It’s coming up on three years since the daytime community lost one of its brightest stars, THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS’ Kristoff St. John (Neil), who passed away at the age of 52 on February 3, 2019. The late actor’s TV son, Bryton James (Devon), sat down this week with GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Maurice Benard (Sonny) on the latter’s State Of Mind YouTube series and spoke in-depth about the struggles he saw his good friend going through after the devastating suicide of St. John’s son, Julian.
After discussing the evolution of James’ career from a child actor on FAMILY MATTERS to his friendship with Michael Jackson to his Emmy wins on Y&R, Benard broached the heavier subject of the actor’s relationship with St. John. “Kristoff was bipolar, and his son was schizophrenic. With your eyes,” Benard asked his guest, “what did you see?”
James explained that he was still a teenager when he first met St. John, so between their age difference and geographical distance, their friendship only existed within the Y&R studio. “He was the most positive, liked, ball of energy at work,” James recalled. “I didn’t know he battled these demons.”
At least, not until James watched St. John’s award-winning documentary, A Man Called God, which detailed the late actor’s real-life family’s involvement in a cult. “He experienced some real trauma as a child,” James shared. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it, because knowing him at work, you wouldn’t know.”
James added that as he got older, his relationship with St. John matured and they began having deeper conversations about what was happening in their lives, such as Julian’s heavy drug problem. Still, James didn’t notice any manic behavior from St. John, who had bipolar disorder, until about two years after Julian’s death. “He did a very good job at keeping it separate, away from work,” James said. “Which is why I think a lot of people there weren’t aware of what he was truly going through. Knowing what we know now, the only thing I regret is not staying more involved in his life outside of the set.”
The last time that James saw St. John was a day he’ll never forget as he and another close friend, Daniel Goddard (Cane), spent an entire day with their distraught pal in a show of moral support. “He had been drinking pretty heavily for days straight and was talking about the possibility of hurting himself,” James explained. “He was convinced he had lost his job, just so many things. It was all wrapped into grief about Julian… I’d never seen somebody suffer, in person, like that. It was the hardest thing to watch, it was the hardest thing to see because you can’t do anything.”
Benard praised James for being there to support St. John and listening for the signs, but also reminded him that he shouldn’t blame himself. “To have emotions, feelings, impulses, that are out of your control is very scary,” James concluded. “It’s something that I’ve never been able to relate to.”
An autopsy ruled that St. John’s death was accidental as a result of heart disease, but that alcohol was a contributing factor. Nearly three years after his tragic death, St. John remains as much-missed as ever by his colleagues and fans.