Soaps.com Chats With The Young And The Restless’ Christian LeBlanc!
Christian LeBlanc (CBS)
“What’s been wonderful with what they did with Michael, who I think is the best constructed character on the show, is that they didn’t let any of the past go away. Nor do I let it go, either.”
Soaps.com recently sat down to chat with The Young and the Restless star Christian LeBlanc, who plays prominent Genoa City lawyer Michael Baldwin. Read on as Christian gets candid about the possibility of a Michael Baldwin/Vance Abrams showdown, the current status of the Fenmore-Baldwin marriage, Michael’s evolution from rapist to overall good guy, and much more!
Soaps.com: Michael Baldwin has been the number one lawyer in Genoa City for quite some time, but now we’ve been introduced to hot shot attorney Vance Abrams, played by Eric Roberts. Any chance of a Baldwin/Abrams showdown in the near future?
Christian: Yes! I think so. There was a point for Michael where the next step would have been him defending himself against himself. But now we’ve got Rafe [Yani Gellman] and we’ve got Heather [Eden Riegel]. We’ve got more lawyers, which for Michael, to be the hot shot, it’s so much more interesting to be threatened. We do know that in the few scenes I’ve had together with Eric, Michael and Vance know each other by reputation. It’ll be very interesting if there is a showdown. I keep hearing whispers of it but I don’t know for sure.
Soaps.com: I think it’d be great to see more of Christian LeBlanc and Eric Roberts together onscreen.
Christian: This is Eric Roberts! This is “Pope of Greenwich Village.” Eric is the one man I stalk on set without saying anything. Thank God he’s not a very fearful person. [chuckles] His beautiful wife is on set all the time and I just watch him. This is a brilliant, brilliant actor. If I get to go up against him in court or in any kind of high-stakes scene, I would be so thrilled. You want to play tennis with people who are better than you, and they make you good. Michelle Stafford does that to me all the time with Phyllis’ character. I’m lucky on the show to have people who are top notch. A real actor wants to improve and get better, to get challenged and to grow. Then they throw someone like Eric Roberts in the mix! If the writers don’t put us in a big thing, you don’t think I’m dropping notes into their mailboxes like, “Hey, wouldn’t this be great?” I’ve heard rumors and it would be amazing, but I don’t have anything in script form yet.
Soaps.com: I could see this leading to a fourth Emmy for Mr. Christian LeBlanc…
Christian: Oh, I am not above using Eric Roberts to claw my way to the middle! [laughs] Hey, the Emmys are about putting your best work forward. My others come from me like a remora, glomming onto Greg Rikaart’s [Kevin Fisher] performance, and then onto Tracey [Bregman, Lauren Fenmore]. I have the hot wife on the show. I’m not above using any of these people to make a great scene. And the Christmas show? It was great. I remember a reviewer saying, “All he really did was walk into rooms and react.” Well, that’s the definition of acting. I got to walk into rooms on that particular show, with Michelle Stafford doing these amazing characters, and Tracey doing old Lauren from back in the day when she was such a bitch! It was a really tweaked show where all I did was pass from one scene to the next and react to these really riveting performances, partly because I’d never seen these characters in this light. I mean, Greg in the insane asylum? C’mon! Give me the Emmy. Just give it to me, for God’s sake! [laughs]
Soaps.com: Looking at the way Lauren’s been dealing with Jill lately, it seems that the witchiness has resurfaced. Family wise, there hasn’t been a lot going on between Michael and Lauren. How do you feel Michael sees his current marriage situation?
Christian: There’s stuff coming up where Tracey gets back some of this kind of craziness, thank God. Nobody wants to be sweet, who wants to watch that forever? And it’s legitimate because she was that character. What’s great about Lauren and Michael is that they’ve never let their horrible pasts go away completely. That’s part of why they’re a couple, because they understand each other like no one else would understand ex-homicidal maniacs. [laughs] It’s interesting. The family dynamic comes back in a little while, and I do miss that. There’s nothing like sitting down at dinner with the Baldwin-Fishers. There’s some of it coming back, around the holidays. There’s stuff that comes up where Lauren really forces the people around her to deal with what she’s going through. We get to make these scenes where you get a real marriage. You don’t get the “sweetie” and “pumpkin” all the time. You can’t be in love unless you see love at risk. That’s what makes a love affair. It’s what you surmount together, especially as adults. That’s the great thing with Lauren and Michael, is that they were adults who fell in love, knowing all the kinds of things they were getting into.
Soaps.com: On a personal level, are you enjoying the slowdown in your storyline ever since the whole Lauren/clone piece ended?
Christian: I always pitch to the show the spinoff series, “Michael Baldwin’s Young and the Restless.” That’s pretty much when they usher me out of the third floor at CBS. [laughs] More is better, as far as I’m concerned, and most is best. But it’s also a cyclical thing. Nobody could maintain five days a week, or you’d go crazy. There’s plenty to fill in the in-between times. It’s funny, because it doesn’t feel like I’ve had much of a vacation! But it’s the nature of an actor to want more. I want more storyline, I want more of everything. I’m killing to work with Maura [West, Diane Jenkins] and Billy Miller [Billy Abbott], and Liz Hendrickson [Chloe Mitchell]. The one great thing about being a lawyer is it’s portable. I get to do other people’s storylines while they’re having their emotional breakdowns. I enjoy doing other things. I have a gallery show coming up, and publishing. All this other stuff coming up, and I love that. But I’m an actor first, and I’m a greedy one, too. I want more. I want more storyline. Get out of my way. Who are you? [chuckles]
Soaps.com: Let's take a quick look at what's ahead for Michael Baldwin. Is he going to get involved with Kevin and his illegal activities?
Christian: Oh God, yeah. You know that's going to happen. That's his brother, and it's one of the best things about how they've constructed Michael's character. There's a constant guilt-irritation-anger relationship between Kevin and Michael, on Michael's part. It's his Achilles heel and it causes stress with Lauren. It causes stress with everyone. The same goes with Gloria [Judith Chapman].
Soaps.com: Quite the interesting family dynamic there, that's for sure.
Christian: And it's a fun one!
Soaps.com: Let's take a look back at the history of Michael Baldwin. You've brought the character full circle, from number one bad guy to a top hero in Genoa City. As the actor who portrays Michael, fill us in on how you did that.
Christian: If you're going to pay anyone in Daytime, or in any entertainment, pay the writers. Pay the writers, my friend. Pay them with both hands. [chuckles] What's been wonderful with what they did with Michael, who I think is the best constructed character on the show, is that they didn't let any of the past go away. Nor do I let it go, either. The combination of the two is great. You still have a character who does the wrong things for the right reasons, and the right things for the wrong reasons. A man with a temper, whose brother affects him in a certain way because of their history. Let's remember he started out as Michael with no family.
Soaps.com: The character has come a long way since then, no doubt about it.
Christian: Michael would repeatedly say he was alone in the world. Then the writers gave him a brother! I had to figure out as an actor why Michael would have lied about being alone. The writers gave me a perfect reason, I didn't even talk to them about it. They came up with my mother and the abuse storyline. Why would the early Michael treat women the way he did? Well, if you lived in a violent home with a mother who was ineffectual, how would that relate to your attitude toward women?
Soaps.com: Which, I guess, translates directly to the sexual harassment storyline?
Christian: Yes, then you have the sexual harassment storyline. You know, Michael didn't sexually harass Christine [Lauralee Bell] just because he had a bad day! And why does Michael love the law so much? Was it because he was raised in this home where he desperately wanted some kind of black and white with no grey area? Is that why he loves the law? Because it's his anchor and there's no guessing?
Soaps.com: Interesting point! I've never thought of it that way.
Christian: You had a mother and father and abuse and a brother, who together blurred all these lines of who you love and who you hate. And then you give him Lauren who makes him better, but she was an awful person, too. The engagement took a long time. They got married and they earned the marriage. The writers didn't rush anything. They gave the characters and the fans the tools to believe in it. Then you get Fenmore, and the trouble around having the baby as an older couple, plus being a responsible father. Are you going to live up to this? And what permeates the whole thing is Michael's love of the law. It's great because I have Michael being good at home and then in the court I can be whoever Michael needs to be. The writers give me situations where I can show all these different sides. It still amazes me that they gave him an abusive home, but first they made him a sexually harassing perverted lawyer. But the fans aren't going to watch an evil guy unless there's something there that they want to watch, something that's likeable. They gave me that.
Soaps.com: It's been awesome to watch the way Michael's character has unfolded, piece by piece.
Christian: You're given years to build characters, in real time. If the writers are smart, they layer it so that the audience sees these changes as they would in their own lives. What a good actor should have is the gift to make someone understand a situation they've never experienced. Yet somehow you communicate, beyond words, the understanding of it. If you find the honest part of it, and have the good writers, and the stars are aligned, you can make all that happen. Daytime is a very specific format that allows for it.
Soaps.com: Good Michael or evil Michael? Which one's more fun to play?
Christian: I think even from the very beginning I didn't play just one. I remember when Michael was clawing through the wall to get to Christine. I remember Michael just curling up and crying. It was sad! I was in love. That's all it was to Michael, that's what he understood it to be. What a horrible feeling, because love is the opposite of everything Michael was, which was controlling and demeaning to women. But if you're in love, you're vulnerable, and there's nothing worse for that kind of character than to be open. So it was never all of one or the other for Michael Baldwin. An evil character doesn't believe he's evil, he believes he's doing the right thing. I wasn't supposed to be a long-term character, but they gave me all these things to use and that's what's given me longevity.
- Mario Rocchetta