going creatively it always challenges me and it's something new and different and exciting.
And I think that there's something really fulfilling about always feeling like it's a new day and it's something new and challenging to keep me on my toes. And that for me is really fun and exciting. And I feel like it's the the same reason I work out that I do. I like hard work and I like being challenged and I feel so fulfilled to accomplish it when I feel like I've done a good job at a new challenge like that.
When you first signed on with “The Biggest Loser,” what were your expectations and how long did you think that this gig would last?
It's a good question. I was a fan of the show before they approached me to be a part of it. So I loved the idea of getting to host “The Biggest Loser.” I love what they do, I love the stand they're taking on. We are taking on obesity.
And I really thought that the show had legs right from the beginning because it really touches your heart in a way just beyond even the issue of weight loss. It touches your heart in the belief that anything is possible if you set your mind to it and that no matter what your adversity is, no matter what your obstacle is in your life if you really do the work it pays off.
And you can change and there's something so redeeming about that and inspiring about it that I just knew America would really continue to want to see those stories again and again. And as someone who works on the show and I talk to the crew every day, we fall in love with the contestants to just like the fans do and you talk about contestants from seasons past fondly and we are along for the ride every single time. We love the new group that comes in and helping them and seeing them change. So I really expect another great season and for it to continue.
If we were close to the end of the world, how would you want to spend your final hours, your last days?
For me I think it's a combination of sort of what do you want to accomplish in your life, meaning sort of what's your favorite thing to do. And for me it would be with my family. I have two beautiful children and my husband. The perfect day for me is just to be with them and have fun. We like simple things, you know. We barbeque outside and my husband grills and we just play soccer in our backyard and swim in our pool and just be together and have fun, would certainly be what I would want, I hope, to spend my life doing. So that would be my answer.
For more info: "The Biggest Loser" website