Photo courtesy Michelle Stafford

When the studio was shut down, she kept in contact with several members of her Y&R family. “Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott) mainly. He was really sweet in keeping in touch with me. He’s such a good man; I love him so much. We spoke probably once a week. He knew I was alone with my kids and he thought about me. He’s a great man, that Peter Bergman.” She also kept in contact with Josh Morrow and his wife (and close friend) Tobe, “super-tight homie” Christian Jules Le Blanc, Tracey Bregman, Lauralee Bell, director Sally McDonald and “Little Baby Hunter.” She even hosted a Zoom Daytime Emmys cocktail party, but she was the only one who brought a cocktail. When asked about the Daytime Emmys for next year, “I’m not really sure how they’re going to figure out the Emmys because new shows were off the air for part of the year. Days [of our Lives] kept going on and GH went on for a while, but it’s not my situation to control.”

One thing that kept her sane was the many funny texts from Melissa Ordway (Abby Newman) and a group text she keeps going with Ordway and Donny Boaz (Chance Chancellor) “Donny B. always gives me coffee when we work together,” and hopes the tradition continues when they shoot upcoming scenes. Of being back on set, “I feel more safe on set than I do in the grocery store. They do temperature checks, COVID checks throughout the week, and we have an awesome COVID person on set at all times.” She remarked that set life is different than before with the masks, trying to remember not to touch their faces, and more distance on and off camera. “I’m grateful to the unions, SAG, etc. Everyone is being super careful because, if someone gets sick, we have to shut down for two weeks. No one wants to be that person.”

Photo courtesy CBS

The approach to filming at The Young and the Restless is different from The Bold and the Beautiful and markedly different from what’s been seen at General Hospital. Directors chose to have distance between characters, film more scenes “outdoors,” and use different camera angles and shots to try to hide the amount of space in between the actors. “Our first two episodes back on air were shot pre-Covid. My hair grew exponentially from Tuesday to Wednesday.”

As of yet, there are no plans to use blow up dolls in Genoa City, but viewers will notice a slight difference. “It’s weird because Nick and Phyllis make out a lot. We’re not going to do anything physical. It’s been challenging for me: how do I still make it kinda hot without us being (physically) together? The writing has to help with that kind of thing.” Park scenes were shot post COVID. They were supposed to make them look closer in post editing. “I’m really trying to make this fun because some actors are really thrown off by being so far away. I’m trying to stay on point and I totally suck, but I’m trying.”

Bergman and Stafford had a conversation before they returned to set and speculated it might be possible that they’d go back to the Bill Bell era of shooting where you’d only be on one set for all your scenes for an episode, but this has not come to pass. Thus far they’ve kept the same shooting model they had pre-COVID with characters zipping from one place to another. Stafford is confident that the writers and production will do everything they can to keep things flowing as smoothly as they can under the current conditions. “I believe in the writers. Josh Griffith (head writer) really cares. He thinks it out and is working out all the angles. He knows it’s a glamorous show and it has to stay glamorous.”

Initially returning to set, actors were allowed to wear their own clothes for the first couple of weeks. Stafford was lucky because she had some of Phyllis’ wardrobe and even a few pieces from when she portrayed Nina Reeves on General Hospital to fall back on before they returned to wearing the clothes chosen by the Head of Wardrobe David Zyla. “The thing about Phyllis is she enters with her wardrobe. It’s part of her power.”

When presented with some social media comments from avid, long time Y&R viewers remarking on how some of the styles of clothing and colors Phyllis had been wearing since her return were out of character or not flattering, Stafford conceded that, while some color schemes chosen for her character have been more flattering than others, there have been some times when she’s spoken up and said a particular outfit is just NOT Phyllis. “The character of Phyllis is a force of nature. From the second she walks in, she’s making a statement. Hair. Clothes. Accessories. Attitude. It’s such a character thing. It’s a big deal.”

Photo courtesy CBS

One of the joys of her job is playing opposite Hunter King and Stafford cannot say enough good things about her TV daughter.  “I love Hunter so much I could cry. She’s such a good person. The Summer character has a feistiness that my own daughter has.”

Stafford notes there’s a freedom the character and the actress that plays her shares and also, “Hunter feels so much like my daughter. I love her so much like a daughter so it’s easy to do scenes with her. She makes it easy for me to work with her.” When read comments from fans that their scenes don’t look like acting, that their relationship feels organic and authentic, and that you can tell they genuinely love each other, she beamed and said it was such a compliment because that’s what they shoot for.

Photo courtesy CBS

When probed about the Summer/Kyle/Phyllis dynamic, Stafford noted “There’s so much history there with Kyle. When I played him and when Gina (Tognoni) played Phyllis, there was so much good and bad interaction with Kyle and how he’s treated Summer. “I would read the script and be ‘You know Phyllis would actually be tripping hard on some of this stuff,’ because Kyle has screwed over her daughter many-a-time.”

Stafford has upcoming comedic scenes with Michael Mealor (who she calls the loveliest), Josh Morrow, and Hunter King at Crimson Lights. She refers to Summer and Kyle, their portrayers and all the 20-year olds on the show as “our babies” and “the babies.”

“I love them all so much. They’re so professional and so amazing. Michael Mealor. I love playing scenes with him where I’m really grilling Kyle. I go into each scene like ‘If you mess up one more time (with Summer), that’s it for you.’ You’ve seen Old School Phyllis. You know how messy it can get.”

When asked what Phyllis thinks about Skyle reuniting and moving in with each other, Stafford thinks “She’s done. Listen, the people that do things have the biggest judgment against people that do similar things. She thinks Kyle is bad news. She thinks Theo is bad news. She thinks all these guys are bad news for her daughter.” When asked if there was any man Phyllis thought was good enough for Summer, her answer was a resounding “No. Nuh-uh. But I think that’s how you are as a mother. There’s nobody that’s good enough. No. She didn’t like Austin. She didn’t like Luca. She won’t like any of them.”

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About the Author

Red carpet maven, social media influencer, the girl with the look that's got you hooked. In 2020, Dee "TMZ DeeDee" Flintakis joined the TV Source team as a staff writer, focused primarily on soap operas, primetime dramas, and is currently willing a spinoff of 'Josie and the Pussycats' into existence. When Dee isn’t teaching the kiddies, she is addicted to traveling, reading, attending soap events, nuanced storytelling, and making dramatic proclamations on that bird app.