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News for the week of 25-Mar-2013

by Carol Banks Weber

A Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) interview always elicits the kind of laughs that results in a choking incident. She’s hilarious off-screen, full of vim, vigor, and more than a few F bombs, god bless her. Cooper recently recuperated from the flu bug going around in the death trap known as the Y&R studios (Melody Thomas Scott/Nikki, Eric Braeden/Victor, and Joshua Morrow/Nick all had it). Her description about that petri dish alone will have readers in convulsions. “Why do you think all the executives moved out and went to the Radford lot in Studio City? The CBS building is falling apart. There's mold, there's rats, there's dust. I mean, the place hasn't been vacuumed in 50 years. People are contracting a lot of nonsense there. Plus, we're sitting on methane gas.”

If it weren’t for Cooper, Y&R might never have lasted 40 years. She was most definitively Y&R’s saving grace—much the same as Gloria Monty, Luke and Laura were to GH. To hear Cooper tell it (to TV Guide’s Michael Logan for a March 19th interview), the late Y&R creator Bill Bell felt so badly about the low ratings that he’d planned to end it back in its beginning. He was talked out of the move and encouraged to be patient. Then, “he brought on Katherine about six months into the show to shake things up. She was a rich boozer socialite with a thing for stable boys who didn't take s--t from anybody. [Laughs] She still doesn't!”

So it would behoove the current regime not to f*ck with Katherine’s health, certainly not to give her Alzheimer’s as hinted recently. Portrayer Cooper will not have it. She’d rather walk than play out a health setback like that. Ain’t nobody got time for that, Cooper said. “Y&R is an hour of escape and relief for people. That's what's kept it on the air 40 years! The audience wants Katherine vibrant. They want to see her kicking ass. I've worked hard for that,” Cooper explained. “There was a barrage of concern as soon as Katherine started forgetting things and misplacing things. Then I got one script where she was supposed to be seen reading a pamphlet about Alzheimer's. [Head writer] Josh Griffith came rushing into my dressing room all breathless, saying, ‘Don't worry, it's not what you think! It only looks like Katherine has Alzheimer's.’ I said, ‘I'm not worried. You don't think I'd do an Alzheimer's story, do you? You'd have to get somebody else.’” Griffith also told Cooper he’d tried to preview the health scare (only) but couldn’t reach her ahead of time, which she believes since she barely checks her messages and joked that she doesn’t even know how to ring her f*cking doorbell.

As for all the young, hot newcomers coming into the show, Cooper had something hilarious to say about that, too. “I tell these kids they better show up fully prepared, lines learned, or they're outta here. It's amazing how much these young ones don't know. They don't have the training we did. [Laughs] But, hey, they're good at taking off their clothes, so there's always porn.”

Priceless.

Executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and head writer Josh Griffith know they make a good, solid team. They did when they oversaw Hollywood Heights before coming over to Y&R for the update—just in time for the soap’s 40th anniversary this month. Tasked with the update, JFP admitted to feeling antsy to get on with it right away, but had to remind herself to be patient. “My experience has been, and this is what I tell myself when I get discouraged at the beginning, ‘Oh right. It takes a year,’” she told Michael Fairman for his March 16th On-Air On-Soaps interview. “It’s not that I think that on the course of being on this journey that we have not gone a long distance, but you can’t come in and completely explode a show. You have to gently and carefully take it from where it was, into a new place while honoring the old and bringing in the new. I think we are in that place. We are in the beginning of starting to see that change.”

Making changes may have been painstaking, but the vision was never lost, least of all by head writer Griffith, who’s been to this dance before (as EP, interestingly enough). When he first took on the task of writing new stories that would enhance the core characters audiences have grown to love, he noticed how far they had to go. The core characters had, in essence, become shells of their former selves. “When I came in and looked at it, I felt in my opinion, and from my vision of the show, that they veered away from who I knew them to be. So the biggest challenge was bringing them back to what I felt was their emotional core.”

To that end, the new regime focused on restoring core characters like Adam and Sharon to their former glory and complexity in ways that made sense. For Adam, it was about putting him back in the game as the next in line after Victor Newman. Griffith saw Adam as the child most similar to intimidating, maddening, complicated Victor. Griffith and JFP also dared to encroach on the sanctity of Lauren and Michael’s marriage. Y&R fans especially do not take kindly to messing with their favorite supercouples, least of all this beloved one. Yet, JFP and Griffith believed in a vision that would take the fans through a fulfilling journey, despite the one misstep of Lauren’s. Griffith tried to rationalize the taboo move by explaining that he couched the affair in a riveting bullying story and didn’t just spring it on the couple from left field. To make the medicine go down better? “The feeling was, if we approach that conflict with Michael and Lauren, and the conflict didn’t come out of the cheating, but the cheating was an outgrowth of a familial problem, it would make sense. So if the conflict was rooted, such as in the bullying storyline with Fen (Max Ehrich), and you have Michael righteously on one side of it, and Lauren more emotional on the other side, then there was a very honest and believable way to put these two at odds, which would then lead to all kinds of problems.” JFP was more direct—and (off-putting for some fans reading this interview): “Someone once said to me, ‘The audience thinks they know what they need.’ And our job is to show them things they didn’t even know that they needed. To keep everything status quo on any show is not going to build your audience. If we are going to be around for another 40 years, we need to build the audience, and we have been doing that.”

With JFP around, don’t expect Y&R to turn into another plot-driven, action-oriented GH just yet. These are two different soaps altogether and the new regime plans on treating them that way. “Y&R is an emotionally driven and character driven show. And it’s the twists and turns of the characters, that give the show its luster. On GH and many shows, it might have to do with more of the events. But the reality is; all daytime or any good show is about good storytelling, how ever you dress it up!” Griffith added that despite Y&R’s huge reputation, it’s really “a very intimate show.”

Fans have belittled Y&R’s tendency to milk the Victor-and-Nikki weddings until it’s become a running joke. None more than Nikki’s portrayer. She and TV Guide’s Michael Logan bantered recently about the 12th wedding for the 40th anniversary celebration. Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) joked about her character always falling “for [Victor’s] bullshit, but that’s what’s so charming about her. She goes with her heart, not her head. She's a good example of what not to be. I mean, seriously, who'd want to be Nikki? I love this role and I'm very happy, but c'mon! She's hopeless.” And Thomas Scott predicted that this next marriage between the perennially wed probably won’t last long either. It can’t, the actress quipped, that would be boring. What hasn’t been boring? Keeping up with the notoriously tough Eric Braeden (Victor) throughout the many years. Nobody does it like Thomas Scott. But she’s a tough cookie herself. “I'm not going to lie and say that being his costar is easy, because it ain't. But it's so worth it. And, hey, I can be pretty ornery, too. After working with the guy for 34 years, I know how to handle him. [Laughs] And, the best part is, he doesn't even know he's being handled!”

One of the most memorable and heart-breaking stories Joshua Morrow (Nick) ever had to play on Y&R was the one that effectively launched him as a romantic lead — at a beloved young girl’s expense. It was when Nick and Sharon’s precious daughter Cassie died after a car accident in 2005. Nobody wanted it to happen, not the fans and certainly not the actors. The writers then took a huge risk, which, Morrow said reluctantly, continues to pay off in stories today. Only a few weeks ago, Sharon began freaking out when daughter Faith went missing in the snowy woods, deftly referencing that terrible moment where bad things can happen in the blink of an eye. Morrow said so many good and bad things came from that death, personally too. “I loved the character and I loved the actress who played her. She was like my own daughter. To be able to go through that storyline was not fun for me. I always pride myself into believing that I can walk out of the building and leave my story in those halls, but I could not shake that story. I took it home with me. We were telling it forever. I knew what was coming and it was just really awful to go through.” Filming the death scenes took so much out of the cast and crew, he recalled. “You should have seen these crew members. Everybody was crying their ass off. It was so difficult to shoot and watch Camryn Grimes lay there and be so brave and tell this mature story – [it’s] the highlight of my career because she was this calming force out there and she was the one dying.” –MSN March 22nd interview by Jeevan Brar

If you’re going to follow anyone on Twitter, follow Joshua Morrow (Nick). He’s worth every wasted hour of every day scrolling his take on sports, parenting, and co-stars. This bit for the 40th is hilarious: “Joshua Morrow ‏@JoshuaMorrowYR 19 Mar Adam always walks into a room and looks like he is waiting to get his ass kicked #YR40

Y&R’s cast will make several appearances outside the soap to promote its 40th anniversary. The Talk hosts a party with some of the cast (Melody Thomas Scott/Nikki, Kristoff St. John/Neil, Michelle Stafford/Phyllis, Peter Bergman/Jack, Joshua Morrow/Nick, Michael Muhney/Adam) March 25, 2 p.m. ET. Following the talk show, the cast will stick around for a 30-minute online Q&A, hosted by Julie Chen. Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) and several of the hot young studs (Ignacio Serricchio/Alex, Lamon Archey/Mason, Marco Dapper/Carmine, Redaric Williams/Tyler) will get to play The Price Is Right March 26. Tune into Marie on the Hallmark Channel April 1, noon ET for a Y&R anniversary party; they already filmed it in mid-March. Jeanne Cooper (Katherine), Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), Jess Walton (Jill), Lauralee Bell (Christine), Doug Davidson (Paul), Joshua Morrow (Nick), and Peter Bergman (Jack) attended.

Gossip for the week of 25-Mar-2013

by Carol Banks Weber

In a March 16th On-Air On-Soaps interview with Michael Fairman, executive producer Jill Farren Phelps indicated a willingness to look at how she can bring some of that GH action (remember the gunfight at the carnival?) to Y&R, despite a reputation as more of an emotionally intimate show. Looks like she and head writer Josh Griffith pulled off the perfect marriage of intimate — Victor and Nikki’s Newman Ranch wedding reception, just family left — and action adventure. A hired assassin tries to sneak out of the reception after planting a bomb in the basement, but Nick stops him, full of recognition. The assassin named Bob (LOL) whips out a gun and in the struggle with Nick, aims it directly at Victor. Before the gun goes off, Adam goes running and BOOM! This series of tragic events will touch off an emotionally satisfying, dramatically rife storyline for the Newmans as even Adam’s enemies (his own family) come together — Jack and Victor team up to bring the Congressman down, baby! — for the greater good. If that doesn’t bring Y&R up higher in the ratings, nothing will.

Who knew Summer had a bangin’ Kate Upton body? Gentlemen start your engines.

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