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Credit: James DePietro; Aaron Montgomer/JPI; Brian Lowe/JPI

Plus, look back at the sometimes terrifying life of Genoa City’s top legal eagle.

Even before he’d shot his very first episode of The Young and the Restless, Christian Jules LeBlanc was bonding with the cast members into whose world Michael Baldwin would soon be stepping. “My first day on set wasn’t to tape a show, it was for a cast photo,” he tells Soaps.com. “And I was, as I tend to be, talkative.”

It’s worth stopping here to note that despite this interview being about the fact that LeBlanc is celebrating his 30th anniversary on the soap (more on that in a bit), we didn’t actually get around to that topic until 45 minutes into our chat. So when the actor refers to himself as talkative, it is both an understatement and part of what makes him a joy to interact with. There is no conversational tributary down which he won’t go, and the detours made along the way inevitably involve stories that range from charming to guffaw-inducing.

But back to the day in question. “I was zipping around introducing myself to everyone, whether they wanted to meet me or not,” the As the World Turns vet recalls with a laugh. “I introduced myself to the cafeteria lady and probably to people who didn’t even work there. And as they’re organizing us to take the big group shot, I hear Lauralee Bell (Christine) saying from three rows up, ‘That boy talks a lot!’ And I thought to myself, ‘They get me. They really, really get me!'”

Past Imperfect

Audiences, too, would really, really get LeBlanc… as evidenced by the fact that despite doing some pretty awful stuff during his early years on the show, Michael would eventually become one of Genoa City’s most beloved characters. “I’d always played the sort of quirky guy,” the actor says, “and here I was playing some pretty dark material.”

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Above: Histories don’t come any more complex than that of Michael and Christine.

Credit: Jesse Grant/JPI

Longtime viewers will recall that at one point, Michael became so obsessed with Christine that he rented the apartment next door, broke through the connecting wall and attacked her! “I had never done anything like this,” LeBlanc remembers. “I was being violent toward a woman. And thank God for Lauralee, because if she’d looked at all uncomfortable as we were playing this extremely difficult material, I would have crumbled. But there was not a moment that she was not game, and she went there with me every step of the way. As a result, this show has taught me that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined when it comes to acting.”

Of course, as Michael spiraled out of control, LeBlanc read the writing on the wall and suspected his time on the show might be coming to an end. “Crazy doesn’t tend to last too long,” he says. “Michael had grown a beard in prison, and because the Emmys were coming up, I asked if I could shave it off. They were like, ‘Oh, yeah, not a problem,’ and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, guess it might be time to look for a new job!'”

Even as Michael was being ushered off the canvas, co-creators William J. and Lee Phillip Bell assured LeBlanc he’d be back. “I was the most loved fired person, and they promised they would be calling me back,” he recalls. And though he assumed that was just the Bells being kind, sure enough, Michael was given therapy and a second chance at life.

What Comes Next?

Nevertheless, to this day, the character carries within him that darkness which must remain under control. “Michael relies heavily on Lauren to keep that part of him in check,” muses LeBlanc. “But that part of him can be poked, especially if something poses a threat to the people he loves, whether it’s Lauren or Fenmore or Kevin… even Gloria! I often think about Michael’s past and the people he hurt. Could there be repercussions to that behavior? There’s a history of women he abused during his early days, secretaries at the law firm, for example. Might there be children out there from those relationships?

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Above: “Lauren literally saved Michael,” insists LeBlanc. “Without her, he would probably be in a very bad place.”

Credit: ©Aaron Montgomery/jpistudios.com

“I think it would be interesting to see how the mistakes from his past could impact or even threaten to destroy his future,” he adds. “How would he cope? How would Lauren cope? How would they, as a couple, face the challenge?”

While we’re not entirely sure what’s next for Michael, LeBlanc teases that a special episode celebrating his time on the show, set to air in January, is “something of a turning point. They wanted to surprise me with it and, smartly, use it to advance story.”

The big question? In what direction will Michael be moving! While we await the answer, fans can explore other aspects of the actor’s many talents by checking out his newly-opened online art store or, if they happen to reside in New York City, see him take on what he calls “the bucket-list role of a lifetime” as Big Daddy in the iconic Tennessee Williams play Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

Vive la Différence

“I guess I missed my chance to play Brick,” he jokes of Big Daddy’s son, the role made famous by Paul Newman in the 1958 big-screen adaptation. “I admit, I’m terrified of this part. I’m at that euphoric/terrified stage where I don’t leave the apartment except to run art people have purchased to the post office. I’m like Santa in that regard, making sure people get their gifts in time!”

Meanwhile, contemplating his 30th anniversary with Young & Restless has left him contemplating just how far he’s come. “I always wanted to be a character actor,” he reflects. “I remember someone telling me that of all the actors on the show, I’m the least like the character I play, and I thought, ‘Thank God!'” As to how they’re different, he says that Michael is “meaner and less patient that I am.”

But there is, he says, one thing they definitely have in common, at least based on the script for the upcoming Michael-centric episode. “I talk a lot,” he laughs. “In the script and in life!”

As we wait to see what the future holds for Michael, why not flip through the gallery below in which we look at some of his many past exploits, both good and bad. Then hit the comments section with your thoughts on the character and what storyline you’d love to see for him.