Kristoff St. John: Y&R Star Gone Too Soon

It is with a heavy heart I am here to report Young and the Restless star, Kristoff St. John, has unexpectedly passed away. The 52-year-old actor was found unresponsive by a friend inside of his San Fernando Valley home on Sunday, Feb. 3. St. John was pronounced dead on the scene once the paramedics arrived. While law officials have stated that they do not believe there was any foul play involved, they do believe that alcohol may have played a role. 

St. John started acting when he was only 9-years-old. He appeared on several popular TV shows, including Happy Days and The Cosby Show. He played a young Alex Haley in ABC’s miniseries Roots: The Next Generations. His first major role was Adam Marshall on short-lived groundbreaking NBC soap opera Generations. The show was noted as the first soap opera to feature a core African American family from the beginning and to have half the cast consisting of African Americans.

After the soap's cancellation in 1991, he began his role as Neil Winters on Y&R, which he would keep for nearly 30 years. The role earned him 9 Daytime Emmy Award Nominations (two wins) and 18 NAACP Image Awards (11 wins). St. John was the longest running male African American actor on the show and his character was always a celebrity crush for many fans. 

When Kristoff first joined the Y&R cast, he was one of the few African American actors on television who did not portray a black stereotype. He played a college educated, rising business executive and family man. This portrayal of a black man was rare for a 90’s television drama series. He was a part of the popular African American foursome on the show, Neil, Drucilla (Victoria Rowell), Malcolm (Shemar Moore), and Olivia (Tonya Lee Williams). Like St. John, all of these characters were noted for their realistic portrayals of African Americans on TV. 

Kristoff will be remembered for two very powerful storylines. The first was his battle with alcoholism after his best friend Ryan McNeil's death. The second is when he finds out his half-brother, Malcolm, is the father of his then-teenage daughter, Lily. This, of course, put a strain on his second marriage to Drucilla, resulting in their separation. After Drucilla's death in 2007, Neil turns to alcohol again but stops when he sees the effect it is having on Lily. 

Unfortunately, St. John and ex-wife, Mia St. John, tragically lost their son Julian to suicide in 2014. When this incident occurred, Julian was staying in a mental-health facility. The former couple sued the facility, settled, and started the El Saber es Poder (Knowledge is Power) Foundation to raise awareness and provide resources to those suffering from mental illness. Around the third anniversary of his son’s death, the actor threatened to kill himself, causing police to place him on a 72-hour psychiatric hold for evaluation. 

While the cause of death is still unknown, an autopsy is set to be performed on Monday, Feb. 4. Kristoff St. John as well as his character, Neil Winters, will be missed dearly.