On August 23, 2012, the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills celebrated the filming of the 10,000th episode of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS with a panel discussion featuring members of the cast following by a Q&A session. The evening was hosted by Brooks Barnes of The New York Times and the panel consisted of longtime cast members Peter Bergman, Eric Braeden, Jeanne Cooper, Doug Davidson, Christian Leblanc, Joshua Morrow, Melody Thomas Scott, Kristoff St. John, Michelle Stafford, and recently departed head writer and executive producer Maria Arena Bell.
The evening opened with a montage of clips from the show’s long history, starting with scenes from episode #1 and other 1970s episodes featuring actors such as Diedre Hall, Robert Clary, William Gray Espy, David Hasselhoff and Brenda Dickson (although, oddly, no scenes featuring any of the “Brooks” sisters, the pivotal heroines of the show’s early years) up through scenes from recent years. When told by an audience member that the clips brought tears to her eyes, Christian Leblanc remarked “we were sniffling too.”
Moderator Barnes confessed that he was a longtime fan of the show, and posed a series of questions to the panel about the show and their experiences working on it.
On the what makes Y&R stand out and has made it an enduring success, Peter Bergman remarked: “Continuity. When you turn on Y&R, you know who you are going to see.”
Barnes asked Jeanne Cooper about “Kay’s” tendency to gaze out and rub her fingers together during scenes. Cooper admitted she was usually thinking “What is my next line?” to laughter from the audience. On the show’s faster past compared to earlier days, she commented that “You pick up a script and wonder what the hell happened yesterday” and emphasized that the actors really had to pay attention to what was going on with each other’s characters or you’d “lose part of your own character.”
Eric Braeden emphatically wanted to “dispel the myth that [the actors] have influence about the writers write. . . .We simply don’t.” Although he said “sometimes we make little changes,” he quickly added “I never do,” to the eye-rolling of his cast mates and the laughter of the capacity audience, some of whom travelled from as far as Toronto, Canada, and Texas to attend the event. Braeden confessed he’d been “mostly very happy” with what he’d been given over the last 32 years.
When asked what she’s like to have happen to Nikki, Melody Thomas Scott said she’s like to see her “go stark raving mad – in the nuthouse – I’ve never made it out there” or have Nikki get drunk. Barnes asked Melody if she could recall all of Nikki’s last names, and Melody eventually got there with the help of the audience and her castmates. Cooper chimed in “she’s quite a whore!”
Josh Morrow identified Peter Bergman and Eric Braeden as his mentors when he started the show and confessed he was the “set clown,” although he tries to act very professional and serious around the younger cast members given the importance of getting each scene in one take. Melody Thomas Scott noted that the cast does goof around a bit in rehearsal, because once the camera turns on, you have to become very emotional immediately, and the levity breaks the tension. Morrow added that the cast really does laugh all day, and suggested that there should be a “show within a show” because of all the hysterical things that happen on set. Eric Braeden agreed: “I wish they’d film the rehearsals; silly, lewd jokes, then you can be serious.”
Michelle Stafford explained that she loved playing Phyllis because “she’s always different, she’s different every single day, and there are always aspects of crazy about her . . . she seems to be strong, but she’s really not, there’s lots of bravado.” To which Josh Morrow added “she also likes to have sex.” As the audience laughed, Stafford commented quickly “She does. She’s quite good at it. She’s a lot better than I am.”
Kristoff St. John offered what he wished for his character: “I wish that I were Victor Newman. I wish I could be Paul’s partner because he can’t figure anything out. I wish I could sleep with Phyllis (the character). I wish I had Peter Bergman’s hair and that [Jack] would adopt me. I wish I could have seen [Nikki] strip.”
Braeden took a moment to remind the crowd that they shot one episode per day, as opposed to the 8 to 10 days it took to shoot one primetime hour drama or three to four months to shoot a feature film. “We barely rehearse, just a technical rehearsal for the cameras. You have to come in prepared and do it.” This prompted Jeanne Cooper to recall the time when film star Dorothy McGuire came in to play Victor’s mother, and she said to Jeanne “How do you do it? I will never do this again.”
Somehow, Josh Morrow manages to drop the word “reliquary” into the conversation, and Melody Thomas Scott scolds him “you are never to say that word again!” Josh kiddingly states that he did some of his best work as an actor during that notorious storyline, recalling one day when he could not stop from laughing during a scene with Amelia Henlie and had tears running down his face. “I thought I was going to get fired that day.”
Christian Leblanc described some of his favorite moments on the show as “Greg Rikkart walking in and saying ‘Hello brother,’ marrying Lauren and thinking Lauren was dead.” He’s also really enjoying working with newcomers Jen Landon and Jeff Branson.
The moderator asked all of the actors what they thought it would take to keep the show on for another 10,000 episodes.
Braeden: “We have some wonderful actors, we just have to keep the ratings up.”
Stafford: “If you tell a good story, people will watch.”
Leblanc: “As actors, you have to believe what you are doing is an amazing thing – people respond to that.”
Cooper: “They want a story they can identify with. The audience is thinking ‘let me frigging escape for an hour a day.’”
Among those in the audience for the event were Kate Linder (Esther), the entire Bell family, and former cast member Robert Leighton (Casey) who, during the audience Q&A period, stood up and asked Melody Thomas Scott “Nikki, do you miss your sister?” Melody replied “give me your number!”
When asked about the family aspect of the show, Peter Bergman, talking about the actors who played the Abbots, noted “what a great group we had . . . everyone was eccentric in their own way . . . I’m a huge Eileen Davidson fan, she’s my sister forever.”
The evening ended on a bittersweet note, with recently ousted headwriter Maria Arena Bell noting that leaving the show was a “very, very tough thing to do” but adding that, like every good soap opera story, “I got killed off.” She praised her late father-in-law, Y&R creator Bill Bell, stating that “he was my mentor, and I was his legacy.” She was proud to have written the show’s 10,000th episode, promising that it was full of “ramifications and fallout” for all the actors on the stage.