First the good news: She's not dying. Now the bad news: Nikki Newman, the divalicious socialite played by Melody Thomas Scott on The Young and the Restless, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The devastating development was revealed in the Feb. 14 episode of the CBS soap (geez, Happy Valentine's Day, Nik!) and TV Guide Magazine scored an exclusive chat with Thomas Scott to get more scoop. What does she really think of this plot twist?
TV Guide Magazine: MS, huh? Yikes. Please tell us this is a good idea!
Melody Thomas Scott: When people hear MS they gasp and think it's a death sentence, and the plan with this story is to educate people that it's not, that it's controllable with the proper treatment. Of course, the fans on Twitter are already thinking Nikki's gonna die what with all these mysterious symptoms she's been having. They thought it was maybe going to be cancer or something. Of course, what do I know? [Laughs] Maybe they are killing Nikki off? Hey, these things happen.
TV Guide Magazine: Is your contract up? We've been here before!
Thomas Scott: [Laughs] Hey, they tried that already and it didn't work! But, seriously, I think this could be really worthwhile, an opportunity to show the audience that MS is not the end of the world. We actually have a girl on our crew — I've said good morning to her every day for years and years — and I only just found out she has MS. She's a perfect example of people living normal lives with the disease, so that's very encouraging.
TV Guide Magazine: You've done your research?
Thomas Scott: I have to admit I knew nothing about MS, so I've been gathering the information. I'm also finally catching up with The West Wing, which I'd never watched during its original run, in order to see how they handled MS with Martin Sheen's character. What a wonderful show that was! I thought maybe I could learn a little more about the disease by watching it, but now I'm hooked!
TV Guide Magazine: Word is, Victor [Eric Braeden] finds out about the MS diagnosis from Jack [Peter Bergman], not from Nikki. What's up with that?
Thomas Scott: Yes, the bastard! Jack ends up blabbing to Victor even though Nikki swore him to secrecy. Then Nikki comes home one day and, without Victor even saying a word, she can tell he knows what's going on. So then she tears over to Jack's house and yells at him.
TV Guide Magazine: Does he spill the beans out of true concern or is he using this to one-up Victor?
Thomas Scott: He claims he did it because Nikki can't be alone with this right now and needs support. But who knows? He's such a son of a b----! Then Nikki has to tell her kids. I'm not sure how many people in town will know what's going on, but Nikki's friends certainly do. The very few friends she has, that is.
TV Guide Magazine: Remember when her only pal in the world was her butler Miguel? So sad.
Thomas Scott: [Laughs] It's not a hell of a lot better now!
TV Guide Magazine: Is Victor pissed that Jack knew first?
Thomas Scott: You'd think Victor and Nikki would argue about that but it never happens. They never even discuss it!
TV Guide Magazine: Just watch. Victor will use it as ammo later.
Thomas Scott: Oh, I'm sure! But right now he's being amazingly kind to Nikki. It's so not like him to be so sweet. She's just not used to this. She doesn't know what to do!
TV Guide Magazine: Did you find out about Nikki's bad news by reading a script or did the brass sit you down and warn you about this?
Thomas Scott: I did have a sit-down meeting, a little three-way with [head writer] Josh Griffith and [executive producer] Jill Phelps. They wanted to know how I felt about the idea, and I told them I thought it was great. Josh didn't know I used to play piano on Y&R way back when, so he decided to revive that and use it to show the beginnings of Nikki's symptoms — the shaky hands, the cramping, the feeling you've got arthritis.
TV Guide Magazine: This sounds like a big fat bummer. Are you sure this is entertainment?
Thomas Scott: [Laughs] Nikki is a bummer. She's all about misfortune and tragedy and always has been. Her back problems several years ago were horribly debilitating and that led her to addiction. It's always something with her! I've think Josh is a wonderful writer and he's never given me any reason not to trust him. And I love Jill. All of those horrible stories we heard when she was hired — "Watch out, the wicked witch is coming!" — were ridiculous. I don't see any evidence of what those people were talking about. She's a doll. They've both been very good to me.
TV Guide Magazine: Would they have cancelled their plans for this MS story if you didn't want to do it?
Thomas Scott: I got the feeling that if I disliked it enough they would have changed it to something else but I didn't know enough about MS, or where this story might go, to make that decision. I just knew I'd be playing piano again. [Laughs] That's what threw me into a panic!
Look for more dish from Thomas Scott on Victor and Nikki's nuptials — airing March 18 — in TV Guide Magazine.