NATAS made some big changes to this year's Emmy extravaganza, one of them being the elimination of gender specific categories in the younger performer field. Instead of having Younger Actor and Younger Actress categories, there was just one Younger Performer category. In an ironic twist of fate, all of the nominees in the newly minted Younger Performer category identified as female. After a couple of nominations, Olivia Rose Keegan (Claire Brady, Days of our Lives) ended up finally taking home the gold!
Fans were completely enraptured by her performance as a young woman having a psychotic break and torturing Ciara (Victoria Konefal), and obviously the judges were impressed, too. We'd say that Keegan's reel was hot, but considering Claire's pyromaniac tendencies... it might be better to simply say that the actress was really good.
In a jubilant backyard acceptance speech, Keegan, who held a sign that apologized for having to rush through her thanks, conveyed the importance of her character's storyline.
"I just want to thank Days of our Lives for trusting me with such important material. I think that mental health is such a crucial and under-addressed topic in this world," Keegan said. "So, if Claire's story can help anybody feel less alone of more hopeful, then I have done my job as a human and an actress."
Furthering her mission to do her job as a human, one of Keegan's loved ones held a sign with the words "Justice For All," showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Keegan is just the second DAYS female performer to win in the Young Performer category. She joins True O'Brien, who won in 2016 for her work as Paige Larson when the category was split into Actor and Actress categories.
Daytime actors are already under a lot of strain, having to deliver top-notch acting under tight time restrictions with hardly any prep. But guest performers have it even worse, as they have all of the above challenges with the added task of having to make a wow-worthy impression in just a handful of episodes! All five of this year's nominees certainly pulled off the feat, but the "guest of honor," if you will, turned out to be Eva LaRue for her work as Celeste Rosales on The Young and the Restless.
This category was another one that was most certainly neck and neck. The on-screen moments happened fast, but they're seared into viewers' memories forever: Y&R's Sasha nearly abandoning her baby, GH's Martin flexing his lawyer skills, Y&R's Celeste standing up for her daughter, Y&R's Simon taking a child hostage, and DAYS' Jordan desperate to get to her baby. It was all so dang good. We don't know if LaRue would agree, but we'd be willing to give up this Emmy category if it meant that all of its nominees could be promoted from guests and come back to their respective soaps for good!
The door to return is certainly open for LaRue, who used her prerecorded acceptance speech to thank the cast and crew of Y&R for welcoming her with open arms and making "every day of going to work a blast." She also gave a shout-out to her daughter, Kaya, for "tirelessly running lines" with her and keeping her in check by asking, "Are you going to do it like that?"
LaRue also shared her love with the entire soap community across networks "for reaching out with your love and prayers and condolences when we lost John Callahan [Edmund Grey, All My Children] a couple of months ago. You will never know the depth of my gratitude for that. He was my scene partner, and I cut my teeth learning to act with him, so I owe this to him as much as anyone else, and I know he's looking down right now, and he's so excited for me."
LaRue also took a moment to address the audience, sharing, "This world will never be perfect, but it's not romantic or naÔve to think that we can build a better one by all being more loving, more compassionate, and more just."
This is LaRue's very first Daytime Emmy win. She was previously nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her work as All My Children's Maria Santos in 1997. She also snagged a nomination in the Outstanding Original Song category for AMC's "Dance Again with You" in 2004.