use this michelle stafford phyllis gallery bjoern kommerell
Credit: Bjoern Kommerell

“I don’t shy away from being bad.” And why would anyone who’s so good at it?

Believe it or not, when Michelle Stafford first joined The Young and the Restless as Phyllis, she didn’t have all that much to do. “I did a handful of shows,” she recalls of her October 18, 1994, debut, “and then I wasn’t on for like two months. Then they really decided to start giving Phyllis more to do.”

That, of course, is something of an understatement. Because in the 27 years since, Phyllis has become one of daytime’s best-known — some might say notorious — characters. And while others have walked a mile or two in her shoes, it is Stafford whom most fans think of when conjuring up images of the combustable Genoa City redhead. What does the actress see as the key to the character’s longevity? “She has evolved over time,” says the two-time Emmy winner, “but she still has the fire in her belly. She makes a lot of mistakes, but she doesn’t have a lot of room for self-exploration.

“At the end of the day,” she adds. “Phyllis thinks that she’s the bomb!”

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While that can sometimes result in her doing things that the rest of us wouldn’t dare, Stafford absolutely loves that aspect of the character. “I don’t shy away from being bad,” she laughs, noting that she’d much rather play a complicated character than your typical soap-opera romantic lead. In fact, “I try and push away from that. I think that type of storyline can be — emphasis on can be — a little bit boring. It’s not really the kind of thing I love sinking my teeth into.”

Instead, she tries to balance all sides of Phyllis’ personality. “If I’m playing a romantic-lead type story, I try to put a little bit of outrageous into it,” she says. “And if she’s being a bit more of a lunatic, I try and play some vulnerability as well so that people understand why.”

One thing Stafford has learned to avoid over the years? Bringing Phyllis home with her at the end of the day. “I’ve done that in the past,” she reflects, “when I’ve been in a story that’s hard to shake off. And you have to separate yourself, especially now that I have kids. It’s important to me that I be there for them, 100 percent. Especially after everything that’s gone on in the past year.”

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Like the rest of us, Stafford has found herself having to rise to the challenges presented by our current crisis, something she reflected on recently while working with co-stars Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki), Peter Bergman (Jack) and Joshua Morrow (Nick). “I said, ‘We went through a pandemic together. That’s a big deal. When we’re old and wearing a diaper while rocking on the porch, we’ll remember this.’

“Melody said, ‘If you’re old enough to be wearing a diaper, you probably won’t remember anything,'” laughs Stafford. “And you know what? Maybe that won’t be the worst thing ever!”

Now, in honor of the day Stafford introduced to Genoa City the one and only Phyllis, join us in flashing back on just some of the antics which have unfolded around the spitfire via the below gallery. Then hit the comments section with your all-time favorite Phyllis moment while we wait to see what she’ll get up to next!