Tracey E. Bregman mashup lauren Y&R

“What on earth did I do?”

Longtime viewers of The Young and the Restless will recall that during Tracey E. Bregman’s early years on the show, her character was a bit of a… well, rhymes-with-witch. However, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, Lauren’s original trajectory was completely different until everything changed in an instant.

“I was originally brought on to be the best friend of Beth Maitland’s Traci,” recalls the Emmy winner, who on January 20 celebrated her 39th anniversary with the soap. “I had all these pages of dialogue with her. There was a big monologue about losing my virginity, and the original thought was that I wold be playing a good girl.”

So what changed? “A few months later, I was doing a scene with Beth,” recalls Bregman. “We were at the coffeehouse, and as I was exiting, I turned back to look at Beth. Bill Bell later told me that in that moment, Lauren Fenmore, the original mean girl, was born.”

What did the show’s late co-creator see in that brief non-verbal exchange? “I don’t know!” Bregman tells Soaps.com with a laugh. “Beth and I have always been very, very close. But that was a real turning point.”

Fortunately, Lauren wasn’t evil so much as she was bratty. “They made her a character you love to hate as opposed to one the viewers would flat-out hate,” Bregman says. “It was a delicious naughtiness, although it was always difficult when Lauren was being awful to Traci. I hated having to say mean things to Beth, because she’s just the sweetest person on the planet!”

YR lauren traci apology maitland bregman

Above: Like fans, Bregman loved the scenes in which an adult Lauren apologized to Traci for having been awful to her when they were teens.

Credit: Howard Wise/JPI

More: Christian LeBlanc on the Lauren twist that would break Michael

While she never could have imagined that the role would last as long as it has, Bregman remains forever indebted to Bell for creating not only Lauren but the environment in which the cast works. “I remember him encouraging me to bring my son to work when he was a baby,” she recalls. “He said, ‘If your son is here, you’ll be able to keep your mind on work rather than worrying if he’s safe. You’ll know he’s being taken care of.’ I don’t know of any other employers who were saying that back then.”

As a result, Bregman was able to make two dreams come true at once. “This job allowed me to do the two things I had always wanted to do: act and be a mother,” she says. “That probably wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else.”

While Lauren’s had almost as many lovers as storylines over the years, two men stand out as having had the biggest influence on the character: Paul and MIchael. “She hadn’t really lived enough of her own life to be a good wife to Paul,” reflects Bregman. “Whereas with Michael, she didn’t see him coming, but she was in a place in her life where she was ready for the kind of commitment that they’ve had ever since.”

Now, join us in helping Bregman celebrate her anniversary by flipping through the photo album below in which we relive some of Lauren’s best — and worst — moments. Then, hit the comments section to share your favorite Lauren-related memory!