Earlier this month at the Corus Upfront in Toronto, I had the good fortune to meet and interview two of the stars of The Young and the Restless: Amelia Heinle (Victoria Newman, left) and Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman). Their long-running CBS daytime serial is still one of the most popular shows on Global, ranking No. 22 in the English Canada Top 30 the week of May 27 to June 2.
As I said to Heinle, normally I’d be making a big deal out of her 14-year run on the series — except Scott has been on the show for 40! The ageless California native and one time child star talked about the episode that aired earlier this year marking her 40th season. many clips were shown of Nikki in action, going right back to her stripper days. “I thought it was a clever way of doing it,” said Scott, “with having her write to her grandchildren while behind bars.”
How many times has Nikki married Victor? Three?
[Scott holds up four fingers.]
Goodness, so much backstabbing and intrigue. By now, you must have forgotten large chunks of your character’s storyline on the series.
We don’t remember. A fan will say, “Remember when this happened, and so-and-so was there?” and I’m like, (deadpans) “No.”
Why do you think viewers are still so endlessly invested in this on-again, off-again relationship between Nikki and Victor (Eric Braeden)?
I think that the fantasy of Victor and Nikki is held up high by young, teenage girls as a fantasy romance. Certainly, women in their 20s, 30s, maybe women who are totally happy in their marriage, but, this is another thing out here. This is a fantasy. This is not reality.
So you can put your own desires into that fantasy on the TV,and make it whatever you want it to be — and so that’s living the fun of the Victor-Nikki saga. We can be really anything to anybody. It’s what they invest in it.
And what the writers have handed off, I guess.
Yes, of course. And then, not to mention the chemistry that we have, which we are so fortunate to have. Who knows why? There’s no answer to that. So, when they see those sparks on the screen, they can get all excited and think about their fantasies, and off and running.
I’ve interviewed Eric Braeden before, and it was obvious that he has great affection for you and many of your colleagues. It must make it easier to go to work with a close-knit cast.
Yes we are.
It would be horrible to go to work everyday for 40 years and…
…hate everybody? I think they wouldn’t last. I think they would eventually quit, saying, “I’ve had enough of this. I just can’t do it anymore.”
We are very fortunate that we are such a tight-knit group and not just the Newman family. The whole company, right now, we are enjoying a wonderful time of peace and happiness. There are no nut cases, there are no evil people, there are no people we dislike working with — and I’m not going to mention any names there, but it’s so lovely to not have that.
You must have been very young and restless when you first landed this job.
Right. Twenty-two. I started acting when I was three.
When you were starting out your career there, you could not have had any concept you would do this job this long. Did you think you’d have it for 13 weeks; did you have any clue at first of how this would go?
Exactly. The 13 weeks that you say is exactly true, because, back then, it was standard to give everyone a three-year contract, but, they have the option after your first 13 weeks to get rid of you, and that was their exclusive option, it was not our option. We could not choose to quit, but they could choose to fire you, so an actor is really never taking anything for granted. But, then, you know, you get to be there a year, and then two years, and you’re kind of feeling your way into Genoa City a little bit better, and then, all of a sudden you sign another three-year, and then another, and then it’s six years, and nine years, and twelve years, and it just kind of happens without you realizing how very long you’ve been there.
In some ways it is home to me, and I’ve made life-long friends there, cast and crew and office staff and this one (referring to Heinle). I mean, we are very very close, we’re so lucky to be working together. All the Newmans.
You shoot four days in a row every week inside Television City, cranking out five episodes. That’s a lot of dialogue to memorize. Amelia says you have a photographic memory. Is that true?
I think after a while you do develop that muscle of being able to remember.
I was a child actress, and when I was eight-years-old, my grandmother enrolled me in a memory school. The same school exists in Los Angeles, it’s still standing. Every Saturday, I was the only kid in the class. They were all business people, wanting to remember the names of their clients. I’m only there because I’m a kid actor.
What I learned, which was very valuable, is that a good memory is really all about association. By the end of the course, the teacher wrote a 30-digit number on the blackboard. We were allowed to look at it for 30 seconds. Then you had to turn away from the board, look at the class and say the number back.
It was all word association. The number one looked to me like a snake. Number two a doghouse. You come up with this little story, because a story is easier to remember than a number. That’s the trick.
On a show like ours, we’ll come up with little games — they just amuse us and makes us laugh, but also when doing a scene we see our lines on the page and it triggers you to move on to the next line. The line might be, “It’s really ‘time’ to settle this” — so we’ll draw a clock. Doug Davidson does this too. A lot of people have learned this trick.