Comeback Kid

updated 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

MURDER, ADULTERY, CROSS-DRESSING—there should be nothing left to shock seasoned soap watchers. But daytime viewers who have yet to recover from the Great O.J. Interruption might be startled when they return to NBC's Days of Our Lives. Bo is back.

Actually, Peter Reckell is back. Bo didn't leave the show. Reckell, the 35-year-old heartthrob who originated the role of the tattooed but tenderhearted cop Bo Brady in 1983, has been away for three years, and his replacement, Robert Kelker-Kelley, couldn't fill his biker boots. (Ratings fell half a point when Reckell left.) So in June, Kelker-Kelley left "for creative reasons," according to the producers, and Reckell reclaimed his old role. "He's just blossomed," says Kristian Alfonso, who plays Bo's wife, Hope. "And he doesn't look a day older, which really makes me angry!"

Reckell first left Days in 1987, eager to get away from the grueling soap schedule. He landed a season-long role as villain Johnny Rourke on Knots Landing but three years later jumped back to Days, only to leave again in 1992, because, he says, "I was looking for new things." To that end he shot a low-budget film in Russia, Broken Bridges, and worked in musical theater.

Reckell, the second of six children born to Russ, a contractor, and his wife, Barbara, a speech pathologist, first appeared onstage in his Marquette, Mich., junior high school's production of West Side Story. After studying at the Boston Conservatory, he moved to Manhattan in 1979, acted Off-Broadway—and landed the role of Eric Hollister on CBS's As the World Turns. Two years later he moved to L.A. and joined Days as the soap's first Sensitive Stud.

Deciding to rejoin the show was easy. When the call came, he says, "I thought about it for three seconds and said, 'I'll be there.' " Reckell stays energized by lifting weights, practicing yoga, eating a mostly organic diet and biking six miles to work from his Hollywood Hills home. What's not in such great shape is his love life. Married from 1987 until 1990 to former Days costar Dale Kristien, he is currently unattached—but not getting down about that or anything else. The starving-actor stuff "was fun," he says, "but now I can pay the bills."

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