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The Kristoff St.John, Mishael Morgan & Bryton James Interview – The Young and the Restless

Photos: Ed McGowan & CBS

Secrets and lies are true staples of any daytime drama series, but recently on The Young and the Restless, the collision course for the truth to come out was set high above the sky, and the reveal plummeted the characters not only to the ground below, but also sent one spiraling downward so fast that he can’t catch a break!  The build-up had been a long time coming as Neil Winters (Kristoff St. John) quickly married the former revenge-filled Hilary Curtis (Mishael Morgan), but all the time she was making goo-goo eyes with Neil’s son, Devon (Bryton James) … And Devon was lusting after Hilary like he has never lusted after any woman before in his life.  While those two couldn’t keep their hands off of each other and fell deeply in love, Neil became blind in a freak accident.  After months of trying to cope with this life-changing ordeal, he regained his eyesight just in time to catch Devon and Hilary in the throes of passion!

After returning to his old friend, the bottle, (Neil is an alcoholic) and lowering the boom that he can see and witnessed his wife and son’s betrayal, the duo and their relatives had no where to hide on the plane ride from hell, when Neil shocked the passengers just before their flight crashed! That was just the beginning of the next leg of this twisty tale.  Now Neil is downing booze, disillusioned with his son and the woman he said his “I do’s” with, and doing anything he can to numb the pain of this most bitter of all revelations.  But wait … there is more!  Last week as Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott), a battling alcoholic herself, tried to get Neil to stop drinking, she decided she was going to get them both to an AA meeting pronto, but she failed to mention to Neil where she was actually taking him!  When he found out, Neil who was in the passenger seat of the car Nikki was driving attempted to grab the wheel from her and they hit none other than Christine (Lauralee Bell)!  After Paul (Doug Davidson) arrived on the scene and the fallout was revealed, Christine lost the baby she was carrying.  Paul blames Nikki, Nikki is covering for Neil, and thus we have yet another leg to this story!

On-Air On-Soaps sat down with the three stars who are putting the drama into CBS Daytime – Kristoff St. John, Mishael Morgan, and Bryton James – to get their take and thoughts on: all things Hevon, their fractured on-screen relationships and if they can ever mend, how far will the number one soap opera take down the once steadfast Neil Winters, and so much more.  Insightful, funny as all get out, and three of the best reasons to tune-in every day to Y&R … here is what Krisoff, Mishael, and Bryon had to say about it all!

MICHAEL:

Kristoff, you have been given some great material to play, and it’s so nice to see you really have scenes to sink your teeth into: Neil returning to the bottle and being so angry and dishing out such venom to his son Devon for the affair with his wife, and then the recent turns of events with Neil and Nikki running down Christine with the car.  What do you think about all if this?

KRISTOFF:

Courtesy/CBS

It’s great to have material.  It’s refreshing to go over the script and see something you can really be proud of doing, and come to the studio and get suited up and do your job, because on the way home you have to live with yourself. 

MICHAEL:

Bryton, you were ten years old, like last year (laughs) and now you are leading man, hoping into bed and having hot sex with this hot woman on-screen!  Is it strange?

BRYTON:

Yes, it’s strange for me too! (Laughs)  I think the story has been great, and as the plane crash was upon us, we were all trying to figure out how Neil was going to find out about the affair.  We all had our ideas of how it was going to play out, and how we wanted to play it.  That crash came out of the blue and really set up all of this other stuff in the midst of having us repair the affair.  I like the position Devon is at now, where he is trying to help Neil from this point on, and move forward after this accident.  It’s going to be difficult to mend their relationship, and I am happy about it.  From where Devon is coming from he is like, “Yeah, that happened with Hilary, and we can’t change it.”  I think if Devon and Neil really sat down and had a real conversation, and if Devon really spoke truthfully about the whole thing, and Neil was honest about it himself, he knew Hilary for two seconds before they got married!  It made sense for the story, because he was coming off the heels of Leslie (Angell Conwell) breaking his heart and looking for love.  I think if everybody was more honest about the situation then I think they could come to some understanding, because it was not like Neil and Hilary had this long history and enduring love with each other.  The attraction between Hilary and Devon was somewhat established before Neil and Hilary got together, and then circumstance led them to where they are now.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Mishael, everyone was talking about your performance when Hilary shocked the audience, and Neil and Devon, by telling them from her hospital bed that she basically screwed both of them over, and it was all part of her revenge plot!  What did you think about those scenes?

MISHAEL:

I was so excited to get to play that scene.  I knew she was just doing that to help the situation for Neil and Devon to mend their relationship.  It was just so much fun to play, and the different levels of one character is always fun.  She has been nice, but she can be mean, and she still has this underpinning of wanting to be with the man that she loves.  I honestly think she loves both of them.  She sees that both Neil and Devon are essentially destroyed because of her, and now she just wants to fix it.  She doesn’t want to be the person who destroys the men she loves most in the world.

MICHAEL:

When you heard you were all going to be a part of this “Flirt with Disaster” storyline via a plane crash, what were your thoughts?

MISHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

I honestly loved it.  I liked lying there in the fake snow and falling asleep! (Laughs)  I got to take a few naps during the shooting days, which was great! (Laughs)  These idiots kept waking me up, and Kristoff stepped on my foot.  I was like, “I’m sleeping here!  I am trying to take a nap.”   They gave me a pillow, and it was fine!  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Neil then took off and wandered the wilderness in the snow there for a bit, and was pretty out of it.  What was happening there?  Where did he think he was going? (Laughs)

KRISTOFF:

Where was I going?  (Laughs)  I went looking for help.  He wasn’t drinking then, but he was coming off being drunk, and he was having a bad hangover.  He left the lovesick couple behind, and then he was getting the shakes, and he went to find help.

MICHAEL:

What were your thoughts on the major showdown scene on the plane when Neil reveals he can see, and lets Devon, Hilary, and Cane (Daniel Goddard) et all, have a piece of his mind? And what about that briefcase Neil hung on for dear life? (Laughs)

KRISTOFF:

Courtesy/CBS

I thought it was very imaginative to have this story unfold on a plane 33,000 feet above the ground.  I thought the dialog was on-point.  There were a couple of things I did not agree with that actually came out very well.  As far as the briefcase, I am not sure what the point was of that.  But I do remember after the plane crashed, it was revealed Neil’s mementos were in the suitcase.  Amidst all the corn there was some good popcorn! (Laughs)

BRYON:

I thought it was great for the fans watching the show, because what could be more dramatic than having everyone involved stuck on a plane together, and of course, the drama of a plane that crashes, and who is going to make it, and all of that.  It’s a soap opera, and so it’s drama at it’s highest.  I loved the scenes on the plane as all the emotions got to come out, and everybody was very raw in front of each other.  There was no hiding.  And at that point, there was nothing to hide, because we couldn’t.  I was really happy with it.

MISHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Yeah, I was really happy with it.  I just felt like: “What’s in that briefcase” (Laughs)?  I thought it was so great how they did it, because you are stuck together and forced to deal with what everybody had done to everybody else.  Hilary is forced to deal with and face all of the people she has been lying to forever! (Laughs)  She just goes from one lie to the next, to the next!  This is like her third life of lies.  It was so much fun to be around these amazing actors all day.  It was a long tape day, but we worked really hard to get through them, and the sets were awesome.

MICHAEL:

Do the three of you have fun with each other doing this story?

KRISTOFF:

I hate not coming into work and getting to work with them.  These two are some of the greatest people I have ever worked with.  It is non-stop laughter when we get together.  I think the key is that we respect each other, and we know when we get on the stage we are going to take care of each other, and there’s a lot of generosity … and that is happening not only on stage, but off the stage.

MISHAEL:

Kristoff is the biggest jokester!

KRISTOFF:

Courtesy/CBS

And then there is Daniel Goddard (Cane), but he is not with us in this room right now.

MISHAEL:

When the three musketeers get together – I mean, Daniel is the worst, but get the three of them together – Kristoff, Daniel, and Bryton – and then it’s just a whole mess.

MICHAEL:

Can we talk about Lily being a raving bitch throughout this story?  She told Devon she can never really look at him again after knowing he had the affair with Hilary behind her father’s back!

BRYTON:

I know, and Lily (Christel Khalil) was the first person to tell Devon that he should go and try to get Hilary in bed in order to get her away from Neil. 

MISHAEL:

I remember that she did say that.

BRYTON:

Courtesy/CBS

She doesn’t remember it! (Laughs)

MISHAEL:

It was her idea from the beginning.

BRYTON:

Lily said, “Go into the room, and get her to come to your suite, get her in bed, and then I will have Neil come in and catch you!”  She wanted to break them up.  She wanted that to happen.  Devon needs to bring that up to her!

MISHAEL:

Yeah, Devon should bring it up and say, “This is what you told me to do in the first place!”

BRYTON:

Right!  It’s like, “You wanted this Lily, so I just took it to the next level.”

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

Mishael, when you and Christel taped the recently aired hospital scenes where Lily told Hilary to get the hell out of Genoa City, that was another bitch-fight.  Did you two have a good laugh over that after you finished the scenes?

MISHAEL:

Oh yes.  We laughed so hard at the end of those scenes, and those are so much fun.  To be able to say those things to someone, and then have no repercussions to worry about after what you said and after the fact … is great! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Kristoff, is Nickel going to be a new supercouple?  Have you been surprised that you are being partnered in story with Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki)?

KRISTOFF:

Honestly, I have worked with Melody for years, and never worked consistently with her, but I haven’t forgotten what good humor she has.  Melody has a lot of levity.  I wouldn’t have paired us like that, and I wouldn’t have thought that it would be a great thing, but evidently it turned on some more lights and future possibilities.  What kind?  I don’t know.  Are these characters a match made in heaven?  No, but they are going to cause some waves, I can imagine, and with Victor (Eric Braeden) being at the helm of the Newman family, I don’t think he would care for the Stanford grad with his wife.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Christine gets hit by the car, and Nikki takes the wrap for a drunken Neil, who grabbed the wheel in deviance when she was trying to take him with her to an AA meeting.  How does Neil feel about all of this and that Nikki is covering for him, and taking the blame?

KRISTOFF:

Christine (Lauralee Bell) is taking the hit for one bad moment in time with drunk, surly Neil, and it happened in a millisecond.  Now that Christine has lost the baby, it’s probably the worse thing that Neil has been through since Carmen Mesta’s (Marisa Ramirez) murder.

MICHAEL:

Oh, Carmen Mesta!  (Laughs) Remember her?  Oh, Kristoff, the many women that have passed through Neil’s life! (Laughs)

KRISTOFF:

Let’s see, there was Eva Marcille as Tyra … and who did kill Carmen Mesta? (Laughs)

BRYTON:

Photo Credit: CBS

Jana (Emily O’Brien) did it!

MICHAEL:

So, is Devon going to be there now as Neil is spiraling to an all-time low in his life that truly started as a result of his son’s betrayal with his wife?

BRYTON:

I think no matter what Neil says to Devon, post Neil finding out about Hilary and him, Neil is still Devon’s father.  He is still the man that saved his life as a young teenager, and he is at his lowest time right now, and of course, his family is going to be there for him, whether he wants them to, or not.  So, that is where Devon’s head is at.  I am sure Neil does not want Devon around, and there will be some resistance following on the heels of what he has done.

MISHAEL:

And Hilary is going to help him!  But I have to still play that I did all this for revenge to try to push Neil and Devon together, but she still cares about Neil, and she still feels responsible for everything that happened, and the fact that now he killed Hilary’s mother and Christine’s child.  It’s a full circle, killing a mother and then a baby.

MICHAEL:

Mishael, many people keep forgetting, what did Neil exactly do to Hilary’s mom?

MISHAEL:

He was just drinking with Hilary’s mom, and then she died.  And then he gets screwed over by another wife, and he goes drinking, and then a baby dies!

KRISTOFF:

Courtesy/CBS

This poor guy!  That’s terrible! (Laughs)  But seriously, I do appreciate having this great story, I really do!  It’s been a long time coming, and I wouldn’t have expected any of these twists.  I think Chuck Pratt Jr. (head writer and executive producer, Y&) hinted to me about it, and he tries to not let too many people in on things, but I did get told that I would start having a fall.  I do not know what is happening next, except Neil is in real trouble, and this is the worst chapter of his life.  He will probably rise out of it.  I think that he would.  However, another worst chapter would have been when Neil did go to the slum gutter of Genoa City and he slept with Serena (Gretchen Palmer) and ended up getting Todd Bridges, AKA Juice, on his back who takes Neil back to the hood the Winters’ lived in … and then he robbed him! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

The scenes that aired last week, when Neil told Devon to go buy some booze and go to a hotel room and start drinking, was so riveting.  Neil was relentless, and hurt at the same time spewing this venom at his son.  Devon just had to stand there and take it.  I thought those were great scenes.  What did you guys think of those?

BRYTON:

I did not like my performance in it on that day, but everyone else liked it, so …

KRISTOFF:

Courtesy/CBS

Well, wait…actors are insecure and yet cocky at the same time.  I think it’s the insecurities that are covered by the cockiness.  This dude isn’t cocky, so I know when he talks about the scenes, and not feeling 100% about them and wanting to do a take over again, he’s very real with it.  I understand it, but on that episode I don’t know what you saw, but you poured it on so thick that a pancake never saw syrup like that.

BRYTON:

The content of the scenes, and the writing of what Neil was saying to Devon is what everyone has been waiting for … the “you’re not my son”, and nothing could be more impactful than that.

MICHAEL:

Is Neil really there with basically disowning Devon … or is he just lashing out?

KRISTOFF:

No!  He is really there for the first time with this young man, because he did take him in and made him his own son, and also because he did not have his own son, except for Moses, and Moses left for a long trip to Poughkeepsie! (Laughs)  One thing I’ve got to say is that I was complaining recently about some kind of story point to, of all people, Eric Braeden.  We were in his dressing room shooting the you-know-what, and I explained this to him, and he looked at me very seriously and he said, “My God, man. You know where we are, right?”  And I go, “We are at Television City.”  He says, “We are doing an f**ing soap opera! This is what you get you get when you are doing a soap opera.  It’s fantastical!  It’s all over the place … from the sublime to the ridiculous!”  And that’s what I have to keep remembering.

MICHAEL:

Can we talk about hash tag Hevon, and how the fans have been such a major part of this story every step of the way via their social media presence?

MISHAEL:

Courtesy/PinterestYR

That’s been awesome!  We loved that.  We have the best fans, ever.  We get gifts, left, right and center!

BRYTON:

The fans are the reason this story is what it is, and the reason we are still a couple, per se on the show, and why they put so much into this trio’s storyline.  The fans think about it all, and all of the pieces.  Half of the fans think we’re awful for what we are doing, and then the other half wants to see us together even though we are doing bad things.

MISHAEL:

I think it’s more like 90/10 (laughs), but most want to see us together!  The fans were the voice for Hevon doing everything

BRYTON:

And we are not even a couple yet, to be honest.

MICHAEL:

Well, it looks like the writers are going to keep them apart for as long as they can, and Hevon will have to continue to have stolen moments together, probably for the next five years! (Laughs)

MISHAEL:

Well, that is what they love about Hevon … it’s those stolen moments.  It’s the fact that these two people can’t be together, and the struggle for love.

BRYTON:

Courtesy/CBS

I think they will love us even more when we are together, to be honest.  You can’t play the things you want to play with the person on the show all out.  You can’t play the little nuances of a relationship, and make people fall in love with what we have, when we are constantly trying to not show it.  I think there are so many other things to build upon, and fall in love with.

MICHAEL:

What have been your favorite moments to play in this entire storyline, thus far?

MISHAEL:

I think it was just going at these guys the other day, when Hilary was in her hospital room, and seeing their faces!  They just played the shock so amazingly well.

KRISTOFF:

I really like the marriage scenes that took place.  I liked the drama that was playing out that was pretty palpable, and seeing how much Devon and Hilary loved each other, even way back then.  I knew when I was looking at that moment on stage that this was going to be a rather long story, and that it would finally payoff.  Acting-wise, I loved confronting Devon at the GCAC after he found out and discovered his wife and him having sex. Believe it or not, another favorite of mine was the one scene with this young lady, of knowing she has been deceiving Neil, and he had just gotten off the elevator at Jabot.  I just felt so much between us.  I don’t know if it’s what acting chemistry is all about, or what, but never have I felt it more in the story than that time.

MICHAEL:

When the three of you found out Neil was going to be blind, what did you think of the set-up of the story?  How difficult was that to play?

MISHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

It was difficult.  Kristoff could not act with eyes, and so he was always looking away the whole time. I am sure it was more difficult for him, because he did not know where to look.  He was amazing throughout that story.

KRISTOFF:

I thought it was the biggest challenge that I have had ever as an actor.  I can see why certain actors win awards for delving into that character’s body issue and being blind, because you have to put a lot of attention into the detail.  I was thrown into it pretty quickly.  I did no research, and did not look up it up online, because I didn’t want to know.  I just wanted to play it.

BRYTON:

For the story, and the drama of the situation with us having an affair, it was great, because there were a lot of different things we got to play.  In story, we were right at the moment, which was going to be the hardest thing in the world, which was to tell Neil the truth about us before he went blind.  Then, having to know that now we are going to have to do something that is more difficult, which is try not to be together, which is almost impossible, while helping Neil through this while keeping our secret.  It was a great twist for the plot.

MICHAEL:

Kristoff and Bryton, you both have Pre-Noms for this year’s Daytime Emmy race.  What did you submit for the first round, and then the final blue-ribbon round of judging?

KRISTOFF:

Courtesy/CBS

For the pre-nomination I submitted a scene with Angell Conwell, where Neil is desperately trying to talk Leslie into marrying him, and giving it a last ditch attempt for her to change her mind.  For the final round, I submitted the first of the two-day episodes where Shemar Moore returns as Malcolm.

MICHAEL:

Kristoff, I loved those scenes between Shemar and you, but I know a lot of fans voiced on social media that they thought they were a big nothing.

KRISTOFF:

Well, thank you.  I know a lot of fans thought it was a big nothing, but I think they are talking about the place, the time, how long he was there for, and what they had to go through, discuss, and talk through.  There were a lot of issues up front, but I have to say it could have been worse, though.  We didn’t return to the GCAC weight room and have to talk about this stuff, and Malcolm shouting, “Neil, spot me!”  And Neil going, “I can’t.  I can’t see you!” (Laughs)

BRYTON:

The first round I submitted scenes with Mishael and I in the elevator at the Jabot offices, the day after her wedding to Neil.  Devon has been drinking a bit, and he tells her for the first time, that he loves her.  For the final round, I submitted scenes with Mishael and me in the laundry room at the GCAC, where I tell her I am going to leave town, and she tells Devon not to go, and so he questions: “Why does she want him to stay?”  She finally admits she still has feelings for him.  That is followed by a scene with Kristoff, where Neil convinces Devon to stay in town and finish whatever unfinished business he has, which little does he know, is his wife!  I liked those scenes, because I liked the material, and it had different levels of myself in it, and different emotions and feelings.  No one is harder on myself than I am, and so it’s really hard for me to say that it deserves to win something.  There have been other years where I have felt I have had much better work, but of what I had to choose from I just thought that this was the most decent.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Mishael, how has this experience been for you, being on the number-one soap opera in America?

MISHAEL:

It has definitely been one of the hardest jobs I have ever had, and the pacing that they shoot at is just insane, and on a completely different level.  I don’t think I have ever worked like this.  I have worked on some very low budget stuff in Canada, where you don’t get a lot of takes.  Here at Y&R, our scenes are literally done in one take.  But it has been such a fun experience.  I never anticipated how much of a family it is here, and how close-knit everyone is, and how amazing it is.  It feels like you are building relationships for the rest of your career.

MICHAEL:

Bryton and Kristoff, did you think you would be on Y&R for as long as you have, with all the regime changes, and characters coming and going throughout the years?

BRYTON:

I have been on the show for 11 years, it feels less.  However, I did think I would be here this long.

KRISTOFF:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

Not a chance did I think I would be here this long.  It was the early 90’s when I arrived, and I was coming off of Generations.  And by the way, I happened to love the Carmen Mesta year 2006!

BYRTON:

I went deaf that year!

KRISTOFF:

That was all the sign-language stuff, and then that bled into 2007! (Laughs) I can remember feeling times were getting tight here, and the purse strings were getting tighter.  I know there were thoughts of: “If you aren’t an asset, you are a liability,” and if you are not on stage and you are not performing, then you are a liability.

MICHAEL:

In closing, what can you say for fans to look forward to, as the story between Neil/Hilary/Devon continues to unravel from here?

BRYTON:

We don’t know how it’s going to unfold, but Devon and Hilary are going to do everything and anything to help Neil.  There are more twists coming, and whatever happens to Neil it’s going to be the beginning of Devon and Neil’s relationship mending through Christine losing her baby, and all of that.

MISHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

She’s got to do this behind their backs, and manipulate things to try and get these two back on track with each other.

KRISTOFF:

As I look at this storyline, it’s got Shakespearean qualities. It kind of has this Romeo and Juliet, and the Capulet’s and the Montague’s quality to it.  This story is classic by design, and it also has just amazing potential to take us into other areas, like this one here is talking about – she is going to find redemption, and she will.  For what her self-sacrifice is going to be, the audience again will love her.  That’s the whole idea of being a villain, and then coming back strong.  This feels a little like “Rear Window” and Jimmy Stewart as he sits and looks and watches the apartment building across the way where he watches everyone in their separate little cubicles.  This is our cubicle, where you can’t help but peer in and want to see what happens.  You see the star-crossed lovers.  You see the father who can’t see anything, and you are vying for them both in a strange way.  There are the haters, and there are the lovers, but you can’t tell me that is not good story.  Eventually, Jimmy Stewart will solve the entire thing, and everything will come out, and that is what is happening right now.

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Laurel Twist
Guest
Laurel Twist

Just as I suspected. Neil being the cause of the accident, which killed Christine’so baby, IA a ruse to redeem Devon. I can not begin to tell you how much I despise YR, right now. The ONLY fallout that matters is Hevon’s separation. Well, that is bull crap. Pratt is killing the show just like wiser people warned.

Does anyone know why the hell Nikki would risk everything for Neil?! More bs!

Joan
Guest
Joan

I think its absolutely disgusting of Devon, who use to call neil Dad,but since he took up with Hillary he referred to him as Neil.Its disgusting Devon did this. Not just once with Hillary, but before with Tyra. I think Devon has whatever Neil dishes at him. Please don’t bring Dru back into the mix, as it has been Wayyyyy to long to justify her not coming back when Lily was dying. or Cane thought to be dead, or Neil blind. to much time has passed to be believeable for her to suddenly appear. even amnesia ,is corny as she… Read more »

Bellamy
Guest
Bellamy

Great chat. Props to all three actors for this story. While I didn’t always like the turns it took it they’ve all done stellar jobs. You don’t often root for the cheaters but I can’t help but root for Hilary & Devon. Ya’lls chemistry is INSANE and really shows through the screen. I don’t think Neil should have ever been inserted romantically but now that he has I enjoyed the fallout. KSJ confronting them was great. I’ve really grown to love the character of Hilary and Mishael’s scenes in the hospital were STELLAR. I was so excited when she did… Read more »

Karen T
Guest
Karen T

I wish Neil would go find Dru over that cliff.

I hate how he always has to be with a new lady on the show. Just leave Hilary & Devon together.

The writing is so heavy handed to make Neil out to be a saint. But the audience hasn’t forgotten he’s cheated on multiple women in the past…and now killed a baby letting an innocent woman take the fall.

Timmm
Guest
Timmm

Let go of Dru. Unless they recast her, the former actress is psycho!

Trish
Guest
Trish

Devon and Hilary brought me back to this show in Dec 2013 after a 3 year hiatus. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that the show just randomly went in another direction by quickly marrying Hilary off to Neil. So now here we are over a year later and I’m still waiting. My patience is very short. How much longer must we wait. I’m surprised to find that Bryton wasn’t happy with his performance. He’s always great in every scene. I don’t think I’ve witnessed a bad performance from him the entire time he was on the show.… Read more »

Jolene beth Morgan
Guest
Jolene beth Morgan

In my humble opinion, I believe that Mr. Pratt is doing an Amazing job! The new storylines with all the twists & turns have given even more dimension to the show! I just would like to see more of ‘Victor ‘ & ‘Nikki’ the way they use to be together; romantic and loving and just to be able to see the tender love story between them once again. Yes there has been many breakups between them , too many I think, but the love was always So Very Romantic between them. Like a dreamy fairytale! As far as the ‘Neil’,… Read more »

Timmm
Guest
Timmm

I agree. 2014 sucked. Charles IS in Charge and doing well.

kuikui
Guest
kuikui

I despise the show even more now that Pratt has taken the reign. I think that is totally disgusting what Devon and Hilary did to Neil . For Devon to feel that saying he is sorry
and over time all will be forgiven. He is one selfish scum rat. Both he and Hilary need to leave town for good.
Do not care for either character.

Michaela
Guest
Michaela

Good interview. I loved Devon and Hilary from the moment they started bantering and flirting towards the end of 2013. Never in a million years did I think the show would go the route they did. That said, nothing can touch the chemistry Bryton and Mishael bring to the characters and the story. I’m especially blown away with Bryton, he has held my attention in this story from the get go. His first major romantic story on the show, and he’s knocking it out of the park. I hope he gets the writing that showcases his talent even more now.… Read more »

Gabrielle
Guest
Gabrielle

I love Hilary and Devon! After my fave soap was cancelled I had quit watching daytime for a while. But a couple years ago my college roommates and I happened to come across YR & it was a scene featuring Bryton and Mishael and they made me interested again. I really like the characters and hope they continue to grow. 3/4 of the cast of YR have cheated and or killed someone, so I don’t see that being a big deal. It is a soap after all! As for Pratt, I’m interested to see where he’s going, I’ll give him… Read more »

Nanci
Guest
Nanci

Torally agree about the cabin murder mystery.
If Austin even is really dead, that is.
I can only take so much of the Scooby gang,
but especially Summer. I have already had
enough of her!

Mary Jonas
Guest
Mary Jonas

I adore HEVON. They were an absolutely delightful surprise to Y&R last year. It is good old fashion naughty soap messiness. I like the drama but please PLEASE let them get married and have a baby someday. That Bryton is so fine!

wolfy
Guest
wolfy

If I were able to ask one final question, it would have been, “So, Kristoff, would you say that Melody’s character of Nikki is Neil’s Jimmy Stewart’s foil, Kim Novak, and that they are both wondering who that murderer is killing Austin across town in the cabin that they saw through the rear window?”
wolfy

Christie
Guest
Christie

Michael, thank you for this interview. After watching YR for over 30 years, it has been wonderful to see the show invested in a young Black couple. Daytime is severely behind in representing the diversity of our society, so it’s wonderful to see Hevon be allowed the opportunity to be as Soapy, as everyone else.

I’m also really happy for Bryton. During his tenure on the show, he has received some great material to play, but hasn’t always received the credit or attention for his talent. It’s wonderful to see him no longer flying below the radar.

tony f
Guest
tony f

can i ask why people on these sites are so rude and disrespectful. if you dont like something, why cant you just say that if you must say something. you dont like this writer , that actor , that storyline. my feeling is that for those of us who get downright bitchy and behave like a–holes, its a indication of how immature some of us are. If you don’t like a product or a service or it constantly disappoints, why are you still using it? I rarely post messages but I’ve never seen people as rabid as so called “soap… Read more »

Carolyn
Guest
Carolyn

The Neil/Hilary/Devon debacle is great, especially now that it’s moving along a bit. All three actors are doing a great job with this story. I hope it continues to move along now that the pace has picked up a bit.

Clearly Neil and Hilary do NOT belong together, but I’d like to see how his relationship with Devon finds its way.

I do hope YR won’t disappoint in making Neil accountable for his drinking and its consequences; that would be the only upside to the disastrous car accident.

Timmm
Guest
Timmm

I will say this, I never thought the Winters family would survive my FF button but they have with their recent story. Like Neil, hate Devon, and Hillary is just a bitch!

damien
Guest
damien

the hevon storyline is a big highlight during my y n r viewing! have always enjoyed the winters and finally feel they have overcome the drucilla curse( neils storys have always been b storylines overshadowed by dru s departure)
If only leslie would appear to represent neil once its discovered he caused christine s miscarriage and rekindle his romance with her!! and tyler could also return to support abby who s also hit rock bottom!!

Diamond
Guest
Diamond

Will you please end this plot with Hillary and Neil and his son. This is not interesting, it is very boring. And for goodness sakes, end that plot with the two Jacks. This is STUPID!!!!!!!! Please bring back Michelle to play Phyllis again. Gina cannot play that role like her. Gina act like she is trying to act so hard to play that role, but it was such natural acting for Michelle. How long are you going to keep Adam a secret. This is getting boring too! It seems like every six months all the women switch men. All of… Read more »

Interviews

Y&R’s Mishael Morgan Talks Amanda’s Gut-Wrenching Scenes With Her Mother, Romance with Devon & Vice-President Kamala Harris’ Historic Moment

Since Mishael Morgan returned to The Young and the Restless as Hilary’s twin, Amanda Sinclair, it’s been a slow burn for the character.  However, recent revelations of Amanda’s childhood past have exposed the emotional wounds and the inner fight of this legal eagle, who is now poised for a romance with her late sister’s husband, Devon Hamilton (Bryton James)!

And who better to take on the challenge of trying to make Amanda and Devon a couple to root for then the talented Morgan.  In recent scenes, viewers watched as Amanda learned the harsh reality from her biological mother, Naya (Ptosha Storey), that she gave her and her sister up at birth and never really regretted it! Mishael played those scenes as you would expect for all they were worth and then some.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with the Trinidadian-Canadian Morgan, as the United States marked Martin Luther King Day on Monday – a holiday that holds a special place for her – and then the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President of the United States on Wednesday and its historical significance.

 

While Mishael shares her thoughts on these moments of our time, we also do a deep-dive into how she created a second life in Genoa City and the challenges of playing a twin and making her unique and different, plus what fans should look forward to in the months ahead, which to us looks like it could be a love triangle between Elena (Brytni Sarpy), Devon, and Amanda.  And, as the second anniversary of the death of Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters) is fast approaching, Morgan opens up about the impact her former co-star had on her daytime career.  Here’s what Mishael had to say about it all below.

Photo: AP

Yesterday was such a historic day watching the swearing in ceremony of Kamala Harris, as Vice-President of the United States.  She is the first woman, first Black woman, first Indian woman, so many firsts to hold this office.  I just wanted to get your thoughts from watching it.  What was it like for you?

MISHAEL:  For me it was such a beautiful moment, and such a defining moment because now there is no person in America who can feel like they can’t do it all, that they can’t make it to the highest level of office, or at least one of the highest levels of office.  I think that is going to transform this country and the world in many ways because the rest of the world really does pay attention to American politics, and to what goes on in America.  I think it will really have a ripple effect throughout the entire world.  For me, it was so exciting to see this moment actually come to fruition because I think that the impact is even greater than we all could imagine.  You never know who you’re inspiring.

Photo: Hustory.com

It was really amazing, and this was also right after Martin Luther King Day and I know you produced your “I Have a Dream” Project.  How was the holiday for you?

MISHAEL:  It was funny because even though I did the MLK project, I didn’t really think that it was something I could really explain to my son.  Then, yesterday my son really wanted to know: “What was Martin Luther King Day about?  Why was it a holiday?”  It was so interesting because I had to come up with a way to explain it to a five-year-old, and what I came up with was so basic but so true.  I just said, “This was a day when Martin Luther King, a very famous man, who was famous because he stood up for everybody’s rights, and he marched to make sure that everybody can do the same things in this country as everyone else no matter how they look,” and that’s what he was.  He wasn’t just a champion for just Black lives.  I think he is a champion for equality, and he is a champion for making sure that we always remember to see each other the same.

Is that what inspired you originally to do your project?

MISHAEL:  Yes.  100%.  I remember being inspired by Martin Luther King as a child when I was learning about him for Black History Month and stuff like that, and then when all of the social unrest happened, I just remembered him again, and it was something that I wanted to explore.  When I started reading about him again, I just became so inspired by him all over again that I wanted to do something, and that’s what really inspired me to do the “I Have a Dream” Project.

Photo: Getty

I just hope that we will make strides in our country in stomping out systemic racism – it’s such a deeply-entrenched issue in our society.  A lot of people talk, but we need action to bring change to the system.

MISHAEL:  That’s the thing, I think that this moment, you can’t stop – like the moment when Kamala Harris got sworn in as our Vice-President – you can’t stop the train now because strides will be made that the next generation will look at as normal, and of what it means to be a Black woman or a woman in this country is going to change forever.  It’s the next generation that is really going to continue to move it forward.  So, I think that at the end of the day.  This will always be something that’s remembered.

Courtesy/CBS

Now on to Y&R, I wanted to tell you that these performances that you gave that recently aired were just great.  I always love it when they give you the ball.  How did you feel about the scenes and the storyline, where we learn the deep pain and hurt of Amanda’s childhood and the truth from her mother?

MISHAEL:  I was so excited to play it because for me, I really love telling human stories.  I love diving into that part of myself, and I really know that a huge part of why I am an actor is because I just have this outpouring level of empathy for every life that’s lived.  When I talk to people, and they tell me their stories, I want to take it on because I want to show that beautiful side of humanity.  So being given this story, I wanted to be very careful with it, because I knew that this is a reality for a lot of people.  I also thought about the fact that twin stories have always been done before, paternity stories have been done before, but I have to make sure that it comes from a truly honest place inside of me and a truly empathetic place.  I was excited to take on the challenge to be true to myself, and be true to my artist, and just find the beauty and the honesty in this real human story.

Courtesy/CBS

Ptosha Storey, who played your on-screen mother, Naya, was amazing in the scenes with you.  What was it like working with her and the gravity of it, where this woman is basically unapologetic that she didn’t want her children and she gave them up, and she did not sugar-coat it.

MISHAEL:  Ptosha was amazing.  I loved working with her.  We really got to kind of know each other a little bit.  She has such an interesting story about coming to LA to pursue acting, taking a break from it, (and I don’t want to speak for her), but then really going full-throttle right now when Black, female characters are being played, and she’s getting an opportunity to get back out there and do what she loves to do.  Just listening to her story was so inspiring to me. We had a true respect for each other when we got on the stage, and I think we made some art.

Photo: JPI

It was almost like watching a two-person play in those scenes.  What did Amanda feel at this point?  Was she hoping that her mother would say, “I loved you.  I wanted you?”  Was she hoping for a different outcome in her head?

MISHAEL:  I think anybody who goes into a search for their parents is hoping for a positive outcome.  I think for her, it was heartbreaking to hear that if Naya could go back and do it all over again, she would have made the same choices, and also knowing that those choices really impacted Amanda’s life in an incredible way.  I don’t think that all of it has come out yet.  I think a lot of the pain and hurt that she had to go through as a child, and the loneliness that she had to go through as a child, and hearing from a mother that she would put you back in that situation because it was more comfortable for her, and the level of selfishness is hard to take. Then there is the anger and everything that would come out of hearing that from your biological mother.  It’s funny because the way that those scenes were scripted, there was no stage direction, which to me, I love, because a lot times it will say like, “in this moment she is going to get a little angry,” or, “in that moment she is going to be sad,” but for those scenes, for some reason (and they were really juicy scenes) they really didn’t give much direction. I appreciated that because then it really allowed me to really just make the scene what I thought it was and just really live in the moment.  I know this was a roundabout way to answer the question, but yes, it was very heartbreaking because nobody expects that somebody would say that to them.

Photo: JPI

It was just so heartbreaking.  I kept thinking, “Maybe she’ll…” but no, Naya just stood her ground on it even though Amanda grew up in a foster home.  She wasn’t the “chosen” twin either!

MIHAEL:  No, and she was never chosen, and I think that’s an interesting thing that you said because she was never chosen, and I then even to this day, as a grown woman, she still isn’t chosen, and that I think is heartbreaking.  It’s an interesting thing because I do happen to have a bit of a personal experience with this.  My father wasn’t in the foster system, but he was raised… kind of farmed out to two aunts as a young child and didn’t really get to have a relationship with his parents until he was older, and with his mother, until he was in his 20s.  So, it was so fascinating watching my father.  I just remember always looking up to him and thinking he was so strong, and so powerful, and never cared about what anybody thought, and because of his upbringing, it made him a very driven person, very much like Amanda, but there was a weird sense of wanting to be good enough when his father was around, or when people talked about his father.  It was very fascinating for me to watch that.  It was like I would see my father almost turn into a child again, just wanting that love.  I think it’s because that is so organic to who we are as human beings that it just never goes away, that need to know that your parents love you, that there are two people in this world who no matter what will be there for you, and they will love you.  That’s a hard reality to come to when you realize that’s not true.  I think that’s something that’s really hard for the human spirit to let go of.

Photo: MMorganIG

Yes, and I think what you are saying is also true that you realize as an adult that we are so deeply affected by our childhood and how it plays into our choices, or how we perceive things that happen in our lives.  So, when you think of that, and because you’re a mom, doesn’t it make you feel even more that you want to do right by your kids? That you don’t want to do anything to screw them up in their later years?

MISHAEL:  Yes, it’s true.  It does make you want to be the best person for them and the best example, especially the best example for love.  You want them to feel accepted, and appreciated, and proud, and you want them to know that you’re proud of them.  You want to do everything you can because you think of every single person you may have met who felt like their parents didn’t love them enough, and you want to do every single thing to make sure that your child doesn’t feel that way.  I talked to one of my friends, and they’re like, “My parents never told me that they were proud of me,” and I’m like, “Alright!  Well, Niam, I am so proud of you!” Every day, “I am proud of you!  I am proud!”  It’s like every day I better make sure to tell my kids that I am proud of them, and that I love them.  I was talking to Bryton James about this because I had a disciplinary moment with my son, and you wonder if they are going to take it the way that you take it, but at the end of the day, that might get burned into his memory as “the worst thing that my mom ever did to me,” and meanwhile I thought it was a life lesson that I think he learned.  You kind of have to get rid of that fear that you are going to screw them up because I think it doesn’t matter.  You’re either going to love them too much, or you’re not going to love them enough, and you just have to do the best that you can, and you just hope that it’s good enough.

Photo:JPI

Now, you were brilliant as Hilary on Y&R and had this amazing story send-off, and then you came back to the show as Amanda, a new character.  How has it been to try to define Amanda as her own character without the ‘Hilary-isms’, or does it not matter anymore?  Do you feel you have made the distinction for yourself that they are two very different characters?

MISHAEL:  I feel like now they just are different.  It was active choices that I was making in the beginning, and it was important for me in the beginning.  That’s why, for me, when I was bringing Amanda in, I was trying to stay very steady in my tone and how I spoke because Hilary was very, very up and down, and everything was all over the place.  So, for me, that was my beginning moment, just really focusing on how Amanda spoke and how she conducted herself. I can’t change the way that I look, but I feel that the way that I speak and the way that I carry myself will naturally start to define the character.  After a while, when that becomes more second nature, I feel like more of the character comes through … more of how she is and how she takes things in.  That’s just sort of explaining a bit of my process. It’s just the weirdest situation that I never thought I would ever be in, but I definitely feel like a different character for sure!  I do feel like I know who Amanda is now.  In the beginning, when I read the script, all I heard was Hilary.  I really had to think about how I was going to say things because I didn’t want it to sound like Hilary, and now when I read the script, I see Amanda.  I don’t hear Hilary anymore.  It’s become easier for me now to lean more into the role and get more comfortable with it.

Photo:JPI

Amanda had said to her mother that she was also robbed of her sister.  How does that play into her whole psyche?  She does know that Devon was deeply in love with her sister, and now she has feelings for him too.  Did she want to meet her sister?  Does she feel robbed of that?

MISHAEL:  She feels very much robbed of that.  For me, it was very important that the time when she discovered that Hilary was her sister and that Hilary was gone, that I’m playing that loss properly.  It was important for me because if you couldn’t believe that Amanda’s heart is truly breaking for her sister, then you can’t believe anything else that’s coming afterwards.  This is a really defining moment for me as an actor playing two characters on the show.  It was really important, leaning into the fact that I had a twin, and I’ll have a connection to a person who doesn’t exist anymore, and really letting that break my heart, and break Amanda’s heart.  Once the audience believes that, then they can really believe that Amanda is a different character.  Then, our amazing fans will start to just buy into it, and they will figure it out, and they will work it out, and they will wrap their heads around it, but for me, it was that they had to believe that Amanda’s heart is truly broken for Hilary, otherwise we can’t hook them.  Amanda and Hilary have to become two separate characters in people’s minds.

Right.  So, after the confrontation with her mother, she runs to Devon, and she is torn up, and he consoles her.  This week he asked her out on a date.  She likes this guy, right? 

MISHAEL:  Yeah, I think she does!  He’s the first person that she met when she came to town, and I think she’s always been impressed by how he treated her even when he hated her, and the more that she learned of him, the more she became impressed by who Devon was, and his patience with all of this. In seeing his vulnerability with Hilary, and everything that he went through, and then seeing his heart being broken because of Elena and Nate, I think all of it together is starting to give these two characters reasons to be okay with exploring something that may seem strange to other people, but you can’t control who you love sometimes.

Photo: JPI

Hilary and Devon were such a hugely popular couple.  Do you feel pressure to hit lighting in a bottle, twice?

MISHAEL:  It’s really hilarious because we’re the same people!  Yeah, there is a little bit of pressure because you do wonder if you’re going to be able to create the same magic, especially because Bryton and I have known each other for so long, and we know each other so well now.  Looking back at some of the Hilary and Devon scenes, there is something that is so interesting about it and fun about it because I think Bryton and I were just getting to know each other at the same time.  So, wondering if we are going to be able to recreate that and just make it feel fun and fresh, I think is the worry or the challenge.  I think we will figure it out.  Bryton and I were talking, and the one thing that is missing, or the one thing that we have to get to in terms of the underbelly of Amanda and Devon’s attraction is that Amanda is more like Devon than Hilary ever was.  It’s almost like Devon realizing that the whole journey with Hilary was meant to happen just so that he could meet Amanda.

Isn’t Amanda going to be kind of worried that he was so in love with Hilary and the way that she looked…

MISHAEL:  Well, she doesn’t need to worry because Hilary is dead anyway.  It’s not like she’s coming back!  (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

Since the last time you played an on-screen relationship, Bryton is with Brytni Sarpy in real-life, and Brytni is on the show now, and there is all of that.  What has that been like working with Brytni?

MISHAEL:  Oh, I’m so Canadian!  As soon as I got back to the show, I was like, “I’m so sorry,” and she was like, “Why are you sorry?”  I said, “I just feel very sorry that I’m here.  You guys have your real-life love thing going on, and your on-screen love… I feel weird.  I’m happy to be back on the show, but I’m like breaking up the party!”  She’s like, “No!  It’s fun!  It’s fine!  Maybe we’ll be rivals!”  I’m like, “Yeah, okay it’ll be fun!”

I can see a classic soap bitch-fight on the horizon on Y&R!

MISHAEL:  Brytni has been awesome about it.  That’s been great.  We don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s going to be fun.  They’re also playing with Devon’s love for Elena still.  They still have a pull.  Devon is still looking at Elena.  So, I think it’s going to be interesting either way.

Photo: JPI

We are going to have the fan wars again for the couples!

MISHAEL:  That’s even more fun!  I always said I’d rather people be fighting for me to be with this person and that person as opposed to just always with one person because then to me, I kind of wonder, “Is it just this one actor who makes me better?”  I want to be an actor who makes everyone better!  That I can work off of anybody and get that chemistry or that thing that audiences are looking for, that’s what I really challenge myself to do.

Photo: JPI

On February 3rd, it’ll be the second anniversary of Kristoff  St. John’s death, which is hard to believe that it will have been 2 years already.  I keep remembering when I first met you.  Kristoff and you were on The Price is Right, but it was also a crossover for your characters, and you were the new girl on Y&R.  Do you still feel his presence at Y&R?

MISHAEL:  A few days ago, I had asked Bryton, who is s actually in Kristoff’s old dressing room, “Do you ever feel Kristoff in there?  In your dressing room?” and he’s like, “No, not really.  Definitely not in my dressing room, but on set sometimes.”  Even though he’s not here, it’s like he’s still with us because you still see him in pictures and sometimes that happens while you are on set doing a scene.  One time, I was on set doing a scene with Christel Khalil (Lily), and I saw a picture of Kristoff in the background, and it’s just kind of a reminder that I think he is always going to be here in terms of his impact on me and my time on the show.  He means a lot to me because I think I am the artist I am largely because of his influence, and how he really took me under his wing and made me feel so comfortable.  He was such a light, and he made acting so fun, but he always had your back as an acting partner and as friend, and I miss him a lot.

Me too.  He was just a wonderful actor too, when you look back on some of the work.

MISHAEL:  Oh my gosh, yes.

Photo:JPI

What does Amanda think of Naya’s other daughter, Imani (Leigh Ann Rose)?

MISHAEL:  She’s just irritated by Imani because she basically got to live the life that Amanda should have had essentially. To watch her be up on her high horse to Amanda, it’s laughable because the amount of hoops and obstacles that Amanda has had to go through to get to where she is standing today, somebody like Imani is just a complete joke to her! In Amanda’s mind, she is who she is just because of the opportunities that she was given and because of the family that she was born into.  It was complete luck, and it had nothing to do with hard work.  In Amanda’s eyes, everything that she is and every ounce of who she is, is because of her determination, and the choices that she made, and the obstacles that she overcame.  So, the way that Amanda looks at Imani is like she is just a person who she doesn’t even think could fathom how insignificant Amanda thinks that she is.  There is a deep-rooted resentment for Imani because I just think that Amanda has been through so much.

Would you like to have more scenes between Amanda and Naya and Imani?

MISHAEL:  Yes.I want more scenes with both of them!  Both of them are so amazing.  So, I’d love to work with both Imani/Leigh-Ann and Naya/Ptosha again.

Photo:JPI

What can you say to the fans to look forward to?

MISHAEL:  I think I would say that Amanda coming to Genoa City was a really big surprise, and I think that those surprises will continue … ff we want to be as vague as possible! I think there are a lot of things to look forward to because this relationship with Devon is definitely going, and I think it will be interesting to watch how Bryton and I figure that out, which will be fun!

Photo: JPI

Big surprises? Hmm.  Are you going to tell me that there are four of you? That Naya really gave birth to quadruplets … and you are about to take on two more roles?

MISHAEL:  Well, you never know!  That’s all I’ll say!

So, what did you think of Mishael’s recent performances where Amanda met her birth mother? Are you rooting for Amanda and Devon to wind up together, or Devon and Elena? What have you thought of Amanda Sinclair vs. Hilary Curtis Hamilton?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Days Of Our Lives

Watch the Replay: GH, DAYS, Y&R, B&B & OLTL Stars at Michael Fairman’s Virtual Birthday Party for SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 Relief Fund

Earlier this week on Monday night, several of the stars of General Hospital, Days of our Lives, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and One Life to Live, took part in a virtual livestream “party” for Michael Fairman’s 60th birthday.

The event was held virtually to help performers in need who have been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by letting viewers know where to make a donation to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Covid-19 Relief Fund.

Photo: ABC, NBC, CBS

Participating throughout the 90 minute livestream were: The Young and the Restless, Jason Thompson, Sharon Case, and Christian LeBlanc, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard, Laura Wright, Wes Ramsey, and Chloe Lanier, The Bold and the Beautiful’s Katherine Kelly Lang, Days of our Lives’ Rob Scott Wilson, Eric Martsolf, Galen Gering, Arianne Zucker, Shawn Christian, Santa Barbara favorite, A Martinez, One Life to Live’s Kristen Alderson and Eddie Alderson, and Studio City’s Sean Kanan.

You can catch the replay of the birthday benefit event below or on The Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube.

Throughout the evening, the actors shared stories of how they got their SAG card, played a game of Michael’s trivia, and revealed stories about themselves and other “party” guests in a wonderful display of community and camaraderie at all went down live!

Since March of 2o2o, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation has given out more than $6.2 million in emergency aid to over 6,500 SAG-AFTRA performers and their families facing hardship and uncertainty during this pandemic. Thousands of SAG-AFTRA artists have found themselves in dire need of assistance to help pay their rent, buy groceries, cover health care premiums and other bills.  You can still make a donation of any dollar amount to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 relief fund here. https://members.sagfoundation.org/donate 

Now, check it out below, and let us know if you enjoyed the virtual birthday party livestream via the comment section.

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General Hospital

GH Co-Head Writers Chris Van Etten and Dan O’ Connor Interview – “Soapmakers of the Year” Honors 2020

In a year which saw production of your favorite soaps shutdown for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone in daytime had to pivot.  As original episodes aired, they eventually ran out, giving way to rebroadcasts, while the audience eagerly awaited the return of the current stories.

At General Hospital, once production resumed over the summer, head writers, Chris Van Etten and Dan O’ Connor had teed-up: surprising homecomings (Dante, Britt) shocking twists and revelations, the conclusion of what will become an all-time soap classic, the Alzheimer’s storyline, dipping into the rich 57-year history of the iconic soap to tie story to the present (Laura, Cyrus, Martin), and crafting stories for its A-list cast which gave 2020 some of its finest on-screen moments.  GH became can’t-miss television again, coming back even stronger than its pre-pandemic self; which also kicked the year off in high-style with the reveal of Nikolas to his family, alive and well, and the long-awaited truth about baby Wiley.

Chris and Dan’s depiction of Mike’s heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer’s gave viewers many tears through its unrelenting and realistic storytelling, plus their commitment to air the standalone episode to honor the passing of the 19th amendment of the women’s right to vote in November.  Both were noteworthy, and illustrated what daytime can do best.

 

Each year, Michael Fairman TV gives our highest honor to a creative or creatives who most delivered to its audience and whose quality of work continues to keep us engaged, on the edge of our seats, or reaching for the hankies. That is why this year’s Soapmkers of the Year honor goes to GH scribes: Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor.  Shortly after receiving their acknowledgement, the duo spoke to us about some of the 2020 highlights in Port Charles, and how they work so well together to bring their stories to life.  Here’s what they shared.

Courtesy/ABC

First, and foremost, I want to commend you for the Alzheimer’s storyline  As I’ve shared publicly, my mother died of Alzheimer’s, and I have seen the progression of this disease and the effects it has on a family and loved ones, and the person afflicted with it.  You did a beautiful job of telling every beat of the story within the context of what you could do within a soap opera.  What can you tell me about crafting that and seeing it through to the end?  You never abandoned the story, which at times, can happen on daytime.

CHRISNo, we didn’t abandon it.  Soap operas have a power that I am sure we have acknowledged before, to allow audiences to really get to know characters in a deeper and more profound way than I think most other mediums do.  We get to see characters’ lives day in and day out.  For us to tell a story about Alzheimer’s, which is a disease that is devastating in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it can take years to develop and years to finally claim a life, we felt that among our audience, there had to be many people who had experienced this in an up-close and personal way.  So that to tell the story too expeditiously would really deny their experience and would take away from their appreciation of the show as a reflection of reality.  Of course, soap operas don’t do that in every sense on every episode, but when you’re telling a story about a disease that people experience every day, you have an obligation to reflect the real-world experience.  So, by bringing it to a close too fast and by doing it in a way that didn’t honor what at times is the horror of the disease, felt like it would be a cop-out.  We wanted to do our best within the constrictions of the medium to depict that; while at the same time, of course, not wanting to leave people so depressed as to not want to tune back in.  It was a really delicate dance.  We are very grateful to have had the support of the network and Frank Valentini’s (executive producer, GH) ingenious production team as well as a great repertory of actors who were willing and able to give their all to this story.

Courtesy/ABC

Maurice Benard (Sonny) did some of his finest work of his career in this story, and you gave him the ball to do it, and Max Gail (Mike) was amazing.  Two standout episodes included: when Mike passed and was taken to heaven by Courtney (Alicia Leigh Willis) and Mike’s funeral episode.  Did you realize when you were writing it, the impact it would have on the audience?

DANAs for the funeral, I’d say that we knew as we were writing it that not only did we want to give the characters and the audience a chance to say goodbye to Mike, but we also wanted to give the performers a chance to say a goodbye to their relationship with the actor, Max Gail as well.  Max is a fantastic, phenomenal actor, and he formed close relationships with many of our performers.  So, when we wrote the episode, yes, we did want to give the audience a chance to say goodbye to the character, but we also knew that because of the close relationships that these performers have made with each other that the actors were going to bring their all, and it was going to provide the audience with some powerhouse performances.

Did you get emotional seeing it? 

CHRIS:  Oh, personally, I cried.

Courtesy/ABC

I know you both love and appreciate the soap genre and understand that the audience often wants a good cry and is invested in these characters.  So because of that; what’s it like for you when you see these emotional moments play out that start in your mind, go to the page, then to the stage, and now are out in the world for people to see and experience?

CHRIS:  I can’t speak for any of the other writers, but I’m not crying when I’m writing it, but I’m crying when I see it realized and how the actors, and the producers, and the directors realize it.  I personally am always surprised by the nuance and the beats that they find that we, in our first draft kind-of-lifestyle that we have as soap opera writers; where we are writing six or seven episodes per week, we don’t have the time or the luxury to really sit with an episode and mine it for every single beat and every emotion. That’s why we have great directors and great actors who take these scripts and find these extra moments.  So, it is really gratifying to watch – yes, to see something that we’ve imagined be produced and personified, but then to see how the production then takes it in other directions, that’s the best.  I think that’s the most gratifying part of writing for a show, not seeing what you’ve written produced, but seeing how it was parented into life.  When you have a baby, I think you have all sorts of ideas about what the baby will be, and then the baby becomes something else as the result of its environment and of the people who are influencing and guiding it along and that may be a bit of a stretched metaphor, but it kind of feels relative.

As co-head writers of General Hospital, how do you work together to come up with long-term story?  What is your process?

DAN:  Chris and I will meet regularly and discuss the long-term stories that we are telling, and plan to tell, and maybe some adjustments that we have to make along the way.  We get to meet with our writers several days every week as we figure out the best way to tell that story in the form of however many episodes we write a week.  Chris and I also write episodes along with our great breakdown script team, and every week we figure out the best way to either stay on the path of the story we are intending to tell, or find new opportunities or new twists and turns we can take along the way.

Photo: ABC

Do you get into friendly, creative disagreements? Is one of you more protective of a certain character than the other? 

DAN:  Chris and I have known each other for close to 15 years at this point, and we are not just colleagues, we are also friends.  There is a certain amount of shorthand that we have with each other which is just invaluable in telling story.  What’s great is that we sometimes come at the story from different angles or we have a different point of view, much like any two fans of the show wouldn’t agree on necessarily everything, but in our discussions about the show’s needs, wants, and haves, and the story trajectory, we ultimately get somewhere better than where either of us could have come up with on our own.  At the same time, there are those moments where we both come to the same idea at the same moment, and that’s definitely when we go, “Okay, we’re onto something good.”

CHRIS:  I can add as a partial translation that I can get really snippy, and Dan has the patience of a saint.  So, often times, I need 24 hours to go away, and sleep on something, and wake up, and say, “Oh Dan, you were totally right about that.  I’m so sorry I was snippy the other day,” and he doesn’t seem to hold it against me.

Do you ever get a writer’s block; as has to happen often with scribes in the unrelenting medium of daytime drama, and if so, I would think having a writing partner would be an asset during those times?

DAN:  I think it’s the nature of the beast.  At a certain point, you might hit a roadblock somewhere, but that’s why having a partner is so valuable that there is somebody else that you can bounce ideas along with, and just as, if not more importantly, our team of writers are always there to sometimes give us even better ideas than what we would have come up with on our own.

Courtesy/ABC

This year you utilized and delved back into a lot of GH history.  How did the idea come about to bring back the character of Jackie Templeton and have former All My Children and NYPD Blue favorite, Kim Delaney, take on the role?

DAN:  Jackie Templeton is a character who has been an Easter egg on the show for many years now.  Whenever we needed to namedrop a famous journalist, she was always our go-to.  It always felt like the character was in the ether of Port Charles for awhile, and we were excited to bring this take-no-prisoners character back and explore her history with Robert (Tristan Rogers), and at the same time, we were finally teed up to tell the story of Finn’s (Michael Easton) falling out with his father and step-mother, and we realized we had a great opportunity to have the character serve both stories and collide with not just Anna (Finola Hughes) and Finn, but Robert as well. Those three played wonderfully with each other. When we heard that Kim Delaney was interested in playing with us, we were just over the moon.  .

Courtesy/ABC

You have also been delving back into Laura’s childhood past and her history. I love that you brought up the death of David Hamilton and her teenage years, which hasn’t been discussed for a very long time on the show while tying it into the present.

DAN:  We were always aware of the story just because we love General Hospital and we love the character of Laura, and there is nothing else like daytime drama, and one of the great things about it is that you can reach decades into the past and expand on stories and themes that the audience actually witnessed. Long reaching history is a tool in our toolbox that not many other series have.  Chris and I love honoring and using our characters’ histories to propel the show into the future with some serious momentum.

Photo: ABC

You created and brought the character of  Cyrus Renault (Jeff Kober) on to the canvas. Was it originally a case of, “We need an uber-villain to come and shake things up,” and then you decided to connect him to Laura?  It’s been an intriguing shocker for viewers.  Jeff is playing the multi-levels of Cyrus with great finesse, and whenever you give Genie something, the fans go nuts, and she, in turn, delivers every time.

CHRIS:  The story of Cyrus has a couple of phases to it.  We wanted to bring on a villain who would not only be an adversary to Sonny, but someone who we could use to really test Jordan (Briana Nicole Henry) and Curtis (Donnell Turner), and we knew going in that the first phase of this story would really hit the Corinthos family and also the Ashfords, and as we developed it, we thought about what the act two would be, and we knew that we had an opportunity to really engage Genie Francis and to expand her sphere and expand her footprint on the show, and by connecting her to Cyrus, who is not your typical face or presence for a soap, but is also not your typical person who I think Laura would encounter in her daily life.  So, we knew, as we really developed Cyrus as a villain, that for Laura to find out that this man is her brother, would really allow us to play with Laura in a different context and in a different light and really give Genie a new kind of challenge.

Speaking of Genie, what did you think when you watched back her performance in the episode where you wrote that Laura has to say goodbye to her comatose daughter, Lulu (Emme Rylan), before she was sent off the canvas to a long-term care facility?

CHRIS:  I mean to me, that’s vintage Laura.  I came to General Hospital personally in the late 80s to early 90s, so my experience of Laura really only begins with her, and Luke (Tony Geary), and Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) at the Triple L Diner.  I think that what we’ve gotten to see with Genie is really reflective of the high emotion that she is capable of delivering.  At the same time as the high emotion, you’re also seeing really small human moments that she really breathes a lot of life into.  I can speak for Dan and myself when we say that we are just really thrilled with what she has been able to bring to the screen.  Thrilled, but I guess not surprised.

Coutesy/ABC

Nelle (Chloe Lanier) was such a great interloper and threat throughout the year in story; whether it’s hatching plots to gain custody of baby Wiley, or her “death” scene and confrontations with Carly (Laura Wright).  However, through all of this, when was it decided to make Nina (Cynthia Watros), Nelle’s biological mother?

DAN:  There are very few things that are as exciting on a soap as a character that makes you wonder what they are going to do next, and Chloe and Nelle provided that role with just gusto.  The truth is, the idea that Nelle was Nina’s daughter has been a part of the conception of that character, and over the last few years, the story evolved, and we ultimately got to reveal the truth to the audience.

Courtesy/ABC

As writers, there has to be characters that are just so delicious and treacherous to write for that you have to get a kick out of it! Chloe Lanier is so good that she makes the audience want to slap Nelle when she takes the dialog and then brings it to the screen.  

CHRIS:  It is tremendous fun.  Yes, yes, we love writing for these characters who are willing to do and say anything to get what they want.  We are constrained when writing for characters who have morality.  It takes a moral character a lot of really difficult circumstances for them to make a decision that might go against the grain, but when you have a character like Nelle, who is not shackled by certain societal norms, then you really get to live out the worst impulses that a person could have, and it’s really fun, especially when you take a really great performer like Chloe and see her as Nelle unleash all of the poison that she’s capable of.  At the same time, she can turn on a dime and rip your heart out a little bit when she turns on the water works.

Photo :ABC

Ava Jerome’s (Maura West) story this year had her moving into a relationship with Nikolas (Marcus Coloma).  We, the audience, didn’t know how that was going to go – if they were just going to use each other, or ultimately fall in love.  Was that the plan all along … that they would develop deep feelings for each other, or did you want to see how it progressed and played out on-screen, and then make that determination?

CHRIS:  I think that once we saw the chemistry between the two actors, we knew we had gold. So, we wanted to take our time, especially the way that it was constructed.  These were two people who had little use for each other emotionally, and in fact, probably wanted to see one another’s downfall, and that’s what makes it so great to write – that these are people who, in a similar vein as Nelle, don’t live by the same rules as most of the rest of us, and therefore, they might do things to each other that the rest of us would not do to anyone let alone whether we like them or not.  That’s what makes Ava and Nikolas so delicious is that from one moment to the next, you don’t know if they’re going to hatch a plot against each other or fall into bed and ravish each other. That’s what I think we hope to continue to play as we go forward because they certainly have very strong, passionate feelings for one another.  When you’re talking about Ava and Nikolas, these are two people who do not have a lot of fans necessarily in Port Charles, and there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily want to see them achieve happily ever after.  Knowing that there was so much initial mistrust and suspicion between the two of them could really provide the foundation for their own undoing or their undoing from someone who does not want to see them happy.

Photo: ABC

Back in November, GH made good use of a standalone episode spotlighting the history of the women’s right to vote and the suffrage movement; just as the presidential election was happening.  What made you decide to write this special show, and how do you feel it turned out as it also spotlighted the female cast?

CHRIS:  We had long intended to honor the one hundred years of American women’s suffrage with a special episode to air on the anniversary of the 19th amendment’s passage, but we missed the date due to the pause in production.  We realized we had a second chance as the election neared.  Going forward was a no-brainer. The biggest challenge was in distilling such an epic story into one episode. We think ABC would do well to consider a spinoff: “Port Charles, 1920”

Courtesy/ABC

You have such a powerhouse cast to write for.  It’s loaded.  It’s got to be a challenge for you to construct the story for GH when you’ve got to front burner people and back burner people, and then you’ve got these huge daytime stars all in one show.

DAN:  It’s an embarrassment of riches to have a cast as talented as we do quite frankly.  We are fortunate enough that we know that we have these amazing performers that we can trust with whatever stories that we throw their way.

CHRIS:  I will say that we do have a great cast.  They’re all wonderful, and when you have a show that is only approximately 35 minutes of airtime on any day, it’s a real balancing act to make sure that everybody gets a story that really is worthy of their talents, and we’ve got one for everybody.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of which story takes precedence in which moment, which is why occasionally some characters aren’t featured on a daily basis, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be.  If you were to ask me, “Who are the standouts?”  I would say all of them.  You saw this year: Maurice Benard, Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis), Maura West, Genie Francis, and Laura Wright (Carly) to name but just a few.  They’ve all done such fantastic work, and we can’t wait to give them more material to give them more moments to shine.

DAN:  A priority of ours is every week, we meet up and look (well, it’s virtual now during Covid-19) at the big board of our cast photos and we go through each character and always make sure that they have some story percolating even if it’s not on the air at the moment.

Photo: ABC

As we close out 2020, and look forward to 2021, any parting thoughts, and perhaps a tease of what GH fans can look forward to in the New Year?

CHRIS:  In general, I would just say that despite all of the challenges of the year, we are really grateful to our cast and the crew back in Los Angeles for realizing and improving the show that we imagined, and we are so excited for everything that is coming in 2021.  We hope to continue to throw a lot of surprises at the audience, and at the same time give them a lot of moments and stories of heart and love and excitement.

So, what did you think of the year in story on General Hospital in 2020? Share your thoughts on Chris and Dan’s comments and their year-end honors via the comment section below.

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