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Y&R’s Jason Thompson Talks Billy Abbott & His Daytime Emmy Nomination: Will Sixth Time Be The Charm To Bring Home The Gold?

Photo: CBS.

Since making his daytime debut on General Hospital back in 2005, Jason Thompson quickly became one of soap operas most respected and critically-acclaimed actors, and after appearing on the ABC daytime drama for over 10 years, he racked up five Daytime Emmy nominations in a row for his role as Dr. Patrick Drake.

Fast-forward, Thompson came over to The Young and the Restless in 2016 to take on the highly-coveted role of Billy Abbott: a role that won its predecessors: David Tom and Billy Miller, Emmy gold.  Now in this year’s 47th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, Jason is nominated for the first time for his work on Y&R in the Lead Actor category.  Will his long-awaited and deserved Daytime Emmy finally come his way on Emmy night?  Tune in to find out Friday night, June 26th on CBS (8 p. m. EST).

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Jason to get his thoughts on his shot this year in the Lead Actor race after his riveting, commanding and demanding performances in the 2019 season, as Billy came off the rails, faced his inner demons, and regained his center … but how long will that last with Billy’s often recklessness?

Always thoughtful, introspective and self-effacing, here Jason not only talks about his Emmy submission, (which included scenes from his incredible standalone episode), but his friendly competition, plus what he thinks of Billy’s storyline as it was left before the coronavirus shutdown working opposite Christel Khalil (Lily), and more.  Here’s Jason.

Photo: JPI

There was gum-chewing in this nomination, correct?  (Laughs)

JASON: There had to be some gum-chewing going on; I’m sure! (Laughs)

I know some of the scenes on your Emmy-nominated reel were from the standalone episode where Billy is fighting his demons against his gum chewing alter-ego.  Were there other scenes as well that you included?

JASON:  Yes.  I started the reel with one of the scenes where Billy woke up in the Chancellor living room not knowing how he got there, and then got back to the master bedroom with Victoria (Amelia Heinle), and she was asking him what was going on, and he was confused about everything.  Then it went into some of the standalone episode, and then I had a scene from the therapist’s office in there, as well.  I kind of switched it up a little bit.  I didn’t put in the whole standalone episode: but I tried to tell a little bit of a story through the process of putting together scenes.

Photo: JPI

You wanted to tell the story of Billy’s emotional downfall, correct?

JASON:  I tried to encompass how he got to a certain way and then, you transition out to a certain extent.  It wasn’t easy to pick scenes.  It never is, but I was very fortunate to have some good story last year which is really the main focus, and really fortunate to get that from the team at Y&R.

What moments from the standalone episode did you pick?  I know the part at the end where Billy is being choked by himself was in your submission.

JASON:  Yeah, it was of one of those things near the end where he was really struggling through everything, and then he has a flashback of everybody who has come to visit him, and it’s that battle within him.

Photo: JPI

How was that episode to actually film for you?  Was it daunting, or amazing, or both?

JASON:  It was a little bit of both.  It was actually done over two days just because of scheduling with everyone coming in and out.  It was great.  I really enjoyed it.  It was something different that I had ever done before, and it was somewhat all encompassing in where you kind of found Billy and him going through the whole range and coming out of it.  Anytime you get to work with all of the people that I did in one day is fantastic.  So, it was super fun, I think what was really enjoyable about it was that it was different.  I think Sally McDonald directed a lot of it.  We were talking back and forth about different background music and different sound structures and everything with the sound guys too.  It was fun to collaborate in a bigger, more elaborate way than a usual episode.

When Billy goes to the therapist, what do you remember about that scene that resonated with you to put it in your Emmy reel?

JASON:  For me, I found a lot of who Billy is in those scenes   – vulnerable, but strong, but still confused   – willing to put himself out there, but trying to figure out what makes him tick.  The actress who played the therapist was great and super comfortable to be around.  So, it helped those kinds of scenes, and again, I think it was just a different level than what you saw in the other scenes on my reel.

Photo: JPI

Your performances last year were gut-wrenching.  I think there is something unique in the humanity that you bring to the audience in your work that resonates with them.  

JASON:  We all know that feeling when it kind of rings true for you.  That is really the biggest challenge of my job, which is also why I love my job.  I’ve got to work hard to make it feel real.  I think for me it starts where I can relate it to my own life, and then it’s not fake emotions.  I think as audience member, I appreciate that when I see it done in the right way with one of my favorite actors.  So, to me, that is the challenge – just trying to see something in that character that you relate to, and it’s not easy to do; to allow yourself to go there a lot of times, but that’s what I enjoy doing.

I know this is your sixth Daytime Emmy nomination, and we’ve talked every year you’ve been nominated.  And I know I have said you were going to win before, too!

JASON:  No, ring-a-ding-dings yet!  You have been wrong a couple of times, but I appreciate that.  This is my fourth nomination in the Lead Actor category and I had two previously in the Supporting Actor category.

Photo: JPI

However, this is your first nomination for playing Billy on Y&R.

JASON:  First for Billy, and I am actually really excited about that.  I thought it was kind of a nice touch in an interesting time.  You know, this is my fourth year and first nomination on the show and with this character, and it just feels kind of nice.  It’s been such a great time at Y&R over these four years.  I’ve appreciated the people I’ve worked with.  It’s important for me to earn trust from cast members and from our crew, and obviously the writers and producers, and of course the network and everything.  That is something that I try to pride myself on.  When your number is called, you want to be ready and you want to be prepared to go the distance.  It isn’t easy what we do in daytime, and it takes a lot of energy to come up with story, and write it, and get it Okayed from everybody, and you want to do your best to make it lift off the page.  So, like I said before, getting those opportunities with our great cast, and getting a nomination with this character that other people have played in the past because it’s such a great character, feels good.

Do you feel like you have now put your stamp on the character of Billy Abbott?

JASON:  I feel like Billy is constantly evolving.  He is always learning, so I am always learning more about him.  He is always in new situations, so I am learning how he navigates those kinds of situations and those moments.  I mean, is he mine?  That’s not necessarily for me to decide.  All I can do is what I have tried to do from the beginning, which I felt like I tried to do at GH also, which is to continue to evolve with the character which is part of what I love about daytime; because it is ongoing.

Photo: JPI

It’s was interesting in 2019 to see the reaction of the fans on social media to Billy because of his behavior.  Some were negative, and some would say, “Grow up, Billy!” Did that at all color your performance an actor, or did you have to block it all out and not listen to the noise?

JASON:  I try to not let too much of that stuff affect me.  I can’t just pick and choose to listen to all of the great things people say, or all of the nice things people say.  It goes both ways.  At the same time, you’ve got to try and play the long game with your character as much as you can, and be in the moment with your character, because you’re doing him a disservice if you’re not playing the real emotions.  It doesn’t mean you don’t have an eye on where you want to end up or where you want to go, but at the same time, yes, he’s being a jerk in this scene or he’s not communicating very nicely, let’s say, there is a story that you’re playing.  There is hurt.  There is vulnerability.  There is elation in a lot of ways, and the way Billy is, he gets to kind of roam all over the place.  He zig-zags.  He’s not a straight A to B kind of guy.  He likes to wander a little bit, which I really appreciate in him.  He is full of life in a lot of ways, and that life can really make him buoyant, or sometimes it can make him heavy, but that’s fun for me.  I think that’s what people really like the character for, whether it was me or anybody else playing him.  Billy does have a sense of recklessness that I think most people can kind of admire. Does it get him in trouble?  Yeah, it does, but he’s got a big heart, and I think that’s what he leads with.

Photo: JPI

You’ve got some gentlemen I think you know very well in your category: Jon Lindstrom (Kevin/Ryan GH), Thorsten Kaye (Ridge, B&B), Thaao Penghlis (Tony, DAYS), and Steve Burton (Jason, GH).  What do you think about being nominated with this group, and did any of them communicate with you; after receiving a nomination?

JASON:  Steve texted me a couple of minutes, and I kind of had another phone call coming through, so I kind of looked and saw he got nominated too.  That was great.  Steve was there when I first started on General Hospital as Patrick, and he was one of those guys who had been around a long time who still really enjoys his job and gets off on the acting part of it also.  Thorsten, I see all the time because we are across the hall from B&B.  Jon Lindstrom … I look up to Jon because I really admire his career.  He has been able to just keep working.  I see him pop up on HBO shows and then back at GH, and he is a very, very capable actor and nice gentleman.  Thaao, same thing.  I worked with him at GH also.  So, to come full circle and be in a group with the people who you are accustomed to working alongside and seeing them get accolades also is great.

Photo: JPI

Did you ever think, when you started at General Hospital years ago, you would now be a six-time Emmy nominee?

JASON:  Oh yeah, 100%.  I was just pissed it took me so long. (Laughs)  Truth be told, you don’t go play in the NHL if you don’t want to win MVP of the Stanley Cup.  You’d be lying if you said you wanted to be an actor and you haven’t given these speeches in the bathroom or your car before.  We have.  We all do.  So, yeah.  There is something about that.  That’s not the sole purpose of the work, but it does drive you to want to excel, and to me, that’s another one of those things.  One of the amazing things about this quarantine was being able to sit down and watch The Last Dance, the Michael Jordan documentary.  That is a powerful man right there with a psyche to go along with it, and a work ethic, and everything else.  Sometimes that’s hard to be around.  I’m nowhere near that, but what you can appreciate is that he finds his own little battles inside of him to power him, and those could be positive things, and those could be things that you want to overcome, and for me, you always want to try to be the best in your business.  That’s just what you want to do, and for me, I want to be along those lines.  The people who I look up to are: Tony Geary (Ex-Luke, GH) Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH), Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) and obviously Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R), Jane Elliot (Tracy, GH) Eileen Davidson (Ashley, Y&R), Jess Walton (Jill, Y&R).  They’re always at the top of their game.  So, you want to be among them.  You want to be in the same boat with those people, if you will.

I watched The Last Dance.  I thought it was riveting.  I thought it was so well done.

JASON:  Yeah, it was riveting.  My wife, Paloma has probably watched two basketball games in her life, and she couldn’t wait for the next episode to come on just because it’s about the psychology of it all.

Photo: JThompsonIG

It’s going to be a virtual Emmy’s.  Are you going to hang out with the family on Emmy night, or what are you going to do?

JASON:  It’ll probably be a little more spur-of-the-moment.  We’ll see.  We haven’t really started figuring out what we are going to do yet.  I’m assuming yes, I’ll be with my family and take it as it comes, and just enjoy the experience.  I’m stoked that CBS wants to do have the Daytime Emmys on network TV again.  I think it’s really, really cool for them to step up and want to do it, but let’s just hope that this is the last time that we do this kind of thing, virtually.  It is great to be together with people.  It is one of the things that I really love most about this time, especially when you are nominated, to get to go along the ride and kind of enjoy it, and get to talk to people like yourself and do the red carpet, and if your name gets called, you get to thank the people who helped you get there and all of the people who support you.  That’s an amazing thing.  So, I am going to miss not being with everybody and seeing old friends and making new ones, but at the same time this is a new experience like everybody has been having lately, so we will go for it and see what happens.

Do your children Bowie and Rome know; or understand, that their dad is an Emmy nominee?

JASON:  Well, I mean kind of, but no not at all. (Laughs)  We were on the beach when Y&R publicist, Matt Kane called us, and when I got off the phone, Paloma was like, “What was that?” and I said, “I got an Emmy nomination,” and she’s like, “Oh my God, great, great, congratulations!”  Bowie is like, “What’s an Emmy nomination?”  I’m like, “It’s kind of like… I don’t know… what is it?  I guess it’s kind of like potentially an award or something or whatever for doing good work.”   I was looking at a list of the nominees, and I said to him, “Oh, a couple of your favorite shows got nominated, Dino Dana,” which he loves watching.  So, he was more excited that Bubble Guppies and Dino Dana got nominated for Emmys along with his daddy. They don’t know what daddy does for a job yet or anything like that, so I don’t think it means much to them right now.

Photo: JPI

When we last saw new episodes of Y&R, prior to the production shutdown due to COVID-19, you had been working more in story with another Emmy nominee, Christel Khalil.  How do you feel where we left Billy when we last saw him? Are you enjoying that storyline?

JASON:  I think it’s great.  I’m excited to see where it goes.  Obviously, we’ve had a pretty decent break now too, so they’ve probably had time to think about things a little bit differently.  So, I really don’t know what’s to come, but I am really stoked that Christel is back.  I think she is an asset to our show.  She is a beautiful woman inside and out, and I think she is a very, very capable actress and she is really fun to work with.  I know Billy and Lily had a relationship in the past, but it’s new for me to explore.  So, anytime I get to do that, it’s always fun.  I think it is going to be exciting with working at Chancellor Industries.  Anytime I get to work with Jess Walton is great, and it starts to mix what I think Y&R does really, really well.  It’s love, family, and business.  I think those three worlds are really, really intertwined with Y&R, and I think that is when we are at our best, when those three things are working really well.

Photo: CBS

I just wanted to pass along: I was talking with Sally McDonald, and we were talking about the funeral episode for Neil, when Kristoff St. John had passed.  She said to me, “I just loved Jason Thompson in the memorial” because even though you weren’t speaking, when the camera would go to you in the pew you were just so in it.  She said, “I don’t know him as well as I know the other cast members because they’ve been here longer, but he is just amazing.”

JASON:  That was very kind of her, and that was a tricky day to shoot:  part celebration, part heartache, part all of those kinds of emotions everywhere. I just had the blessing of being a part of something like that, and to hear people speak so honestly about a friend that a lot of people had lost was so special.  Kristoff was very, very special to a lot of people, and had a long, long relationship on this show with the cast members and the crew.  I’d look at Christel and Bryton (Devon), and they were just incredible.  Eric Braeden got up there, and the honesty that was coming from him and everybody, I was so honored to be there.  So, there wasn’t really anything for me to do except sit there and listen, and nowadays we all could probably do that a bit better.  It’s a very natural reaction when you listen with compassion and empathy to people speak so highly of their friend.  I was glad to be a part of that episode.

Photo: JPI

Alright, Jason, I guess I should not conclude this interview with my pick of who I think will win Lead Actor. (Laughs)

JASON:  Only because you don’t want to be wrong!  Honestly, thank you for your support.  You’ve always been in my corner.  I appreciate that.

So, will you be rooting for Jason to take home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Daytime Emmy this Friday night? What do you hope happens next for Billy Abbott when Y&R returns from its taping shutdown? Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Maddy HayesClaudioPatricia WraggK:kayViolet Lemm Recent comment authors
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boes
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boes

I’m sorry, but I don’t think Jason Thompson’s version of Billy Abbott deserves anything other than either a trip to the backburner or termination and replacement with someone better. Jason was excellent on GH as Patrick Drake, one of the most consistently dependable actors on what can be a very uneven show. But his turn as Billy Abbott on Y&R has been a disaster. His Billy is petulant, unpleasant, selfish, unpleasant, delusional, unpleasant, unkind, unattractive and worst of all, utterly humorless. I don’t know who he’s playing but it’s NOT Billy Abbott. It’s one thing to put your own stamp… Read more »

Violet Lemm
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Violet Lemm

Of course I’ll be rooting for Jason. I think he can go toe to toe with any and all of the other gentlemen. Good luck Jason!

K:kay
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K:kay

Jason had the chops for this storyline to have been brilliant unfortunately Douglas Marland was not alive to write it ! My glorious Terry Lester was brilliant with the DID storyline on ATWT that Doug wrote then he passed away and poof the story went to hell! I would love if we had some of those brilliant minds back again not sure we will ever get back to the glory days ! Bottom line if Jason wins I will not have a problem he is a good actor just had some crap writing !i have major heartburn on what GH… Read more »

Patricia Wragg
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Patricia Wragg

I love Jason as Billy Abbott!! I truly hope that he wins

Maddy Hayes
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Maddy Hayes

Team Jason

Claudio
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Claudio

I love Jason, he deserves to win the Daytime Emmy. Jason is a wonderful actor.

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Photo: JPI

Now below, check out the interview with Kimberlin and Tanner.   For more celebrity interviews make sure to subscribe and check out the Michael Fairman Channel here.

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Now, share your favorite moments from Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem, and this video interview, via the comment section here.

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DAYS head writer, Ron Carlivati talks with Michael Fairman on the creation and the making of the limited-series “Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem” currently streaming on Peacock. Leave A Comment

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