Y&R actors confident with behind-the-scenes changes and a return to character-driven storylines
The Young and the Restless stars Tracey E. Bregman (Lauren) and Daniel Goddard (Cane) were in Toronto earlier this month to promote their latest collections with The Shopping Channel and caught up with MSN to discuss their respective jewellery and watch lines and the recent behind-the-scenes changes at daytime’s number one soap.
Tracey, what can you tell us about your latest line? I see you’ve got some new items with the peace sign, as well as the Om symbol.
Tracey: I always love to use the Om symbol. The peace signs are also back this collection. Everything that I design really has meaning for me; I love to connect with it spiritually.
You’ve also got some friends, including Sharon Osborne, who are stealing your rings!
Tracey: Right, exactly! It’s very flattering when Sharon Osborne and some of my friends literally steal them off of my hands.
Daniel, what’s new with the Aquaswiss watches?
Daniel: We hit the blockbuster [on the show] with the Avalon series, ladies diamond dial with a mother of pearl face and leather strap.
When we last spoke, you mentioned how women were comfortable wearing men’s watches, but now Aquaswiss has come out with a line for women.
Daniel: Yeah, we’ve got a women’s line that we’ve introduced. We’re also going to come back in December with sunglasses as well and men’s belts. So it’s expanding. We’ve had really good shows here.
There’s a James Bond-inspired one that caught my eye.
Daniel: Yes, we have one that’s fully automatic where you can look through the front and see straight through the back. You see all the Swiss-made mechanics on the inside. It’s also got a two-year warranty, which I think instills the belief of it being a well-made product.
How hands on are you with the design?
Daniel: I met with Aquaswiss and we decided to change a lot of the straps [in this current collection] based on what I thought would do well. We’re also coming back in February with another line that I was more hands on with.
How did the idea come about to expand with sunglasses and belts?
Daniel: I thought it would be something that we could sell here because like watches, glasses are very unisex as well. The Aquaswiss ones have got a Ray-Ban feel to them and are very up-market reminiscent of a Gucci look as well.
The Shopping Channel had an amazing idea to have this double header Y&R weekend with the both of you. How did this come about?
Daniel: I think it started back last year around TIFF when I came and saw Tracey.
Tracey: We had dinner and I said, “Why don’t you come over [to the studio]?” He then surprised me on air.
Daniel: From the first day that I met Tracey, at the bottom of the stairs with Adrienne Frantz (ex-Amber), we’ve always had a good rapport.
Tracey: Definitely! We’ve been friends since the beginning.
Daniel: We can sit in a room in silence and not speak. That to me is the tempo on how well you like somebody.
Tracey: Yeah right! [Laughs] Do you think there’s a moment of silence ever between us?
Yeah, I find that hard to believe. Daniel’s the one dropping “g-spot” on live Canadian television.
Daniel: Look, for me there’s two ways to look at it: I could either sell a product or make it a fun show where you also sell a product! I’ve watched Tracey sell and she’s very enthusiastic. She understands the product very well but she also has a lot of fun.
Tracey: Thanks…and he definitely adds his own spin on it!
The behind-the-scenes events at Y&R this past summer were far more entertaining than what was happening on-screen. Maria Arena Bell is out as Executive Producer and Head Writer. They’ve brought in Jill Farren Phelps as EP and Josh Griffith has returned as HW. What’s the transition been like?
Daniel: I think Y&R at the moment has a very positive feel.
Tracey: Yes, very.
Daniel: I don’t think there’s a single person there that doesn’t feel that we are moving in a very positive direction. Josh, who was there years ago…
Tracey: He understands the history of our show.
Daniel: His ratings were very solid after Lynn Marie Latham left. Josh came in and single handedly crafted episodes during the 2007-2008 Writer’s Strike and ratings went up under him.
Tracey: He was amazing.
Daniel: He understands how to write for all the demographics and all the characters. The thing about Josh that’s a great asset to the show is that he’s married to the love of his life and has two beautiful daughters. As a man, he understands what women want versus someone who is kind of cut off from the real world and is trying to forge stories based upon what they think the world likes to see.
Fans and critics assumed Maria would be there until the end or until she wanted to leave on her own since she was a Bell, were you surprised by Sony's decision to let her go?
Tracey: Completely! I never saw that coming.
Daniel: There’s a feeling now when you go into work, that you’re going somewhere where what you’re doing is important. I have to say that Jill Farren Phelps has a very solid understanding of what works and what can be improved to make the show better. She’s been received pretty well by everybody.
There’s no denying that Jill Farren Phelps runs a tight ship. But she does have a reputation. Many have held her responsible for the deaths of a lot of legacy characters on other shows. What were your first thoughts on her joining the soap based upon this reputation?
Daniel: I remember the last time you and I talked and you asked me what I would do to fix the show and I’ve seen Jill’s vision and ironically, I think we’re very simpatico. I think the history and future of the show depends on securing the viewers we currently have and bringing lapsed viewers back. There’s only one way to do that and that is to create compelling dramatic stories. Romance, love, betrayal, drama – all the good things, but there has to be a balance. Then you bring in new viewers by allowing them to know that they can escape their daily life and come somewhere where they have that feeling of levity. I don’t think you can doom and gloom people for so long. I think Jill understands that and the combination of Jill and Josh together is a wonderful thing for the show.
Tracey, you've been a Bell player for pretty much your entire soap career, while other soaps are used to regime changes, B&B and Y&R not so much.
Tracey: It’s very interesting. Well, we didn’t have a Bell at the helm during the Lynn Marie Latham regime. For me, Bill’s passing and the end of Bill’s regime was the end of an era. When you look at how many people it now takes to do his one job, he was an extraordinary man! I don’t know anybody else who could actually do everything that he did. I actually think it’s a good thing that we now have a head writer and an executive producer because it’s an unbelievably all-encompassing job! Bill was an amazing man.
Daniel: I had never met Bill, but I have never heard anybody ever say anything other than what Tracey just said. Every single person at CBS, we’re talking about people in the camera crew, whose kids now work there now that they’ve grown up, every single person would say, “He’s a man’s man, he’s like a father or a brother.”
Tracey: I don’t know how he did it and had such an incredible life. The children and he and Lee raised…
Daniel: He was dedicated to show. That was his existence.
Tracey: But he also had balance as well. I know he lived that show and had to as well, because of the amount of work, but he and Lee raised such incredible and wonderful kids. They’re just so loving and talented. He was able to have it all.
Daniel: That’s one thing about Laura Lee [Bell; Christine]. She’s so unpretentious. She is so sweet, so kind.
Tracey: They all are.
Daniel: Look at Brad [Bell; executive producer and head writer at The Bold and the Beautiful] with his love for B&B.
Tracey: It’s amazing. I’ve worked for Brad. He’s awesome.
Daniel: I would have liked to meet him [Bill Bell Sr.]
Tracey: You would have loved him.
The show is also losing a number of actors, including Genie Francis (Genevieve; ex-Laura, General Hospital). Daniel, you've spoken very highly of your working relationship with her. I'm sure you are sad to see her go. How is she doing?
Daniel: It’s sad to see Genie leave. I’ll miss her. I think if you look at the characters, and I say characters, because it’s never personal, but if you look at the characters that have been let go, its players who have been brought in from other shows, which gives Y&R viewers a semblance of understanding that we’re talking about taking the show, that viewers love, forward. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “This is our show, we want to see more of this person, that person, why are we seeing characters we don’t know when we could see characters that we’ve known and loved for decades?”
Tracey: Well, that’s just it. The bottom line is that an audience cannot connect emotionally unless you’re seeing that character on camera at least several times a week. If you’re not seeing that character every week, how can you feel for what they’re going through, no matter how good the actor is? So I think that with the paring down, no matter how sad or hard it is, you’ll get to see the entire cast now on camera weekly.
The character that connects both your characters, Jill, is finally coming back. Jess Walton has returned to the set after half a year off.
Tracey: Yes! My sister! I’m so happy to see her.
Are there any long-term plans to keep Jill/Jess around?
Daniel: I think it’s whatever Jess wants. Everyone at the helm now has such a true understanding of the worth the people like Jess have and what they bring to the show. When I read the first script that had Jess back, I was so excited to have her there. As sad as I am to see Genie go, I’m so happy to have Jess back. Jess Walton is the reason I’m there. She and Devin Owens (of Soap Opera Digest) were talking about a character and spoke to Lynn about it and that’s how the character of Cane came about. I’m eternally indebted to Jess. We have a strong connection and I just couldn’t wait to have her back on set.
Christel Khalil was recently in intense contract negotiations. Is she on contract or recurring?
Daniel: I can’t discuss her contract, but I’m incredibly happy that Chistel is going to be around.
There's no doubt that Cane/Lily are a popular pairing, but they've pretty much been through everything. Do you feel that as an actor, that pairing has limited the storyline potential for you character?
Daniel: No, I don’t. I think that storylines always stem from a writer’s creativity. It just comes from the writer’s ability to see that there is drama outside of a relationship. Y&R is two things: its bedroom and boardroom. Men go to work and do their thing; they come home to their women. The women go to work and then come home to their men as well. The bottom line is this: Cane and Lily have gone through a lot of drama, and I hear from a fan base “Why can’t we have a coupling like Michael and Lauren, that we as women go ‘That is sort of a man I wish that I had in my life. Who loves and does anything he can to take care of his woman. That makes me want to watch.’” Then you can have drama outside of it and I think that’s what’s coming along.
Tracey: Right, to have a happy relationship is wonderful, but we like to see those relationships work and see why they’re happy.
In recent years, Lauren& Michael have been the most stable couples on the show. We see them as a family unit now with the aging of their son Fen (Max Ehrich). What has that been like? We've seen this new side of Christian LeBlanc (Michael) with Fen, Michael's very sweet and protective. You got to miss out on having teen angst stories with Lauren's elder son, Scotty, are you looking forward to playing that that soapy teen angst with Fen?
Tracey: Right, exactly. Well, Max, who plays Fen is fabulous and unbelievably talented. He was in High School Musical 3 and Newsies! on stage. He’s an amazing gymnast as well He’s wonderful. You know, I’m just excited to do something with meaning. I know what the storyline is that’s coming up and I am very excited to do it. I think that the viewers are really going to be amazed at this story.
We've seen this new side of Christian LeBlanc with Fen, Michael's very sweet and protective.
Tracey: Oh yeah! And that’s awesome.
Daniel: And that’s exactly what we’re talking about. You don’t have to have every father on the show sleeping on the show with other women and not being a good father. It’s about balance and I think that’s one of the great things we have when you look at someone like Cane and Michael. Then there’s the story when you had Paul kill his own son. I think that you need a mix of characters. I really do have a lot of joy now when it comes to the future of what’s going to happy. Everyone is in a really good place.
With Josh Griffith’s work starting to air these past couple of weeks, you can really see a shift from plot-driven stories to more character-based storylines.
Daniel: There are two schools of writing. There’s plot-based and then there’s character-based. The problem with writing plot-based is that while you can come up with some great moments for your characters, writing character-based allows an actor to bring an entirely new sense of emotion.
It allows the character to express that, which is only going to make the audience say, “I feel for that person. I understand and relate to that. I want to see that journey.” Which is going to secure your viewers and make them say to people who have stopped watching the show, “Have you seen what so and so is doing lately? They’re going through this. You should tune back in and see that!” We want to bring back the viewers who have left, and bring in new viewers as well.
I truly believe that this regime under Jill and Josh will be really good for the show. We have a new producer as well, Mary O’Leary (from Another World, General Hospital) who’s in the booth giving feedback, which is fantastic.
There’s some great stuff coming up with Jill’s return and for me, it’s going back to character-based drama. And as an actor, there’s nothing you want more than that.
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS and Global. Canadian fans can also keep up to date with Y&R on GlobalTV.com and through On Demand and mobile devices. For more about the Tracey Bregman Collection and Aquaswiss, visit The Shopping Channel.