Soap Opera Digest: We’re sure that the Emmy [win] was a big highlight of the last few months but tell us how you’ve been doing in general.
Bryton James: Yeah, I’ve been doing all right. Usually I enjoy staying home. I’m very much a homebody. That wasn’t too big of an adjustment for me. I enjoy having the excuse not to have to go anywhere…. It’s allowed me to focus a little bit more on some side projects I have going on. Brytni [Sarpy, Elena, his girlfriend] and I have started a writing project ourselves with a script that involves a book about racial passing that she has the rights to. My writing partner for a long time now, Daniel Goddard, who used to play Cane on Y&R, he and I have continued making some headway on some of our writing projects and also our new tech venture with a new app that we’ve developed and released. So, I’ve found ways to keep myself busy aside from Y&R. I’ve done some voice-over work via recording from home. I’ve remained busy as much as I can.
Digest: Well, first tell us about the app.
James: The app is called BILDBORD and it’s available in the Google Play store and Android and the Apple App Store on iOS. First of all, it’s a platform where you can kind of consolidate your whole digital identity. We kind of kept getting tired of people, when they would ask, “Where can we find you?” having to give about five different usernames of where someone could find me at. We wanted to first create a profile where you can link every single one of your social media accounts to it, almost like a digital business card, and then try to streamline and evolve the way that people find like minds. What you do is you add hashtags to your profile that represent who you are and what you’re looking for. You simply only match with other people who have hashtags in common with you. You kind of can customize your filters in to what you’re looking for and how you find people. We have some really cool new features that we’re adding to it.
Digest: I love that you actually worked with Christel Khalil, who plays your Y&R sister Lily, on FAMILY MATTERS when you were, like, little kids. Do you have actual memories of meeting her back then?
James: Absolutely. Absolutely, ’cause we all still had to do school. That week that she was on, we shared a classroom together. I remember very much. We were hanging out in our downtime together. We got along great back then. I think I have a couple pictures from that time. It was crazy. It seemed like it was meant to be when I ended up getting Y&R and having her there. I did my screen test with her, actually. That was the first time I realized that was the same person.
Digest: When you were offered the job did you have any reservations about joining a soap?
James: No, not at all. Once I knew that they valued me and thought that I would be a great fit for this role, I immediately just wanted to get better every day and do the best I could to add to the show. I mean, I didn’t know anything about YOUNG AND RESTLESS also. I didn’t know the legacy that it had. I didn’t know what I was really getting myself into until I got the part. But once I did, I was very confident and eager to get going.
Digest: Well, Christel became not only your on-screen sister when Devon was adopted into the Winters family but your very close friend in real life. You are, in fact, the godfather to her son. Tell us about how your bond developed over the years once you reconnected at Y&R.
James: Well, I mean, it’s hard not to become family when you’re on a soap opera, especially when you’re on it for as long as some of us have been. She’s such a great and loving, warm person that it was easy to get along with her and become that close. We just went through very important times in our lives together. Her getting married at a young age, having her son, I was right there. Same with me. I got married at a young age, too, and went through a separation. Just these very important times in our lives. When you share it with someone that you see every day and you work with every day that you’re constantly together running lines with and hanging out off set, too, that natural bond kind of just develops. We have very similar personalities. We have the same taste in music, which helps a lot ’cause we love to dance. She’s always had my back and I’ve always had hers. She’s the closest thing I have to a sister.
Digest: Devon had done his fair share of dating but was never in a pairing that really exploded until Mishael Morgan came along as Hilary. What do you think it was about your chemistry with her or just the storyline in general that produced so much excitement?
James: I definitely think it was a mixture of both the writing and our natural chemistry…. We found that we just have very, very similar personalities and the same sense of humor. We just got along well. Things just really clicked. I think how the show did such a great job at writing a character that was truly unpredictable and exciting and kind of cutthroat but at the same time, you always believed that she had a very genuine, sincere, good heart, that’s to Mishael’s talent. She’s an incredibly talented actress. That’s her soul, her spirit that comes across.
Digest: After Mishael left the show your life changed on screen and off when Y&R hired Brytni Sarpy to play Devon’s love interest, Elena. You live together now. That’s a big deal! Do you remember your first meeting and your first impression of her?
James: I do. I do very well. Gosh, it was only a couple days after we had lost Kristoff [St. John, ex-Neil] so it was kind of tough to get back into the swing of things and start this journey of this new storyline they were about to create for me. I was asked to come in to help with screen-testing, with reading with the girls that they had to play the character of Elena. I was in the parking lot and I remember she drove up looking for the spot that they gave her to park in and that’s the first time we met. I don’t think she knew that she was reading with me that day. She pulled up and rolled down the window and asked where the spot was and I saw her and fell in love right away and told her where the spot was. We got inside and got to meet everyone. We ran lines together. She was the first one, actually, that went in the room to audition. Just right away, just the kind of person she was and the confidence that she carried and just the warmness in her heart, it was glaring. She got the part, obviously, and we continue to get to know each other. I think we both just kind of became undeniable.
Digest: Did you have any concerns about getting involved? How do you like working with your significant other?
James: [Laughs] You know, I did until I didn’t. That all went out the window. I remember Kristoff giving me that advice a long time ago probably not to do that. But it’s been great. We both have the same work ethic. We both love to be over-prepared. To have someone that shares that kind of passion for what we’re doing is a great thing. We get to run lines constantly. It’s not really acting sometimes. But it’s been great. It really has. I feel extremely blessed to have my life changed in the way it has over the last year.
Digest: Devon and Elena’s love story has really been well-received by fans. Were you nervous about whether the fans of Devon and Hilary’s pairing would be able to accept Devon with a new woman?
James: You know what, not really. I knew that there would always be the fans that wish they could have seen that love story play out with Hilary and Devon, especially knowing that there was a child on the way and what could have been and all that. But I also have always had extreme confidence in the show and the writers to get people to champion what the characters go through. They’ve done an exceptional job, I think, with Elena’s character. Brytni’s portrayal of her being as likable and lovable, and as talented as she is, she’s made it easy for the fans, as well, to get on board. And I think because Devon has been through so much, regardless of how you feel of what you wanted to see with him and Hilary, you just want him to be happy. You want him to find some kind of peace during what he had over this year, especially with losing not just Hilary but his father. I was pretty confident that eventually people would get on board.
Digest: And they certainly did. Now another story you played over the past year was the drama with Katherine’s will. When that was all going down, there was a huge reaction from the audience of outrage over Devon being stripped of his billions. Did it surprise you to see how much it meant to fans?
James: Not really because it was such a big deal to the fans, especially when they made the decision to have Devon be related to Katherine in the first place. I think for a character like Devon to really come from ground zero, from nothing, and being able to represent that kind of legacy, not just by blood but financially, and what Devon represents to the show and to his family, being able to establish the Hamilton-Winters foundation with Neil because of that money, because of that inheritance, the ability to have a character like Devon give back and represent doing good in the community and the world with what he has, I knew it was always important to the fans so it didn’t surprise me when they got riled up about it being taken away. But I thought it was an exciting story because it’s drama. You’re supposed to get people riled up and make the fans speak up about what they want to see. I think they did a good job at it.
Digest: Are you glad he got the money back?
James: Of course, I’m glad! There’s so much more story that you can tell. Devon’s already had nothing. We’ve already been there. Let’s exhaust him having everything.
Digest: As viewers know, Mishael is now back on the show playing a Hilary look-alike named Amanda. There is no indication really that there’s romance between Devon and Amanda coming up, but would you be interested in exploring a potential connection between the two of them?
James: I mean, again, it is a soap opera, so of course, I’d be open to just about anything that the writers wanted to throw at us. They’ve done a very good job of not just throwing the character back into a relationship storyline with myself…. If it were to ever happen in the future down the line, of course, I’d be open to it. I think there’s a lot to be explored with Devon and Elena. There’s not too many couples where a third party doesn’t get involved. It’s not about deception and cheating or a split between two loves. The one that comes to mind right now is Michael and Lauren and even they have experienced it in the later years of being together. But for a while they were just solid. I’d like to be that solid couple for a while until they start trying to pull us apart.