Young & Restless’ Michelle Stafford Waxes Nostalgic About Her Primetime Past With General Hospital’s Finola Hughes: Playing ‘Nice,’ Learning Her Future Daughter’s Name and Being Done In by Angry Animals
Matthew Olsen, ABC
It wasn’t even Throwback Thursday, but Soaps.com inadvertently invited Phyllis’ portrayer to do the time warp on June 9.
When we shared Michelle Stafford and Finola Hughes’ Best Friends Day tributes to one another, we included in the article a photo that was a real blast from the past: a portrait of the cast of Pacific Palisades, the short-lived primetime soap on which they starred. When Stafford noticed, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I just saw this!” she exclaimed. “OMG! I love this! Thanks, Soaps.com, for posting. This was… an Aaron Spelling show I did… oh Lord… when? In the late ’90s. Yeah, ’98.
“I played Joanna,” the Young & Restless Emmy winner continued, “and Finola played Kate. Kate and Joanna were best friends. Kate went nuts by the end of our show. My character was a sweet hometown girl.”
Come again? Stafford as a vanilla Ms. Nice Gal? She was surprised, too. “I had never ever been cast as a character like that. Truth be told, I had kinda a hard time with it,” she admitted. “I had to let go of being ‘the bad girl’ as I had always been cast that way.”
Phyllis’ portrayer loved working for the late, great Spelling, whose hit list includes everything from Charlie’s Angels to Melrose Place to Dynasty. “He was a genius,” she said. “I remember he had a real thing about hair. He was very specific about how he wanted your hair. He wanted mine to be a certain color of red. He had to approve it. You weren’t allowed to change it.
“One of the actors — not in this picture — decided to cut his hair in the middle of our season,” she added. “I remember him saying, ‘[Bleep Spelling]; if he wants to fire me, he can fire me.’ That actor was gone the next week… That’s Hollywood, folks.”
All told, Stafford adored her time on Pacific Palisades: her boss, her castmates… Heck, she even fell in love with the name she’d eventually give her firstborn. “The beautiful girl to my left, Natalia Cigliuti, played my daughter. It was the first time I had heard the name Natalia,” said Stafford. “I thought it was the most beautiful name I had ever heard. I stole it for my real daughter. Or I guess I just borrowed. Thanks, Natalia!”
Looking back, if Stafford has any regrets about Pacific Palisades, it’s only that “I didn’t appreciate being on the show as much as I should have.” Well, that and the way it ended. “I remember Fox took us off the air after our fifth week because our ratings were slagging. They replaced us with a show called When Good Animals Go Bad.
“They got better ratings than us,” she added. “I knew it was over… What a wonderful experience, though. So wonderful!”
And hey, its cancellation eventually led Stafford back to her role of Phyllis and Hughes back to her role of Anna. Care to contemplate other soap MVPs who slayed in primetime, then returned to soaps? The below photo gallery does just that.