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When Mark Colson appeared last week on "Days of Our Lives" as a mysterious stranger named Gabriel, the devil — or rather, a famous daytime soap opera story line — made him do it.
Colson, who teaches on-camera acting at the University of Michigan, played the same role in the mid-1990s for nine or so episodes. Back then, NBC made a splash when soap star Diedre Hall's character, Dr. Marlena Evans, was possessed by the devil.
Now, more than 25 years later, demonic forces are again inhabiting Marlena. So NBC asked Colson to return as Gabriel, a force for good who was on God's side in the battle for Marlena's soul.
Says Colson, "I got the call from my agent and I was like, 'Do they know I can still act?'"
In the original story arc that stretched from 1994 to 1995, Marlena — an iconic soap character that Hall has played, with breaks, since 1976 — fell under the spell of the devil and even levitated off of her bed in a scene that Entertainment Weekly recently described as "one of the most memorable moments in American pop culture history."
Gabriel, who shares a name with the angel, turned out to be a guardian angel for John Black, the character played by veteran soap actor Drake Hogestyn. John, believing he was a priest, exorcised Marlena in 1995 and now is married to her.
In the current season, Marlena is again under Satan's control and able to change her shape and form. On Friday's episode, Gabriel turned up at a cabin in the woods where Mar-Devil, as "Days" fans are calling her, is hiding with Ben and Ciara, who are expecting a baby that is being targeted by the devil.
Gabriel, seemingly a hiker in need of water, is actually there to tell Mar-Devil that goodness is going to prevail. When he says to her "Lovely day, isn't it?" she responds by staring at him with yellow eyes that are, well, Mar-Devilish.
Colson says he doesn't know what's going to happen with the Gabriel character from here on out. But he says Hall couldn't have been nicer during filming and Hogestyn was just as welcoming. "I could hear this voice across the soundstage (yelling) "Where's Gabriel?,'" he says, describing how Hogestyn greeted him.
Colson, who grew up in the town of Charlotte near Lansing and recently moved to Detroit, was a serious-minded newcomer with two college degrees in acting when he was hired by "Days" in 1994. He describes it as a job that helped teach him the basics of working in front of the camera. "It didn't take me long to look at it for the gift that I was given. I really got to learn a lot from that time," he says.
Along with appearing on TV series like "Angel," "Justified" and "Banshee," Colson has taught at Michigan State University and just finished his first semester teaching at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance. He also has extensive theater experience. Starting in April, he is scheduled to portray the title role in the world premiere of "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ghost Machine" at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea.
Oh, and Colson says that he doesn't recall Gabriel actually being present during the famous levitating scene. As he puts it, "I think I would have remembered something like that."
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 'Days of Our Lives' welcomes back Michigan actor — and the devil