After a two-year absence from Y&R, Greg Rikaart was elated to return last November to reprise the role of Kevin Fisher. “When I left the show in 2017, it ended for me in a really unceremonious way,” the actor reflects. “I’m especially grateful that wasn’t the last chapter for me. I was just thrilled to be back and getting to see all the people that I’ve spent years with, and being part of the canvas of this show that has been such an important part of my life.”
With Kevin and a pregnant Chloe taking up residency in the Chancellor mansion with their daughter, Bella, the couple was poised for bigger story, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down production. As the virus was causing problems all over the world, Rikaart became another statistic when he contracted the disease in March. “Thank God it was just me and not the rest of my family, but this illness was brutal,” Rikaart relays. “It wasn’t like a flu. I think even a bad flu, you sort of feel unwell prior to having a rough two or three days and then you start recovering. With the virus, I developed pneumonia and had a fever of 103 that went on for 12 days straight. It was just a nightmare. The other hardest part about being sick was never knowing if I was at the peak of how bad it was going to get or if it was still getting worse. Any worse would have meant a trip to the hospital. It was really just brutal.”
Luckily, a trip to the hospital wasn’t required, but while in self-isolation, Rikaart reveals he fought mental and emotional burnout. “Rob was functioning as a full-time dad, full-time nurse and he was also working at home, so he had to find time to write,” he explains. “I was not watching too much social media or doing anything that would frustrate me. I was really just trying to meditate and keep myself calm.”
However, the outpouring of support and well-wishes from fans was a helpful dose of positivity. “It was really comforting,” Rikaart smiles. “Especially when I was sort of in the thick of it, there wasn’t a whole lot of optimism for me to grasp onto, so those messages were pretty nice.” As was hearing from his co-workers. “I heard from almost everybody at Y&R,” he continues. “I got almost daily check-ins from Peter [Bergman, Jack] and Tracey [E. Bregman, Lauren] and Missy [Claire Egan, Chelsea] and Eric [Braeden, Victor] and Josh [Griffith, head writer/co-executive producer] and Doug [Davidson, Paul]. They really helped to lift my spirits.”
Recovery has been slow, Rikaart shares. “It wasn’t as simple as two weeks and then you’re done,” he says. “I had a lot of post-viral fatigue that I dealt with for months afterward. It’s not the same as being just tired. A couple of times, I played tennis just for an hour, really not super-competitively, or tried to go on a bike ride or a run. I’d feel okay afterward but a day or two later, I would barely be able to get out of bed. For someone who prided myself on being pretty healthy, this whole experience was quite a gut-punch.”
And though he’s on the road to new normalcy, “Rob has never been busier, so we’re making the most of our week- ends,” Rikaart explains. “I know that kids are resilient and Monte will bounce back once he does go back to school, but the lack of socialization is a challenging thing for a 4-year-old who loves to play and really enjoys school and his friends. So, we go for bike rides and visit a farm where you can pick your own berries and vegetables, plus we’re seeing friends in a socially distant way.”
Rikaart was happy to return to work, but not without some reservations. “I was excited to be back and also apprehensive and a little nervous,” he confesses. “I think all the protocols they have in place certainly are reassuring. There was a moment, though, where the actors have to take our masks off so it does leave you feeling a little vulnerable. I’m actually relieved that I had that one day and I don’t go back for a few more weeks. I’m relieved by that because I’m like, ‘Good. Let them have a few more weeks under their belt of kind of ironing out any kinks there may be.’ ”
With his on-screen partner, Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe), out on maternity leave, “I don’t think there will be any of her for a while, which means there won’t be much of me,” he points out. “My only episode that I taped was Kevin and Esther.” In the meantime, Rikaart is taking stock of how the past few months will shape his future. “I think I was always a fairly grounded person with a clear sense of what my priorities are, but this virus put things into an even clearer perspective,” he notes. “If you don’t have your health then you really don’t have anything. I feel really assured on what’s important to me these days. Life is short. Even though we’re in this time where we’re really limited with how we can sort of be out in the world and explore, I still treat each day like, ‘Well, how do we make the most of it?’ Just spending time with my husband and my son is so valuable and has made our whole family unit even stronger.”
During his two-year break from Y&R, Rikaart joined DAYS as the opportunistic Leo Stark. “Had it not been for leaving Y&R, I never would have had that little detour, which was one of the most fun acting jobs I’ve ever had,” he marvels. “I even got an Emmy nomination for that role [in 2019], so it’s hard to complain.” Even better was when Judith Chapman, Kevin’s mom, Gloria, on Y&R, was hired to play Leo’s devious mom, Diana. “That was such a gift,” Rikaart enthuses. “With the relationship Judith and I already have off camera, we didn’t have to waste any time trying to cultivate something on screen. On day one, we caught up for a few minutes and then, boom, we got right into fleshing out the relationship between Leo and Diana. It wasn’t completely different from the relationship between Kevin and Gloria, but different enough where we both approached it from a different perspective.” Rikaart was thrilled when the soap called him back for an appearance on the April Fool’s Day episode. “To begin with, Leo’s the kind of character where there’s really no such thing as playing too big, and Ron [Carlivati, head writer] sort of wrote him broader and broader as time went on,” Rikaart observes. “Then to have an April Fool’s episode where it was like an alternate reality, the gloves were off. I got to say and do such bonkers things in that episode. That was really fun.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: February 26
Born and Raised: Staten Island,
NY Family Planned: Married to television writer Robert Sudduth since May 13, 2015. They have a son, Montgomery, born on June 12, 2016 via surrogacy.
Restless Ride: Originated the role of Kevin in 2003, left in 2017, made a brief appearance in early 2018, then returned in mid-2019.
Gold Standard: Rikaart won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor after his first nomination in 2005 and has since received six more nods.
Acting Out: He received the Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign in 2014 for his activism with LGBTQ civil rights.
I Swear: During a summer camp production of Little Shop of Horrors, 11-year- old Rikaart forgot the words to a song and cursed into the microphone.
Travel Plans: “We’re talking about renting an RV and driving to Texas and Florida [to visit family].”