It's been more than seven years since Jason Thompson (Billy Abbott) joined the cast of The Young and the Restless. Before that, he enjoyed and eleven-year run on ABC's General Hospital. In a new interview with Soap Central, Thompson takes a look back at his career in daytime and offers his thoughts on why the material behind his 2023 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Lead Actor nomination is so important.
Jason Thompson: Hi, Dan. How are you today?
Soap Central: Well, I'm about to say something that has never been said in the history of soaps. I just took some time out from planting potatoes to hop on this call to chat with you. (Laughs)
Thompson: There you go. Well, from one potato to another, here I am.
Soap Central: We like to do these Daytime Emmy interviews each year. You've had a little bit of time to process this latest nomination now. So, I want to ask you: how is it feeling? How is it feeling now that it's sort of settled in and you've had a week or so to process this latest Daytime Emmy nomination?
Thompson: Yeah, it's nice. I really appreciate it. It's been really lovely to be able to kind of share this time with some fantastic people like Peter, and the category that I'm in with Peter (Bergman), and Billy (Flynn) and Mo (Maurice Benard), and Thorsten (Kaye). So that's really fun. And, of course, I submitted some scenes from the Chelsea and Billy storyline, with Chelsea standing on the edge and the fallout from all of that. Obviously, I'm very proud of the work that Missy did, and collectively as a team, from the writers and producers and camera, and Sony and CBS. Everyone really put a lot into that storyline. So, it feels, you know, you have pride for your job. And when it gets recognized, it's always a nice feeling.
Soap Central: I want to talk about this storyline. Particularly, when a lot of people think of soaps, they think of things like back from the dead, and they think about someone sleeping with two sets of brothers. They forget that there are storylines like this. Why do you think that soaps are still able to do these sorts of storylines in and amongst all of those other sort of soapy things that people tend to only talk about?
Thompson: Well, I firmly believe we're at our best when we are resonating with what people are feeling and going through in the world. I mean, of course, some of the things that we've done over the past can be looked at as a little bit of escapism, in a certain sense. You know, people come to us to kind of forget about the day and maybe go through some of the struggles that they're going through. But I feel like when you have characters that you see every day, or almost every day for multiple years, and you see their story and their personal struggle, maybe you identify with what they're going through. And my experience in this storyline was that -- I've kind of said it before in other interviews and stuff -- but it was pretty confronting for a lot of people. A lot of people reached out that they were really struggling, or they had family members that were struggling, or they didn't even realize that they were struggling until they saw some of the things that they were watching on TV, and it felt a little too close to home for them. So, they've gone out and gotten help and things like that. The truth is, we've been through a lot the last handful of years, whether it's COVID and whatever. There's been a lot of changes in our lives, and people are struggling. And I think it's hard to watch sometimes, but I think it's important. And soaps, you know, I've been, over my time, my career, I've been part of a couple poignant storylines -- whether it was some HIV storylines on ABC and General Hospital, and then something like this. You know, I appreciate the opportunity to tell these stories, because they are difficult, and it makes you kind of dig deep a little bit. But I think we're at our best when we can shine a light on some of the struggles that people are going through.
Soap Central: And I think you said it best. I mean, some of those storylines are the ones that people really do think about. It's Robin and HIV [on General Hospital], it's Bianca coming out on All My Children. And I have to say this storyline on The Young and the Restless, it really joins them. As you said, we've all been going through a lot, and I think that unfortunately, timing is everything. And this really made people evaluate things. In speaking to Missy [Claire Egan], one of the things I said to her (was) we saw a lot of things on social media from people who were saying, "Oh, I know Chelsea. This would never happen to her." And a lot of people realized, "Oh, my gosh, I get it now. It isn't that it can't happen. It can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter if they're the strong person, or the person who can't break." I think that that was the teaching moment. That was the learning moment. That was really the legacy of the storyline.
Thompson: Yeah, absolutely. Missy was beautiful and heartbreaking. Our writing team and our head writer, Josh (Griffith), and everyone that worked on it, everybody paid a lot of attention to this. They definitely wanted to do it right and speak the right language and make sure that it was supported in the right way. I think that came across, and it really resonated. I think that's gold when it comes to storylines and soaps and everything else. You see how she got to that place. And then you see how she has continued to get stronger because of that. You don't just stop that storyline and pick it up months later. You follow it, and I think that's really powerful in our day-to-day genre.
Soap Central: In terms of nominations this year, it was nice to see that with all four of the soaps this year, the behind-the-scenes talent really seemed to get a lot of recognition this year. Because a lot of people tend to forget, without all of those other people, there's really nothing to see -- particularly now with the writers' strike. Are there, outside of your category, and of course for yourself, are there other nominations that you are particularly excited about, or were happy to see or happy to hear about?
Thompson: I'm happy to see -- I'm very bullish on our daytime community. I think that we put out story consistently for, what, 50 years, we're doing it now? The [Daytime] Emmys is 50 years, and the other soaps are just not far behind us. I mean, that is an incredible thing, and it deserves recognition across the board. I've been doing this for almost 18 years now, 17 years, somewhere in there, and I have been around long enough to know the amount of people that it takes to put on one single episode, let alone the amount of episodes that we do, as consistent as we do. I think it goes without saying that you respect and have gratitude for the ones that have come before. But let's also celebrate what we're doing right now. I'm a big fan of the Daytime Emmys. I'm here to celebrate everyone, and we're better together, and let's celebrate the genre. I'm not really one that says, "Yeah, whatever. It doesn't really mean anything." I kind of go the other way. I think it means a lot. I think that anytime we can all get together in a room, and get dressed up and say hi to old friends, and hear someone accept an award for something that they love doing, and be able to give thanks to people that they've never been able to say it publicly to is a beautiful thing. So, I'm here for it all. I love it, and I'm just a huge supporter of daytime across the board.
Soap Central: That's really such a great answer. Now, in terms of the Emmys last year, minor bump in the road. You appeared on an iPad, so I actually forget I was too busy focused on Peter (Bergman) looking at you on the iPad instead of actually doing the interview. I forget... Did you get fully dressed? Were you, like, Daytime Emmy ready, Red Carpet ready on the iPad, or --
Thompson: I was a solid 85 to 90 percent. Okay, you know, I didn't go all the way, but I went pretty damn close to being at home by myself with COVID.
Soap Central: And it made me think for this year, I may just get like a really large television, put it on the red carpet, and just have people come by and chat with me, and I'll still be sitting here at home, in and amongst the potatoes.
Thompson: Live from the garden. (laughs)
Soap Central: Before I let you go, one of the things that you have alluded to is having had this 17-, 18-year career in daytime. That means that along the way, you have amassed quite a loyal and vocal fan base. I'd like to give you the opportunity, if you have anything that you'd like to say to them -- as we sort of reflect on this nomination -- to give you the floor to speak to them.
Thompson: I've been incredibly fortunate to be on two fantastic shows that have loyal fans. Of course, it goes without saying that daytime fans are the most loyal, the most vocal, the most supportive. And I've also had some amazing co-stars to work with. Kimberly (McCullough), in the beginning, really brought me up in a way and gave me an opportunity to be accepted. And then coming over to Y&R as a recast for a fantastic character, and one that has a history, it takes some time to kind of get used to people. I'm just incredibly grateful for their patience and their acceptance. And I'm smart enough to know that you're not going to get 100% of the people to be on board with you, and that's just fine by me. But I promise that I show up every day, trying to convert as many people as I can to be supporters not just for me, but for the show. I know how hard we work, but I also know how much it's appreciated from the fan base. And it's just that honest: if we didn't have the viewers that we do, we wouldn't still be doing this. And 50 years in? It's just it's an incredible thing, and it's not possible without the people that give their time and their emotional capacity and their love for the show, day in and day out. It's just an amazing thing. Forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of this community.
Soap Central: I am forever grateful that you have taken some time out to chat with me...
Thompson: Well, it goes for you. I mean, I say that too. I've talked to people, and it's people like you and people that do their job and actually have a love for it. I mean, it's all part of it. You guys are just as important as we are because people look out for your stuff, too. And they want to know the inside. So, thank you for everything you do, too. It means a lot to us. as well.
Jason Thompson is a seven-time Daytime Emmy nominee, including five consecutive nods during his time on General Hospital. In 2020, Jason Thompson was named Outstanding Lead Actor.
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