The 2017 Daytime Emmy Awards will be handed out on April 30, but the winners in the soap opera acting categories have already been decided by blue ribbon panels that viewed sample performance reels. In the race for Best Actor, Kristoff St. John (“The Young and the Restless”) is nominated for the ninth time for playing Neil Winters, a role he assumed in 1991. This character has already earned him Emmys for Best Younger Actor (1992) and Best Supporting Actor (2008). He earned one more nomination for Younger Actor (1993), four additional bids for Supporting Actor (1999, 2000, 2007, 2015) and was nominated for the first time in the Best Actor category last year.
On top of that, his role on the series “Generations” earned him nominations for Supporting Actor (1990) and Younger Actor (1991). Looking to win his first Emmy in the lead category, St. John has submitted scenes where his character says goodbye to his dying mother. Watch his reel above.
Neil visits his mother Lucinda (Guest Performer nominee Nichelle Nichols) as she is dying. Lucinda had abandoned him due to her alcoholism, but he confesses to her that he too is an alcoholic. Neil wonders whether his mother would have done anything differently if she could go back in time, but she tells him that giving him up is what allowed him to grow up to be the man he is. Neil then suggests that he bring his family to visit Lucinda, telling her that he wants his children and grandchildren to meet her. But she explains that she will likely not be alive long enough to meet them and asks Neil to tell her about them instead.
Neil describes each of his children, telling Lucinda how strong they are and what good people they have become. He admits that he has made a lot of mistakes as a parent, and says that he is committed to keeping his family together, but that above all he needs his children. He doesn’t want to be alone, and she tells him that she doesn’t feel alone because he is there with her. Lucinda dies, and Neil sobs over her body crying, “Mommy.”
Will St. John win Best Actor with this performance against Peter Bergman (“Y&R”), Scott Clifton (“The Bold and the Beautiful”), Billy Flynn (“Days of Our Lives”) and Vincent Irizarry (“Days”)? Let’s consider the pros and cons.
St. John’s performance is chock full of sympathy and touches on a universal fear: the loss of a parent. Neil’s sadness throughout the reel is palpable, and his anguished cries over her body– similar to that of a child– are truly heartbreaking and give the reel a strong impact.
Despite the sadness of the scene, St. John still manages to convey many different emotions: his pride in his children, his forgiveness of his mother, and his shame at the mistakes he has made as a parent.
Voters have the chance to make Emmy history in more ways than one. Not only would St. John be the first male actor to win in the Younger, Supporting, and Lead categories, but he would also be the first black actor to win this award since Darnell Williams (“All My Children”) in 1985.
Even with the emotional weight of the reel, those emotions are quiet and subtle, lacking the kinds of fireworks found in some of the other reels in this category. Voters may choose to reward a showier performance that displays greater emotional range.
The scene is a two-hander with Nichols, who has several emotional speeches of her own. That might pull focus from St. John.
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