The door in an out of soaps often revolves like the turnstile at the GCAC. Just as you are settling in, you find yourself on the other side. Early in his tenure with The Young and the Restless, Bryton James knew that this could be him as well. But as time went on and as the depth of the storylines increased, he realized not only the importance of his character, but also his place in history.
The “young” in the Young and the Restless is something viewers have always asked for more of. Watching kids come on to their favorite show and grow up in front of their eyes isn’t something that’s seen as often as it should be. With SORAS-ing and far off boarding schools, there was a time where the bulk of soap childrens and teens were seen one day and then gone the next until they could be used as a wayward plot to drive their parents crazy. Devon Hamilton managed to be introduced as just that with his very first scene.
There was no immediate back story or familial ties needed. The orphan kid with a chip on his shoulder the size of all of Wisconsin only needed his charisma and a headstrong woman, and portrayer, who believed he should be there. In his 15 years on The Young and the Restless, there have been ups and there have been downs for the now billionaire widower. But through it all his loyal fans, affectionately known as the “Bryton Brigade,” myself included, have stuck with him through his character losing his hearing, learning his parentage, finding and losing the love of his life and now picking up the pieces of his shattered heart.
And yes, there were times where Devon didn’t do much of anything. And still, fans stayed true. Waiting for the day he would be able to show what he was capable of. Yes, because of the character that we adore. But more so for his portrayer who we knew would rise to the occasion when his number was called. And rise, he did. No longer the adorable curly haired kid dancing around the Winslow living room to Michael Jackson. He is now the daytime heartthrob who has etched his own place into the history of the #1 rated and reigning Emmy winner for Best Drama in Daytime. After a little fangirling, I got the chance to chat with the Emmy winner on how far Devon has come and just how far he hopes he will go.
On June 1, 2004, YR viewers were introduced to Devon Hamilton for the first time. Congratulation on your 15 year anniversary.
Thank you very much. It’s gone by in a blink of an eye!
How would you say Devon has changed or grown the most in 15 years?
Well, when Devon started off, he was a foster kid who was in and out of group homes and had a real big chip on his shoulder. He didn’t trust anyone. He didn’t really believe that anybody was capable of truly caring for him and loving him. He was scared and sleeping on the floor of Victor Newman’s office in the rec center. And now, not only was he adopted by the Winters family but he also found out that he was the grandson of the late Katherine Chancellor. He just has an abundance of family now. And he’s a billionaire! Quite a bit has changed. The biggest thing I’d say is that his belief in the world around him and that he can actually trust people and trust the love that he’s shown by the people in his life.
When you came on to the show back then, did you anticipate that Devon would be such a staple on Y&R for this long?
You know what, no. I definitely didn’t anticipate this long or even think that far into the future. When I auditioned, I didn’t know anything about the role. And then when I got the part, I remember sitting down and having some deep conversations with Victoria Rowell, who actually pitched the idea to bring a foster care storyline onto the show. She’s the whole reason why they decided to do it and why I’m here. So when I started to learn about how important this storyline was to her and the show, I kind of figured that it would be something that would stick for awhile. But never in a million years did I expect it would be this integrated into the canvas of such an iconic show. And now here we are, 15 years later. Every year I kind of started to believe more and more that I was going to be here for a while. But in the beginning, never would have thought it.
You have always had a great sense of who Devon is. Is there anything in the past 15 years that Devon has done that you look back on and say, oh my God I can’t believe they wrote that?
Well, not really. I think that, to understand the kind of person Devon is – coming from the background that he has – I think the writers have done a really great job at making the character accurate to how he would be, how he would feel, how he would treat others. Even some of the crazy things that Devon’s done with his money for the people in his life, it’s understandable because he never came from it, you know? His concept of money and giving back and sharing wealth and helping to uplift others, it comes from what he never had and what he always wished people did for him. You know what, I take that back. I just forgot, one of the biggest storylines I was involved in was sleeping with my dads wife while he was blind. I don’t think I would do that! [laughs]
I was going to go a little further back and say the whole Tyra thing was a bit strange.
[Laughs] Yeah. I mean, we didn’t grow up together. It’s not like someone you see at every family reunion or anything like that. Maybe someone you see once or twice, but yeah.
Recently Variety did a feature celebrating the next generation of soaps in which you and your character were included. How do you see Devon carrying on the next generation of Y&R?
I’m honored to be a part of that and to be thought of as carrying on the next generation of the show. But it’s some big shoes to fill. It started when Victoria left the show and now, as you know, with the passing of Kristoff St. John and Christel Khalil not on the canvas anymore, I’m pretty much the only one left that was a part of the Winters family. It’s a huge honor for me. That’s one thing I truly never thought. That I would be one of the last ones standing in that family.
But I just want to make the fans and the show and the people who came before me proud. That’s how I look at it every day and I still want to get better. There’s not a day I come to work that I don’t learn something. I have been so lucky to have such an incredible cast around me for the last 15 years to teach me every day how to do this. The biggest thing is I just want to make people proud.
Looking back on your tenure, what time would you say you were at your most fulfilled as an actor and with the material you were given?
Gosh, it’s hard to say because I have never felt more fulfilled that I do right now. The more you get thrown your way, the more your learn. There are storylines where you don’t really know how you’re gonna do it and how well you’re going to do it, how you’re going to pull it off. Then when you do and you succeed and get positive responses, it just gets added to my confidence. It’s one thing I say about soaps compared to other forms of acting. On sitcoms or prime time shows, you’re lucky if they last a handful of years or so. With films, you have a beginning, middle and end and they’re done and you move on to the next film. Sometimes you keep doing films that are kind of the same kind of role.
But with soaps, I’ve been thrown everything including the kitchen sink. If I had to pick one particular storyline, when they threw being deaf at me. I was anxious to do it. I wasn’t really nervous, but anxious to do a good job and really make it believable. It’s tough to think about something that you can’t really understand unless you go through it. I’d probably say that storyline in particular may be the biggest one for 15 years. But to know that I’ve gone through all of that stuff from where I started to where I am now, I probably at this very moment feel my most fulfilled. And it’s still going.
So let’s talk about Devon today. He’s been through quite a lot in a short period of time. I first want to ask how prepared you were to lose Mishael Morgan from the canvas in that fashion.
Not very prepared at all! It was her decision to leave the show for her own personal reasons and for family reasons. I think she always had it in her mind that she wanted to stay for about five years and then try to do other things and pursue other goals in her life. She just had a second child and is growing a family and I’m happy for her and all that, but yeah. It was a big shock because we had gotten to be such a big couple in a short amount of time. And then to have the writers take her off the canvas in such a way, it was something that we had to just attack overnight because we didn’t know.
We didn’t know how the show would do it until we got the scripts. One day, everything’s fine. The next day, she’s in the hospital with days to live. So it was crazy, but it was fun. It was fun to do. I remember our last two scenes, we would hug each other in between each scene. Just holding on to each other trying to bring the emotion up for the moment. It was real because we knew it was going to be our last times on [the show] together. We didn’t have much time to prepare for it.
That leads directly into my next question. There has been a lot of discussion online with fans about the decision to kill the character off in such a finite way. Were you surprised with that decision? Did you wish she had just left town?
No. I mean, I trust the show. I think the show did a great job at giving her a grand exit that she deserved. And I think the fans deserved to have that much emotion surrounding her exit. Not just be like, “hey she’s leaving town for a little bit. Maybe she’ll be back, maybe she won’t.” So, I don’t like to look back. I appreciate what they did. I’m sure fans have split decisions and opinions about it. But, I think they gave her what the character deserved.
Hilary has been popping up recently in Devon’s dreams. How do you think this is affecting Devon’s grieving process?
It’s making it tough! It’s making it very tough for him to move on. Especially dealing with his sister Ana, her father and with Elena coming into his life. Having this new romance and love just kind of came out of nowhere. You want to move on. And Devon is still very young. So it’s natural to have these new feelings. But it’s also normal to have a difficult time with letting go of someone that you were that attached to. He thought that Hilary was the love of his life and they were going to have a family together. He didn’t just lose her, he lost a child as well. So yeah, it’s been tough for him.
He’s in the middle of dealing with it even with what we’re filming now. I think the show is also doing a good job at pacing it out correctly and not letting Devon get over it too quickly. I think it’ll make the fans of Hevon happy to see it depicted accurately. At the same time, I know they want to see Devon happy again. And he’ll get there.
Hevon Nation is still very much alive, as you know, and vocal about wanting Mishael Morgan back on the show. Have you spoken to Mishael about this being a possibility?
We’re always in contact, but we don’t really talk shop about the show. I think she’s happy doing her own thing right now and raising her family. I think she’s got her hands full with two kids now. We just catch up nowadays and go to lunch, hang out with the kids, but that’s pretty much it.