Interview: Y&R Head Writers Reveal Real Reason for Phyllis Recast
Image: Craig Sjodin/ABC, Howard Wise/JPI
Josh Griffith and Anthony Morina explain major changes at Young and the Restless.
Soaps.com readers were stunned when news broke that Michelle Stafford was returning to Young and the Restless as Phyllis Summers Newman. Recently the head writer of Young and the Restless, Josh Griffith, and Executive Producer, Anthony Morina, spoke to Soap Opera Digest about the big changes being made at the CBS soap opera. Morina detailed that over the past year the audience felt disconnected from the drama. “I think one thing that the audience felt was, a lot of things have changed, good or bad, but it didn’t feel like their show. So our first intent is, ‘How do we get back closer to that feeling?’ The music, how we edit, how we shoot, how we costume them [the actors]. It’s a big process. It takes time. We’re slowly getting there.” Griffith chimed in that the story was also important. “Getting back to the storytelling that has made the show so popular, for so long, which is very emotional, very character-driven, with iconic faces that the people know.”
One of the first major changes implemented was the return of Adam Newman, now played by Mark Grossman. It was the network execs who asked that the character be brought back to the show, and Griffith who created the character was happy to comply. “By doing that, it just opened so many possibilities and it affected so many people. So I was able to go in with the story and say, ‘He’s gonna come back this way and this is what’s gonna happen.'” The network loved Griffith’s ideas. The network also wanted to see a return to, “Very deep, emotional storytelling,” according to Griffith. “Slow things down a little bit, let it breathe, have time to play all the aspects of it.” Morina describes his vision for the show moving forward as, “I want it to be rich. I want it to not be slow, but slow enough where people can feel something. I want it to be emotional. I want it to be somewhat unpredictable. I want it to be real people with real problems.” Griffith adds, “The strength of this show is that there is such a rich history of character and story that you don’t need to go to a new place, you can draw from that and give something new.
Another major change has been replacing Gina Tognoni as Phyllis with the originator of the role, Michelle Stafford. The decision, according to Griffith, was, “Just part of the bigger picture of us saying we need to try to get the show back to that iconic sensibility.” Morina is the one who contacted Stafford. “I called Michelle up. She wasn’t really looking. She was really happy at General Hospital. I was explaining what we’re trying to do and why. But I take full responsibility for not giving up on pursuing that. I just know where we want to go, and really where the network wants to go.” Griffith adds, “And then by us getting her excited about it, it was sort of like, ‘Well, you know this could actually fall into place.'” They admitted that they loved Tognoni, but bringing Stafford back was part of the bigger picture. “We have to re-create the core sensibility of the show. And Michelle is iconic as Phyllis,” Griffith stated.
They also have cast All My Children veteran Eva La Rue as Celeste Rosales, mother of Lola, Arturo and Rey. “Eva will play the fun, fresh, invigorating mom of Lola and Rey, in town to meet Kyle and to help Lola prepare for her wedding. Her attempts to push her way back into Lola’s life – and to take control of planning the big event – will put a strain on her relationship with her daughter, and will test Kyle and Lola’s relationship and bond,” Griffith previews. Both Griffith and Morina hope the fans appreciate the changes being made. “We love you. We hope we do right by you,” says Griffith to the fans. “I hope they like what we’re doing and where we’re going. It does mean something. You feel like you do affect people’s lives, in a way, so that’s nice,” adds Morina.