This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down with daytime icon Melody Thomas Scott who has played Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless for the past 33 years. Melody speaks candidly about the number one daytime soap, the recent casting decisions on the soap – including her firing last year, as well as the late great Bill Bell.
Hello, welcome to Toronto! What kind of reaction did you receive from the fans at your events today?
It was a wonderful reaction. It’s a very unique situation that most actors don’t get. It’s a great thing to have. If you’re on a soap, you are in peoples lives forever. It’s a very close relationship that they develop.
Did you receive any feedback regarding the storylines? The coupling of Victor (Eric Braeden) and Sharon (Sharon Case) for example. Or, “Shictor,” as they’re referred to online?
Yes, a little bit of that. Oh, is that what they call them?! Shictor!
Yes, it’s not really a loving couple name.
Oh dear. There were a few questions about that. You know, what can I say? I don’t know what is in the writers’ heads. Hopefully, they have an idea where they’re going [with that storyline]. Hopefully there is a Point B to this Point A.
All I can do is to think back to when Bill Bell, Sr. was alive. He might have been criticized over a storyline, but only he knew where that road was leading. So once we got there, we all thought, “Oooh! That’s why that happened!” This is why Bill didn’t care if people were criticizing him. He saw the bigger picture. I’m just assuming that’s the same with Maria [Bell; current head writer and executive producer]. She knows where she’s going on this very unusual road – we don’t.
What is your opinion on this pairing?
I can’t really have an opinion yet because I don’t think enough of this story has been revealed. It’s just the very beginning. I don’t know, maybe they’re testing the audience to see how the audience feels about it?
I know Bill never did that. Bill didn’t care what the viewers thought. He had his vision and his story that he was going to tell and he was just going to tell it.
There’s so much interaction and feedback from the fans now compared to when Bill Bell, Sr. was writing. How would he have reacted to the message boards and Twitter?
He would not have paid any attention to it at all. He never read fan mail. He appreciated comments and feedback, but it never altered his story and what he was going to tell. Never. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but that’s how he worked.
Nikki has reunited with Jack (Peter Bergman). Fans are more receptive to this because of the history between the characters, and of course, the conflict with Jack’s son Kyle (Blake Hood) since Nikki killed his mother in self-defense. What’s coming up with that story?
I think they’re getting us ready for something but I have no idea yet. We pick up the script and we’re reading it just as the viewers are tuning in.
Do you think Nikki was always meant to be Diane’s (Maura West) killer?
No. I don’t.
There was a “dark period” last year for you, Nikki and the fans. Nikki was sent to rehab for months, her red shoes came back to Genoa City to bludgeon Diane, and then her expensive suitcase left for London. You joined Twitter and the fans became aware of your status (or lack of status) with the show and then they finally brought you back. You must be thankful to that fan response.
Oh, absolutely! I thank them every which way I can.
This one friend I made through Twitter, drove all the way from outside of Toronto today for 2 and a half hours to meet with me. We had never met in person before and I don’t know what to compare it to. A decade ago, there was no such thing as Twitter. It’s so weird. I’m 56 years old and if somebody had told me that I would be on these things called Twitter and Facebook, I would have told them they were out of their mind!
I had so many people telling me to sign up and then when I finally did, I found my way to a couple of uber-fans and we became friendly. They kept asking me when I’d be on the show again; I truthfully told them that I didn’t even have any scripts. The next thing I know, there’s this huge campaign going. I wasn’t trying to stir the pot in any way and I had no clue that Twitter even had that power.
I thought these people were delusional to think that they could change a head writer’s opinion, or whoever’s opinion my exit was.. I know that I will never know the answer to that. I was absolutely stunned at the power that Twitter had. Without them, I would still not be on the show.
I was fired. I was not on that show anymore.
And they changed that. It’s shocking! I’m obviously relieved and grateful. I will forever be indebted to the many Twitter friends that I’ve met. They are true friends now. I’ve had a couple of them to my house. We have dinner together, we go out together. It’s like I have these new, young, friends from different parts of the country. Am I crazy? Or is this just the world these days?!
We’ve seen the remaining soaps’ budgets getting slashed in recent years. Many veterans including yourself, Eric Braedan and Jess Walton (Jill) have had these grueling public negotiations recently and now the show is letting Eileen Davidson (Ashley) go.
I just heard about Eileen. [It’s] terrible.
Fans are upset, and they should be. Sony puts the veteran actors through this stuff but can find the funds to bring in former ABC daytime stars? As well as stunt casting former primetime actors for guest/recurring parts. Nothing against Genie Francis (Genevieve), Debbi Morgan (Harmony) or Darnell Williams (Sarge), they’re wonderful performers. Y&R fans tune in to watch Victor, Nikki, Katherine, Jill, Jack and Ashley. How is Sony justifying these decisions?
It makes one wonder where they are going with that. I don’t know. It is concerning, because, Eileen of all people? If I was forced to whittle down the show to ten actors, Eileen would certainly be on that list of core, original people who are Y&R. They’re signature Y&R. Whatever kind of thinking made them decide this concerns me.
Maria’s taking the heat because she’s the head writer and executive producer. Is she to blame or are these decisions being made at a higher level?
I would have no idea. All I know is when all this was going on with me last year, Maria was nothing but kind and supportive to me and I appreciated that. I believed her. There’s no Hollywood bullshit there and I always appreciated that. Maria has never lied to me, nor has she ever played that game. I don’t know what the press is asking her.
She hasn’t spoken to the press.
I just heard that Eileen is going back to Days of our Lives? Is that true?
The rumours are there. Right now, I suspect it may just be wishful thinking. If we can’t have Eileen on Y&R, we’ll take her on DAYS.
It’s just bizarre to my sensibilities. I don’t understand it.
Do you think a last minute deal could be made to keep Eileen and Ashley in Genoa City?
I have no idea. I didn’t even know she was up for negotiations. Or maybe she wasn’t?! I mean, I wasn’t!
I will miss her desperately. I think it’s wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
What about Jess Walton’s six-month leave? Is it true she’s taking time off to be with family?
That’s true. To my knowledge, there’s no animosity between her and the show. I know Jess was happy that they agreed to let her have that time off. She is thrilled about her baby grandchild. Her son and my daughter went to high school together, so I know Jess not has just a fellow actor, but I know her as a mother. Jess is cool, she’s great! And again, no Hollywood bullshit there. If there was something going on [behind the scenes], she will tell you the truth and I haven’t heard anything like that from her.
That’s a relief.
We’re watching stories like Daisy and “Shictor” being played out right now, which are not only being panned by fans, but critics as well. Where are the Y&R stories that we’ve grownt o love? Where’s the scandal? The drama? The love? The pacing is horrible. Nikki and Victor will tell each other that they love one and another on Monday, but by Friday, Nikki’s with Jack while Victor has moved on from not only Nikki, but from Genevieve and onto Sharon by Friday.
Needs a little more time, huh?
Where’s the buildup?
I agree. We need to take the time we used to take and really develop something that people care about. And again, I don’t know the reason why they’re doing this. I don’t think it’s random. Obviously, a decision has been made by someone to make things go faster. But, if it’s too fast to be believable, then you’ve defeated the purpose.
When your husband, Ed Scott, was producing, I remember reading an interview that you did where you worked on some behind the scenes stuff as well, like choosing Nadia’s theme for when Cassie passed away. It was one of the most powerful moments on the show. How much input do you have these days to do that additional consultation?
Oh you know about that! I enjoyed doing that. I haven’t really offered to lately. I would love to do it if I were asked.
You were robbed of a Daytime Emmy nomination this year. I loved drunk Nikki.
What are your thoughts on the Daytime Emmy situation? The Emmys celebrate television and yet no broadcast network wants to air these awards.
Considering…I mean this is rhetorical, have you SEEN the last [Daytime] Emmy shows? If you own a network, would you want to carry that show? No.
Given the opportunity, how would you produce it? What would you do?
Frankly, I haven’t really put that much thought to that possibility. But, I would try to get back the class, the appeal and the romance that made them so popular in the beginning. It’s just become such a farce.
Last year was a perfect example of “What was this? An infomercial for Las Vegas?” It was just so trashy. They’re trying to speak well about a genre and then they just trash it up and make it terrible.
It’s just become so unappealing. Nobody wants to go. Nobody wants to be there. I remember the old days, THAT was a huge event! They were still in New York, it was BIG! We were so excited and it didn’t matter whether you were nominated or not. Not just the awards, but the activities surrounding them as well. We had all these wonderful things. There were things to celebrate at that time. And now, it’s almost just an embarrassment because nobody either knows how or has any interest in giving it the glory and respect that it deserves.
Even with the shows themselves. Storylines would make people think. They would be so scandalous that it had people talking. I remember being a young boy and not being allowed to watch soaps because some of the stories were so scandalous for a kid.
So, the fact that it was scandalous is what made you watch as a young boy.
If there’s good conflict now on the show, it’ll get people I know talking. Like, “Did you see what Adam did?” Or we look back to the past, like “Remember when Jack through a chair out of the window?”
You need to have conflict. Bill always used to say, “Conflict is the essence of drama.” And, he was absolutely right about that. You have to have conflict, but you have to have appealing conflict. Because, if you don’t care about those characters, then forget it! It’s over.
You have to have a combination of good writing and acting. Writers that will create characters that you care about, that you want to cheer for. Played by actors who can somehow transform themselves into another person. That’s not an easy find. It’s a tough call out there. It’s not easy to succeed as an actor in this genre because it’s so very different. There’s always this little extra push to dramatize things a little more than if it were reality, a film or a primetime project. We go that extra push, which people love. People really feel like they’re getting into that character’s heart and soul. They’re able to relate. They dream about it! They dream about our characters. It’s unbelievable.
It’s a unique and wonderful position to be in as an actor but really frightening right now with as what you said is going on. I don’t think that the correct executives are appreciating the genre anymore. I would like to know who is making these strange decisions. We’ll never be told.
Looks like the opening credits will finally be updated.
Oh are they?
Some actors have filmed their parts from what I hear.
Apparently, they’re not updating mine, or I would have known about it!
Well, this sucks.
Well, I’m already in there!
I heard they were revamping them altogether. Unless they were just adding the actors who aren’t in them.
I know nothing of it. Oh god, here’s another Twitter campaign! [Laughs] Should I worry?! We already went through this last year.
Have you enjoyed playing Nikki’s battle with alcohol as much as we’ve enjoyed watching it? I love drunk Nikki.
Everyone loves a drunk Nikki, including me! There’s something so enjoyable – and I know that’s an odd word to use, but there’s something very enjoyable about playing her drunk. I don’t really know why. It could be the juxtaposition, I guess. Here she is from the outside in: beautiful, rich, has everything – but, she’s broken.
Would you like to bring anyone back into Nikki’s life? Character-wise, dead or alive. Any actors you’d like to work with again?
I would love to have John Enos come back to play Bobby Marsino. I would love for Roberta Leighton to come back as Casey, Nikki’s sister.
Any storyline you’d like to act out?
I would love for Nikki to go stark raving mad! I mean truly crazy. Talk about fun! Now, that’s the thing that would top the drinking in my mind. Wouldn’t that be fun?
What would cause Nikki to go crazy? Victor would have to do something to push her over the edge.
Something that would drive her so far…I think that would be so much fun to play and I think the viewers would love it! There’s something compelling in, as I’ve said, that Elizabeth Taylor syndrome, where’s she’s got everything – but she’s got nothing. There’s something in there somewhere that is very Nikki as well.
Although apart, Victor and Nikki will always be connected. They’re a pairing that’s woven into the fabric of The Young and the Restless. What’s next for them? What are some of your hopes for them?
That’s the writers’ job to come up with something believable. I mean, that is always they’re challenge. Nikki and Victor have played this cycle over and over again and it’s very successful because people care about them. I would imagine just because I’ve watched the show for 33 years as well as played it – they’ve got to get back together! There’s nothing else they could do! They have to get back together, as for how, I don’t know. The writers have a rough job coming up with something that I hope will be good!
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS and Global. Canadian fans can also catch up with the series online at GlobalTV.com, on demand or on their mobile devices. You can follow Melody Thomas Scott on Twitter, @MelodyThomasSco.
For the latest in television and pop culture, follow Jeevan on Twitter, @JeevanBrar.