Television's Nikki Newman has survived a sex cult, a stint as a stripper, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and so much more on The Young and the Restless. However, her portrayer Melody Thomas Scott is the true survivor.
The beloved soap opera superstar recently published her memoir Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama. The tome charts Thomas Scott's emotional journey from an abusive upbringing through child stardom, movie and primetime television roles, then ultimately to Y&R and a healthy, happy family of her own.
I recently caught up with Thomas Scott for Daytime Confidential. We discussed what it's been like promoting a book during a pandemic. She shared what led her to revealing so much of her painful past in the pages of the autobiography and offered her thoughts on the enduring Nikki and Victor (Eric Braeden) romance from Y&R.
Daytime Confidential: You've overcome so much in your life and career; now adding becoming a published author amid a global pandemic! What has it been like promoting Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama during these unique and trying times?
Melody Thomas Scott: Well, I’ve never promoted a book before, so I have nothing to compare it to. But it has been all-consuming; on-camera interviews, print, radio, podcasts, you name it! While all of that was going on I was still in the studio for Y&R several times a week, and, to really push me over the edge, I have been in a recording studio for the last two weekends narrating the audiobook! The pandemic also created an additional responsibility: having to do my own hair/makeup, create a “shot” in my house for interviews and sometimes getting up at 2:30 am for live interviews to the East Coast. A traditional book tour would have meant traveling the country, creating memories for my team and me. But no matter how it’s accomplished, it is definitely a lot of work!
DC: You didn't hold anything back in your memoir. Do you think sharing how you managed to overcome childhood abuse will help fans who may have endured similar hardships?
MTS: That is my hope and was my driving force to write it. I would never have written a book solely about Y&R, with light, funny anecdotes. I had to include the dark with the light. If I can instill hope, courage and perseverance into others who are suffering with adversity, then the darkness is worth every word. It is possible to emerge from the other side into happiness.
DC: I'm often fascinated by how many stars come from tragic backgrounds. Do you think there is a correlation regarding how artists channel their pain into their work?
MTS: I think those of us who have had to struggle with a myriad of issues keep their emotions more accessible than those who have had a more ideal life. I certainly don’t consciously think about past struggles when playing a scene. I have to believe that the reason Nikki is crying is real. But in that sense, I suppose you make a good point!
DC: Your iconic character Nikki Newman has suffered her fair share of hardships during your over four decades on Y&R, from being lured into a teenage sex cult to a lengthy struggle with alcoholism. Was it difficult to play those storylines having gone through so much real-life trauma during your formative years?
MTS: Not at all! Perhaps subconsciously there is a deep connection to playing high drama, but for me, it just means great fun!
DC: Nikki and Victor (Eric Braeden) are among the last of the unforgettable "supercouples" from daytime soap opera's 1980's era heyday. Why do you think your pairing with Braeden has endured this long?
MTS: Great question. I think there are many factors that contribute to this answer. The first has to be Bill Bell’s genius in choosing to bring our characters together. He saw something in us that we didn’t, initially. But it didn’t take long for Eric and me to realize that, yes, there is some element of magic that takes over when we work together. And, yes, I’m going to say the "C" word…Chemistry. So difficult to describe. Don’t mean to get all woo woo, but our souls love to dance together when the camera's red light comes on. Most importantly, Eric and I completely trust one another. That sets a certain comfort between us. Whether Victor and Nikki are fighting, loving or indeed, not saying one word to each other, our dancing souls are driving the scene.
DC: My all-time favorite Y&R storyline was the messy, late 80's/early 90's Jack/Nikki/Victor/Ashley quadrangle. Only on a daytime soap could a divorced couple end up married to siblings! That tempestuous story arc was on the front burner when Y&R shot to #1 in the Nielsens. Why do you think it resonated with viewers?
MTS: Ah, I loved that era, too! It was such lushness, mixed with drama. Very attractive actors, (no, I am not referring to myself,) playing compelling characters under the backdrop of glamorous sets, beautiful wardrobe, and oh-my, that 80’s hair! The story was so fraught with conflict; the fans felt quite strongly about who they wanted to have end up with whom. I also found it so interesting that Nikki and Ashley were such polar opposites, yet Victor was deeply in love with both of them.
DC: I want to stand up and cheer when you tweet about the importance of classic touches from Y&R's golden days. You loved the old Newman Ranch set, the fresh flowers, the musical score and the glamour as much as we did. Why do you think the late Bill Bell and his team of EP's (including your husband Ed Scott) had such a great understanding of daytime audiences wanting to be dazzled not only with good storytelling but with elegance and sophistication?
MTS: Soaps are, and always have been (or should be) an escape. A place where viewers can go every day to forget about (or enhance) their everyday. Bill knew exactly how he wanted Genoa City to look. His formula for success was spot-on and his producers knew this and executed it beautifully.
DC: In addition to cementing your leading lady status at Y&R, you have quite the impressive primetime and film resume. Would you like to see your memoir adapted as a film or mini-series?
MTS: Funny you should ask…There is already interest in just that! We are in talks.
DC: Who would you want to play you?
MTS: Oh my goodness, I would have no idea! I’ll defer to the casting directors on that one.
Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama is on sale now. Pick up your copy at Amazon. Catch Melody Thomas Scott as Nikki Newman weekdays on CBS in The Young and the Restless. Check your local listings.