Daniel Goddard Previews the Neil Winters Funeral Episodes on ‘Young & the Restless’
The Young and the Restless has written into episodes this week the death of Neil Winters, played by two-time Emmy-winner and beloved fan favorite Kristoff St. John, who died on February 3 of hypertrophic heart failure.
Daniel Goddard, who plays Cane Ashby, Neil’s son-in-law, says St. John wasn’t just his co-star, but also a dear friend. TV Insider spoke to Goddard about what it was like to tape the funeral episodes that blended scripted feelings with real-life emotions.
Below, the actor previews what fans can expect to see and shares personal memories of the man, whom he says, “treated every fan he ever met like family.”
How do you think these episodes will help viewers deal with the loss of Kristoff?
Daniel Goddard: First, I’m still in shock. Kristoff died on [my wife] Rachael’s and my wedding anniversary. We were celebrating when we found out. I still can’t wrap my head around it. Bryton [James, who plays Devon Hamilton] and I were very good friends with Kristoff. The last few years, we experienced the loss he went through with his son, Julian [who died in 2014], which was very deep for him. It was difficult. There’s a part of us that’s at peace knowing he’s at peace. Then, there’s another part where I still can’t believe it’s happened. I know a lot of fans feel the same way. The condolences I’ve seen are so honest and heartfelt.
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When you have someone in your house on your favorite show that you’ve watched for decades, [you’ve still lost] someone close to you even though it’s in a different way. A lot of fans never met Kristoff but they feel like they know him. I think the episodes will start to help with people healing. The script was only 39 pages long. Usually, they’re much longer. Tony [Morina, executive producer] and Josh [Griffith, head writer/co-executive producer] came out [from the control booth] and we had a talk as a family, which is what the show is. They told us if we want another take to do it. We all did it in one take. Everything you see was done one time, there was no one single pickup.
Eric [Braeden, who plays Victor Newman] was exceptional. Christel [Khalil, who plays Lily Winters] was heartbreakingly beautiful. Bryton was miraculous. Shemar [Moore, who plays Malcolm Winters] was incredible.
It was interesting to see Shemar. Working on a show like ours teaches you the art of acting when you only have that one take. You can have a two to three-page monologue talking about someone you loved dearly and then you go right into the next scene. I asked him about primetime which is a different environment. He was laughing and said if he brought in any of the guys from [his nighttime series] S.W.A.T., showed them the material, and said, ‘You have to get it in one take,’ they’d crumble.
Whenever I hear anyone talk badly about daytime, it rubs me the wrong way. There aren’t many actors who can do what we do. Add to that the emotional loss of one of your best friends passing away. Shemar knew Kristoff since 1994. I’ve known him very well for 12 years and Bryton did for 14 years. You’re asking people to deliver this work in one take. It was very difficult to get out.
I remember when Jeanne [Cooper, the ex-Katherine Chencellor] passed away and [her son] Corbin [Bernsen] came on as Father Todd to speak at the funeral. He broke down [on set] on the first take. They had to do a retake because you couldn’t have a priest breaking down about someone in his flock. It’s a very difficult time for everyone. What it allowed us to do as a family and a group be able to say our farewells. We were saying “Neil” in the scripts, but it was the same thing for us.
Y&R is airing a tribute episode to Kristoff on Monday, April 29 in the show’s regular time slot. Is it similar to the one the show did in 2013 when Jeanne Cooper passed away?
This one differs greatly in the sense that we watched Jeanne at 84 reach the last stages of her life. We saw her saw her sick with pneumonia. Her mind was as sharp as the day I met her, but we saw the body starting to fail. We had that chance to say what a great life lived! The memorial service for Katherine [also] had the understanding it was a great life lived.
Kristoff’s was a tragedy where someone was taken from us who shouldn’t have been. I was talking to Rachael about this. I said I still can’t believe it because he was so fun. He had this joyful light to him. We’d laugh, laugh and laugh. He’d call Bryton and me “Heckle and Jeckle.” We’d mess around with Kristoff and he would with us. It’s the way I grew up in Australia. It was this unspoken language. I still can’t believe I won’t see him. We’d text each other about videos we’d see, stupid stuff. Josh Morrow [who plays Nicholas Newman] had a really hard time with this. I texted Josh one of Kristoff’s videos and he thanked me. He said it was helping him heal.
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Kristoff you were a beautiful sweet sensitive soul full of love, compassion and kindness… but more than that you were my brother. I will never forget you and will never be the same now that you are gone… we spent our time together filled with ridiculousness, pranks and practical jokes because there were few things that we liked more than to make each other laugh. You remember this one? You had been putting vaseline on my dressing room door handle and toilet seat for days on end, and… I finally got you back by filling your new sneakers with hair conditioner! And of course Bryton was there to help capture the moment! I miss you mate. I will always miss you. You were so loved. Rest my friend. You are now at peace. 💔
I think the sad part of all of us this is that Kristoff should know how much he’s missed and loved. There’s so much pain and loss that enveloped him for the last few years. It’s just so sad. I think time heals all wounds. He’s gone but never forgotten. I know the fans feel the same way.
Can you talk about Cane’s speech at Neil’s funeral?
Cane comes up to speak because Lily can’t at one point. I have to be true and honest to the character first. The last scenes I had with Kristoff weren’t good in the sense that they weren’t fun. Neil was confronting Cane about breaking Lily’s heart and the kiss with Victoria (Amelia Heinle). When I had to speak as Cane about Neil, it didn’t have the farewell aspect that other speeches had. Mine is almost a plea to Lily to let her know what we can get through this and I’m here for her. I found it very difficult, as an actor, not to want to personalize what I was saying and make this about the loss of my friend. You have to serve the character first. It’s a beautiful episode. They’re not going to clip the emotional pauses. They’ll allow this to play out.
Do you have any offset personal memories of being with Kristoff that you can share?
Yes. I drove from Atlanta to Montgomery Alabama with him [for a personal appearance]. To drive there with him and arrive in Montgomery and see the impact that Kristoff had was remarkable. I saw where fans couldn’t believe that Kristoff was in their town, this ionic figure who’s done so much over the years. I’d never been with Kristoff and had a fan come up to him where he says, “We gotta go.” Instead, he’d be like, “Where’s your mom from?” Every single fan he met was like family. The fans are sharing in this deep loss. The man was loved. He’ll never be forgotten.
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