The actors were first paired on the soap in 1991

By Scott Huver
May 07, 2019 03:17 PM

As Victoria Rowell processes the loss of her friend and longtime The Young and the Restless costar Kristoff St. John, she’s hoping to get an opportunity to pay tribute to him on the daytime drama that launched their on-screen partnership.

“It would be an extraordinary way to pay tribute, for me personally as well to Kristoff and to the fans, so we’ll see,” Rowell, 59, told PEOPLE at the Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday night, noting that prior to St. John’s death in February at age 52 due to hypertrophic heart failure, he had been lobbying for her return on the soap opera. “It was one of the things that Kristoff requested —and I did too, quite frankly: to be reunited.”

The actors were first paired on the soap in 1991 after Rowell’s character Drucilla Winters had been introduced a year earlier and become a fan favorite, with St. John joining the cast as her husband Neil Winters as her storyline expanded.

RELATED: Shemar Moore Honors Kristoff St. John at Daytime Emmys: ‘We Will Never, Ever Forget You’

“[Series creator] Bill Bell approached me and told me that there was a lot of popularity with the Drucilla character and he was growing out the family, and he was looking for a love interest the next year,” Rowell recalled. Without a single screen test, she said Bell soon told her “’I found your love interest.’ And Kristoff showed up on set. Of course, he was a consummate [professional] after having worked — he’d already done Roots and all kinds of shows and worked with big stars, and it was immediate. There was a symbiosis there that he can’t put a price on.”

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Rowell and St. John worked together over the course of 16 years until her departure from the series in 2007. St. John would remain a regular member of the cast until his death earlier this year. (The two-time Emmy Award-winning actor was found dead Feb. 3 in his home. The coroner later determined the 52-year-old died of heart disease exacerbated by alcohol use, ruling the death an accident.)

“I look forward to the decisions that have to be made or will be made by CBS Daytime and Sony, if they’ll bring me back or not onto the show,” Rowell said. “The fans have been requesting my return. There’s a Hashtag campaign #bringbackdru, #bringdruback. There’s a poll that’s very favorable at 87 percent, but again, the decision is not up to me.”

Indeed, due to Rowell’s departure amid outspoken critiques of the show’s lack of diversity and handling of racial issues, the actress has had a rocky — and occasionally litigious — relationship with the soap’s production company and studio.

Nevertheless, Rowell, who will appear in Lifetime’s upcoming adaptation of Pride & Prejudice and produces the streaming soap satire The Rich and the Ruthless, said she hopes to be able to honor her creative partnership with St. John onscreen. Until then she continues to work through her grief.

“I don’t think in my lifetime I won’t have a long-term scene partner like that. … Kristoff has been in my life for 26 years, the same for the fans he spent in living rooms,” she said. “So in my solitude, I quietly mourn his loss, but love is immortal and time heals.”

Rowell did appear in a special tribute episode of Y&R, joining the cast on-set to reminisce about their dear friend, share their fondest memories and relive some of St. John’s most memorable scenes.

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