Catching Up With Shemar Moore

Y&R veteran Shemar Moore (ex-Malcolm) looks back at his time in Genoa City and considers what a hit series like CRIMINAL MINDS might mean for his future.

Soap Opera Weekly: After all these years, this is the first time you’ve ruled out a return to THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. Why?
Shemar Moore: This is the fist time I’ve ever been on a hit show. The first time I’m pretty sure that I’m going to make my money and pay my bills. Fourteen years I’ve been out here, hustling, playing the game, taking chances. It’s not that I don’t want to go back. If there were a way to continue to tell those stories but still do my prime-time gig and eventually chase Jamie (Foxx), Denzel (Washington), Will (Smith) and all those guys. I’ve come a long way and I’ve got a long way to go.

Weekly: Do you miss life at Y&R?

Moore: I do turn on the show randomly. I miss it, because I have so many memories, but politically and creatively speaking, my time is done. Things have changed over there. The top brass has changed. I love Kristoff (St. John, Neil) and we keep up on the phone from time to time. He’s the big brother I’ve never had. I need people who can relate, and that was Tonya (Lee Williams) and Kristoff.

Weekly: How would you feel if the show recast Malcolm?
Moore: I’m not going to hate on the guy. He’s an actor trying to work just like I was, but my career was born on Y&R. Without it, I wouldn’t be here on a top 10 show. I had to earn my stripes. When a lot of people were bartending and going to classes that may or may not work, I got paid to practice through a cool character on a high-profile soap. Once my chops deepened, the show embraced me and let me bring that character to life through their words. To this day, people give me love for Y&R. That character was so close to home, and I grew as a person in my time being Malcolm Winters, so the idea of somebody else playing him….. Business is business; the show must go on. It won’t be the end of me, but it’s a compliment when someone lets you come, do your run, spread your wings and fly. It’s [like] when they retire your jersey in sports. There’s only one No. 32 for the Lakers, and I don’t think they’ll recast Malcolm.

Weekly: Were you sad that you didn’t get to play the Lily/Daddy stuff?
Moore: Sure, but Lily’s getting older. Sooner or later, I’m going to be grandpa at Lily’s [next] wedding. I did eight solid years on that show. That’s a long time. I miss the fans. I miss that world, because it was very good to me. They embraced the hell out of me. But it’s been a difficult transition to get into prime time. The trick is to get people to realize no, I’m not on Y&R. I’m off doing my thing. But it’s what I’m known for. It was the first thing you asked me about.

Weekly: Is your role on CRIMINAL MINDS changing perceptions?
Moore: My fans have followed me and maintained their love and support, but now there’s a whole new group of viewers. To them, I’m not Malcolm, I’m not Shemar Moore, I’m “That guy from CRIMINAL MINDS,” which is a good thing. Credibility-wise, it’s almost like this last 14 years didn’t happen and I’m the new kid on the block. There are doors opening up that I couldn’t get through when I was on a soap opera. I’m one step closer to that feature-film world. I wasn’t even on the radar until now. Now, I’m one of about 11 African-American male actors in prime time. That’s an interesting group to be a part of.
Weekly: This season on CRIMINAL MINDS we learned your character was molested as a child. What was it like to shoot that intense episode?
Moore: That’s one of my proudest moments as an actor. It was a great opportunity, emotionally and spiritually, but the biggest reward was that people were impacted by it. I got to sink my teeth into something that not a lot of actors — black, white, green or yellow — get to do, especially in a procedural drama. Our show is not a soap opera, but my story in “Profiler Profiled” was closer to those shows, because I was the one who got to emote. We joke all the time that the best roles on our show are the guest stars. They get to laugh, cry, scream, yell and fight for their families. We profilers are the magnificent seven who can’t show that emotion, because we have to get the job done. When the script arrived, it was, “Wow!” I would never have seen this coming. It was a breakdown. It was a dark place. There was something for me to do as an actor.

Weekly: Was BIRDS OF PREY, which was canceled after just a few episodes, a disappointment?
Moore: It wasn’t a huge disappointment. The writers didn’t have a clue what show they were trying to make, but it was a fun show and I was trying to turn that corner. BIRDS was an opportunity for me to not be the soap star. People ask me all the time, “Do you feel you’re typecast?” Hell, yeah! Even while the conversation has changed, it’s still, “Oh, he’s the good-looking guy on CRIMINAL MINDS.” I don’t take my looks that seriously. If I go to the gym, get a good night’s sleep and go shopping, I can put myself together. That’s not what makes me tick. If you like what you see, I’m flattered, but there’s so much more to me. I didn’t get into this business to wear cool clothes, walk down the carpet and chase hot chicks — fun perks till I find the one I want to be with! But believe it or not, I was shy when I was a kid. I got into acting because it was a chance for me to do things I wouldn’t do. As a character, I could vent, be funny or take chances I wasn’t allowing myself.

Weekly: Did you want to be a star?
Moore: Of course I did — and I do! I’m not going to lie. I’m enjoying this ride. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I wasn’t chasing a dream. But my definition of “star” is different as I get older. I wanted to be Mark Wahlberg on the side of a bus in my Calvin Kleins. I thought that was making it. I’m proud I’ve won a Daytime Emmy and a bunch of (NAACP) Image awards. That tells me I’m doing something right. Would I like to win an Oscar one day? Of course! But it’s what I do, not who I am. When I first got here, it was about making it who I was. I needed validation. At the end of the day, when I’m old and gray and there’s another “Shemar Moore” stealing my thunder, I’d love to sit back like Morgan Freeman or Denzel. I’m having fun evolving.

Weekly: So Hollywood is less glamorous than you anticipated?
Moore: Hollywood is red carpets and parties, but it’s also acting class, trying to get an agent and a manager, bartending and having people backstab you. If you want to get into this business, I would not recommend it, but if it’s in your blood and you can’t sleep at night because you’re thinking of what you can accomplish, you have to try. Whatever you want to excel at, put your everything into it. If you just want it because it looks good on TV, I guarantee you’re heading for a brick wall.

Weekly: Will we be seeing you in any side projects during your hiatus?
Moore: It’s tough. In procedural prime-time television the hours are just stupid. I got off at 1:30 in the morning last night and that was early. We work 8 to 9 months out of the year, so I have three months to go do something, but projects don’t necessarily happen in that window. At this stage, I’m getting involved in the writing process and co-producing. I want to take a bit more ownership than in the past. Instead of being a puppet for hire, saying someone else’s lines and bringing their ideas to life, I want to bring my own ideas. I know what I’m capable of, but some of those ideas are foreign to the people giving out the jobs.

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