It is not uncommon for daytime stars to go from one show to another looking for a better fit. Actor swapping on soaps goes back as longs as they have been on television. So when it was announced that Brytni Sarpy would be leaving Port Charles and a character she had been portraying sporadically for four years, the fan reaction from GH viewers was immediately positive and supportive. But how would she be welcomed by the CBS soaps viewers? She admits, she was nervous.
The term AU, or alternate universe, is used often among TV fandoms online. It can be defined simply as wishfully placing two characters from different shows in the same situation, scenario or pairing. In the summer of 2016, in jest, I posted on Twitter how in an alternate universe, Y&R’s Devon Hamilton and GH’s Valerie Spencer should would make a gorgeous pairing. Did I think at the time that would ever really happen? No, not at all. But I know that there is no harm in putting what you want out into the universe and accepting whatever comes back. So when it was announced this past February that the universe had listened to me, I was elated.
For years I watched as Valerie Spencer became less and less of a character with POV and motivations and more of a recurrent prop for one male counterpart after another. And in the latter part of her run, viewers often forgot she was even still on the show. While they teased a potential pairing between her character and Kristina Corinthos, it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of such a large cast and even larger storylines that were underway. So it was no shock to me when Brytni found herself across town at Television City.
But what prompted her move? Was it timing, the character herself, the fact that the CBS lot is closer to her house? TVSource Magazine got the chance to ask Brytni that and much more. Including how she feels being paired with a character who is still reeling from the death of one half of the most popular black couple in daytime in the last decade.
What prompted your decision to transition from General Hospital to The Young and was it a difficult one to make?
Yeah, it was definitely a difficult decision to make. I would say it’s been a bitter sweet one. I’m just leaving a character that I had developed over the past four years. But basically it was a good opportunity and a nice fresh energy. Going to another network, it was just a good move. I talked it over with my manager and the rest of my team and we thought it would be a good idea to change up the pace and learn a new character. We wanted to get started with something new and yeah, it was a good idea.
Due the number of storylines and the cast size, we didn’t see Valerie as often as we wanted to. Was there more to the character that you would have liked to explore or seen through?
Absolutely. There was a lot of potential to explore with Valerie’s background and get an understanding of her father’s side of the family and what happened with him – those complexities and what her life was back in her hometown. I would have loved to delve into those things but it just didn’t happen, unfortunately.
Were there ever any talks of exploring Valerie’s background? Primarily, her father?
No. I think most of the focus with Valerie’s character was kind of just finding her place with other relationships on the canvas. I think the more exciting things for the writers was matching and pairing and I think there was just more emphasis on relationships rather than background.
What was your favorite and what was the most challenging thing about playing Valerie Spencer?
My favorite thing was that she’s a complex character. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she learns from them. And I like that she wasn’t straightforward. She’s not a bad guy, she’s not a good guy. She’s just the human being that you know is faced with decisions and learns as she goes along like all of us. And I think the most challenging thing was that as well. Being a complex character and going on a canvas where there were already established characters that she was in conflict with. My character came on the canvas breaking up a very popular relationship and she also tried to kill Luke Spencer. So I think just trying to get to a point where she was redeemable and where fans could get behind her and understand her decisions. That was pretty tough.
Personally, I was fine with both of those things.
Surprisingly, it was announced last week that the role will be recast. What are your feeling on that and do you have any advice for the new actress?
It was definitely a surprise for me as well. But I wish Frank and the young lady who was cast as well the best of luck. I hope that the character lives on and and that Valerie makes more of a statement as a Spencer. I wish them all well.
You’ve done a lot outside of daytime as well. Making this switch from that and from one soap to another, was there anything additional that you did to prepare for role?
For Elena, It’s kind of a process where you see it as you go along. Fortunately, when you do other movies, you kind of have an idea of the beginning, middle and end of your character so it’s a little easier to do the research you feel you need to do. But with a character like this- where you’re kind of starting from scratch and you’re given a character breakdown and you’re given your first scene- it’s kind of all up in the air and it’s all up to my interpretation and what I want to bring to her. So a lot of that is not like formal homework or investigating anything, it’s just a lot of feeling the character and being around my other co-stars and feeling our chemistry and how we work together and making decisions as the lines are given in me and how they influence what I believe the character should be. I think, when or if she starts actually doing more of the hospital stuff, I’d have a little more research to do because I’ve never been a doctor before. That would be like actual homework for me. But for the most part, it’s a feeling process for me. Getting into her shoes and starting to think like Elena thinks and just making firm decisions about who she is and her back story and stuff that essentially I’m not given.
What was it about Y&R and the role of Elena Dawson that appealed to you the most?
I could see a lot of qualities in the writing that paralleled to me. I thought her character was fiery and bold and different than Valerie. She’s a little more mature, a little more sure of herself. It was something different that I haven’t played yet. And in a really good way. But also, so relatable to me. She came very naturally for me.
You joined the show, and this set of characters, at a difficult time considering the passing of the late great Kristoff St. John was the week prior. Was it a somber mood on set when you arrived?
Yeah, absolutely. It was really sensitive, I think, because I work so intimately with actors that were directly affected by his passing. Definitely a sad time. Because it’s being written in, those feelings are resonating and echoing as long as I’ve been there.We had a funeral and so, there’s days that come that are harder than others. It’s definitely touchy and sensitive, you know? I wish I had had a chance to work with him.
Will your character be involved in the storyline they’ll be telling to say goodbye to the character and is there anything you can tell us about that?
I can say that I will be involved a little bit, but I can’t say much more than that.
So far we have seen Elena in scenes with Devon, Ana and Jett. Will we see her interact with anyone else on the canvas?
Yes, she will.
Is it with Nate?
I don’t know, but there is a new Nate! [laughs]
I can be a bit of a shipper sometimes, so I hope its not too much with Nate because I really want her with Devon! Which leads to my next question. It looks like Elena will be getting close to Devon Hamilton. Can you tease exactly how close they will get?
The way I’ll tease is by saying that there’s definitely a reason for shipping them!
There has already been a movement online from fans who want to Devon to be happy again who dubbed you guys Elevon after only one episode! What was your reaction to that?
Really good! It’s so different than coming on a canvas as kind of a more controversial character on General Hospital and then being embraced with Y&R. It’s really cool. I was a little nervous because I know from my study of Devon’s character and Hilary, I didn’t know if it was too soon for some fans of that pairing. I think there’s always room for backlash with soap fans. They’re very sensitive about their pairings. So I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received, but it was a really really welcome surprise. I think it has a lot to do with our chemistry. From day one of reading with Bryton, he and I have really great chemistry. So I’m happy that everyone is seeing that and it’s flying off the pages and through the screen and people are reacting and responding to it.
That leads directly into my next question. How aware were you of the popularity of Devon and Hilary before taking on the role?
Bryton gave me a background of what happened with their character arc and I’ve seen references to it online. So I’ve been kind of made aware as the process has gone along. And I know it’s very sensitive, especially since her character died.
I think all soap stars go through their fair share fan backlash over one thing or another. I remember you being on the receiving end of the Lante fans anger during that storyline. How do you deal with that?
A lot of it, I’m able to laugh off. If there are things that I feel like come from a really negative place and are very personal, I’m a little more outspoken than most people so I have, in my own way, made people very aware of how they’re affecting other people. I think we should all be held accountable for our words. Our words are just as strong with their actions sometimes. I’m not really afraid to let someone know, “hey I hear you and it’s really not necessary for you to say what you’re saying,” if it gets to that point.
What else can YR & GH fans keep an eye out for you in?
I can announce that I am going to be recurring on The Haves and the Have Nots next season. And I recently completed a Lays commercial that’s been popping up everywhere. Also, I have a movie on Netflix right now called Truth or Dare you can check out!
All 5 seasons of The Haves and the Have Nots are currently streaming on OWN. Season 6 returns on OWN on May 7, 2019.Truth Or Dare is now streaming on Netflix. The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS and streams daily on CBS.com.