Fans of The Young and the Restless have been missing the talents of Jeff Branson (as Ronan Malloy) when he quickly exited the canvas of the number one show during the regime change between then executive producer Maria Arena Bell, and new chief Jill Farren Phelps. And while he has been gone from daytime, the blue ribbon panel and academy voters certainly remembered him! So much so, that Branson is once again in the running for the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category at this year’s 40th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, to be held on Sunday June 16th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, and airing once again on cabler, HLN!
Branson won the Outstanding Supporting Actor prize before, back in 2009 for his work as Shayne Lewis on Guiding Light, in a tie with All My Children’s Vincent Irizarry (David Hayward)! On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Jeff shortly after he became Emmy nominated one more time, to get his reaction to the acknowledgment by his peers, if he would like to return to Genoa City and have Ronan gets some lovin’ from Phyllis (Michelle Stafford), the importance of Y&R telling a timely bullying storyline, and his thoughts on the new All My Children (since he played Jonathan Lavery on the series), and more! Here’s our chat with Jeff!
Congratulations on being a Daytime Emmy nominee once again! So many fans love you as Ronan! They always tweet me, or post messages about how much they miss you on Y&R! Would you like to return to the show, if the opportunity presented itself?
JEFF: I am in a position in my life where I want to be wanted. If they have a story for me, and a story they want me to come tell, I would love to do that. You know the way this industry works. You don’t want to beg to have somebody write for you, because you won’t like it, and you won’t like what happens. You will probably get embarrassed and shut down. I want them to say, “We need Jeff back on the canvas. We need some Ronan for this and that. Let’s call Jeff.” That way, I know that I am wanted there and not because I wiggled into it. I just know then the story is going to reflect it. It’s a writer’s game. I am only as good as the writing I’ve got. If it’s not very passionate, because they are not passionate about this character or me, I am not going to try to change their mind on that. If they want me around to tell a story, my phone is on!
Were you then surprised by the nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, when you had been written off the show?
JEFF: Very! I was like, “Holy s**t!” I was surprised at the Pre-Nomination! I was like, “Really?” Jimmy Freeman (Y&R publicist) called it. He saw the scene where Ronan is drunk with Phyllis at the end of the episode. He shot me an email saying, “I just want to tell you that was great stuff.” And when someone like Jimmy says that, someone that watches every single thing all day long, you know you did something good.
What episode did you submit and why did you choose it?
JEFF: It was my best stuff. Josh Griffith (head writer, Y&R) wrote me out so quickly, to no fault of his own. It’s business. I think Maria Arena Bell’s Young and the Restless might have asked me to extend my stay a little bit, because things were going so well with Ronan and Phyllis, and between the whole Nick thing. There was a great relationship being formed with Michael and Ronan. So there were good things going on. I think Jill Farren Phelps (EP, Y&R) had other plans. We never had a conversation about an extension. Again, a lot was going on, and no one’s at fault here. The ball can get dropped sometimes when you take over an entire show. I did not expect to be a first priority (Laughs). But they wrote me out so quick, that this material became so potent. It had to be so amped up. All of a sudden, he had this relationship with Phyllis. He helped her. He is breaking the law for her. He kept her out of jail. He is obviously falling in love with her and then obviously, it’s done. They had to eek this out in a one day; so obviously with that drunken scene, it led to a higher emotional life than Ronan usually shows. Usually, Ronan is a very emotionally controlled character, but in these scenes it gave me the opportunity to show a little bit of the chops. In the scene, Ronan is drunk and he says he is tired of always hearing, “Nick, Nick, Nick. Nick is gone and out of the picture, and he is not coming back!” At the end of the scene, I took my six-pack with me! (Laughs) I will go have this party somewhere else then, dammit! (Laughs)
How was working with Michelle Stafford?
JEFF: She’s a dream. I have had it really good in daytime. I had Gina Tognoni (Ex-Dinah, GL) before that; and working with Michelle Stafford, she brings it every day and she is always ready to play. I think it showed in our on-air chemistry. When two people like being around each other, and like each other’s company, and like each other’s work ethic, the camera sees all of that. I think it came across.
I know you were originally slated to be a major part in the storyline where you are a mentor to young Jamie (Daniel Polo), and the bullying story that came out of that. Then the story went in another direction, which was probably part casualty due to your quick exit.
JEFF: Yeah, I think it was going a different way, and that was obviously a casualty of Ronan’s out date. That was a drag. There were only two bummers about my time on Y&R … not enough Tricia Cast (Nina) time, and the fact that Daniel Polo (Jamie) rocked that storyline, and had me believing in every word that he uttered out of his mouth. I wish I could have played more scenes with him. That is what can be so cool about daytime. They can write something so quickly and get out something so relevant. It is very timely. They got that story out, and I really think it’s important. I was bullied in high school. Then I got older and I actually prevented bullies because somewhere along the line I turned “cool”. I don’t even remember how. Something happened and I was cool all of a sudden! (Laughs) I watched out and prevented bullying. I know exactly how cruel kids can be, as we all do, if not watched and uncensored. Kids can rip your heart out, because they have no sense of the world yet. They have no sense of loss, and they don’t understand how destructive they can be. I really would have liked to finish telling that, also Christian LeBlanc (Michael) was involved in it, and Max Ehrich (Fen) does such great work, too. I really wanted to play that out, but unfortunately it did not work out that way.
In every role you have played, whether it be Jonathan Lavery on All My Children or Shayne Lewis on Guiding Light, people are so drawn to you on-screen. You are a very interesting actor to watch. Why do you think your performances translate so well to viewers? Are you aware you are able to do that?
JEFF: I think I am a good listener. My mother likes to talk about me … to me! (Laughs) She watches. She has been a fan of daytime since I can remember. She talks about it, and she tries to explain what she finds interesting about my work, which is interesting because it’s your mother. (Laughs) And don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to say I am all that and a bag of chips. OK?
No, but I said you are all that and a bag of chips! (Laughs)
JEFF: (Laughs) My mother has deduced it to that I am a really good listener. That is what she thinks it is. I do know when I am on, I am on. But I thank you very much for saying that, Michael.
Compared to your other daytime parts, do you think Ronan is one of the most favorite characters you have played?
JEFF: Not the most, but yes. I think I need to come back and finish up some business. I am not just saying that to get myself back on TV. I think we were just starting to chip away at that frosty exterior that Ronan had. That cop mentality of, “Just the facts, man.” I think we were just starting to see the human side of him. I think if he had love in his life, I think if he ends up falling in love with Phyllis, it opens his heart up, maybe. He can accept people and let them in. He can help the kid that is being bullied, and help his mother have a relationship with him, and then explore that and try to trust her. There are a lot of things that Ronan was just about to start doing.
It’s kind of cool, though … you are off the show and people are noticing your work!
JEFF: I couldn’t be happier with the nomination, and I am floored! I did like Ronan a lot. Some of the other characters I played, such as Jonathan on AMC … he was a whack-job! I loved him to death, but it got to the point where I was under the bed building a bomb! I mean, c’mon? Playing Shane was a really damaged character that turned around on Guiding Light. He really started to love and opened up his heart. I am just comparing the two, only in that I had more time to develop those characters with a wider story.
What do you think about the return of All My Children online in its new format? Have you checked it out yet?
JEFF: I was just talking to Thorsten Kaye (Zach, AMC) about it. I think the return of AMC is really cool. I think it’s the future and they are ahead of the game. If they can take off the censorship you could steam it up, sex it up, amp it up, and say the things you need to say. You kind of lose some of your network restrictions. I think the nature of daytime and how it is written; it could really work for it. That’s when people sometimes call things “soapy” because you are trying to do these emotional storylines, or these love scenes, and you are trying to do them under very rigid constructs that you have to work with, because of censors. It’s just how it is … it’s business. With the new online AMC version, they may need to settle down a bit and just get a good groove on. Once they are on a good roll, I think this could be the future.
Will you be attending the Daytime Emmys?
JEFF: I will be there at the Daytime Emmys. I will have a sign out front, “Will Act for Ticket!” (Laughs)
What other projects have you been involved in lately? Where can fans look forward to seeing your work in the coming months?
JEFF: I did another thing for Sony in video game land. It was quite cool. It was motion-capture work. It’s going to have my likeness in it. I did those couple of guest star roles for a few CSI’s, and there are two other things going on. One is in talks right now, and something else where I am trying to start to wear a producer’s hat. It’s something for the last five years I have been thinking about. In Indie features that I was part of that were falling apart on set, I picked up the ball and prioritized and saved the budget a little bit, by deciding what shots could go, what needs to say, etc. From that point of view, a lot of cash that is financed for these films is misspent horribly. I have the desire to produce. I think next fall, I will produce and co-star in a film that we are going to shoot in Romania.
Where is the Daytime Emmy that I told you, you were going to win back in 2009?
JEFF: (Laughs) It’s on the mantle, waiting for it’s plus one! I keep it close; it’s always a little sunshine on a dark day.
Soap fans, what do you think about Jeff Branson’s Daytime Emmy nomination? Do you miss Ronan on Y&R? Would you like the character return to Genoa City and get romantically involved with Phyllis again? Do you wish Jeff would have been on-air to play out the bullying storyline with Jamie, and have more scenes with on-screen mom, Tricia Cast? Weigh-in!