Melody Thomas Scott Looks Back at 40 Years as Nikki Reed Newman on 'Young and the Restless'

Michael Maloney
Q&A CBS Photo Archive

Melody Thomas Scott as Nikki Reed on The Young and the Restless in 1981

Some soaps don’t make it past 15 years! That’s nothing when you look at the longevity Melody Thomas Scott has enjoyed as fan favorite Nikki Reed Newman on Young and the Restless!

Currently in police custody after covering up the fact that she killed her ex-son-in-law J.T. Hellstrom (Thad Luckinbill), Nikki’s in a reflective state. In the episode airing Wednesday, February 20, which happens to be Thomas Scott’s 40th anniversary with Y&R, Nikki will pen a letter to her grandchildren, reflecting on her life. The not-to-be-missed Nikki-centric episode is filled with glorious flashbacks, so set that DVR now!

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Plus, the actress/producer previews some exciting guest stars and shares which of her shows she misses the most.

TV Insider recently chatted with Scott about her four decades on Y&R, covering a variety of topics, including, but not limited to the chemistry she shares with leading man Eric Braeden (Victor), why she thinks she’s a ‘diva,’ late Y&R creator William J. Bell, and what it was like sharing screen time with late and beloved co-star, Kristoff St. John (Neil).

What were your thoughts when you learned Y&R was going to devote an entire episode to you?

Melody Thomas Scott: I must say I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the special episode, as the show is already celebrating this milestone in a major way. I’m very honored that they put so much work into it. Being behind bars and facing an uncertain future, Nikki reflects on her life in an effort for her grandchildren to understand why she made the choices she made, and to know of the various people that have been instrumental in forming the person that she is today. It will be a longtime viewers’ dream to see these many clips, not seen since they first aired!

Joshua Morrow, Melody Thomas Scott, and Amelia Heinle on The Young and the Restless in 2008 (Aaron Montgomery/jpistudios.com)

Do you get to see the flashbacks on the stage when you are taping the episode?

Unfortunately, no. When I initially read the script, the first thing I did was ask production to supply me with the flashbacks. The scenes were very powerful. Seeing former castmates brought tears to my eyes. It took me back to different eras of Y&R that are gone but not forgotten, so much a part of Nikki’s history. I could remember how I felt as Nikki in so many of these scenes. It was definitely a walk down memory lane.

Tell me about the early days of Y&R and how different it was. Was there a rehearsal the day before and then you’d shoot live the next day?

You’re almost right! The show was a half an hour then. It had a very specific schedule from which it did not deviate. The day before we were going to shoot an episode, we all gathered in a rehearsal hall at CBS at 4:30 in the afternoon; just the cast, the director, and a p.a. (production assistant.) We would read through it out loud. That was probably the birthplace of why some of us do such silly rehearsals. We’d have John McCook (ex-Lance; now, Eric, Bold and the Beautiful) and David Hasselhoff (ex-Snapper), who are both so funny, and we’d try to read at the correct pace, but the whole thing would fall apart because of the laughter! The production assistant would time it to see if the show was too long or too short. We would get our blocking for the next day from the director at that time.

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The episodes are slated to begin airing later this spring.

We’d show up the next day ready to shoot. The taping was supposed to end at 4:30. It always did, 99% of the time. Then it would be time to go upstairs and read through the script for the next day’s show. The actual shooting of the show was done as if it were live, in that we would shoot the scenes in sequence, as they were written. We’d stand in place during the commercial breaks; the cameras would silently glide over to the next set needed when we would come back from commercial. We were only on Stage 41 then. We would start at exactly 4 p.m. We would be ready for performance, but there was such a feeling of ‘Don’t get anything wrong!’ We knew we had to be done by 4:30 exactly. We didn’t stop for anything unless a wall fell over.

You were stripping once and Nikki’s dress went off and up in the air and, on the way down, it got caught in a chandelier.

Yes! I think Nikki was with Jack (Peter Bergman) at that time and he was horrified. She’d been drinking. They were in the Colonnade Room and Victor (Eric Braeden) was there with another woman. I remember it being an elaborate strip. I have not thought about that since the day we shot it! I took my dress off and threw it up in the air like we used to do at the Bayou. Only this time it got caught in the chandelier. I can’t believe you knew about that!

Melody Thomas Scott and Sharon Case on The Young and the Restless in 2012 (Howard Wise/jpistudios.com)

I have to go back to something. You said that John McCook and David Hasselhoff are funny. People who’ve gotten to see you in rehearsal know you’re the funny one! Your comedic timing is brilliant. Have you ever looked into a sitcom?

Well, thank you. These days we don’t have as much time to joke around in rehearsal. The same week I got Y&R in 1979 I got a pilot for an NBC sitcom. My agent encouraged me to take Y&R. The sitcom wasn’t picked up. [My agent] made the right decision for me. You know me… I’m a frustrated comedienne; I’m a huge Lucy [Lucille Ball] admirer. Of course, I’d love to do a sitcom. I used to do guest shots on sitcoms before Y&R. I got to do some funny stuff on My Name is Earl and guested on The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams. That was such a gift. It was not long after that that we lost him. I was grateful I had been able to watch him in action. I’d love it if Y&R became a sitcom!

How do you keep Nikki consistent?

Us ‘old-timers’ have no problem speaking up. We’re very protective of our characters. If there are pieces of dialogue that just would not come out of our characters’ mouths, we’ll go to the director, or even to the writer, depending on the change. We cannot say a line or do an action that our character would not do. I will say, ‘I know this character, I beg to say, better than you do.’ We have to protect our history. This kind of thing just happened on the set recently. We ‘re-arranged’ all of the lines, re-assigning them to other characters in the scene. It just made more sense. I have flat out said, ‘I cannot say that.’ I never thought I’d be that much of a diva!

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We were on set with the Newmans, Abbotts, Rosales, and more to capture cast reactions as the show celebrated 30 years at number one.

You say "diva," others might say you’re being protective of your character.

And the show. I care what people think about the show.

Everyone always says their show is their family but you met your husband, Edward Scott formerly a Y&R executive producer, now a producer at B&B, at the show.

Obviously, another piece of fate. That was all meant to be. I never would have found myself on the path to CBS TV City had I not listened to my agent. Soaps weren’t on my radar. Nothing was, actually. I was going on interviews and whatever happened, happened. To be guided to this show, and to meet a man who would become my husband and father of my children certainly wasn’t anything I could have predicted or orchestrated. That had to have been ‘meant to be’ and in the stars. When I refer to the people at work as my family, I’m not thinking about my real family. I’m thinking about my Y&R family. Some weeks I spend more time with them than I do my own family. It’s a different kind of passion. You have your Y&R family and then you have your real one. I’m very protective of the show and will go out on a limb to correct something if I feel something has been misrepresented.

Eric Braeden (as Victor Newman) and Melody Thomas Scott (as Nikki Reed) in 1984 (CBS Photo Archive)

Nikki and Victor’s relationship and their chemistry are synonymous with Y&R. People must ask you to describe it all the time, but chemistry can’t be described.  

No.

So… can you can describe it?

It’s magical and unique. Both of us are very blessed to experience that with each other. We feel it. We know. We feel the sparks, shall I say. I think Eric and I both have compatible energies.  Chemistry is a type of magnetic pull that allows our energies to blend together and sometimes create fireworks. I’ve tried to describe it for years. I think I get a little closer each time, but it’s elusive and very precious to us. It seems to cultivate itself. We never want it to end.

Melody Thomas Scott and Eric Braeden in 2018 (Sonja Flemming/CBS)

What memories do you have of Y&R creator Bill Bell? He’d call you all by your character names, which people poked fun at, but you really all were the characters to him.

Till his dying day he still called us by our character names! It’s understandable. His mind created the character, and he had 100% input on which actors should play those characters. It was all him! I would have called everybody by their character names, too. He did know our real names, of course! I’ll bet the creator of every successful show feels the same way.

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'The Young and the Restless' fans just received the best Christmas gift of all — the return of Victor Newman!

Are you up for sharing any memories of Kristoff St. John (Neil)? The show put you two together, but not romantically.

It’s been a very difficult time. It’s really hard for me to approach this topic. I understand your asking. I’m not going to go to places that will make me cry right now. I’m still playing the stoic. We’ve had to continue to shoot shows since his passing, so we had to pull ourselves together. Kristoff, as a human being, we all know was very unique. He loved everybody. He has such a big heart. He had such a sense of fun. Any event or party we would to go to, I would always ask, "Where’s Kristoff?" I always wanted to be around him and enter his atmosphere.

His world was so loving, kind and honest, yet funny. His laugh, his hug, that big bear hug! You could see his eyes dancing as if he knew some unknown secret... You didn’t know what, but it would be fun finding out. I don’t recall which writer put Nikki and Neil together, but it worked because of their commonalties, alcohol being one. That story was so powerful, unexpectedly powerful.

Melody Thomas Scott and Kristoff St. John on Young and the Restless in 2015 (Cliff Lipson/CBS)

I think people wondered, "Why Nikki and Neil?" but it became clear rather quickly. Kristoff and I had a very unique chemistry. Immediately. Right off the bat. He walks into a scene with his heart in his hand. I always knew I could trust him to give me whatever I needed emotionally and I like to think he felt the same. We didn’t worry about what was on the page. We let our hearts dance together. Even if our characters were fighting, it didn’t matter. We just enjoyed the synergistic energy of our chemistry.

Beyond that, as a human being, he always presented his heart first. Once you took it you never wanted to give it back. I still don’t. I won’t give it back.

Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS