Shemar Moore Opens Up About the Loss of 'Y&R' Brother Kristoff St. John

Michael Maloney
Q&A Michael Yarish/CBS

Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T.) has always been open to returning to Young and the Restless as Malcolm when schedules allow. His return this week — for the funeral for his TV brother Neil Winters (following the death of his portrayer, Kristoff St. John on February 3 from hypertrophic heart disease) — is one that he wishes he never had to do.

In addition to reprising Malcolm, Moore is appearing as himself on today’s episode of The Talk along with Y&R colleagues Victoria Rowell (ex-Drucilla), Christel Khalil (Lily), and Bryton James (Devon) to share memories of their late friend and colleague.

Julia Pace Mitchell on Returning as 'Y&R's Sofia to Say Goodbye to Neil Winters

Julia Pace Mitchell on Returning as 'Y&R's Sofia to Say Goodbye to Neil Winters

The actress opened up about how reprising Sofia helped her process her grief over losing Kristoff St. John.

Also, on Monday, Moore will appear on a tribute episode to St. John that will air in Y&R’s regular time slot.

TV Insider spoke to Moore about his late TV brother and how there was no question as to whether or not he’d reprise Malcolm for this solemn occasion.

How did you feel when you learned CBS and Y&R was going to write Neil’s death into the show?

Shemar Moore: I’m grateful to CBS for taking it so seriously. I had last talked to Kristoff on January 17. He was trying to sound optimistic. He said, “Let’s get together soon. Keep doing what you’re doing on S.W.A.T.” I always knew he was proud of me. I didn’t know he was in such [pain]. I’m trying not to go to the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” places. I’m grateful to everyone at CBS for giving this man his due. In my mind it was a no brainier [to do these tribute episodes]. I appreciate that S.W.A.T. and CBS gave me the opportunity to go back home. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to decide.

Can you talk about your early days on the show and meeting Kristoff?

I’ve never forget where I came from. Y&R is my home, my start. There is no Shemar Moore today without out my having been on Y&R. On April 6, 1994 at my [screentest], myself and five other guys did two scenes with Kristoff. I found out [very soon after] that I got the job. What I didn’t know till a week or two later was that [Y&R creator] Bill Bell had turned to Kristoff sand said, “Who do you like?” He said, “I want the scared kid in the baseball cap to play my younger brother.” If he hadn’t picked me that day, I’d have a life but not this life. Once I got there, he embraced me and he became my mentor, acting teacher, a therapist, a calmer. He showed me the ropes and the way.

He always believed in me. I got my legs under me. I got popular and confident. He didn’t always have to be so good to me but there was always respect. I didn’t grow up with a brother. Then and now, he truly is the closest brother I’ve ever known. We lost him. To go back and honor him is something I’m proud to do along with the other actors on Y&R. I’m so humbled and honored to say goodbye to my friend.

Daniel Goddard Previews the Neil Winters Funeral Episodes on 'Young & the Restless'

Daniel Goddard Previews the Neil Winters Funeral Episodes on 'Young & the Restless'

The actor, who plays Cane Ashby, previews what fans can expect to see and shares personal memories of Kristoff St. John.

Do you think this will help fans with closure? The ones who met him and the ones who felt like they had?

I hope so. The fans deserve it. That man was on that show for 30-plus years. I’d heard of him. [Nathan Purdee, ex-Nathan] came on to Y&R and opened the door and then Kristoff came on and blew the house up and changed the game for African-Americans on soaps. Without [Nathan] and Phil [Morris, Tyrone]  there’s no me, no Christel, no Bryton… Kristoff, Victoria, Tonya [Lee Williams, ex-Olivia] and myself were the black family… People called Kristoff the “Denzel [Washington] of Soaps.” He is the most iconic influential, popular dedicated actor in daytime history.

What did you think of the way the show handled Neil’s death?

The show’s writers must have been hiding in my closet. There’s a two-and-a-half-page monologue they gave me that sounded as if I’d written it. Other than having to memorize the words and stand on the set and wearing makeup, it really wasn’t Malcolm talking to Neil. It was my chance to talk to Kristoff. I memorized the script weeks before. I promised myself that this is all for Kristoff. I was determined to just breathe and block everything and everybody out. I was going to feel what I was going to feel and then talk to Kristoff. There wasn’t any acting. I only had to remember to call Kristoff “Neil.”

(Michael Yarish/CBS)

Everyone did their scenes in one take. You could just feel how important it was to do it that way. This year has dumped a lot of stuff on us all. I lost Kristoff. I lost my two bulldogs, 40 hours apart. I’m mourning and I’ve done more crying in the last month over the loss of love and good people and my loyal dogs. When I got up there, we had shot 28 scenes. We started at 7:30 a.m. and finished at 11:30 p.m. Nobody was going to go until we got it exactly right.

I don’t know if I was at peace afterwards, but I started to feel lighter. I’m always going to miss him. I’ll carry Kristoff in my heart and I say a little prayer before each performance now to him, telling him I know I can make you proud. I know he was so committed to his daughters [Paris and Lola]. He was so committed to helping people. He struggled to help himself.

'Young & the Restless': Kristoff St. John's Friend Stan Shaw to Help Lay Neil Winters to Rest

'Young & the Restless': Kristoff St. John's Friend Stan Shaw to Help Lay Neil Winters to Rest

The late actor's longtime pal and 'Roots: The Next Generations' co-star will appear as the Reverend at Neil Winters' funeral.

What will you remember the most about Kristoff?

He was a gentle soul and a good man. He found humor in darkness in ways that I don’t think most people could. He was the biggest goofball I ever knew. Lola told me I remind her of her father. We were so much alike. She’s lost a [father], a good man. I’ve lost a brother, a mentor, a safety net. But he believed in me and told me I could be strong and that I could fly. He’s in heaven now. I’m going to keep flying for myself and him.

The Talk, Weekdays, CBS

Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS