Soap Opera Digest: Victoria, you and Kristoff St. John [ex-Neil] worked together for so many years and were very close. Where were you when you learned of Kristoff’s passing?
Victoria Rowell: I was in my house. I was absolutely devastated when I heard the news. I couldn’t talk. It was such a shock and so unbelievable that I had to sit down. People don’t realize how deadly alcohol can be. It’s a socially acceptable drug and anything that adds to that, such as stress or devastation, only magnifies that particular disease. One could not know the depth of Kristoff’s despair given how he could mask his pain. Obviously we all knew he was suffering from the loss of his son, but to what extent, we could not know.
Digest: When’s the last time you communicated with Kristoff?
Rowell: I couldn’t tell you exactly the last time, but we stayed in touch by text or call or email. We had worked together outside of YOUNG AND RESTLESS, so we were always plotting and planning what we would try to do next. He was my love interest in a series of Christmas movies [on UP] and we weren’t done with those. We were always looking forward to the opportunity of doing our next holiday movie together. He would also share ideas with me and ask me what I thought about something he was writing.
Digest: Are there any examples that you can share?
Rowell: I will tell you that one of the last emails to me was about a [Y&R] storyline he wanted that included his character and Eric Braeden [Victor] and he asked me to weigh in on what I thought about it. He would also show me material he produced and was trying to find distribution for. We not only stayed in touch as colleagues but as friends and confidants.
Digest: Did he express to you that he wanted you back on Y&R?
Rowell: Oh, yes, and as much as we wanted to come together on YOUNG AND RESTLESS for the fans, it was not meant to be, for whatever the reason. So, for that, there’s great sorrow, not only for us as a beloved married couple but also for the fans who requested our reunion for over a decade. Kristoff and I really clicked and we worked well together. It would’ve been special if we could have offered that to our fans. There was no question that Kristoff and I were willing, but it wasn’t meant to be, so one must move on, and one has.
Digest: Were you surprised by the invitation to not only appear in Y&R’s tribute to Kristoff but also as a guest with your former co-stars on
Rowell: I’ll answer the question in this way: CBS and Angelica McDaniel [Executive Vice President, Daytime Programs and Syndicated Program Development, CBS Entertainment and CBS Television] did the right thing in including me. My character, Drucilla Winters, who was created by [Co-Creator/then-Head Writer] Bill Bell, inspired Kristoff’s character, and she and Neil inspired Shemar Moore’s character, Malcolm, and that inspired Tonya Lee Williams’s character, Olivia, which ultimately inspired Lily and the list goes on and on. Angelica McDaniel said, “We can’t do this without Victoria Rowell,” and I appreciate that. I understand that there has been strain over a period of time, which is well-documented, but it was heartening to know that we could all come together for a common interest, and that was Kristoff St. John. I was very honored that Angelica invited me to participate. It meant a lot to me and I believe it meant quite a bit to the fans.
Digest: What was it like to step on the Y&R set again?
Rowell: Oh, it was surreal [laughs], it was really something. Matt Kane, the head of PR, met me and brought me to the set. Obviously it was great to see various crew and cast members. If Sharon Case [Sharon] had hugged me any tighter, she would’ve broken a rib, we were so happy to see each other. I was hugging people every step of the way. I went up to hair and makeup and met new people, saw some cast, then waited in a dressing room until I was called to set. Peter Bergman [Jack] was just coming off set and saw me. He came up and gave me a big hug. I was especially touched when cameramen would approach and hug me because we haven’t seen each other in so long. The crew I think is the true litmus test that you had done your job. There were also CBS personnel who came from different floors to come see me and it made me cry. It even makes me a little weepy right now.
Digest: What was that day like?
Rowell: I went onto Devon’s [penthouse] set and, wow, what a set it is! It was wonderful, of course, to see Bryton [James, Devon] and I met Mishael Morgan [ex-Hilary] and Daniel Goddard [Cane] for the first time. I hugged Christel [Khalil, Lily] and it was incredible. It was almost like no time had passed. The whole thing was just beautiful. I felt nothing but warmth and love for why we were all there and why we needed to do this together.
Digest: It was heartening to see you with your soap kids.
Rowell: Oftentimes in entertainment, you spend so many hours on set together that they do become your second family and they were just that, they felt like family. Bryton is very special to me because I pitched that storyline on foster care adoption and [then-Head Writer] Jack Smith said, “Let’s do it!” Sony got on board, so the character of Devon was inspired by Dru, essentially, and he’s remained a popular character. Bryton is a fine young man and he’s always humble. I love him and I wish him nothing but the best. Would we like to work together again? Absolutely. Will we work together again on YOUNG AND RESTLESS? That’s entirely up to Sony. I feel that ultimately that it’s not up to the fans, but I love soap operas, so never say never.
Digest: Did you watch the Y&R tribute?
Rowell: I can’t bring myself to watch it. I understand it was very well done and I had every confidence that it would be.
Digest: What was it like to be reunited with Shemar Moore [ex-Malcolm] on THE TALK?
Rowell: It was great to see him. He’s such a sweetie pie and just as warm and kind as ever. They wanted me sitting between Shemar and Bryton, and Christel was there with us. Christel is a wonderful actress. She told me that she’s moving to Canada, so it was great for all of us to be together on THE TALK. We’ve all gone off into the world in our own directions: Shemar is starring on prime-time on S.W.A.T., Christel is headed for a new beginning in Toronto and Bryton is the last man standing, so to speak, of the original Barber/Winters cast. It doesn’t have to stay that way, so we’ll see.
Digest: How will you remember Kristoff?
Rowell: With everything he brought from feature films and prime-time television work, Kristoff’s contribution to daytime is immeasurable. He didn’t believe in putting a finger on a scale so that it would weigh in his favor. He just wanted everyone to be treated fairly and equally. I will forever remember him in that way and I believe everyone else who knew him will, too.
Digest: You have other projects you’re working on. What’s happening with THE RICH AND THE RUTHLESS?
Rowell: We recently dropped the third season of THE RICH AND THE RUTHLESS and we think it’s our best season yet. It’s grown to the extent that UMC is now our parent company, so I’m extremely proud of the show, my production company and our cast. And I should mention that the show is also available on Amazon Prime video. I’m just thrilled, and we’ll see if gets a season 4 pickup.
Digest: You also appeared in the Lifetime movie PRIDE & PREJUDICE: ATLANTA.
Rowell: It’s the classic with a new perspective. Rhonda Baraka was a director I had the good fortune to work with on six different projects, and the concept was brilliant. It was to modernize the Jane Austen classic and set it in a black family. I play Catherine Darcy, who is a moneyed, controlling matriarch who intends to see her nephew, Will, played by Juan Antonio, who also starred on EMPIRE [as Phillip], do the right thing. I had a blast on set and I got reunited with Keshia Knight Pulliam from THE COSBY SHOW. I also worked with Jackée Harry [ex-Lily, ANOTHER WORLD] and Reginald VelJohnson, which was a great opportunity. I also think that PRIDE & PREJUDICE: ATLANTA has the potential to be a great series. We’ll see.
Just The Facts
Born: May 10
Hails From: Portland, ME
What A Catch: Tough-talking Drucilla debuted in March 1990 when she was arrested for shoplifting at Fenmore’s. It was later revealed that she was the niece of Abbott housekeeper Mamie. Dru met Neil in January 1991.
Missing In Action: Dru fell to her presumed death on April 6, 2007. “There are lots of conversations on social media and one is that she has amnesia, so she doesn’t know she’s Drucilla and she’s living with someone and teaching ballet,” Rowell notes.
Gray For Pay: About her gray locks, Rowell says, “Father Time set it up, so it wasn’t a decision, it just happened organically. I’m into embracing my age and I love being a silver fox. I’ve requested to audition for projects where I can be gray. And if someone needs a brunette, have wig, will travel!”