Deep Soap: ‘Y&R’ Stars Speak Out About Behind-the-Scenes Turmoil

Peter Bergman (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The Young & the Restless” filmed its 10,000th episode this week. Thursday night the Paley Center honored the number one soap’s accomplishment by hosting a retrospective and panel discussion in the show’s honor. This milestone comes at a difficult moment for the soap, as former showrunner Maria Bell departs and new headwriter Josh Griffith and executive producer Jill Farren Phelps begin their tenure. None of the actors that I spoke to knew what the new regime has planned for their characters, but all expressed hope that the change would turn out to be a good thing for the soap.

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Peter Bergman hopes that his character, Jack, who has been portrayed as somewhat of a loser for the past couple years, will be allowed to succeed. “My hope for Jack is that he’s front and center…  I think at this point the audience sees it coming down Broadway whenever Jack says, ‘I’m going to take [Victor] on,’ the audience stars to snicker, ‘Oh, we know how this is going to end.’ So we’ll see. I’m always hopeful. I’ve been hopeful for 23 years. I’ll be hopeful for a few more.” Bergman is as optimistic about Jack as the new regime. “The sense is these are pretty bright people. We all have experience with Josh and she [Farren Phelps] certainly has lots of experience in daytime and is pretty successful at it. So Jill and Josh are keeping their secrets to themselves and we’ll all find out slowly what the future holds.” He added, ” I’m a great fan of Maria and her talent and her writing and I think she’s a very gifted woman, but I have said goodbye to other writers whose work I’ve really valued too. It’s part of my job.”

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Said Christian LeBlanc (Michael), “Josh, I worked with him during the strike. Jill, I’ve met and I’m very hopeful. The proof is in the pudding. You want to see stuff happen, but they’ve really been respectful and they’re so polite and fans of the show and loving. It is what it is. I’m not the person who hires and fires people. My job is to take their vision, as anyone’s job is, and to make it wonderful, to make it better than maybe they thought it could be because that’s my job.”

Doug Davidson (Paul) acknowledged he has mixed emotions about the situation. “It’s hard for me to form an opinion on that because I don’t know why it happened or what goes on. But I know that Maria in her tenure wrote some very beautiful stuff and I was lucky enough to be there when Josh Griffith was there and I know he’s very capable of creating very compelling daytime drama. He’s a wonderful writer and I enjoy his writing style. Beyond that, I like both people. It’s like a divorce. Whose side do you take? So I don’t take a side. I know that everybody involved in this show was trying to make it the best show they possibly can. And I think that continues. Jill Farren Phelps is going to try to do the same thing. Josh Griffith is working really hard to continue the story threads and make it a seamless transition.”

Kristoff St. John (Neil) commented on the rumors that Christel Khalil, who plays his on-screen daughter Lily, will be leaving the show due to a contract dispute. (Earlier this week, Khalil told MSN, “There’s something I want that they don’t want to give to me. It hurts. I thought I would be worth what I thought I was worth to them, but I guess I’m not.”) “At this point, I don’t know very much at all. Christel is still with the show, as far as I know. I have heard that she is in deep contract negotiations. I have heard through Christel in a website that she is in charge of that she quite possibly is leaving. In fact, it may be in the press that she is leaving. My feelings are I’m very saddened by this news. I’m hoping that things will get resolved.”

At the end of the panel, Maria Bell, who was fired by Sony, the studio that produces Y&R, made a lengthy statement about her departure. “I am leaving the show. It’s a very, very tough thing to do. The show’s been part of my life since I was 25 years old and met the Bell family. My father [in-law] and mother-in-law gave me a chance and put me in daytime. I’d always wanted to be a writer and I was a big soap fan and so, not only has the show been so important to me, it’s been, in a way, the story of my life. My entire family has been involved in it in one way or another. I started in this business with my writing partner Brad Bell and with writing ‘The Bold & the Beautiful,’ which has been very close to my heart and ‘The Young & the Restless.’ I was in the writers’ room in 1989 so I’ve had an incredible journey with this show. I think it’s the greatest show ever. I felt just an amazing kinship with my father-in-law when telling stories, walking into CBS in the morning, seeing his and my mother-in-law’s photo and feeling that he was my mentor and I was his legacy. It was a great, great experience and, like every good soap opera story, I did get killed off. But I’ve got to say that there may be an evil twin somewhere down the line. I really, really love this show and I love all these folks. It has been amazing. I had the most wonderful team of writers. I loved working with them. We were like a family. This group of people was extraordinary and it’s very fitting. I wrote about 1600 episodes, or maybe 1300. Who knows. I don’t know. A lot. But I wrote the 10,00th and I think when you see the 10,000th you’ll see it’s very much about what’s core to this show. It’s not a big party episode. It’s an episode that tells a lot of driving story… and has ramifications and fallout for pretty much everybody on this stage and that was how I really feel comfortable going out, on that strong show and having had a great run. I’m ready for the next part of my personal soap opera, but I’ll never, ever forget ‘The Young & the Restless’ and I’ll always miss Genoa City.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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