The prodigal soap hunk returns.
“Criminal Minds” star Shemar Moore recently reprised his Emmy-winning role of Malcolm Winters on “The Young and the Restless.” The actor left in 2002 to pursue the bright lights of Hollywood, and briefly returned in 2005 to wrap up his story. In 2009, "Y&R" unsuccessfully recast Moore with Darius McCrary ("Family Matters"), who was eventually let go in 2011.
On top of his soap comeback, Moore is gearing up for yet another character-driven season on “Criminal Minds,” and he was just in Toronto promoting his film "The Bounce Back,” which he produced, starred in and co-wrote. HuffPost Canada TV caught up with the actor to discuss his hiatus from daytime, why he had to rewrite his "Y&R" dialogue, and why he might not be an eternal bachelor for much longer.
HuffPost Canada TV: Welcome back! You’re basically an honourary Toronto citizen at this point.
Shemar Moore: I love Toronto. My grandmother is from Quebec City. She’s passed, but she’s up there smiling down on me. In Grade 7 and 8, I took French for her. But I don’t know too much French other than: "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi maintenant!" I’m happy to be here with my film "The Bounce Back" 20 years into my career because of my evolution. I have matured as a person and actor. Plus, this is a great party town.
You’ve come a long way since your initial "green" days on "Y&R"… but, to be fair, "Y&R" creator William Bell literally cast you from a GQ magazine photo.
Yes, Mr. Bell found me in a magazine. Bill told me I had good instincts but he also said, "I know that you’re green." And then, I got smart enough to know what I didn't know, and I got with an acting coach and into acting class. I declared myself at zero and allowed myself to fail. No offence to anyone who has to wait tables while waiting for their big break, but I was lucky to get paid to fall on my face, so my learning curve was smaller. I don’t want to call it confidence or ego, but I refused to fail. I’ll stumble and fall, because I’m human. It’s like I say, “If I choose to wear a hat, I make sure it fits.” On day one, my acting coach said, “If you do the work, the rest will follow.” You gotta chase the prize but, yeah, I was pretty scared, man!
Do you think there are more "Y&R" fans in Canada than in the U.S.?
You’d think there are because they’re really loud! [Laughs] I always joked back in my soap days, and even now on "Criminal Minds," if you’re ever feeling down and out, just visit Canada. The loyalty is definitely here. Back in the early days, when I was just Malcolm with the baby oil and the six pack, they went nuts. They’re still going nuts, but not because I’m the cute guy, but because they’ve gone on this long journey with me so they support me unconditionally.
So what made you come back to the soap world?
When [CBS Entertainment President] Nina Tassler asks you a favour, you say yes. But it was more than that because I've always wanted to come back home. Look at James Franco, who's a big movie star, who went on to do “General Hospital” because he wanted to work with Maurice Benard and all those guys. I've always said if it weren't for "Y&R" and the character Malcolm Winters, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you or I wouldn't have done everything I've accomplished in the past 20 years. It was a great place for me to get my chops and take the great leap. I’m a guy who doesn’t like to be comfortable, and if I feel complacent, I gotta move. But, man, we had to shoot 42 pages, dude! Kristoff St. John [Neil Winters] and I were not too keen on the original script. The history wasn’t there and we felt like the writers missed some beats.
That’s not surprising given this "creative" team.
Luckily, they allowed us to tweak it.
It was a huge error to recast you at all … let alone with the jarring Darius McCrary.
Well, thank you. Listen, Darius is my dude, and he’s a good guy, but it was difficult to see my role played by someone else. I put so much time and energy into it.
In interviews, you say you’d like to recur more often; how serious are you about that?
I don’t want to come back full-time. I would love to moonlight, though. As long as my guys are there, I’m there. I’m sorry Tonya Lee Williams and Victoria Rowell aren’t there, but luckily I got to come back to Kristoff, Christel Khalil and Bryton McClure.
The Winters all have Emmys!
I know! Kristoff was so important to me in the beginning of my career. He embraced me in a way that he didn’t have to when I first got on the scene and took off. The fact that he’s 20 years into "Y&R" and still looks great is a testament. To this day, the material still matters to Kristoff. After the second or third take, it felt like no time had passed, because we have this mutual respect and trust. Everything was the same: the parking lot, dressing rooms, prop furniture and bad coffee, so it was eerie. When I walked onto the set, they gave me a standing ovation, which was kind of cool. And I got a very special parking spot, which I never got when I was on the show. I was a somebody for a day.
As Malcolm, you were a part of daytime’s first major and successful black storyline. With Bill Bell gone, do you see a difference in the quality of "Y&R"?
Yeah, and we did an AIDS storyline, too. "Y&R" has taken a different turn. Listen, I don’t watch the show to offer an opinion. The only time I see "Y&R" is when my "Criminal Minds" make-up artist has it on. All I can tell you is, I know it’s the number-one soap opera. I’m biased towards Bill because he hired me personally. It felt like dancing when Bill wrote for you.
Are you surprised Victoria Rowell isn’t on "Y&R"?
Again, I don’t know who the new brass is. I briefly met [executive producer] Jill Farren Phelps. Hollywood’s political. It’s all about who you know and who they like. I would love to see Tonya, Victoria, Kristoff and myself reunited one day. In fact, if I got the call to play that story, in my heart, I would do it. When Malcolm left this time, he looks at his family and says something nice, which I wrote as a tribute to the Winters family. He vows, "I’ll be back." But I’m focused on "Criminal Minds" and films. I want to catch the train Denzel Washington and George Clooney caught.
Not very many soap actors make the transition from soaps to Hollywood, but you did it relatively easily.
It didn’t feel like that! There were three or four years where I couldn't get arrested! [Laughs] I almost came back to the soap permanently. And I had an Emmy! But an Emmy doesn't help you. All an Emmy does is tell you you have a right to be in the business. My acting coach said, “Enjoy the Emmy; but get to work.” I’ve been embraced, yes, but trophies don’t mean s**t. Of course we all want an Oscar, but the Emmy win did allow me to exhale. It sits in my office to this day.
Can you share any "Criminal Minds" spoilers?
Jennifer Love Hewitt has joined our cast. She’s great … and has naturally and easily fit into the ensemble. I’m grateful that Derek has a girlfriend. It’s about time he got some! I’m glad the romance has shown new layers to the character. There are a lot of gems this season. This show is more character-driven than most procedurals.
You still look 29 … what’s your secret?
Black don’t crack, my man! I work out and enjoy life. I like to ride my bike, lift weights and hike. It does get harder when you get older … I’m 44!
Are you surprised “Baby Girl” became such a thing?
I had no idea! I call them Shemarisms. I say, "Sweet Cheeks" and "Doll Face"! I’m silly. My "Baby Girl" clothing line is growing: we have yoga pants and sweat suits. We’re on HSN and we’re talking to Canada, too. Hey, maybe we could turn "Baby Girl" into a TV show.
In your film, you play a relationship guru, which is kind ironic given the fact that you’re an eternal bachelor.
[Laughs] Me and George Clooney!
Well, he’s engaged now!
But he’s a bit older than me so give me time! Listen, I see settling down in my future. I have to make Mama happy. I’m excited to be a father and husband one day.
"Criminal Minds" Season 10 premieres on CTV in Canada and CBS in the U.S. on Wednesday, October 1 at 9 p.m. ET.