With his sixth Daytime Emmy nominations, and two Daytime Emmy wins, The Young and the Restless’ Kristoff St. John (Neil) finds himself going for gold on May 1st for the very first time in his daytime drama career in the Lead Actor category. St. John looks to be the sentimental favorite in the most hotly contested contest of the night. If St. John should win, he would be the only actor besides The Bold and the Beautiful’s Heather Tom (Katie Logan Spencer) to have won in every daytime drama acting category: Younger, Supporting, and Lead.
For Kristoff, having recently celebrated his 25th year on Y&R as Neil Winters, is no easy feat, and to have a character as enduring as Neil has been, and that has remained so popular. In addition, Kristoff suffered the most painful loss imaginable with the death of his beloved son, Julian. Pouring his heart and soul into his craft following the tragedy, St. John delivered some of Neil’s darkest hours in a performance that will be remembered for quite some time to come.
On-Air On-Soaps talked with Kristoff to get his reaction to his Daytime Emmy nomination, how he sizes up the competition in the Lead Actor race, what he thought of his nominated work and banner Emmy season, and more. Here’s what he shared:
What scenes did you end up submitting in the final round of voting that landed you a nomination?
KRISTOFF: It’s always a tough thing to choose from a year’s worth of material … at least it is for me. I had already had my eye on one episode, and whenever we get done with a scene on set, which we would call ‘good’, we hear some nice comments and file that away. Well, I heard that about a scene on an airplane 33, 000 feet above the ground that contained the reveal of Neil’s vision coming back. I went back and looked at it, and it seemed pretty powerful for what we needed. Then I paired it with scenes from another episode where Neil is drunk and Devon (Bryton James) is there, and the two of them are going at it about the whole affair with Hilary (Mishael Morgan) and did he know the entire time. They seemed to have worked well together.
This is your first Lead Actor nomination in your daytime career, too!
KRISTOFF: I have been in either the Younger Actor or Supporting Actor category throughout my daytime career, and never ‘Lead’. But it was purposeful for much of my run on daytime. It has been a long journey and now I have been with Y&R for 25 years, and so this would naturally be the arc of my daytime Emmy entries – Younger, Supporting and Lead. Should I have been nominated before in Lead Actor? I don’t know. I think these are all very self-congratulatory moments, anyway in our careers. We all get together on Emmy night, share some laughs, have some drinks, and hand out some golden trinkets, and we say to each other, “See you next year!”
Another prerequisite, often times for actors to decide what category to submit themselves in, is if they drove story. Without a doubt in 2015, Neil was front and center.
KRISTOFF: Some of 2014 and 2015 were huge years for Neil. Our head writer, Chuck Pratt Jr. wrote me off of the page. I have only had four or five years of working over my guarantee, and Chuck was responsible for two of them, which is why I was able to pull these episodes out for the lead category.
I remember watching your now Emmy-nominated scenes when they first aired. Neil let everyone on the plane know he could see … and he knew how duplicitous Devon and Hilary were being for their affair. He was so angry, and he let everyone have it, just before the plane crashed.
KRISTOFF: If we go back to 2015, that was without question, one of the most difficult years of my life. Having lost my son Julian in November of 2014, I was embroiled in the middle of this story. I was still playing blind on the show and the angst and the pathos. It was years of having a relationship with a human being that I called my son, and it was cut off at the pass and destroyed. Being able to use some of those emotions as an actor is a treasure in an unfortunate way and circumstance. I had never had that kind of emotion to work with before, and it was absolutely terrifying for me.
Then later Neil became quite the villain! Viewers have never seen good guy Neil take such a left turn in his character, but it made for compelling drama.
KRISTOFF: Neil had never been down the dark corridors such as with the blind storyline and then ultimately coming out of that and going further down in the rabbit hole, and then having taken the life of another human being … a baby. That was a weird parallel universe in itself – having someone die in Neil’s world and having the same tragedy happen in real life. It was cathartic to go to work and throw myself into heavy drama, which I had not gotten to play in a long time.
In what is probably the most hotly contested race of the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmys, you are up against four extraordinarily talented actors in the Lead Actor category. What do you think of your co-nominees?
KRISTOFF: Tony Geary (Luke, GH) is an icon, and a legendary man and actor. He has been doing daytime for decades, and this would be his ninth Emmy win, and he would tie with Cloris Leachman for all-time Emmys wins by an actor, if he won. To be in the category with Mr. Geary with this his final year is an honor. I know Tony. He is one of the very few actors who can take anything you give him, or thrown at him, and he will take it turn it into gold. He has been fortunate to have incredible head writers and writers at General Hospital that have written specifically for him and that has been a gem for Tony. Then there is Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) at General Hospital, who has submitted one of the best tapes of his life. I watched the Lead Actor tapes in the Pre-Nom round. Tyler’s tape is one of thee best I have seen. I t was one of the most incredible storylines to be a part of potentially losing his child. Again, it’s something meaty to play. Justin Hartley (Adam, Y&R), who has come on to our show with a bang is such an organic actor. He lives moment by moment, I really admire that. To watch an actor pull from so many different places sometimes it’s inspiring. I find myself watching his scenes closely. And then there is Christian LeBlanc (Michael, Y&R)! What can I say? He is a three-time Emmy winner, and like Tony he has been up on the podium multiple times. He has been there, because of his body of work and year end and year out, Christian delivers. We were up against each other in 1999, and we lost to Shemar Moore (Ex-Malcolm, Y&R) that year! So we are both in this horse race. I am so happy and thrilled to be invited to the dance.
If you were to win the Daytime Emmy this year, it would be extra special for many reasons, personal and professional, as we have discussed. But there is yet another interesting bit of Emmy trivia that could change with a St. John victory!
KRISTOFF: Yes, and I’ve to throw this in. It’s been 31 years for an African-American male to win in the Lead Actor category. The last man to do this was Darnell Williams (Ex-Jesse, AMC) in 1985, and before that the late Al Freeman Jr. (Ex-Ed Hall, OLTL) in 1979. And it has been since 1991 when James Reynolds (Abe, DAYS) was nominated for Generations that an African-American actor was even nominated in the Lead Actor category. If I win, it would be the first time in 31 years for that, and while it would feel great, it does make me pause. I mean, were there not any other years where an African-American could have made the final cut for Lead Actor? It’s one to think about, but not for too long.
For more with this year’s Daytime Emmy nominees listen to Soap Nation Live! with Michael Fairman Daytime Emmy Nomination Special 2016.
So, what do you think about the thoughts shared by Kristoff and his reaction to his Daytime Emmy nomination in the Lead Actor category? After an emotional rollercoaster of a year, would you like to see Kristoff win for his Emmy submission? What did you think of Kristoff’s analysis of the competitors in his category, and what did you think of Kristoff’s performance in his Emmy-nominated scenes? Is it hard to imagine that no other African-American actor has won Lead Actor in the last 31 years? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!