INTERVIEW: The Young and the Restless' Jason Thompson celebrates soaps and his Emmy nomination

Posted Monday, May 16, 2022 12:23:18 PM
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Lead Actor nominee Jason Thompson (Billy Abbott, The Young and the Restless) opens up about why honoring the Daytime Emmys and celebrating the genre is so important: "We have to make sure that we hold onto this thing that we've worked really, really hard to build, because it's part of the American fabric."

If you planned to grab a bottle of Champagne in celebration of this year's Daytime Emmy Awards, you'll change your mind and grab two after hearing from Jason Thompson (Billy Abbott, The Young and the Restless). The actor, who's been nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actor category, tells Soap Central all the reasons why it's massively important to celebrate the Emmy Awards, to celebrate the nominees, and to celebrate soap operas in general during this very special annual event.

Soap Central: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination, Jason!

Jason Thompson: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Soap Central: How do you feel about being honored in this way?

Thompson: Oh, it's great! It's always a wonderful feeling and a nice cap on a year's work. And it's always great to be able to represent your show, and this is one way of doing that, to get some recognition for the show and the overall team that puts it together every year, because it's definitely not just me, that's for damn sure! So, it's good. It's a nice feeling and a nice hand clap for everybody.

Soap Central: How did you find out that you'd been nominated? I heard there were party scenes that you were all involved in that day when the announcements were made, so were you a part of those?

Thompson: Peter [Bergman, Jack Abbott] and I were in the middle of a scene, actually, and my phone started buzzing! I reached my hand into my pocket and turned my phone off, and then at the end of the scene, I realized my phone had been buzzing [with congratulations] from my mom, who had been trying to message me and FaceTime me. Then our publicist came down and congratulated Peter and myself for being nominated in the Lead category, and then he went around the horn and told Melissa [Ordway, Abby Newman] and told Mishael [Morgan, Amanda Sinclair] and told Bryton [James, Devon Hamilton]. We were all so happy to be working on the same scenes together -- it was everyone besides Jordi [Vilasuso, Rey Rosales] at the moment, and we were all very, very happy for Jordi, as well. It was a nice thing. We had a quick group high-five, and we went back to work. But it was cool -- an announcement that I will always remember.

Soap Central: I'll bet, because how often do you find out you've been nominated when you're actually with all of your co-stars like that? Such a rare thing!

Thompson: Back in the day, it was usually a New York thing, and you were waiting for a call at six o'clock in the morning, before we were really awake. So, yes, it was great. And even for Peter and I to be in the scene together at that moment, it was really nice. I never take my scenes with him for granted -- we always really enjoy it, and we always hug it out afterward because it's always good, something always happens between us, and it's easy and it's fun. So, for us to be in this small group together means a lot. And even for a guy like John McCook [Eric Forrester, The Bold and the Beautiful], Peter was extremely excited that John McCook was in the category with us. Those guys have been doing this for a long time, but being nominated still means a lot to them, as well. When your colleagues get recognized, it's a good feeling, because again, we all know how much it takes to get the show put on every single day, five days a week. It's not easy. So, my hat goes off to anybody who gets recognized like that.

Soap Central: Just to go back for a quick second, you said you had your phone on during your scene with Peter?! I didn't know you could have your phone near you during taping!

Thompson: Well, with COVID, when we were going through all of these protocols and stuff, we had to use all of our own phones. Prior to that, we never had phones on set, but now, a lot of times, we use our own stuff; it's safer to use my own phone instead of it being passed around or me using somebody else's phone. So, they kind of changed all of those rules and we all got a little too comfortable, I guess! [Laughs] I don't have my phone every time -- this was a big group scene with a bunch of people, and you do have a lot of down time when you're shooting episodes like that. But long story short, it's not very professional of me to have my phone in my pocket, and that's one of the reasons why, because it could ring in the middle of a scene like it did. But luckily, I was working with Mr. Professional Peter Bergman, and he didn't skip a beat!

Soap Central: Once you were done taping, who was the first person that you called to share your good news with?

Thompson: I called my mom back and had a quick FaceTime with my mom and dad. It's always, always nice to be invited to the party, but at the end of the day, it's really special for my mom and dad. She even said, "It doesn't matter how many times you get nominated, I still can't believe it. You're doing what you love, and the kind of acknowledgement that you get still brings tears to my eyes." It was nice, and I told them the little story about how they interrupted my scenes. [Laughs]

Soap Central: What scenes did you end up submitting on your reel?

Thompson: I put together a ten-minute reel based on a couple of scenes where Billy was trying to dupe Adam [Mark Grossman] into writing an article about him and playing into the fact that he was going to crash and burn like he always does. And there were a couple of other scenes, one with Peter, actually, when he kind of figured out that he and Adam and Victor [Eric Braeden] were stealing the company from him and sabotaging him and doing everything like that. I also had a couple of scenes with Christel [Khalil, Lily Winters]. So, I kind of just put together something based off of the rough storyline from last year with Gaines (Jamison Jones) and Adam and Billy and everything; I just pieced something together.

Soap Central: Was it difficult for you to narrow down which scenes to choose?

Thompson: When I won a couple of years ago, it was for that stand-alone episode that I did, which was a lot easier to pull from. This was a little bit different. I've been doing it long enough, and I've been very, very fortunate to have seven or eight nominations at this point, and it's always amazing to be recognized, but you just never know [what scenes will catch the attention of the judges]. There have been years where I thought I had better work, but you just never know what's going to happen. Everybody has such great work, and it's an honor to be nominated along with Peter, too. The only time that's happened so far, I think, was in 2013, [when I was nominated for playing Patrick Drake on General Hospital] and Doug Davidson [ex-Paul Williams] won. That was the first time I had met Peter Bergman, actually. Doug was nominated, Peter was nominated, and Michael [Muhney, ex-Adam Newman] was also nominated, and it was just me [from General Hospital] -- the rest were Y&R actors. That was the first time that I met that small crew of the Y&R actors, at the Emmys that year, because we were all nominated.

Soap Central: Does it feel any different being alongside Peter in the category now that you're on the same show?

Thompson: You know, I look up to Peter in a lot of ways. We have a great relationship; we're very friendly off and on set. He's been doing it for a long time, he does it with grace, he's very professional, and he's very well-received. People look up to him. He's a little bit of a leader, so it's nice to be along with him there. And he's got a great tape. I could see him standing up there when the name is called. But either way, it's just nice to go along on this ride. I was expressing that with Melissa Ordway, too, because it's her first time being nominated. I said, "Look, just enjoy it. It's really fun. You never know if you're going to get invited back, and it might not be what we used to do when there was a lot more press, because COVID kind of changed some of that, but you're going to do interviews, you're going to be able to talk about your job and your passion for it, so just enjoy it!" Because it is fun to be a part of.

Soap Central: I really love how much you advocate for the genre that we all love so much. And you're right -- it's important to honor the Emmys and the way the event celebrates daytime.

Thompson: If we get too lackadaisical with that, it loses its allure, as well. And it's important to keep that! There are only four of us around, so daytime is still strong, but with the way streaming is and everything now, we have to make sure that we hold on to this thing that we've worked really, really hard to build, because it's part of the American fabric. It means a lot to us, it means a lot to our viewers, and I feel like it should be celebrated as much as possible. It's important to enjoy that, and if you are, like I said, invited to the nominee party, it's good -- enjoy it, take it, because you never know if you'll get the opportunity to express yourself like that again.

Soap Central: What are you most looking forward to when it comes to the Emmy ceremony this year?

Thompson: Just seeing everybody again! Being in a room with people again. It's been two years. The year that I won, I was sitting in my living room with nobody else around except for my family, my wife and two kids, and we had one friend over because we weren't even allowed to have people in the house at that point. You somewhat think about these things, like, you dream things up in your mind as a kid or whatever, maybe having the opportunity to give an acceptance speech, and you imagine being there in front of everybody and being able to say thank you, so, whoever wins that night in any of the categories, they're going to be doing it in a room in front of their peers again, which I think is really, really important. I'm very much looking forward to that. And being on two shows in my career so far, I like seeing those people that I used to work with, as well. They're just as much a part of where I come from as anyone else and a part of where I'm going, so it will be good to see everybody's faces again.

Soap Central: Speaking of the acceptance speech, are you the type to prepare one in advance in case you win?

Thompson: No, not really. I don't write things down very often. But I do think about things. I think about things throughout the year, actually, and I try to take stock of certain storylines -- what I liked about them, what felt good to me, and who was integral in making it work. And then, obviously, throughout the year, there are regime changes, there are writing changes sometimes, so you take stock of that and think about who had an impact on your career. I've been doing this for 17 years now, and there's a lot of history there, obviously. I talked about my family and got the opportunity to thank a lot of those people in my taped acceptance speech with my first win, and I just take stock as I go. I'm not one to write something down, but saying that, there are more nerves on live TV, so you never know -- I might get caught off guard! You don't know the way things go, so, if I ever get the opportunity to stand up there again, we'll see what comes out, because I probably won't have it written down.

Soap Central: What kind of feelings do you normally experience right before they announce the winner's name?

Thompson: I don't know -- it goes quick! You're there, and you're still in the game, and then so quickly, you're not. [Laughs] You hear somebody else's name, and the moment is gone, and your opportunity to win and the opportunity to get up there and celebrate has just passed you. But every single time I've had the opportunity to be nominated, it's been a wonderful experience. It's still fun, and when somebody is up there, they worked really, really hard to get up there. This isn't a participation Emmy -- whoever is up there worked extremely hard to get there, and I know that because I've been there, and I know what it takes to put on this show every single day, and our cast and crew, I know how important they are and how integral it all is. So, it's never a bad feeling [to lose]; it just motivates me to go back to work the next day. Even the year that I won, and I imagine it's the same for someone like Peter, who's won a handful of times and still gets nominated, I would imagine it's still a feeling of, "All right, time to go back, time to earn the next one." That's how I feel and that's my own motivation. Everybody is going to do it differently, but for me, that keeps me motivated. My biggest fear would be not caring about what I do, and I never want to have that feeling. I always want to care. It's not about getting a nomination or possibly having a trophy on your wall -- it's about earning your storyline, earning your next contract, earning your next day of work, and having fun doing it. And that doesn't really change.

Soap Central: Is your first Emmy currently propping up any books and waiting for a second one to come and help it out as a second bookend?

Thompson: It hasn't had a permanent home, because we've been bouncing around a lot the last couple of years since I won, but it's sitting on the shelf right now, and every once in a while, the kids will pick it up and play with it and put it down somewhere random, and I'll have to go and put it back. [Laughs] Every once in a while, I walk by it and remember [the night that I won]. It was an interesting way of getting it, I remember. I was sitting on the couch, and it showed up on my doorstep in a box, and I thought it was like, you know, some dried goods that we ordered, but then I opened it up, and I was like, "Oh, jeez, this is my Emmy!" I kind of forgot about it, because the whole thing was just weird -- at the time, we were in the middle of [COVID], and all of those memories come back when I look at it. It's a nice reminder, though... and it makes me want to continue to work hard and earn more [nominations]. Like I said earlier, it's just great recognition for the show any time that my name gets called. It always goes back to the opportunity of getting to work on a great show with a great cast and a great crew like we have at Y&R. From top to bottom, it's just some really great people, and it's always about that and being able to try to do it again.

What do you think about Jason Thompson being nominated for an Emmy this year? What did you think of his work as Billy in 2021? Do you think the actor will take home the gold during the Emmy ceremony in June? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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