Christel Khalil, Daniel GoddardThe Young and the Restless

Image: Howard Wise/JPI

Christel Khalil talks life after going off contract at Young and the Restless contract change, and her thoughts on the current story.

Christel Khalil has been gracing soaps viewers’ screens as Lily Winters Ashby on The Young and the Restless since 2002. In 2018, she moved from a contract player on the soap to recurring status came as a shock to longtime Young and the Restless fans. The good news is that Khalil has not only made appearances as Lily since then, she’s also been jumping into the role of Iris, a character in the novel Traci Abbott (Beth Maitland) is writing. Khalil explained to Soaps.com that “it’s been nice to play a different character” who she describes as a “bit cheekier” than Lily.

Even though she doesn’t know when fans will see Lily or Iris next on Young and the Restless, she offered up her opinions on Traci’s attraction to Cane (Daniel Goddard). She has an unexpected perspective of the duo.

“I’m all for it. I think there are so many times [in soaps] when you have an older man and a younger woman. What’s funny is that they’re actually closer in age than Daniel and I were. When our characters started getting together, I was 19 and he was 35,” said Khalil. “It’s funny how when it’s an older man, we don’t think anything of it. When it’s an older woman, we are so weirded out by it. So I actually love it. I think it’s great.”

Her thoughts on Lily’s decision to divorce Cane also fall along similar lines since the characters had so many layers of issues leading up to their break up.

“I think it was a valid reason. There’s been a lot of infidelity in their relationship. This was at a point where she’s in prison, locked up, away from her family and kids and everything she knows,” she shared. “So it’s a very vulnerable place to be in and then to have Cain do something like that, I think it made a lot of sense to get divorced.”

That begs the question as to whether Lily would ever forgive Cane in the long run after all of the turmoil.

You know, it’s a soap opera,” she laughed. “I’m sure there will be some sort of forgiveness.”

One thing that Khalil still thinks about is the passing of Kristoff St. John. He made such an impact on her on-screen as her dad, Neil Winters, but the two were also close off-screen. The last four months have been a roller coaster for Khalil and the cast.

“The funeral scenes and the reading of his will was such a weird, weird thing. It was very therapeutic, but at the same time, it also prolonged everything. You’re not just mourning Kristoff, you’re also mourning Neil,” Khalil somberly explained. “Now that all that’s over, I’ve had some random moments at home where it’ll hit me again and it’ll all flood back. It definitely has settled out more just because there isn’t this constant rehashing of it.”

While riding the wave of grief, Khalil appreciated the tribute Young and the Restless put together to honor St. John’s life and work on the show. She also has had time to reflect on the impact he had on her life over the years.

“Seeing that tribute and how much he’s impacted people with the interaction we had with him — it really was meaningful. It really opened my eyes to wanting to be more aware of how I’m being to people and how I’m coming across,” she revealed. “As an actor, as soon as the word action came out, he was just in it. That’s really inspiring to watch. I think that’s the legacy he’ll leave.”

Khalil is now in Philadelphia, where she begins shooting a new film, We Need to Talk, starring James Maslow and Emily Bett Rickards, this week. She’s excited to take on a new challenge and work those comedic acting chops.

“It’s a movie about a YouTube gamer and I play his girlfriend. Before I leave for work one morning I tell him that we need to talk. He goes into this tailspin for the day worrying about what I want to talk to him about. Am I breaking up with him? Am I pregnant or do I have an STD?” she laughed. “I’m excited because I haven’t done a comedy, so I’m really excited to be able to flex that muscle a little bit.”

Khalil is continuing to look at projects that are “very real about real life” where there’s “not a lot of glitz and glamor around it” because she knows she is fortunate to work for Young and the Restless, which offers her the flexibility to come and go from the show.

“It’s been very scary not to be under contract and have a steady job, but it’s also been nice because I do have more freedom. I own my own time,” she summed up. “I’m able to do what I want when I want, which obviously is great.”