‘The Young and the Restless’: Eric Braeden Says Kristoff St. John Was ‘One of the Few People He Trusted’

Eric Braeden is, by far, one of The Young and the Restless stars fans love most. The actor has played Victor Newman for nearly 30 years, and still going strong. After the death of longtime castmate, Kristoff St. John, Braeden, and others, felt the weight on set.

Kristoff St. John died in 2019

The Young and the Restless
Young and The Restless cast: Sharon Case, Eileen Davidson, Lauralee Bell, Eric Braeden, Melody Thomas Scott, Christian LeBlanc, Peter Bergman, Kristoff St. John, Greg Rikaart, and Amelia Heinle | Renard Garr/Getty Images

Beloved star of The Young and the Restless, Kristoff St. John, died Feb. 3, 2019, as a result of hypertrophic heart disease (an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle), according to an autopsy report obtained by USA Today. Alcohol was a contributor, but not listen as the official cause.

The disease makes it hard for blood to pump to the rest of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic, and often goes undiagnosed due to a lack of symptoms.

The actor spent almost 30 years playing Neil Winters on the CBS daytime drama as a fan favorite. St. John left behind his fiance, Russian model Kseniya Olegovna Mikhaleva, and two daughters, Paris and Lola.

Police were called to St. John’s Woodland Hills, California home when friends checked on him and he was unresponsive. He’s reportedly struggled since the 2014 death of his son, Julius, who died by suicide.

St. John won two Daytime Emmy Awards and several NAACP Image Awards for his portrayal of the character, according to CBS. Y&R honored St. John with a special episode and storyline. One co-star hit particularly hard by the loss, is that of longtime Y&R star, Eric Braeden.

Braeden and Kristoff were close

One of St. John’s closest friends and costars, Braeden, previously told The Daily Beast the cast was “really devastated” over the loss of St. John. Braeden, who plays Victor Newman, was especially close to Kristoff.

“We worked together for nearly 30 years. He was a wonderful actor, great to work with, bright and empathic,” Braeden said. “But he carried so many things in his heart and soul, especially after the terrible death of his son. I don’t think he ever got over it, and I don’t think he ever fully dealt with it. He tried to. Publicly he had a good demeanor and a good life. But I think the pain was deep: very, very deep. And I think it was too much to live with.”

He continued: “Kristoff was more than a nice guy. People loved him. He was a fundamentally nice man, and always there for people. He was just a man with soul. This will have a deep effect on all of us. The more you think about it, the sadder you become, the more you realize the effect he had on other people.”

As far as the lasting effect the loss of St. John’s longtime character, fans are grieving right along with the cast and crew

“He was such a vital, strong character, and obviously haunted by demons,” Braeden added. “But he was so full of humor and he was such a good man. In lonely moments when you’re all by yourself, what goes through your head? Who knows?”

In another interview with Soap Opera Digest, Braeden stated that the loss was deeply personal and profound because [St. John] was, “One of the few people I trusted. One of the very few.”

The reason for that trust is a private one, but Braeden alluded to the fact that it was something big.

“Because he came to me at a time and told me something that no one else really talked about. He and Dougie Davidson [Paul] both. I appreciate them for doing it. That’s enough,” he said.

Braeden is all for the changes in the show’s direction

Changes in writers and “management” have created storylines inconsistent with Y&R‘s usual brand. After rumblings of misconduct and potential lawsuits rocked the network, changes in regime, and some of the stars’ exits, Braeden said he’s noticing that things are finally getting back to some kind of normal.

“I see a change of music. For example, the memorial to Kristoff. It was Tony Morina and Josh Griffith’s idea,” he previously told Soap Opera Digest.

“They treated that character with respect. And all of us with respect in that sense. You need to have respect for the show that you do. You can’t come in from the outside and suddenly change direction in so many ways where people say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not what we’ve been looking at.'”

Fans noticed the changes — even when familiar sets disappear. Braeden said the former showrunners took away Victor’s office but it’s back now.

“I say this is what belongs, what it should be. Enough said. The atmosphere is so much better. So wonderful. Tony Morina and Josh Griffith, I like both of them a lot. It’s family,” he said.

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.