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Six decades in showbiz — four as one of the biggest stars of daytime TV — and it’s no surprise that Melody Thomas Scott has stories.
The actress, best known for playing Nikki Newman on CBS’s The Young and the Restless since 1979, tells them in a new memoir, Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama. While it details her “living hell” of a childhood, being raised by a mentally unstable grandmother who Scott says stood by as she was sexually abused as a child, and other personal struggles, including a rape that resulted in pregnancy, she also shares lighter fare. Scott talks to Yahoo Entertainment about working with Clint Eastwood as a teen — and purposely stabbing him with a needle. She also details being this close to being The Brady Bunch’s Marcia. Scott, whose book is also chock-full of juicy Y&R stories, also details recently getting plastic surgery for the first time.
Horrific isn’t enough to describe what the Daytime Emmy nominee, 64, says happened to her, beginning at age 4. Her grandmother, who raised her for her absentee teen parents, was so driven to make Scott a Hollywood child star that she looked the other way when an 80-something acting instructor, Hollywood Children’s Theater owner Cosmo Morgan, now deceased, would sexually abuse her during lessons at his apartment and in his car, as her grandmother, also deceased, sat there not saying a word.
Similar abuse continued, Scott said, with the founder of another acting troupe, Orville Rambo, another old man also now deceased, having Scott and other “little girls” take turns kissing him while his chauffeur drove his car around — also with the grandma present. This type of abuse went on for years with Scott writing about being conditioned that trading sexual favors for industry men was acceptable if it advanced her career.
“It was a good 10 years, with some false starts in there,” Thomas says of writing the page-turning memoir, out Aug. 18. During the process, she was sidelined with “panic attacks and agoraphobia attacks” — two disorders she is candid about having — “because obviously sexual abuse stays in there and it wasn’t quite ready for me to put in on paper yet I suppose... There were just a lot of things to sort out psychologically.”
Amid the horrors of her childhood — which included living in a hoarder’s filthy home with piles of trash, roaches, molded food and a guardian who restricted her bathing — young Melody Thomas, as she was then known, started landing good roles, leading into better ones purely based on her talent. She worked with the very particular Alfred Hitchcock in Marnie, was the last actress to share the screen with “larger than life” John Wayne in The Shootist (besting Goldie Hawn for the role), Kirk Douglas in Posse and Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled and Dirty Harry.
At just 13, she gained 20 pounds in two weeks to play Abigail in the 1971 Don Siegel-directed film The Beguiled. Scott loved being on the set — getting small tastes of freedom from under her stage(grand)mom’s obsessive watch. Though that film saw her infamously act out, leading her to become known as “the girl who stabbed Clint Eastwood with a needle.”
Thomas appears at the :56 mark in this clip of 1971’s The Beguiled, which centers on an injured Union soldier (Eastwood) being imprisoned in a Confederate girls' boarding school and tortured:
They were filming a scene in the bizarre movie, during which heartthrob Eastwood was supposed to be dead and Scott was among the girls around his body sewing it into a burial shroud. With a “long, extremely thick, authentic Civil War sewing needle” in hand, she inexplicably decided to stick it to Eastwood, in the foot, making him jump out of the hole he was positioned in and scream. It led to a leading to a huge commotion on the set — and Eastwood thinking he was bit by an insect.
“I cannot explain what went through my mind, but I couldn’t resist it,” Scott says of needling the superstar. “He certainly didn’t deserve it because he was so sweet to us kids. Every morning, he’d come out of his [trailer] and give us all a kiss on the cheek. I mean: Clint Eastwood... Oh my god. We just adored him. I sat there for a few minutes thinking: Oh, no, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I can’t do that. Oh, yes, I can! And I did it.”
While she didn’t fess up to it on the set as people scurried about tending to the star’s wound, but “decades later, I apologized,” she says. “In front of everyone.”
At the 2004 Publicists Awards, Eastwood was getting an award and she was a presenter. Scott used the chance to admit — to a room of people — that she was the one who put a hole in his leg when he thought he was bit by a spider. So, was he nice about it?
“He just gave me that kind of wry look — that Eastwood look — like you never know exactly what he’s thinking,” she says. “He never really said in words, ‘You’re forgiven.’ But at least I got that off my chest and he — and most of Hollywood — knew I did that.”
Scott went on countless auditions as a young star, including for some iconic projects. She screen-tested for 1965’s The Sound of Music film, but the day before, her grandmother inexplicably decided that being a bleached bottle blonde would make her a more attractive hire — even though Scott was just 8. The role of Marta ultimately went to Debbie Turner, who Scott noted had dark brown hair, the same color as Scott’s until bleach-gate.
Scott was also almost Marcia Brady. It came down to her and Maureen McCormick, who landed the part with Scott’s height being a factor. (Scott and McCormick were friendly, often auditioning together.)
“I remember being in [show creator] Sherwood Schwartz’s office,” she recalls, “and I think every kid in town was out at that interview, as you can imagine. They had pencil marks on the wall because Schwartz wanted the [six Brady] kids to go up in a diagonal line, according to height. I don’t remember if I was too tall or too short, but my height was my downfall there” in losing the role.
Scott recalled later watching the pilot and Schwartz “often had the kids line up in that kind of graduating sequence. So that seemed to be very important to him. Of course, after a few years, the kids all started growing at different rates and they no longer had that nice lineup look.”
One role she landed, but ultimately turned down was in 1978’s Animal House. It wasn’t until after she was cast as the Mayor’s Daughter that she was given access to the full script and realized it required her to be topless. She recalled the back and forth with director John Landis over it, who she wrote in her book was “spitting bullets” because he wanted her for the role and she was pushing back over the topless scene. The end result was Scott passing on the film in the sex comedy, the role went to Sarah Holcomb, and Landis telling Scott’s agent he’d never cast her again.
Scott to this day has never done a topless scene — and turned down a Playboy cover at 47 (“very flattering but no”). She still has no regrets about Animal House.
“I talk to actors who do regret the ‘one that got away’ or different things that kept them from doing a project, but you’ll probably gather from my book that I’m very much a fatalist — and I was even back then,” Scott says. “I just felt like: This is not right for me and that’s my path. My path is not going to take me there. And wherever I end up, I always believe that is where I should be. I still feel that way today.”
And despite being pushed into acting, she loved the outlet that it gave, saying, “I’m so grateful looking back at all those wonderful legends that I worked with and just being a kid actor.”
Scott has now spent 41 years on Y&R — with Nikki being married so many times she’s had a lengthy list of last names, though a long love story with Eric Braeden’s Victor. (Fans refer to them as “Niktor.”) She gave up her recurring role on The Waltons when she was cast on the soap opera, and stayed around so long because of the normalcy it provided after such an abnormal childhood. She loves that the sometimes over-the-top fantasy world of Nikki and other Genoa City denizens is an escape for so many.
It was on that show that she met Edward J. Scott, a show producer (now for The Bold and the Beautiful), who would become her third husband. They’ve been happily married since 1985 with three daughters between them (one together and they each have one from previous relationships) — and now grandchildren too.
Scott’s book talks about favorite storylines and behind-the-scenes drama on Y&R. Some of the dishier stories included her side of her infamous falling out with her late co-star Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine Chancellor. Scott felt it stemmed from her marrying Edward, writing in the book that some co-stars thought the relationship was “a strategic move” to get better storylines on the show. Untrue, she wrote in the book, adding, “I simply fell in love. More than three decades later our bond has only grown stronger.”
Scott’s book also addressed a rift with Victoria Rowell, who played Drucilla Winters. In a lawsuit against Sony Pictures Television and CBS, Rowell claimed she was subjected to “various racially charged attacks,” including Scott mocking her by wearing an oversized Afro wig. The case was dismissed in 2017.
Scott recalled things differently, writing that there was a carnival set built for a few episodes of the show. She and few other show members, bored and goofing around on the “out-of-the-ordinary” set, found a bin of clown wigs and tried them on. She said they were “just giggling, pretending to be clowns” when Rowell appeared and went on an “angry tirade.” Scott said Rowell “thought I was making a statement about her hair because of the multi-colored Afro wig I was wearing and accused me of being a racist because of it.”
Scott also revealed in the book that by the time her memoir was published, she would have already quietly had her first plastic surgery procedure, never having tried even Botox or fillers before. Her decision to get a chin lift was as a result of seeing her profile in Y&R episodes. She said her multiple chins reminded her of her absentee mother’s profile — not someone she wanted to be reminded of.
So did she go through with it? “I did indeed,” she says. “I am so thrilled with the results and now I wish I had done it sooner. It’s wonderful.”
She explains, “For me, it was the right thing to do because I would turn on our air show and I would see these chins that suddenly appeared on profile shots. I was like: This is unacceptable. No matter how [many times a] woman says, ‘I’m never getting plastic surgery!’ when you see something like that on camera and you’re an actress, you have to make it go away. So, yes, it’s all fixed.”
As for what her husband thinks, “Well, you know, he is such a sweetie,” she says. “He’s like: ‘Age with grace,’ and I thought that way too. I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to squash this grand idea that I had. So I basically made the decision and then told him. I laid it all out and said, ‘By the way, I’ve already met with the doctor and I made the deposit, so this is happening. When you go to him with that, what is he going to say?”
Y&R returned to the air Monday after the pandemic pause. Scott assured that the coronavirus will not be playing out on the CBS daytime serial.
“When people tune in, certainly for Young & Restless, they want to see fantasy,” she says. “They want to see perhaps a life that they wish they had. So to play with masks, that would not let them get away from that for an hour. I think we need to continue Genoa City, not in a pandemic. Fans want that escape.”
Scott is excited and relieved that her memoir is finally out there, all these years after she started.
“I’m really glad that it’s finished, thank goodness, and I hope others enjoy it,” she says. “I hope they’re not shocked by some of the things that are in there, but you have to include the darkness along with the light. And this is my story and if it helps anybody out there, by giving courage, perseverance and hope that there is a way to come out on the other side then it will all be worth it.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, help is available. RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline is here for survivors 24/7 with free, anonymous help. 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online.rainn.org.
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