Talk about a pinch-me moment! Actress Elissa Kapneck has always dreamed of being on a soap opera and possibly winning an award for her work, and in the last six months, she not only booked a guest-starring role as Sasha on The Young and the Restless, but she's also been nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Guest Performer category -- for just a couple of episodes at the CBS drama!
Soap Central caught up with the actress to talk about her experience at Y&R, her emotional audition, working with Melody Thomas Scott [Nikki Newman], and whether or not fans might see Sasha and her baby, Joy, back in Genoa City.
Soap Central: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination! How are you feeling?
Elissa Kapneck: Oh, my God, honestly, this is the most amazing feeling in the world. This has been my actual dream since I was five. Anyone that has known me since I was a kid knows that my dream was literally to be on a soap and maybe win an Emmy one day, so this is very, very surreal, and I am extremely grateful.
Soap Central: Does it feel anything like you imagined it would?
Kapneck: It feels better! [Laughs] I definitely wasn't expecting this at all. The most surprising thing is that I always imagined what it would feel like with my parents and this and that, but I am shocked at how much the fans have been reaching out. I really never even thought about that. My storyline was about a girl that was very down and out on her luck, and I have had an overwhelming amount of people reaching out, first when it aired, and then lately again during COVID. I've had all these people telling me about how moved they were by my scenes and storyline, and then telling me their own hardship stories that have been so personal, especially during these trying times. And their stories have been so inspiring. I cried reading a couple of them and I've made sure to write back to everyone. The fact that they're sharing these super, super, super personal stories with me after a couple of scenes, that they feel that they know me that well, is the best part for me. It has been so, so inspiring. I've never gone through that before.
Soap Central: When you first heard about the role and the moving storyline, did you realize the impact that it might have on the viewers?
Kapneck: I guess not enough! You always hope, and that's why we do it. I've been acting since I was five, and I've always told my parents and always said that I love storytelling, and I feel like, for me, I always want to inspire. I graduated with an acting degree, I taught kids in acting, and I used to always tell my little brother back home, because he's an actor, too, that it's the best feeling in the world to inspire someone, especially through storytelling. When all this stuff happened with COVID, I went home to Florida and was with my parents, and I told them, "We're watching movies, we're watching soaps, we need to turn to art in these times." Because for me, that's what you do!
Soap Central: You were only on for just a few episodes at the very end of the year but still managed to make a dramatic impact. Beyond the fact that you'd always wanted to be on a soap opera, what made you interested in taking the role?
Kapneck: So my audition story is really funny, so I'm going to share a little something with you...
Soap Central: Oh, great. That's always a good start!
Kapneck: [Laughs] When I was seven, I was the youngest kid in my school to get detention because I told my teacher that my favorite shows were soaps. I guess she thought that was super racy and inappropriate, so she literally pulled me aside and put me in detention. That is one of my earliest memories, because I was low-key traumatized, but it also lit a fire in me that is definitely still burning. I told her, "I want to be a soap actress when I grow up. My mom loves soaps, that's how she unwinds, that's what I watch every night with her, and when I grow up, I want to be a soap actress and maybe win an award for that one day." And she literally put me in a time-out detention! But that night, it's really cute -- my mom bought me this book, The Little Engine That Could, which says, "I think I can, I think I can," she read it to me every night from that point, and it's a huge joke between us, and we still say, "I think I can, I think I can," to this day. But she was so proud, and when it comes to my dream, I have honestly never given up since I was a kid, like ever. Acting is one of those things where obviously you get a million noes before one yes. But here's the crazy part: So, a week before my Y&R audition, I had just gone for about nine and half months of auditioning and striking out at literally the final round back to back to back to back. And I was about to give up. I told my mom, "Maybe that teacher was right, and if I don't book in the next two months when my lease is up, I might go home." And a week later, I got the call for The Young and the Restless. And I can't explain it, but I literally knew that this was it.
Soap Central: Wow. How serendipitous!
Kapneck: The second that I read the script, I started crying. I felt so connected to this girl. It was written so perfectly. I couldn't put [the script] down, and when I finished it, I called my mom and said, "I have the weirdest feeling." And then I went to the audition, and it felt amazing to be there. I gave that everything that I had. It was super, super heavy material -- crying on and off. But right after, I got a call from my manager, and she was like, "Congratulations, you're in the running, but you definitely aren't going to find out until Monday," and this was like Thursday, so I was like, "Oh, my God, that's an eternity!" [Laughs] And then the next day, I was at work, and I was with a customer, but I saw my phone ringing, and I didn't even finish my sentence -- I just ran out, and my manager said, "So, it was actually unanimous, so you don't have to wait. You booked!" I literally fell on the floor and was like, "Please, excuse me!" And then this happened. And, yeah, I did two episodes, and only one episode was for that year, so it's been nuts. This has been my dream forever, and I can't believe that after one episode, that this has happened. I keep having to smack myself and pinch myself and make sure that I'm awake.
Soap Central: I find it hilarious that your teacher found it inappropriate that you watched soaps, because I also watched soap operas with my mom when I was really young, and I was way more mature than the other kids. I knew all about love triangles and affairs, and I always wanted to have a decanter set up on a bar, because everyone in "soapland" has one.
Kapneck: Yes! We could totally have been friends! Everyone else was watching Sesame Street and Rugrats, and we were like, "Cartoons? What?" [Laughs]
Soap Central: Exactly! So, who did you share the news with first?
Kapneck: My mom, and you know what's funny? I called her like 18 times. My mom is freaky about answering her phone. It doesn't even ring when I call -- she just answers right away. But this was the one time that she didn't answer, so I called my dad, who cannot keep a secret from my mom to save his life, but I was like, "Please, please, please, can you just call me back with mom?" And he was like, "Oh, no, you sound so excited. I need to know right now what's going on!" And I was like, "Can you please not saying anything," but then my little brother grabbed the phone and was like, "I want to know," so I technically shared it with them first, and then my mom came home, and it was really sweet -- we FaceTimed, and she was crying, and I was crying. There was a lot of crying!
Soap Central: I bet she was especially proud, being that she is the original soap watcher in your family.
Kapneck: Yes, we were all joking, like, "We can die happy." [Laughs]
Soap Central: Do you feel like there is more to explore with Sasha, and if so, would you be happy to go back?
Kapneck: Yeah! It's funny that you say that, because so many of my original messages were, "What's happening? What's happening?" Because they definitely left it open ended with her. Her baby gets sick, she goes to the hospital, and they save the baby, and they had been talking about my character, Sasha, and her baby, Joy, and how well they're doing at New Hope, where they're at now. And I definitely think there is a lot more for her and her baby. Everybody has been asking that, and I would, of course, welcome that opportunity. The second I got there, it just felt [like home]. I know a couple of people on the show that I surprised, so that was really fun. It really feels like a family there. I've been on a lot of sets -- never soaps -- but this really felt like family. I'm talking hair and makeup, wardrobe, everyone. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I felt at home, no joke, in about ten minutes. I really, really, really just felt so comfortable. All of the actors were so nice. I met Melody Scott [Thomas, Nikki Newman] first, because I had my first scene with her. She was such a dream. I was so overwhelmed meeting her, and she couldn't have been nicer. She said, "You are fantastic. Do you want to come to my room, we can run it once?" And I was like, "I'm sorry, what?! Yes!" [Laughs] And we really bonded; she kind of took me under her wing, was really cool. I would love to go back, definitely.
Soap Central: Who did you know from the show already?
Kapneck: Tyler Johnson [Theo Vanderway] and I used to have acting class together, and we were always paired together, which we used to joke about. So, that was really, really cool to go surprise him, because we had worked together so much in class. And Camryn Grimes [Mariah Copeland] and I share a ton of friends. I wanted to say hello to her on set, but I'm such a method actor, and when I'm prepping, I wouldn't even see my mom if she was standing two feet from me. And Camryn was doing her prep, so I stayed clear. And Melissa Claire Egan [Chelsea Lawson], I met her a couple of times before. She's so sweet, and she freaked out when she saw me on set. Everyone was honestly so great. I can't tell you how nice they were. I'm dying to go back.
Soap Central: Are you familiar with the other actors in your category?
Kapneck: I'm going to try not to get emotional here, but I am honestly so overjoyed to be nominated with such talents, because yes, I definitely have seen work from a few of them, and I love them. It's funny, my manager, two of her other clients are in this same category! So, she reps three out of five of us. It's a small world!
Soap Central: For a long time, we didn't know if the Emmys would be a go, and now, not only are they going forward, but they're also going to be on TV. So, what do you think about that, and were you worried for a time about perhaps not getting your dream Emmy experience?
Kapneck: Yeah, I mean, this whole thing has been so hard for all of us, right? And it's amazing how it worked out because everyone could always use that type of good news, but during these times, it's so hyped. I did not know what was going to happen, and there was a small, small thing in my mind, wondering, "What if this actually happens for me?" I didn't even care if it was COVID, I didn't care if we were all under house arrest, I'll be honest -- I would welcome every level of this that I can! But, of course, I've always dreamed of going to the Emmys, and I always wanted to go and be a part of it, and so, of course, I wish it was the whole thing. Obviously, I'm very outgoing and very talkative, and I love that kind of stuff! But honestly, any level of this, I'm here for it. I'm very excited.
Soap Central: How do you feel about the possibility of accepting an award via Zoom?
Kapneck: As long as someone can figure out how to resuscitate me if I pass out, I'll be fine! [Laughs] I'm super excited, and like I said, I don't care where I am. I know that feeling is going to be the same, whether it's in person or on Zoom.
What do you think about Elissa Kapneck receiving an Emmy nomination for her work as Y&R's Sasha? Do you think she'll take home the gold? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.