Kristian Alfonso shocked Days of Our Lives fans when she announced earlier this month on Instagram that she was leaving the iconic soap after 37 years. ET's Matt Cohen recently spoke to the 56-year-old actress about her decision, and she opened up about the exact moment that prompted the big move.
Alfonso said she made the choice to step away from Days of Our Lives, which airs weekdays on NBC, after she was told by executive producer Ken Corday that they were planning to write her character, Hope Williams Brady, off of the show for four to five months. Although she was told that her character would come back and have a storyline with a Navy Seal, she decided it was time for a new chapter in her life.
"And at that moment I thought to myself, you know what, it's time for a change and it was the perfect moment to make that decision," she tells ET. "I was taken aback when he said that they wanted, he and [producer] Albert wanted to take me off camera for four to five months. It was not something that had ever been discussed but that's what it was, and to come back in five to six months, or four to five months -- whatever that time frame was -- I just thought, you know what, it's time to really write a new chapter. I've had an incredible run there. I've had so many amazing friends and memories. I cannot say enough how I'll miss so many people working there and working with them, but they are in my life and we do socialize, but like I said, I think it's time."
She said the current coronavirus pandemic also led her to reevaluate certain things in her life.
"This time during COVID, which has been so horrific for our country, the world, it really made me pause and think about life and to really appreciate our health every single day and never take it for granted and that was part of my decision also," she notes. "Through all of this horror of COVID, it's the first time in my life I was actually able to exhale because I've been so busy with my life and really enjoyed just being home and really doing nothing. Maybe cooking. But just enjoying my family, my friends. Catching up. I don't know if you realize or not, but I used to have a jewelry line also on top of working on Days Our Lives and I miss it."
Alfonso acknowledged she's had a "roller coaster of emotions" since her decision, but ultimately, she doesn't have any regrets.
"I tell my children all the time, if you feel it's time for a change then it must be, and take that leap of faith and believe in yourself," she shares. "I don't know if I will continue in this business, but possibly. I have been getting calls and some interest on some projects, so we'll see."
Interestingly enough, new Days of Our Lives episodes featuring Alfonso's character are still scheduled to run until October. Alfonso explained to ET why she decided to make her announcement now instead of waiting until after her episodes finished airing.
"You know, I felt that I owed it to the audience," she shares. "The viewers who have watched for so long, I didn't want to hide anything. I've always been upfront, very honest, sometimes I get in trouble for being so honest. ... But I just felt that I really wanted to share what my decision was. I didn't want it to be a shock or a surprise when all the sudden, you know, Hope just appears in the attic or she's off looking for someone or maybe she's taken a trip or she's, I don't know what they would come up with. ... I had really thought about leaving, mulling it over I'd say probably for the last few years."
"But it was as if Ken had opened that door for me just a little bit and I opened it all the way and made the decision to depart Days of Our Lives, which, you know, was my family for such a long time," she continues. "So many milestones in my life happened on that show and I have so many incredible memories."
Alfonso shared that nobody knew of her decision to leave the show until a week ago this past Monday.
"In the storyline, I still have scripts that were supposed to be shot," she reveals. "Of course, everything is being probably rewritten because of COVID and guidelines that they have to adhere to. But that was not supposed to be the end."
"I mean, I have to say, so many people on our show and on our set have reached out to me personally, have called, emailed, text me, and the beautiful comments that they have left on my Instagram page as well," she adds. "I have to say that some of them have really, definitely choked me up because I didn't realize that certain people, they got me and they understood that everything I did was to better Days of Our Lives and not necessarily myself, personally, but whoever was in the scene with me or something that was happening. ... It's not just a workplace, but we've shared so many moments in our lives. ... But I'm very grateful for all of it."
Alfonso said that unlike other soap stars, she plans on leaving the show for good and not making any guest appearances. She also said Corday told her they would never recast her character, though ultimately, that wouldn't be her decision.
"I think that that chapter has closed and a new one needs to be started," she notes.
Alfonso did enjoy seeing footage ET showed her of when we were on the set of Days of Our Lives during a major moment on the soap in the '80s -- when Hope first married the character Bo Brady. She shared that the incredible wedding dress by designer Lee Smith actually cost over $30,000 and was handmade.
"I am a very lucky -- I would say girl, but people would say, well, you're not a girl anymore, you're a woman -- but I would say I'm just a very lucky girl," she now says, looking back at her iconic soap opera run. "I mean, I truly worked my tail off but I was very lucky to get the opportunity. Did I ever think that I would be on a show for so many years? No, I didn't. I didn't realize that, no. I never took anything for granted. Ever. Ever, ever."