Many daytime actors will tell you that meeting fans and hearing stories about their love for soaps and how the shows have impacted their lives is one of the best parts of the job. Every now and then, one of those encounters leads to a conversation that resonates with the actor or actress so profoundly it sticks with them long after they’ve parted ways with the admirer — and that’s exactly what happened to THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS star Michelle Stafford (Phyllis) at a Los Angeles Kings game on May 13.
In a lengthy and moving Instagram post, the Daytime Emmy winner shared the details of her remarkable encounter with a longtime Y&R viewer named John Klene. “Last night at the hockey game, I met this amazing man,” Stafford began. “He whispered to me before the third period, ‘Hey, I’m a big fan! I’ve been watching you for years. I watched you in prison.’ Of course, I couldn’t let that go.”
Wanting to know more, Stafford took the time to get to know Klene rather than immediately return her attention to her beloved Kings and was moved by his situation. “Last year, he was let out of prison after being wrongly convicted of murder. He spent 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” she marveled. “His story is a humbling and remarkable story of persistence and herculean strength. This man has emerged to freedom from the muddied confines of our very flawed judicial system.”
In 1998, Klene, then 19, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. After urging her followers interested in learning more about Klene’s “phenomenal story” to read the exoneration report he has linked on his own Instagram profile, Stafford commended him for exuding such positivity despite all that happened in his past. “This man is a warrior,” she marveled. “He wasn’t bitter, he wasn’t upset. He was filled with joy and so grateful to be sitting there at an L.A. Kings game and living again. Just an amazing man.”
Meeting Klene just a week after Stafford started seeing her hometown hockey team play live again (due to the pandemic) was rather serendipitous. “I am truly so grateful to be among people again. It has been a couple of years of locking myself inside because of the strict protocols I had at work,” she explained. “I am so grateful to have met John. I’m really honored that I was part of his life (even through television) for that time. A remarkable man with a remarkable story.”
If you are interested in learning more about Klene’s wrongful conviction, you can follow him on Instagram and read his story.