Exclusive Interview: Y&R’s Bryton James Celebrates 20th Anniversary

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

The TV Watercooler got the chance to catch up with Bryton James who recently celebrated his 20th anniversary on The Young and the Restless where he plays Devon Winters. Bryton spoke to us about what it was like acting opposite some of Y&R’s heavyweights right from the start, Kristoff St. John’s (Neil) presence on set, and his hope for more investment in Devon’s romance with Melissa Ordway’s Abby.

The last time we spoke, Y&R was just about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. What was that experience like? Having everyone revisit the show’s rich history? We got visits from Shemar Moore (Malcolm) and Veronica Redd (Aunt Mamie) has stuck around a bit.

That’s right! I mean, it was incredible. I think it was the best thing for the fans. The show did a great job at revisiting quite a bit of history, not just for the Winters family, but you know, across the board. The best part for me was having Chene Lawson come back as Yolanda. That was a huge surprise [for me]. I was so happy to see her.

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

With Aunt Mamie sticking around, I do like that Devon continues to refer to her as Aunt Mamie. He’s showing her that respect. Lily keeps dropping the aunt! Is this something you’ve made an effort to keep?

I don’t think that Christal leaves it out on purpose! I think that something there’s so many Aunt Mamie’s [in the script] or that we see each other’s names so often that it might just get dropped. I’ve seen the fans respond to that and I don’t honestly believe she’s doing it consciously to be disrespectful to her at all! And same goes to me!

Social media can create a different layer. Does it ever make you self-conscious or feel like, “Oh, I need to maybe say this a certain way?”

Not necessarily. I mean it definitely makes you pay attention to it because we do it for the fans. Social media is such an amazing outlet to try to immediately tell you how they feel about something, but no, all I care about is that people believe what I’m telling them – whether they like or what I’m doing, or the character’s choices at that moment.

Whether they’re rooting for him or they’re mad at him, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as they are engaged and they believing whatever is happening.

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

Happy 20th anniversary! How does that feel?

Incredible. I never would have imagined getting the part because I was a kid! I was 17 and all I knew about soap operas, because my mom watched General Hospital every day when I was growing up, were all these crazy storylines going on and adult things! I never thought that they would even want me there!

To be part of Y&R for 20 years and, to know that the show values me and what I do, and for the fans to appreciate the character, means the world to me. It’s a privilege and an honour to be part of a legacy like The Young and the Restless!

The Bells have created over half a century of entertainment. We’ve been number one for, gosh, I’ve lost count now, for how many years! It’s exceptional.

Devon’s been through so much over the years. It started off with the foster care storyline, he lost his hearing, the relationship with his biological parents and discovered that the Katherine Chancellor was his grandmother!

It was incredible. That was a twist that I really never saw coming! Devon started off by sleeping on the floor of Victor Newman’s office at the rec centre and now he’s the other billionaire in town! It’s like I’ve had two lives [on this show], literally. There’s so much that we’ve done that even I forget. The fans have to remind me!

But that’s one of the best parts about it. You get to not only do the things that you never do in real life, but you get to have all these experiences with the people that are in the cast. We see them more than we see our real families. So, they are my family. And it’s an experience that is unique to daytime. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

When you started out as Devon, they really put you – pardon the pun – the lion’s den! Really…

Yeah… [Laughs]

In addition to being on set with an actual lion, you front and centre with some of the heavyweights like Victoria Rowell (Dru), Kristoff St. John (Neil), Eric Braden (Victor) and Shemar Moore (Malcolm) – was that intimidating at all? You must have learned so much from them.

The latter. Yeah, I’ve hadn’t taken an acting class, but I looked at it as if that was it!  You couldn’t ask for a better one! Even Christal, from day one! She’s a couple of years younger to me, but there was no difference. She was on their level. I definitely felt the immediate pressure to grow and get better very quickly. But, I had the best teachers in the world and they made you feel extremely safe and warm. Kristoff in particular. That was the best thing about him. It was how he’d make you feel and that you were doing a great job.

Everybody on the show really champions each other. When you shine, they shine. I even still feel like the new guy because there are people who’ve been here for 40-plus years and I’m still trying to prove myself every time I go to work, so that’s definitely never gone away!

But you’re right, it was definitely there in the beginning, but I still feel the same pressure, it think, every day.

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

A new set that debuted for the 40th anniversary was the jazz lounge at the Athletic Club, which was dedicated to Neil. Do you still feel Kristoff’s presence on that stage?

Of course! Yeah, every day. His pictures are on all of our sets. I’m in his dressing room. Every single time I step onto that stage, I say hello to him. I know he’s with us.

The experience of losing him was so wild because we went to his real funeral a couple of weeks before we filmed Neil’s funeral, and no one was really hit by it at his real one. The emotions weren’t there. It didn’t seem real. Then when we got to set, to film Neil’s funeral, a couple of weeks later, that’s where it hit us all. Because that’s where we lived with him. That’s home with Kristoff.

It’s a massive loss. One we think about every single day. But he’s with us.

It’s really comforting to see his portrait, especially when you guys are all in that room. I think it helps the viewers too, who felt that loss, because we’ve watched him for so many years.

Absolutely. He’s family to people.

The last time we spoke you said that you’d love for Devon to move into the Chancellor mansion. Which, I believe that he and Abby (Melissa Ordway) have, but we haven’t really seen them there. Are we finally going to see Devon where he belongs?

I think so! I think so! We’ve only seen it just a little bit. I wanted to do that and I wanted to get with Abby too, and that happened! It’s amazing. [Laughs] It’s also something that I really never thought they’d do because Melissa and the writers would ask the writers all the time if they’d do it and they would say “No!” to us, but it ended up happening!

I think the natural progression of the Devon and Abby story is that you’re going to see more of their relationship blossom and see more of their home life. It’s been so much of the business and office lately, but I think they’re going to start focusing in on that other direction soon.

So, coming up there’s more workplace action for the next little while…

Yeah, I think there’s got to be some kind of resolution with this power struggle between Devon, Billy and the whole Chancellor-Winters dynamic with Jill (Jess Walton) giving Billy (Jason Thompson) power without telling anybody.

You’ve been in the soap industry for 20 years and have seen many changes. A lot of us feel like it’s a very exciting time for the genre, with Y&R’s recent renewal and CBS is re-investing in the daytime soap. They’re launching The Gates which will focus on a Black family right from the start, which is something that many of us didn’t actually think we’d ever see again. What’s your take on that? As far as representation goes in daytime.

I think it’s fantastic. I think that any form of representation is important. I think that for the daytime community in general, for the genre, it says that we’re strong. I know that a lot of people have been afraid over the years, especially losing soaps left and right a while back.

When I started, I think there were eight! There was a period of time when we were all nervous about the medium. But it’s clearly showing and proving that we’re not going anywhere, and which is a good feeling! It shows that the fans are engaged and they still care about the stories. CBS in particular, which I felt especially since I got the show, has always been the leader for inclusion and telling diverse and inclusive stories, so I’m not surprised that they are taking this leap with this new show coming up, The Gates. I think it’s going to be great!

It may be a bit premature to talk about this now, but would you be open to guest starring on The Gates? Perhaps having Devon cross over when the show begins and connect both shows?

Yeah! It’s the CBS family. Of course! Actually, I would love that. I would absolutely love that.

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

Devon’s had a visit from Yolanda this past year. I think a lot of fans would love to see Ana return. I think what they did to Loren Lott was so sad. How can you not come up with any material to write for this beautiful woman? Come on! Would you love to see her again? Or are there any other characters from Devon’s past that you’d like to see come back?

I’d love to see Loren. She’s one of the most talented people I know. I want her to have her own show! Honestly. But yeah, I would love to have her back. I’d love to have Chene back! I would love to have Victoria Rowell back. I’d love for them to find Dru’s body somewhere! I know she’s not dead, she’s alive! [Laughs]

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

I always had this theory that maybe Aunt Mamie used some of her millions to keep Dru alive somewhere.

Anything can happen. Clearly! [Laughs]

We’ve seen people get shot before and come back! But yeah, I would love that. Especially now. I hope that Devon gets to take his company and not have to battle with the Abbotts much longer with the Chancellor company.

Maybe having Ana back would be great and focus more on the music aspect of the Winters company because I miss that! I miss being in the recording studio and having those sets! That was fun.

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

Out of all of Y&R’s famous plots, is there one that you wish Devon could have been part of?

There was that big explosion years ago at some place they blew up! They built a whole other set for it and they had this building collapse. I really wanted to be part of that story, but then when I heard how the shooting went and how difficult it was to get through, I thought “I’m fine!”

Was that The Underground or the spa?

Was it the Newman towers?

They opened this spa years ago…

Might have been The Underground?

So, an explosion!

I was part of a plane crash! [Laughs]

Nah, I think I’m happy with my storylines. I don’t think there’s another that I’d want to be part of! All I think about are the weddings! That’s what comes to mind. Devon’s only had two. One in a hospital bed…

And that was the saddest!

That was the saddest because she died later that day!

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

Do you miss working with Mishael Morgan (Hilary and Amanda)?

Oh, yeah. Of course. She was a gem. And a great friend. An amazing actress.

That was something special. And they were able to do it twice.

I think it’s good! The way they invested in the storytelling of that relationship really did a great job for the fans and I hope that we get that same kind of investment eventually with Devon and Abby. I think the fans would root for us just like they did with Devon and Hilary.

Stuff has to happen to them for us to root for them.

You gotta see it!

Put them through it. It’s time.

I think so!

bryton james young and the restless 20th anniversary interview

If there was a different character on Y&R that you could play, just for a day, who would that be?

Everybody says Victor because you get to do exactly what you want, any way you want! You’ll always have the respect and the fear of everybody that you step into the room with. And that’s a fun thing to play!

Watch on Apple TV

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadians can catch up with episodes on demand, the Global TV app, STACKTV, and at GlobalTV.com.


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