After a four-year-run on the number one rated daytime drama, Emmy winner Steve Burton’s final Y&R episode aired Friday. Taking with him the character of Dylan McAvoy that had become integral to the canvas, whether it be via love stories, baby dramas, or familial ties. As fans of the soap world know, Steve took to social media back in October of 2016 and made the announcement that he decided to end his time in Genoa City when his current contract was up.
In his home-stretch at Y&R, not only did Burton deliver “Emmy worthy” scenes as the beleaguered and duped husband who finds out that his wife, Sharon (Sharon Case), has kept a huge secret – that “their” child Sully is really the presumed dead baby Christian – but he also got to spring into action-mode as an undercover cop, taking on the persona of Derek Young to bring down an evil drug lord and syndicate.
With Steve’s family living full-time in Nashville; daughter Makena (13), son Jack (10) and the littlest Burton of them all, Brooklyn (2 ½), and his wife Sheree, Burton was certainly pulled in opposite directions with his on-screen life filming Y&R in Los Angeles, and his other life in Tennessee. In this farewell interview with On-Air On-Soaps, Burton reveals the difficult decision he faced in making the choice to exit a role at a show that he loved, and with that the family he leaves behind at the CBS Television soundstages. He also opens up about the emotional challenging last year and a half for him for him, personally, and how being at Y&R helped him channel those feelings into delivering those tearjerker performances over the last several months.
In addition, Burton candidly fills us in on: what it was like to film his last scene, what he thought of getting to play “Dylan undercover”, and his thoughts on his soap-famous scene partners: Sharon Case (Sharon), Joshua Morrow (Nick), Doug Davidson (Paul), and Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki). So now, with one last look back, and a look ahead, here’s what Steve shared.
I don’t know what the audience is going to do after today by not having you on our daytime TV screens! I think, myself and others are going to do go through massive “Burton” withdrawal! You have been such a huge part of our daily soap-viewing habits for a long time.
STEVE: (Laughs) Hey, you never know what may happen in life. You know that, especially in the soap world!
This final Y&R storyline where Dylan goes undercover, how did it all come about?
STEVE: Mal Young (executive producer, Y&R) and Sally Sussman (head writer, Y&R) obviously planned the story. Mal came up to me and told me, “We are going to give you a great story to finish up.” I thought it was awesome! As soon as I started playing the character of Derek everybody was like: “We should have done this four years ago!” (Laughs) Because I was having fun with it, and I got to show a new side of me that the fans got to see. At the beginning, when I walked on set half of the people didn’t recognize me, including half the crew. (Laughs) So, it was a lot of fun. I have much respect for Mal and Sally to give me that to depart with.
When I first saw one of your social media postings with your goatee, prior to your on-screen debut as Dylan’s alter-ego of Derek Young, I thought, “What’s up with Steve’s new look? What is going on here?” (Laughs)
STEVE: When I was done at Y&R and playing Derek, I had shaved the goatee down to a moustache, and my wife was not having it. She said, “No way! Shave that thing off… or get the hell out of here!” (Laughs)
So in the storyline a surprising turn occurred when Dylan (AKA Derek) made the decision to have sex with Alex (Jessica Webb). There was also a moment where he might have to try the goods the drug ring was selling and smuggling to not blow his cover. How did Dylan arrive at the decision to hit the sheets with this woman?
STEVE: Dylan did not plan on that happening. Taking an undercover assignment such as this one, I think he knew that something might be involved like testing the drugs, etc. You know, if you are going undercover you have to roll with it until you blow your cover, or you’re dead, or something else happens. I don’t think Dylan was planning on it, but mentally and emotionally, obviously from the whole baby Sully/Christian reveal, Dylan was having a very hard time with things. He went undercover. His mission was to get Fisk (Scott Speiser). At that point, he has to do what he has to do, or blow the cover. It was definitely a struggle for Dylan.
You have received many accolades from soap pundits, and fans, for your gut-wrenching performances in the baby Sully storyline – who is revealed to be baby Christian- and the fall-out from it. The scenes between you, Sharon Case, and Joshua Morrow were riveting. What was unique about this experience, and how you immersed yourself into the story?
STEVE: I spent a lot of time at the studio, and I had some things happen in the past year and a half in my life that weren’t great, emotionally. As an actor, you hate to go to that place all of the time, and that is why some of these method actors often get burned out, or go crazy. The benefit of spending so much time at the studio was I did not have to rush off to my son’s baseball game, or letting life get in the way of your job, sort of speak, which it does. Everybody has a life, and it does get in the way, but in this case I had the luxury of focusing on the story and spending time with it, and spending time on the set, and probably doing what guys who do movies do, and really get to dive deep into a story. As opposed to, “OK. Let’s tell this story, and I have to be out of here at 6, because I have to be some place.” With my family being in Nashville I could focus on the work.
I will say, over your entire career you have given some terrific performances, your work when Dylan finds out that Sully is not his bio-son, and the lies and deceit surrounding it, was some of your best work, ever. And for those in the viewing audience, whether you loved the character of Dylan, or didn’t love the character, because of your portrayal, you could not help feel for this guy and shed some tears. What did you think of your work in it, when all was said and done?
STEVE: I don’t know, because I don’t watch myself. It is really hard as an actor to judge a scene when you are done with it, because you are going through such emotional stuff, anyway. So for me, it’s always special when the crew guys come up and say something. That means a lot to me, because, really they are there to do their job, and for them to come up to me and go, “Hey man, that was an amazing scene,” that is when you feel good about your work.
You and Sharon Case became known as the popular on-screen duo of Shylan. You shared so many emotional scenes together. What can you say about your time working with Sharon?
STEVE: Sharon is always there, and we work great together, and had a great working relationship together. She is always there in it. The one thing I don’t think people know about Sharon, except those who may know her outside of work, is that she always comes to work super happy. There is no drama, nothing. She is always positive and it’s such a pleasure to be around.
So as viewers saw in must-see moments this week, Dylan came back to see Sharon after his cover his blown, and he survives being killed by Fisk and his henchmen. He is a targeted man now. Why did he risk coming back to see her?
STEVE: I think Dylan came to see her, because he knew in the back of his head, he is going to have to take off to protect everybody.
What was the final scene that you taped that ended your run on Y&R?
STEVE: The final scenes were with Sharon, Paul (Doug Davidson), and Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott). The last scene is Sharon watching me at the door, and I walk off into the snowy fog.
How was it saying goodbye to Doug Davidson on-screen as your dad, Paul?
STEVE: It was horrible, and it was painful. I could barely get through it. It was tough. I could barely talk, and I have never had that happen in my life.
You and Doug became very close during the four years you were at Y&R. What was his reaction when you told him you were going to leave?
STEVE: He was very sad, but he understands I want to be with my family. Doug said, “Selfishly, this sucks!” It’s not an easy decision to make. Obviously, if you are choosing between your family and this job, you are obviously going to pick your family. But I will say, working at Y&R for four years felt like family, so leaving was extremely difficult.
Upon reflection on your decision now, and being away from LA since you wrapped at Y&R, do you stand by your decision as this was the right choice for you at this point in your life?
STEVE: You get into such a routine. My routine was going to work, then flying home, then coaching football, and getting stuff done for the two days I was In Nashville, and then I had to fly back out to L.A. So, while you enjoy your time at home, you never had a chance to sit down and take a deep breath and go “I don’t have to do anything.” Being home has been amazing, and waking up with my little girl in our bed is awesome. These are the reasons why I made the choice to leave Y&R. Just doing stuff with my oldest daughter like taking her to piano lessons that is our routine, as well as things with my son. It has been hectic since I got home, but this is the first week, after all the holidays and other businesses that I am involved in, that I have had a chance to breathe.
What happened when you told your on-screen mom, Melody Thomas Scott, that you had chosen to exit the series?
STEVE: She wasn’t very happy. It’s tough going to another show, and people were so accepting of me at Y&R. I felt like I fit in pretty early on with the story, and working with Doug and Mel, and of course Joshua Morrow (Nick), who I have known for years. It’s definitely bittersweet … it really is.
You and Joshua Morrow are such good buds. It was so fun watching your dynamics, and yet, the two of you were able to pull off this contentious relationship as half-brothers, and play those complex scenes. I think Joshua is underestimated, at times as an actor, but the guy always steps up and delivers 100 percent.
STEVE: I love Josh, obviously. If you are not super over-the-top in daytime, sometimes you don’t get the accolades, but Josh is a very natural actor. He is in the moment, and that’s what we are supposed to be. I have seen that guy do tremendous work. I have always loved working with him. He is the number one clown in America, for sure. We have had scenes where I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t do them. He is the constant joker, which is great. He is a great friend of mine, and will always be.
I remember you appeared on The Talk, officially announcing you were coming to Y&R. Confetti rained down! It was so cool that for a soap star CBS rolled out the carpet like that for you. They knew what they had in bringing you to the day-part after an over 20-year-run on GH, and the name value you bring with you. When you look back at your four-year journey at CBS Daytime and Y&R, what is your takeaway?
STEVE: I remember when all that happened. It was very exciting as an actor to do something new. That is why we get into the business … to do different things as an actor. I was excited to tackle this new character of Dylan McAvoy. I had known half the cast at Y&R before I went over there, and Y&R was always the show that we would watch and look up to when I was on General Hospital. It was always the one show we were going up against, and it was, and has been, obviously, number one for a long time. I was very humbled by what The Talk did. Now for me, that’s a bit over-the-top. (Laughs) I always get a little embarrassed about that stuff. I got there and all I wanted to do, and I said this to myself: “I’m starting here, and this is a new job. I’m going to work as hard as I can, and do what I do, and try to earn people’s respect around here, instead of: ‘Hey, I was somebody else on another show.’” I think that resonated with people. Peter Bergman (Jack) said when I finished at Y&R, “I have never seen someone come in so professionally and do their job. It was an honor to watch that.” It was nice to hear. Then you start working and meeting people, and you make friends and have those relationships. It was just an amazing, amazing, four years. Some of the best times I have ever had. There are different seasons in life. People move on and do something else. Being on Y&R was a four year season in my life that I didn’t necessarily want to end, because it was so awesome. When I made the decision to move to Tennessee, I also knew in the back of my mind: “someone might not hire you ever again, because you live 2,000 miles away and you make yourself geographically unemployable to a degree.” There was talk about moving back, but I don’t want to raise my kids in California. I definitely don’t regret the decision to move here. I think it’s the best thing for my family. So for now, this is what we are doing. But I did have a great run at Y&R.
The final moment that aired today with Dylan walking off into the snowy fog, certainly left the door open that he can come back! Are you glad it was written this way?
STEVE: Yes, it was so cool that they chose to do something like that. Mal Young was very into this last story beat. He said “Do something different.” So, I cut my hair different, and had the goatee. Then the wardrobe department gave me all of these great clothing options. It was so cool, and I got right into the role of Derek.
You are always busy with your outside projects, being the entrepreneur that you are. You launched Hollywood Schooled for young actors wanting to start their careers in Tinseltown, and more.
STEVE: Yes. I have Hollywood Schooled, and I have my restaurant here in Nashville, Jack and Jameson’s, and in February it will be a year old, already!
You run it with that guy … let me think … his name is … Jonathan Jackson (Avery, Nashville, Ex-Lucky, GH)? (Laughs)
STEVE: Yeah! With that guy! (Laughs) I also have beer bars in Chicago and Pittsburgh, and we are starting to franchise those. I was just up in Cleveland meeting with some people to potentially open 2 or 3 more locations. So, I have a lot going on. Then I am going to focus on health and fitness, which has always been a passion of mine, and that is good, because I have never really had the chance to do that. I am going to shortly be launching some nutrition supplements in the next few weeks. So … I have had a lot going on, man!
Will you consider doing primetime episodic work, or motion pictures, where it’s not as demanding on your schedule as a leading role on a soap opera?
STEVE: Being here, and auditioning is definitely a challenge. So if something does come up, I always love to act and that would be amazing. We are just taking it day by day. I got a manager again, and I will probably get an agent and go out there, and see what happens.
Watching your final scenes air today on Y&R, I was wondering what it must have been like for you when you walked off the set for the last time. How were you holding up?
STEVE: It was very emotional, and a very emotional day. Then I had a going away party, which was cool, and then I was looking forward to coming home to start the next chapter, but it was tough, man, after the last scene. It is tough leaving a place you love.
Has your wife Sheree watched you as your undercover alter-ego Derek Young?
STEVE: She saw a picture of Derek, and she really didn’t mind the Derek picture at all. (Laughs) I was just telling her I was sitting down to do the interview with you, Michael. She said, “Oh, I want to watch the last couple of shows!” So, we will probably do that together.
Overall, did you have a favorite storyline from your run on Y&R, or something that you found the most challenging?
STEVE: I think the last year has been most challenging for me. Not a lot of people know, but my dad passed away a year and a half ago. The last year was tough in my personal life, and the saving grace as an actor is you go through life and things like that, and you get to put that emotion into story. Most people don’t get to do that unless they are in some deep therapy. It’s an amazing gift to release that emotion in a story like that. I would also say when I first got on the show, it was a great story. They really gave me a great entrance. It was wonderful working with Jessica Collins (Ex-Avery), and Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea), and Joshua Morrow in the beginning there. I really can’t complain about any of the stories I have had the opportunity to tell at Y&R
This week you received a pre-nom for the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for your work, and are in the running into the blue ribbon round for a Daytime Emmy. Will you show up at the ceremonies on April 30th if you are nominated? It would be a wonderful opportunity for all of us in the community to see you again.
STEVE: If I am nominated, of course, I will show up at the Daytime Emmys.
We have to end this with some final thought to the fans. You are great with them, you answer them via social media, you touch base with them, and you give them glimpses into your world. What would you like to say to them for their continued support?
STEVE: I am the biggest proponent of the fans. If we didn’t have them, the fans, we couldn’t do what we do. I am always so grateful and appreciative. So THANK YOU! And, we will see what’s comin!
So, what did you think of the way the character of Dylan was written off the canvas? Steve’s final storyline? Will you miss Steve as Dylan? What did you think of the sentiments he shared about his co-stars, his time on Y&R, and his emotional performances? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, but fitst watch Steve’s final on-screen moments as Dylan says goodbye to Sharon.