Shemar Moore is grieving the loss of his former costar and dear friend Kristoff St. John.
“I’m raised an only child, but Kristoff is truly the closest thing to a brother and a brother’s love and a brother’s mentorship that I’ve ever known,” Moore tells PEOPLE about St. John, who unexpectedly died on Sunday at age 52.
St. John and Moore, 48, starred opposite one another on The Young & the Restless, on which St. John played Neil Winters — since 1991 — and Moore played his half-brother, Malcolm Winters.
Remembering his early days on CBS’ long-running soap opera, Moore recalls St. John coming alongside him and being a strong support system.
“He didn’t have to embrace me the way he did. When I came in and was trying to find my way and he saw how scared I was, he saw how nervous I was,” Moore says. “He saw my six pack and all that, but he just saw me and he embraced me like a brother. If he hadn’t embraced me, I would have never got my sure footing in the beginning days.”
Moore, who went on to star in Criminal Minds and S.W.A.T., credits St. John for propelling his career.
“Without Kristoff St. John, there’s no Neil Winters. Without Neil Winters, there’s no opportunity for Malcolm Winters. And without Malcolm Winters, there’s no Shemar Moore. And if Shemar Moore didn’t get my chance to try on The Young & the Restless, then I don’t sit here today with let alone this career or this life. Not in this way. And I will give Kristoff, and I always have given Kristoff — and I’m not just saying this to be cute because of what’s happening today — I told him in the beginning because he embraced me the way he embraced me is the only reason that I have the life and career that I have,” explains Moore.
“I would have life, but it would have been on a very different tangent and a very different lane. I will always give Kristoff that credit. I will always thank The Young & the Restless for taking a chance on me so that I can have this career. Kristoff was there in the trenches with me. Victoria Rowell, Tonya Lee Williams,” he adds of his fellow The Young & the Restless castmates, “but Kristoff, day to day to day, he rooted for me. He didn’t have to. He didn’t have to, and many wouldn’t, but he rooted for me; he helped me; he held my hand; he said, ‘Stick with me, bruh, I’m going to show you the way and then you do what you’re doing.’ “
But it wasn’t just Moore’s career that St. John championed — he unknowingly paved the path for many more Hollywood actors and actresses who later joined the entertainment industry.
Says Moore, “He was the sexiest black man on television from what my aunties and grandmothers told me before I’d ever knew that I was ever going to share the stage with him on The Young & the Restless.”
“He opened doors for me and many. He opened doors for people who don’t even realize he opened doors, but he did,” he says. “He opened doors and he was so committed to his craft. He always wanted to be better. He wanted to touch people and he did.”