The Young and the Restless' Hilary Curtis spent the better part of last year exposing major secrets and scandals on her juicy gossip show, so it's appropriate that the character's portrayer, Mishael Morgan, has snagged a Daytime Emmy nomination that's perhaps slightly connected to a real-life Hollywood scandal.
Soap Central spoke with the actress about her wow-worthy submission scenes, and she explains that the recent "Me Too" sexual harassment situation influenced her decision to choose scenes in which Hilary finds out that nude photos of her are making public rounds.
"I feel like it's something a lot of people are going through right now, with the whole sexual harassment stuff that's happening in Hollywood and feeling vulnerable and exposed with all these details coming out about things," she explains. "I felt like maybe people could relate to it."
Read on to find out more about how she overcame insecurities to perform her Emmy scenes; how her construction-industry husband, Navid Ali, deals with all the glamour; and which ceremony date would make her Daytime Emmy dreams come true (hint: it's actually not her hubby!).
Soap Central: Congratulations on your nomination! How does it feel to be nominated?
Mishael Morgan: I feel very honored and blessed, and I just can't believe I'm a part of the nominations. Everyone has done such great work this year, so I just feel honored to be a part of it.
Soap Central: How did you find out you'd made the cut?
Morgan: It was actually one of our producers, Jimmy Freeman, that texted me when I was driving home. I knew the nominations were coming out that day, but I was driving home when everything was being aired. So, he texted me and said, "Congratulations!" And he had no idea that he was the first one to text me! So, when he texted me, I said, "Well, okay, I guess I got it!"
Soap Central: But you were driving, so what did you do?! Tell me you didn't let go of the wheel and jump for joy!
Morgan: I was at a red light! Don't worry -- I was at a red light when I checked my texts, and I was really excited. And right after that, a bunch of other people started texting me, but I just kept driving and was happy and content the whole way. It was the best drive home, that's for sure.
Soap Central: Once you got home, who was the first person you told?
Morgan: My husband, and he was really happy. He said, "See, babe? All of your hard work is paying off!"
Soap Central: Did you guys celebrate that night or do anything special?
Morgan: We didn't do anything too special. We picked up my son and had fun with him; we took him to the park. And I'm such a foodie, so I said, "I want to eat whatever I want now!" So, we got ice cream, and we ordered pizza, and we basically just junked out. It was a fun night together.
Soap Central: I love that you did that. But on the other hand, I'm thinking you have to be in an Emmy dress in a couple of weeks!
Morgan: Yeah, I know! [Laughs] I wasn't thinking that far ahead. But it's true.
Soap Central: Speaking of that, have you started planning what you might wear?
Morgan: I'm not really sure. One of the girls who put everything together sent me an email and a few text messages just to get an idea of some of the designers that I like, because she said that she's going to have a few designers available for us to pull from. They have almost like an Emmy suite, with a bunch of designers there that have dresses that they're willing to lend you, with jewelry and everything in one place. So, I kind of want to go there first and see what's there, and then from there, I might venture out. I don't have anything set in my mind just yet.
Soap Central: Do you normally follow red carpet fashion? Is that something that interests you?
Morgan: Not really. When I see pictures, I do think they're interesting. But I don't really follow it too much. And I think for me, I don't like to get mixed up in that, because I really like to be an individual. I want to look different than everybody else, so I try not to psych myself out by knowing what every single person wore. What I might do, if I really like a dress, I might look it up to see if anybody else wore something like it, just to see if I'm kind of dressing exactly like someone else. But usually I never have that problem. I usually pick something that's really unique, and to me, it's all about how it fits my body. That's the most important thing, is feeling confident in it.
Soap Central: You're right, it's all about how you wear it.
Morgan: Yeah, I feel like sometimes when you get too caught up in the fads, that's when you end up on the red carpet, not looking the way you want to look. You end up looking like somebody else, and the dress is wearing you, as opposed to you feeling confident and you wearing the dress.
Soap Central: Will you bring a lucky charm along with you or wear something special for good luck?
Morgan: I don't know, I never really thought about that! It could be a good idea. I really wanted to bring my dad with me as my guest, and I'm not sure if it's going to work out now because he's in Toronto, and he's been battling a lot of illnesses. He's getting older and starting to have a lot of things that are happening to him. But I really wanted him to come, because I was thinking, "This is the one award show that I think you'll be able to make it to, and I might win, which would be awesome!" But I don't know if he'll be able to make the trip. On my wedding day, I wore a chain that my dad wore his whole life. It was this chain that you see in every picture from his twenties all the way up to when he was like 45, and then he gave it to me. So now that you said that, you're actually inspiring me to maybe wear that, especially if he's not able to make it. I'm still hoping that he might be able to, but we'll see. He's doing okay, and he really wants to come, and sometimes that's the most important thing. If he really wants to come, then he'll put himself in the right state of mind, and hopefully he'll be able to make it. But if he can't, then maybe I'll bring the little lucky charm with me from him.
Soap Central: Well, fingers crossed he will be able to make it! But if he unfortunately couldn't, who would you bring? Your husband?
Morgan: Yes, my husband is my backup date -- but maybe I shouldn't tell him that! [Laughs] No, I'm just kidding. He knows, and he's okay with it.
Soap Central: How is he through all of this? Does he care what you wear and follow the whole nomination process?
Morgan: My husband is in construction and is completely oblivious to anything that has to do with this world! [Laughs] He doesn't understand the obsession. He's like, "You have a million dresses. Just wear whatever is in your closet." He doesn't get it at all.
Soap Central: But if he's your date, then he'd have to get dressed up!
Morgan: Well, that's the funny thing. If he is my date and has to get dressed up, then all of a sudden, things would change. He's the kind of person that's like, "I don't understand what takes you so long. Just wear whatever." And then when he's going somewhere, it takes him two hours in the bathroom because he needs to shave perfectly, and he needs to line everything up perfectly. He doesn't like what this looks like, he doesn't like what that looks like. He's actually very particular, but I guess he just doesn't understand it for a woman because, bless his heart, he's like, "You look good in anything you wear." And he feels like with men's clothing, he needs to be very specific with the color and the cut and everything. So, I bet you a million bucks if he's coming, he'll spend more time looking for a suit than I would looking for my dress!
Soap Central: So, can you walk me through the scenes that you submitted?
Morgan: I submitted the scenes where Devon (Bryton James) drives off, after the auction where Mariah outed me for tripping her. Devon gets really upset, and he takes this really expensive car, and he drives off and leaves me at the auction. I go home without him, and he's not there, and I wake up the next morning, and Neil [Kristoff St. John] is at the door. So, I submitted the scene where Hilary and Neil are having it out with each other, where he's trying to get me to take responsibility for my part in the whole situation, and I kind of throw that back at him and say, "You can't be self-righteous with me after all the things that you've done!" So, I submitted those two scenes, and then I also submitted the scene after, when I find out that Devon is in the hospital. So, I'm at his hospital bed, and I'm talking to him and hoping that he'll pull through. And then I also submitted a scene that Bryton and I did together, right after Jordan exposes my nude photos.
Soap Central: I watched your reel, and I must say, you had a really nice variety that shows your range.
Morgan: Yeah, I feel like it was a good variety, where I have the anger and the vulnerability and the sadness. By Devon's bedside, I had a lot of vulnerability, but it was a different type of vulnerability and feeling exposed for the scene where I'm explaining how I felt about having nude pictures out there. I feel like it's something a lot of people are going through right now, with the whole sexual harassment stuff that's happening in Hollywood and feeling vulnerable and exposed with all these details coming out about things. I felt like maybe people could relate to it. So, those were the scenes I put together, and it worked! I'm still in shock.
Soap Central: Was it difficult to narrow down your scenes, or did you have a good instinct about what you wanted?
Morgan: I had a pretty strong gut instinct with the two scenes with Kristoff. When I shot those, that was the most grounded that I'd felt [since starting at Y&R]. At that time, I had been on the show for probably about three and half years, four years, and that was kind of the beginning of when I really started feeling confident on set and safe with all of the cast and the crew. So, I felt like I really delivered the type of work that I was proud of. After we finished that scene, I felt like I finally did what I planned to do, and it came out the way that I expected, and it felt right. So as soon as I shot those scenes, I knew right away that I wanted to submit those. I actually shot the scenes at the end of 2016, but they didn't air until 2017, and I actually wanted to try and submit them last year, but I couldn't, so I had to wait almost a whole year before I could submit them! So, I was really excited to finally be able to put those in, and I knew it was going to be those. The other two I had a bit of a hard time choosing, but it was actually Jimmy and Matt Kane, who works in PR, that kind of reminded me about those other scenes that I submitted, and I said, "Yeah, they're actually pretty good!" I hadn't even remembered those scenes, so those crept up on me after.
Soap Central: How do you feel about the other ladies in your category, your competition?
Morgan: Oh, they're all amazing! As soon as I was told I was going to be one of the nominees, I was so honored because I watched everybody's work this year. Jacqui Wood [Steffy Forrester, The Bold and the Beautiful] is someone I've watched for a few years, and she was nominated before in the Younger category and in the Supporting, as well, and she is actually repped by my agent in Toronto -- we're both from Toronto -- so I've watched her career for a while. I'm proud and honored to be standing beside her as a nominee. I have no idea which way it's going to go. I'm like, "I would love to have an Emmy!" but at the same time, these women are amazing. I work with Camryn [Grimes, Mariah Copeland] every day, and we joked around, "GC Buzz got nominated!" But none of us used any GC Buzz material. [Laughs] But she's so incredible, and she's another actor that has made me step up my game. I've watched her since she was like ten years old when she won her Emmy. I remember when she won her Emmy, because I used to watch Y&R when I was a kid, and I remember when she had that landmark of being the youngest actress to win an Emmy in a daytime drama category. I was so proud of her at that time, and now I'm with her and competing against her, which feels so weird! But when you're all nominated, you don't really feel like you're in competition because you just feel like getting the nomination is almost enough. Everybody has already said, "You're the best five people" -- or six people in our category -- so that already feels like enough. If we win, it's like an icing on top. Just being a part of it, I'm so honored already.
Soap Central: It's sweet to hear that, but as a journalist, I'm like, "Give me the dirt, Mishael!" Tell me you all hate each other and you're sabotaging each other behind the scenes!
Morgan: [Laughs] Noooo! We've been so good to each other. Jacqui Wood was one of the first people who texted me to say congratulations, and I texted her too. And Camryn was one of the first people I texted when I found out she got nominated. I was so proud of her, because her work was phenomenal. And then Marla Adams [Dina Mergeron] was incredible, too. The Alzheimer's storyline was amazing. They're all so amazing, so whichever way it goes, I'm just happy to be a part of it. Sorry I can't give you any dirt!
Soap Central: I figured so! Have you started working on your acceptance speech?
Morgan: Yes, and actually, Camryn laughed when she found out. She said, "Oh, look at you, Mishael, you just think you're going to win!" And I'm like, "Nooo!" But really, as soon as I found out I had been nominated, I was so happy, but then the next thought was complete fear, like, "Oh, my God, what if I actually win? What am I going to say?" So, Camryn [teased me a bit], saying, "Oh, so your mind just went to that, that you're just going to win?" [Laughs] It's just that I'm terrified of standing up there and having everybody watching me and me having to come up with some brilliant things to say. And I don't know what to say! I've been asking people what I should do, and everybody says, "Just remember a few very important names that you should not forget: the head of Sony, the head of CBS, the head of Y&R, all those people. And anything else you say is fine." So, I kind of just have a list of people that I want to remember to thank, but I have no idea what I will say. I don't want to say I don't think I'll win, because I think that's just bad karma. I would love to have the honor, but at the same time, I know the chances are crazy because there are girls that have done so much great work, and they've paid their dues. So, I would be happy to watch anybody win.
Soap Central: As prepared as you might be, in the moment, you never know what will happen. You've seen it a million times during the Academy Awards and other major shows, actors get overcome with emotion.
Morgan: Well, yeah, and the other part is, you also see people who have this speech that is completely mapped out, and I don't want that. I want to speak from my heart in that moment, and I don't want to have anything planned. But at the same time, I need to have a few people I remember to thank. Everybody says your mind goes blank when you win, so I don't want to stand up there and completely choke. That would be a nightmare, and it would get played on social media and YouTube over and over again, and I would just die! So, I need to at least have something that I can spit out if I don't remember what to say. So, I'm going to have something semi-planned, but just a real rough idea of what I'm going to say.
Soap Central: Is there anything else you want to add before I have to let you go?
Morgan: I would love to thank the fans who have kept me on the show and kept Devon and Hilary going. They gave me the opportunity to be nominated. At the end of the day, in this genre, it all comes down to the fans and how much they love you and how much they support you and your character. I've seen some amazing, amazing actors walk on and off of this show, and sometimes it's just because their characters just aren't as popular, and it has very little to do with their abilities. So, I'm very thankful that the fans kept me on long enough that I was able to showcase what I can do.
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