Melody Thomas Scott of ‘Y&R’ Opens Up About Her Memoir ‘Always Young and Restless’
Melody Thomas Scott has put pen to paper and crafted her memoir, Always Young and Restless. The compelling tome not only chronicles the daytime legend’s life as Nikki Reed Newman on Young and the Restless, but also her life as a child actress who worked with some of the biggest names in show business including Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne.
TV Insider chatted with the delightful Scott, who details the more challenging parts of her life, which included being raised by her hoarder grandmother and encountering predators who lurk in Hollywood.
However, as readers will discover, Scott’s tenacity and will to survive are two of her strongest qualities. Read on for the scoop!
You’ve been in the industry for decades, why write a memoir now?
Melody Thomas Scott: It took many years to get the guts to sit down and start writing it. I had to unlock a lot of emotional things in my mind. When you’re writing a book, in order to write some of these chapters, I had to mentally go there and relive those moments. There were a lot of things my psyche did not want to go to for obvious reasons. It was a rough start. I was more inclined to write the darker chapters first. Maybe I was thinking it’s better to get them out of the way?
Your memory is so precise. Most people don’t have such recall.
People look at [my memory] with wonder, but it is a curse, too because I can remember all of the bad stuff.
Despite the darker moments you go into, your tone is never depressing, but rather speaks to you being a survivor. When did you realize you could write about the more challenging aspects of your life?
I think my speech at my 40th anniversary at Y&R [last year] was definitely the precursor to unlocking this whole thing. I revealed much of my childhood that day. I wasn’t sure how people would take it. You could hear a pin drop [on the studio floor]. I knew everyone was listening. After that I thought, it’s going to be fine. The book is going to be fine.
The book is broken up into three parts. Your life before being cast as Nikki, and then, Nikki Reed, and Nikki Newman. How did you come to break it up that way?
I have to give all of the kudos to my collaborator Dana Davis. I don’t have an organized mind. She does. She was able to put my story in a format that would be pleasing to the reader. She put it in a way where we could jump around and I don’t have so many consecutive pages with horrible tales. It was all Dana.
Can you talk about the chapter dedicated to the late Kristoff St. John?
I could have gone on and on about Kristoff. His birthday was last month. That brought it all up again. We don’t need much to think about him. We think about him practically every day. The tragedy [of his passing away] had just happened when I was writing…I hope I didn’t go on too much but if I did, well, he deserves it.
When did you start to find happiness?
It was a long march. At age 20, I was able to escape from my grandmother’s home and I got into this little apartment. I literally jumped up and down realizing I could start my own life. I think having my children was the beginning of learning how to accept myself. I look at them with such pride and know that I’ve done all right with them. (Note: Scott has three daughters Jennifer, Alexandra, and Elizabeth.) That’s the greatest joy to me to know that I was a successful parent. I feel proud and happy that they turned out as well as they did. Who would have ever put money on that I would raise good children after the way that I was raised?
When you were dating Y&R makeup artist Carlos Yeaggy, father of your daughter Alexandra, you kept it quiet and referred to him as “Richard,” leading some to think you were dating Three’s Company actor Richard Kline (Larry). Have you ever met Richard?
I have not!
What was Television City like back then?
It was a busy lot. We had Y&R, The Bold and the Beautiful [starting in 1987] and The Price Is Right, which we still have. And we had Three’s Company, too. I remember that turbulent era where there was feuding going on between John Ritter (Jack) and Joyce DeWitt (Janet) with their [co-star] Suzanne Somers (Chrissy). If they were walking towards Suzanne, they’d turn away. I had both John and Joyce at separate times frantically knock on my dressing room door, which was in the main hallway. I opened my door once and John Ritter was there and he said, ‘Hi, I’m so sorry. I’m John Ritter. Can I come in here for a minute?’ I said, ‘Sure, okay!’ Initially, I had no idea what was going on.
You talk about favorite storylines including one in which a neighbor, Edward, brought Nikki to his home to meet his mother.
This was right before Victor (Eric Braeden). The storyline was horrifying. Paul Tulley, who played Edward is a wonderful actor. He was the sweetest guy, too – until we counted down and the red light on the camera went on. Then, I was terrified! He was great. It was a very ‘Norman Bates’ (Psycho) storyline. Very eerie. His mother’s ashes were on the mantel. Edward’s demise was unfortunate. He ended up blowing himself up. He wanted Nikki to go with him, but, fortunately, I had some time left on my contract!
You write about being pregnant with Alexandra while you were still single and how the fans and the show embraced you, but a pregnant single actress on another soap at the same time wasn’t so lucky as she got the axe.
I don’t know what gave me the confidence to not be afraid during that time, but I wasn’t at all. I wasn’t thinking I couldn’t be replaced or fired. I was on my way to being the world’s biggest fatalist. But I also thought, ‘Well, I’m having this baby and that’s that! Should I lose my job, I’ll find a way. I’ll figure it out.’ I was always very confident that no matter what tragedy might befall me, I’d be okay. That was and remains my philosophy today.
What do you hope readers will walk about from reading the book?
Most of our fans [may] look at me and believe while I’m not Nikki, I’m similar. Those people may be quite surprised by learning the ugly truth about child actors in this industry and that many of the things that happen to me still go on today.
Where you’re a child, you are at a great disadvantage. A lot of stage mothers and fathers are not schooled in how to be a guardian for a child on the set. They’ll either allow certain behavior or certain activities to take place or be like my grandmother and not even care. That was part of the tragedy with me. You hope that your guardian will step in and protect you and when they don’t, it’s a very difficult pill to swallow. That’s part of why I’m having a hard time forgiving my grandmother. I’ve heard about forgiveness. I read about. I get it. But I’m just not quite ready. I’m not sure I ever will be.
You write about how Y&R truly is your family.
I always had that feeling when I was a kid on sets. I’d get so attracted to the cast and crew because they treated me with kindness and respect, things I never got at my house. I would gravitate to towards the crew. I’d sob on my last day. I always connected to companies quickly. At Y&R, how could I not?
Was it difficult to leave your recurring role on The Waltons as Ben’s (Eric Scott) girlfriend to accept the part of Nikki?
It was. I loved them. I would have stayed forever. My agent talked me out of that. In her mind, The Waltons was recurring; Y&R was a contract role.
Did you see Michael Learned (ex-Olivia, The Waltons) when she was subbing for Jeanne Cooper as Katherine in 2011?
I remember now that you’ve reminded me, but I don’t remember if I had said, ‘Hi, Michael. Do you remember me?’
Speaking of Jeanne, she wrote in her memoir about a falling out you two had. And you address it in your memoir from your perspective.
It’s an unfortunate saga. Apparently, that was what our fates were meant to be. We were at odds. Despite everything, we loved each other very much.
It never showed on camera.
No. We were very professional and we were friendly. We were at parties at each other’s houses. We knew each other’s children, but there was this underlying issue.
Do you have a second book in you?
Yes. Stay tuned for the sequel. I have many more stories to tell. We’ll see if I’m willing to go through all this again!
Always Young and Restless, Available Tuesday, August 18
Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS