Exclusive: “Without Drama or Distractions,” An Interview with The Young and the Restless Star Hunter King The two-time Emmy winner talks about her character's evolution, romances, rivalries and developing tough skin.

The cast of the CBS series The Young and the Restless, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Turning from love to friendships, Phyllis has Amanda so it begs the question: will Summer ever get a female friend? “You know, I’ve just come to the conclusion that Summer is incapable of having female friends. Her and Mariah never got along. Her and Sally don’t get along. Even her and her Aunt Abby don’t get along. So I just feel that Summer is more of a guy’s girl and has a bunch of guy friends or maybe Summer is just a loner and doesn’t have a lot of friends—but I am waiting for the day that Summer gets a BFF. It just hasn’t happened quite yet.” The last time we saw Summer with a female friend was scammer Natalie back in 2016 and the only friendships we’ve seen adult Summer have, outside of Kyle, was with Fen Baldwin, last seen living in Nashville.

When the character of Sally Spectra was transplanted from sister show The Bold and the Beautiful many speculated if Sally (played by Courtney Hope) would be a potential friend for Summer. Hunter King was hoping they’d butt heads and form a friendship out of that somehow, but they are enemies as of late. “Hey, you never know. Maybe it’s in the cards and we just don’t know it yet.” Summer’s attitude for right now is keep your friends close and your enemies closer but hopes that may change in the distant future. “Maybe a beautiful friendship will form out of that. I’m hoping.” When asked if Summer and Sally are going to continue to bump heads or chill out, Hunter laughed and said, “I do not see them chilling out anytime soon.”

Fans on social media are thrilled to see Summer being feisty and embracing her inner “Summers Woman” and not being steamrolled by Sally or by Tara. “It’s definitely a different side of Summer. You get the sweet and playful side of Summer when she’s with Faith, the baby sister she adores.Then you get Summer with her mom and dad who sometimes becomes a little girl and needs them and their advice. Then you get to see Summer interacting with Sally when she’s in full attack mode, so you certainly get to see a lot of sides of Summer right now.” Viewers noticed a dramatic shift in the writing for Summer when Hunter returned in 2018. The writing for Summer is more focused, she’s written as less babyish and whiny (as a few detractors used to complain) and more confident, capable, and ready to do what she needs to do to get where she wants to be in life. She’s going to become a force of nature and it’s a refreshing change  “Thank you. I like it right now, too.”

When asked if she was anything like Summer, Hunter paused and thought for a moment. “I’m not like her, but I think that I have tried to learn from Summer in some ways–not all ways obviously, but to not take no for an answer. I’m trying to be better at being bold and going after what I want.” Summer is more of an extrovert whereas Hunter professed to be “definitely more of an introvert,” but that’s one of the reasons why she loves playing her so much. “She is so different from who I am as a person that it’s fun to transform into that. She can be kinda bratty sometimes, and bitchy sometimes, and very confrontational whereas Hunter is not confrontational at all, so that’s one of the reasons why I like her is because we’re not similar.” It’s challenging, but fun, for her to get to be this person she’s not and then go back to being herself. 

She says it’s weird being on set and having confrontational type of scenes– especially with Courtney. Summer and Sally are continuously butting heads and one spits fire at the other and “Then they call ‘cut’ and both of us are {makes shaking, breathless oh my god expression}. I remember one scene, specifically in the coffee house where we were telling each other afterwards, ‘Oh my god; I was shaking so bad!’  The intensity of the scene and how we were attacking one another. It’s so much fun to play characters like that who aren’t anything like Courtney and I are in real life. Sally and Summer are catty.”

During the round of 21 Questions, when asked what her dream storyline was for Summer, she chuckled. “I know, as an actor, I’m supposed to say something really controversial that has a lot of drama behind it because that’s what makes a soap opera a soap opera and keeps fans tuning in, but Hunter would love to have a little Skyle baby, and to see their beautiful dream home finally come to fruition. Just see Summer and Kyle happy without any drama or distractions—-just for a little bit of time.”

Photo: CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The conversation turned back to the Dream House with the Dream Closet and the way Hunter cut up laughing when I sheepishly apologized for my tweets last year asking why Summer was dressed like a librarian. “I have to say there are a few outfits that have not aired yet that I am in love with [emphatic hand gestures] so I’m excited for you guys to see those, and I know you’ll know which one I am talking about as soon as it airs because I am not a confident person, but I feel a little confident in this little number, so I’m excited for you to see that one that’s coming up.”

Explaining the wardrobe process for styling, “They dress so many people and, when we do wardrobe, it’s mostly to make sure it fits, but I know the stylist has a very specific eye towards what he (Emmy winner David Zyla) wants the characters to dress like and what fits their personality—if they’re going to work that day or chilling at home that day. He does try to make us comfortable enough to say things like, “This top doesn’t work with my body type.” King was very self-deprecating about how she comes dressed to work daily and how she is not as glammed up as Summer. 

“If I wore on air what Hunter wears to work everyday, you would be very disappointed in Hunter’s style.” (For the record, she was giving this interview while sitting in her car outside the doggy daycare wearing a Peloton sweatshirt and Lulu Lemon leggings with huge sunglasses and she looked amazing).

Talk turned to some of the negative, cutting, and appalling comments leveled at her on social media. King was contemplative in her assessment. She’s definitely had her fair share of fans posting hateful comments on her social media accounts over the years. In regards to how soap fans perceive her character she said, “I know that soap fans can be very passionate, as they have a right to be, because they watch the show every day, are so connected with the characters, and sometimes know the story better than we do. So I think they sometimes get a little upset when a character is not behaving how they want them to or they don’t agree with what the character is doing, so sometimes I’ve gotten messages based on that.” 

Scrolling down any number of her posts will lead to a fair amount of detractors making negative and inflammatory statements about her personal appearance. When asked about the comments taking aim at her personally King stated, “Sometimes they just don’t like me…. for whatever the reason. They don’t like the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I look, but you can’t please everybody, so I try to let it roll off my back.” When the negativity gets overwhelming, she gives herself permission to take a social media break. “I just don’t look at what people are saying at times because it can definitely affect my mood. I’m a people pleaser, but I’ve realized over the years that you can’t make everybody happy.”

Dealing with appalling comments from people over the internet has toughened Hunter up over her tenure in Genoa City. She reminds herself that, if they were standing in front of her, they would never say the things they do from behind the keyboard. “That’s why I’m such an advocate for mental health. I know we’re taught when we’re younger that silly saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,’ but it’s not true because words are the most powerful things humans have. You have to use your words in the right way. You have to speak kindly to yourself and others.”  Her first couple of years on The Young and the Restless were really tough for her, “but I’ve developed a thicker skin now and I’ve learned my boundaries. If I am seeing things that are upsetting to me, I just have to turn it off and not look anymore.”

She does see the positive messages and shows of love and support her fans send her, though. “Sometimes I have to take a break and not look [at comments on social media] because I feel that, as humans, we tend to focus on the negative things people say about us and it’s almost a way of validating our own inner monologue of saying, ‘I’m not good enough,’ and then as soon as one person tells you that you’re like, ‘See, I was right? I know I’m not good enough.’” When she goes on Twitter or Instagram, “I see all the lovely messages and fan videos that you guys send me and it makes it (makes a hand gesture like an expanding heart). The only reason I still have a Twitter account is because I know there are kind people like you guys out there that are always supportive, that try to boost me up, and make me feel good and it kind of validates me and make me feel like I’m giving you guys what you want. Fans of this show can be pretty brutal to Summer sometimes, and to Hunter, so I appreciate the love. It does not go unnoticed.”

The cast of the CBS series The Young and the Restless, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A moment was taken to express sincere appreciation to her on behalf of the fans for continuing to pop in on social media, in spite of people being hyper-critical and negative on her posts, and for going out of her way to check in/share love despite it not being in her nature to put herself out there. Fans feel the emotion behind it and know she’s doing it for them. “I’m glad you guys see that. It’s definitely not the easiest thing for me but, I’m learning as an adult, that a lot of the time I feel lonely and I like to be able to hear other people share things that I am feeling, that I can connect with, and that I’m going through and it makes me feel not so alone.” Anything that she’s thinking or that she’s going through, she likes to share “so if someone else is dealing with the same thing, they feel like they have someone else to connect with—someone who’s also going through the same thing, so it’s one of the reasons why I use the small platform that I have.”

Before she went to collect her dog, Poppy, Hunter took the time to give some love to co-star Michael Mealor’s puppy, Mishka (How cute is his dog?!) as well as Michael himself. “He’s an awesome person to work with and an amazing actor.” Both of them see the tweets, posts, and Skyle fan videos on social media and share them with one another. “I appreciate all the Skyle love, and so does he, because Michael and I—we really are best friends in real life so it’s so nice to see that you guys like what we’re doing. It really warms our hearts. Truly.”

The last question I asked, if she had a message of hope to give to her fans, was the one Hunter took the most time to answer. Her response? “I know that this past year has been a very difficult year for all of us, and especially our mental health, being locked inside and not getting to see friends and family. Hopefully, it is coming to an end. Get vaccinated. Stay safe. Keep others protected and let’s just hope 2021 will be a million times better than what we could have dreamed 2020 would have been.”

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS. Episodes are also available online on Paramount+. Follow Hunter King on Twitter and Instagram.

Dee Flintakis
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.

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