After a decade-long absence, Rachel Melvin made her return to “Days of Our Lives,” a move prompted by a tragedy that struck a beloved former cast member. For younger fans of the show, Melvin’s portrayal of Chelsea Brady might be unfamiliar. Chelsea, the troubled teenage daughter of Billie Reed and Bo Brady, was a character Melvin expertly brought to life from 2005 to 2009, adding plenty of drama and intrigue to the fictional town of Salem.
In 2009, Melvin bid farewell to this complex character, a decision she described as “bittersweet.” Speaking to Soap Opera Digest at the time, she confessed, “It was a lot of buildup for me leaving — this had been in the back of my mind for a year, it had been official for a month and now it was final.” Melvin also expressed a touch of sadness at the prospect of not reprising the role of Chelsea.
Her departure from the show wasn’t without some fan-generated speculation. Some theories surrounding Melvin’s exit weren’t entirely favorable, suggesting that she left due to disagreements about storylines or dissatisfaction with the show’s direction. However, Melvin refuted these notions, emphasizing that they didn’t align with the actual circumstances of her departure.
Melvin’s goodbye to “Days of Our Lives” ultimately turned out not to be permanent, as she recently returned to take on the role of Chelsea Brady once again.
Her return was spurred by the passing of John Aniston, one of the accomplished actors with whom Melvin had shared the screen during her earlier stint on the show. Aniston, who was known for his role as Victor Kiriakis, Chelsea Brady’s fictional grandfather, passed away in November 2022 at the age of 89. He had been an integral part of the show’s cast for nearly four decades.
Upon hearing the news of Aniston’s passing, Rachel Melvin fondly remembered their connection. She shared with Soap Opera Digest, “I had kind of put it out into the ether when John Aniston [ex-Victor] passed away that he meant a lot to me because he did. He was one of the people that I had the most fun with on set and I just really enjoyed him.” Melvin also requested that her fellow “Days of Our Lives” cast member, Martha Madison, keep her informed about any potential funeral arrangements for John. This seemingly reached the show’s producers, as they extended an invitation for Melvin to return for a memorial episode, an opportunity she eagerly accepted.
Although John Aniston passed away in November, his character, Victor Kiriakis, continued to appear on “Days of Our Lives” until the end of 2022. Following John’s passing, the writers scripted Victor’s character to embark on a vacation to Greece, which tragically concluded with a fatal plane crash. The on-screen funeral for Victor, featuring Rachel Melvin’s return as Chelsea Brady, aired in early September 2023.
Kyle Lowder, who portrayed Rex Brady on the show, expressed that filming the fictional funeral evoked similar poignant emotions as John’s real-life memorial. He noted on the “Dishing With Digest” podcast, “All of the reactions from the actors were real and genuine, including my own. It was a rough day.” He emphasized that the day was a blend of stoicism, seriousness, and humor, mirroring John’s personality.
Unfortunately, John’s daughter, Jennifer Aniston, reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with how “Days Of Our Lives” handled her father’s on-screen passing, particularly the plane crash storyline, due to her aversion to flying. Despite her reservations, the show had to address Victor’s character’s demise in a manner befitting the storyline.