INTERVIEW: Y&R's Melissa Claire Egan on her very meaningful Emmy nomination

Posted Monday, June 12, 2023 5:39:26 PM
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The Young and the Restless' Melissa Claire Egan opens up about the emotional roller coaster of portraying Chelsea Newman's suicide storyline and the overwhelming support she's received from fans.

Melissa Claire Egan has really done it all in soap operas, from All My Children's memorable maniacal bride storyline to a rags-to-riches "con-artist-turns-into-successful-businesswoman" arc on The Young and the Restless. But the 2022 storyline in which her Y&R alter ego, Chelsea Newman, spiraled into depression and attempted suicide was some of the talented actress' best work yet. The daytime community agreed, landing Egan with her second Daytime Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Lead Actress category.

Soap Central's Dan J Kroll caught up with the celebrated star to discuss the meaningful storyline, which she reveals has been one of the most gratifying storylines of her career.

Soap Central: I don't mean to be partial and all of that other stuff, but when you have an extended history with someone, it's always nice to see them appreciated for the work that they do and they get a Daytime Emmy nomination, so I'm really happy for you.

Melissa Claire Egan: Aw, thank you, Dan! I appreciate that. It means a lot. So nice.

Soap Central: I don't know if you know this, but there's this terrible person on the Internet who's just making up the total number of nominations that people have.

Egan: [Laugh] How dare he take away my Emmy honors!

Soap Central: I didn't say he! [Laughs] I just said it was a person!

Egan: How dare they, I should say! [Laughs] I saw that, and I was like, "Should I tell him [he's wrong]? Should I tell him?"

Soap Central: And this is now number what?

Egan: This is number seven.

Soap Central: That is what I have in my calendar, but I figured a great way to start this off would be -- do you vaguely remember what was on your reels for any of your past Emmy nominations?

Egan: I could probably tell you all of them.

Soap Central: Are you serious?

Egan: Oh, yeah! For sure. Let's see, seven noms in 17 years, and I remember. I do.

Soap Central: Seventeen years -- does that feel weird for you to say that you've been doing something for 17 years?

Egan: Yes, isn't it crazy? This summer will be my 17-year anniversary starting on All My Children [as Annie Novak], and yeah, it's wild. Like, in a way, it feels like, because so much has changed since then, I was 24 years old, it was 2006, I can't believe it, and I am just so grateful. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, but it also feels like forever ago. It's just so surreal, and I'm so grateful.

Soap Central: The reason I brought up, "Do you remember what you've submitted in other reels," is because I was sort of looking through it, and it's interesting because in 2011, [All My Children's] Annie regrets that she slept with J.R., in 2012, she was holding Marissa hostage, 2013 for Y&R, you realized that Sharon set fire to the Newman ranch. This year is very different from some of your past material. Would you like to talk about that a bit?

Egan: Yeah. I mean, obviously, I've been proud of my reels in other years but this content is so important, and mental health is so relevant and affects so many people, so telling this story was so important to me and so important to the show. And just, the fan reaction was so profound. [I received] hundreds and hundreds of messages or DMs of people confiding in me, sharing with me their struggles and what they went through and how they felt seen or felt heard, or the story was done properly, or it was hard to watch because it was so truthful. It just moved me in such a way, and it brought me to tears. I remember once, I was just happily going through Instagram, parked in my car and waiting for something, and like, crying, because I was so touched and moved by the comments and the fact that the story had helped people and the fact that people were so willing to share on a social media platform that they had struggled or that a family member had struggled... The fans are always so amazing and supportive, but it was just such a moving, heavier, more, well, I don't want to say more important, but such more serious subject matter, and the fact that it moved people and hopefully helped people will forever [mean so much to me], for the rest of my life. I will be so grateful for that.

Soap Central: There's that sort of saying of timing is everything, and certainly not to diminish or embellish any part of the storyline, I think what really helped hit with this is it comes right after this two-year period where everyone's lives had been put on hold and there's been a lot of uncertainty and there's been a lot of sadness and there's been a lot of loss. And this, coming out of that, sort of encapsulated, I think, what so many people have been feeling during the pandemic... there's been a lot going on, and sometimes, it's just really overwhelming.

Egan: Yeah, [that's why I give] our writers and CBS and Sony, who approved telling the story, so much credit, you know, the timing was very important. It is very delicate subject matter, but they researched it properly. They talked to Dr. Dan Reidenberg, I talked to Dr. Reidenberg, who is the head of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and he worked as a consultant, reading scripts, every line, to make sure it was done well and properly and done realistically and in a sensitive manner, as well. But you're right, the timing really was [good], and nothing said that more than the comments. I knew the story would affect people, I just had no idea how profoundly. But I was like, oh, my gosh, people are hurting, people are suffering and struggling, and if they can feel seen, in any situation, if you feel seen, it helps you feel less alone. It just helps you feel better, so that's definitely what we did and what we were trying to do.

Soap Central: There have been so many comments on social media, and I don't know if you were able to see, but there was this wave of people who had an opposite reaction, who would say, "Oh, Chelsea isn't like that. She wouldn't act like this,"... that people like her don't experience this sort of thing, and it became a teaching moment of that's the whole point of mental health issues, is that just because you think someone shouldn't or can't, that's what's going on here, and I think a lot of people may have had a chance to examine their own prejudices through all of that.

Egan: Absolutely, exactly. That is one hundred percent the point. [These things] can show themselves in so many different ways, and people who have seemingly "perfect" lives or seem "happy" all the time can be struggling. I think we've seen that, unfortunately, in real life when you hear about people taking their own lives, you know, "They seemed like they had everything. Why?" Depression does not discriminate, and I absolutely think that was such an important part of the story, is it can affect anybody. Anybody. It does not discriminate. So, it's not fair for us to say, "What does she have to be sad about? She's had a great life." It's a mental illness, it's a disease, and you have to have compassion and understanding. It all starts with compassion.

Soap Central: Do you think it's important for soaps to tell these sorts of stories? Certainly on All My Children, we had Bianca coming out; General Hospital had Robin with HIV. People may be inclined to think it's not in the same realm. We've had soaps that told the story of eating disorders, also All My Children. Is it important for soaps to do these types of stories, or should soaps sort of focus on the love and the romance? How important is it to work in these sort of real-life stories?

Egan: It is so important. It's massively important. And I think you can tell just from the fan reaction. People want to see themselves in these characters. And I think you can have a mix of both. It's very fun to have some love in the afternoon, it's fun to watch people with their scandalous love affairs and, you know, cheating on their husbands with his brother [laughs] and all of this stuff that we love to do that is very fun, good, juicy soap goodness. You can have that, but you can also have relatable stories of stuff that people are really struggling with in their real life. I think it's so important to have a balance of them both.

Soap Central: You're telling me on soaps, someone has cheated on their husband with his brother?! Wait, what is this? [Laughs]

Egan: Never! Never! [Laughs] But that's just one example. And not to say that doesn't happen in real life! But you know what I mean. That's the soapy goodness that is kind of scandalous and fun to watch; it's important to have stuff that's hard to watch, as well.

Soap Central: Juicy, scandalous, I don't know if those are the proper words for this, but the Lead Actress Luncheon, talk to me about that! It sounds like there's gotta be, in general, every year seeing who's nominated, it seems like the social event of the year, even though it's private. Tell me about these Leading Ladies Who Lunch luncheons.

Egan: Oh, I am so excited! I am excited that Mishael [Morgan, Amanda Sinclair], who won last year, will be throwing it, so, hopefully we get to see Mishael, and then my girls... [Michelle] Stafford [Phyllis Summers] will be there, Sharon [Case, Sharon Newman] will be there, and then Finola [Hughes, Anna Devane, General Hospital] and Jacquie [MacInnes Wood, Steffy Forrester, The Bold and the Beautiful] were there two years ago when I was at my first Leading Ladies Luncheon. So, it's like a reunion with them, but then I also get to be with my Y&R girls. I can't wait! I can't wait. I'm so excited to just hang out with the ladies.

Soap Central: They are as much fun as they look, I'm guessing?

Egan: They are, yes! Oh, there's going to be a lot of laughs and a lot of Champagne -- not for me this year [because I'm pregnant], but I'm sure a lot of toasting and laughs, and I can't wait. I'm so excited. Everything about it is [so great], and again, the fact that there are three of us from Y&R is really special. I'm just so excited.

Soap Central: One of those things, time-wise, and it's not anybody's business, so, I'll ask in a vague sort of way, are you expecting to be at the Daytime Emmys ceremony this year, or is there another commitment that may prevent you from being there? I don't know the timeline, so, I don't want to ask if you're going to be there...

Egan: Of course! Do you mean will I be at the Emmys?

Soap Central: Yeah!

Egan: Why wouldn't I? Why would I miss it?

Soap Central: I don't know. I wasn't sure what was going on...

Egan: Well, last year I couldn't go because I had a family reunion on the East Coast. But yeah, I will be there with bells on. Yeah. Me and my bump, my best accessory. It's funny -- I was nominated two years ago, and I was also pregnant then, so maybe I just have to just keep getting pregnant, and then hopefully I'll keep getting nominated! [Laughs] I'm just joking -- this is our last baby! But it's my good luck charm, you know?

Soap Central: Listen, people have done stranger things to get nominations. Getting pregnant every couple of years is a thing!

Egan: I was just kidding. Can you imagine? [Laughs]

Soap Central: Have you given some thought to what you might wear? Are we doing some BCBG?

Egan: You know, I don't know yet. I love the glam, so I can't wait to figure it out, but I have not started yet. But I'm excited. I love picking what I'm going to wear and how I'm going to do the hair and all the glam, so I'm excited, but I have not started the process yet.

Soap Central: I'm curious, as we wrap this up, in some of the other categories that are out there, is there anyone else whose nomination this year that you're excited about? Maybe in another category, maybe behind the scenes? Anything else that stood out to you?

Egan: Oh, gosh, I am obviously so excited Jason [Thomspon, Billy Abbott] is nominated because he was such an incredible scene partner through this very important storyline. We were teammates in this, and he had a very hard job, as well, because portraying the person who is trying to save somebody from this very scary situation is also very difficult, and I thought he did a really brilliant job. So, I'm so excited that he got nominated. And obviously I'm excited for Sharon and Stafford, who are in my category. And Peter Bergman [Jack Abbott] is nominated. I'm excited for everybody! I really am. It's always just such an honor and such a treat, and I don't take it for granted.

Soap Central: Is there a message you'd like to give to the fans who've been supporting you for 17 years? Is there anything you'd like to say to them?

Egan: Right, I know?! You guys are just the best. The fans have always been so supportive of the work but also of me personally and the struggles that I've confided with my fertility stuff and starting a family -- everyone has just always been so loving and supportive. And with this storyline, I can't tell you how moved I was by the fan reaction. So, thank you. I'm truly touched by that.

What do you think about Melissa Claire Egan being nominated for a Daytime Emmy award? Do you think she'll take home the gold in this year's Outstanding Lead Actress category? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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