bryton james jj
Credit: Jill Johnson/JPI

“It was tough to watch.”

Last week, The Young and the Restless’ Bryton James (Devon) was a guest on State of Mind, the podcast hosted by General Hospital leading man Maurice Benard (Sonny). They talked about everything from the CBS actor’s last day with Kristoff St. John (ex-Neil) and his past divorce to his friendship with the late Michael Jackson.

James’ dad was a musician, a self-taught guitar player and a staff writer for country superstar Kenny Rogers in the ’80s. He shared a funny story that his dad used to tell about a time when he was in the studio recording a big session with a client and heard a bunch of people outside the door making some noise. His dad opened the door and said, “‘Hey, will you shut up?’ and he said Michael Jackson peeked his head around and said, ‘I’m so sorry.’”

“Let’s talk about Michael,” Benard began, then recalled a commercial that James did with the King of Pop. When James was 2 and a half, he went to a print job for LA Gear. Jackson “had his own shoes at the time,” James explained, but he didn’t get to meet him then. Taking Benard back in time to when he first was introduced to music, he shared, “It was all rock. And then it was right before or around 2 years old I discovered Michael Jackson. I thought I was Michael… If someone would talk to me long enough, I would start singing and dancing.”

Then it all began… A woman that started working on his show Family Matters, when James was about 5 or 6, happened to be a receptionist for Jackson’s production company and delivered a letter from him to his idol — and Jackson wrote a letter back.

More: Bryton James talks future, marriage and kids

A year later, along with Raven-Symoné, James was asked present Jackson with an NAACP Award. He and his dad got to go backstage, where James met a couple of Jackson’s cousins, who to this day are like brothers to him. Jackson invited James’ family to the ranch. “From that time on, he would just stay in contact with me. I know his goal was to make sure that I was having a good time and having fun being a child in the entertainment industry.” James stressed how important that was to Jackson because he didn’t have that.

He remembered witnessing how impossible it was for Jackson “to have a normal life” and explained that the singer enjoyed being around children because they treated him normally unlike some adults that weren’t authentic with him. “Even the biggest-named celebrities I’ve seen around him… ” he went on. “They could be one way in front of him and a different way, you know, because there’s no one bigger than him.” Whereas when a kid asked, “‘What’s wrong with your nose, it looks funny.’ To him… he liked that. Kids are innocent and they’re real, they’re honest… and these are the only people in his life that would be like that with him.”

More: Bryton James pays loving tribute to on-screen sister

Benard realized and stated, “And if he slept in a bed with a child, it’s normal to him because he’s a child,” to which James agreed and shared that Jackson’s room was two stories tall. “It was never just you and him… there were also people there. The first time we stayed at the ranch with my dad, he invited me and my dad… ‘Stay in the room with all of us.’ His cousins were there.”

Wrapping up their talk, James touched base on the controversy surrounding the superstar. “I knew two of the kids who made claims about him, and then it’s come out publicly that they were told, forced to lie by their parents. It’s been tough to sit and watch.”

We invite fans to view the full segment from his interview.

Then view our gallery below filled with photos of some of your favorite actors before they became soap stars.

Video: Maurice Benard: State Of Mind/ YouTube