Young and the Restless' Michelle Stafford: Still Keeping Phyllis Crazy After All These Years
It's been 16 years since Michelle Stafford hit The Young and the Restless as scheming rock groupie Phyllis Summers — and two Emmys and eight nominations later she's still playing it bad to the bone. These days Phyllis is a hotshot magazine editor with a poisonous blog that's pissing off half of Genoa City. And she's always on the lookout for smarm! On November 29, the flame-haired nutjob will head to New Orleans to get the scoop on Adam Newman (Michael Muhney) after the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Skye (Laura Stone). While there, Phyllis also finds her ex-husband Nick (Joshua Morrow) and archenemy Sharon (Sharon Case). Y&R shot four episodes in the Big Easy (they begin airing November 24) with locations ranging from the French Quarter to the allegedly haunted Lafayette Cemetery. TV Guide Magazine had a chat with Stafford who was — as always — funny, spicy and testy as hell. The big surprise? She's actually okay about becoming a TV granny!
TV Guide Magazine: What is it with Phyllis? When Y&R went on location to Paris, she coincidentally popped up there and caught Sharon and Nick kissing. Now she's coincidentally in New Orleans to stalk them some more.
Stafford: Obviously they can't live without the Stafford and they've gotta bring me on these location shoots! [Laughs] Hey, it's a free trip. And I'm not one to turn down a free trip.
TV Guide Magazine: So give us some New Orleans story scoop, babe!
Stafford: Phyllis thinks Adam killed Skye so she follows him to New Orleans to get the story. But then it gets juicier. Phyllis runs into Nick and Adam and finds out that Sharon is also down there, so this gets Phyllis wondering if maybe Sharon is in on the murder, too.
TV Guide Magazine: Can't the gal give it a rest? Why does Phyllis remain so obsessed with Sharon?
Stafford: She is not obsessed with Sharon!
TV Guide Magazine: Oh, stop! Of course she is.
Stafford: No. I don't really see it like that.
TV Guide Magazine: You're kidding, right? What show are you watching?
Stafford: I never play it like Phyllis is obsessed with Sharon. They'll certainly write it that way, but I don't play it that way because it's ridiculous. Sharon went after Nick and he keeps going after Sharon but Phyllis has to let all that go because she has to get some self-respect here. She can't keep hanging on to all that stuff. It makes her upset but it doesn't make her obsessed with Sharon.
TV Guide Magazine: How come Phyllis conveniently forgets she bedded Nick when he was married to Sharon?
Stafford: Logan, don't we all? As human beings we conveniently forget what we do to others and look instead at what's been done to us. That's pretty much true of every character on Y&R. Anyway, Phyllis didn't really go after Nick. She fell in love with him.
TV Guide Magazine: Jeez, you're so touchy about this stuff.
Stafford: Hey, I can tear it apart and think that all these people in Genoa City need to get a life, but as the character I have to work it out and make it make sense because I gotta play it every day. As Michelle, I feel the same way as the viewers — that these two broads are crazy!
TV Guide Magazine: Why does Phyllis think it's perfectly kosher to use her magazine and website when she's got a personal ax to grind? She'd never get away with that in the real world.
Stafford: Oh, my gosh, that so goes on with magazines and news shows all the time, Logan! There's definitely an agenda with the news that's intended to sway the opinions of people.
TV Guide Magazine: Sure, when it comes to politics or religion, but not some personal squabble between two conniving dames who are after the same man.
Stafford: It does happen in news and journalism.
TV Guide Magazine: I can see I'm not going to win this one. You're so interestingly argumentative today.
Stafford: Because I do think it happens in the real world but people are more savvy and covert about it. [Laughs] Phyllis needs to work on that.
TV Guide Magazine: Still, you gotta hand it to her — she does have balls! Most evil bloggers sit home gaining weight in their pajamas while they attack the world. Phyllis is out and proud and walking among the very people she's assaulting.
Stafford: And maybe she's going to pay for that. You never want to win too long in a storyline. You eventually want to lose. Phyllis is sort of winning right now, meaning she's writing these stories and there aren't a lot of ramifications. Eventually, it's got to come back to bite her. That's my guess. And when it does I hope that it's something good — big and good! .
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of kids, let's discuss that recent situation where Phyllis wrote a nasty-ass exposé on Diane and it really upset Diane's young son, Kyle. Phyllis didn't give a crap about the poor kid's feelings. It was pretty cold.
Stafford: God bless the writers because they actually had Phyllis feeling bad but I wouldn't play it like that. The writers are always trying to preserve any sort of goodness and decency that she has. But I'm like, wait a second! Let's not forget that Diane worked very hard to put Phyllis in prison. Diane burned down the pool house and threw her body under a car. She did all this to get Jack! It was a two-year storyline! When someone who has done all that suddenly comes back to town saying. "Oh, hi! I've changed!" you don't just take it. You're, like, fuhgeddaboudit! So, no, Phyllis wasn't sorry about the effect that article had on Diane's kid. He should know his mother is a horrible person. Phyllis is trying to do something right for this town — at least that's the way she's worked it out in her mind.
TV Guide Magazine: Lately I've seen people on the fan boards and podcasts noting that this current Phyllis — the toxic blogger — is much more like the old Phyllis, the one who tried to run down Paul and Cricket with her car back in the '90s. I'm guessing you're going to disagree with that.
Stafford: To be honest, it kind of annoys me. Phyllis has never stopped being Phyllis. She's been variations of Phyllis — she is broken, she does bad things, she is confidant, she is fiery and strong and then incredibly weak. That's all her. You know what I'm saying?
TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, except we watched as the writers whitewashed your character, putting her into a period of domesticity and mommyhood where she became rather tame. She turned into a bit of a heroine, and during Diane's reign of terror, a victim. I think the fans are just happy to finally have their bitch goddess back.
Stafford: You can't be a bad girl for too long or you're written off the show. To preserve the character you have to make her a heroine sometimes, you know? But I don't think Phyllis was ever really a heroine except for a short time when she was pregnant. She wanted to find Prince Charming. She wanted love, just like most women. I was cool with all of that. I thought it was real. I understand that people want to see a strong Phyllis. Maybe more of that is coming up, but if I'm too bad I won't stay on the show for long. [Laughs] But then I'll just go to another show, right?
TV Guide Magazine: General Hospital is waiting! You're now a mom in real life, and doing it solo. How has that changed you?
Stafford: I can't talk to certain people about my daughter without getting weepy, and it's just embarrassing. I'm, like, Michelle, get a f--king grip! The amount of work it takes being a single mom — the fact that your entire world now revolves around this one person — really changes you. And to not have any more emphasis or attention on your own self is really sort of startling. I now understand the universal importance of parenthood as a job, a job and a responsibility to do right by your kid. I think my kid is spectacular. But I haven't turned into Mother Teresa who loves all kids, even bratty ones who drip ice cream on my shoe. That's a horrible quote, but I never want to turn into that person.
TV Guide Magazine: But I get you. We're now in a world where everyone thinks they gave birth to the next baby Jesus.
Stafford: We are, aren't we? I love that you said that. My own mom is like, "Oh, my God, what's with all this pregnancy s--t? Everybody makes it such a big deal. Back in my day we had the baby and we got on with it."
TV Guide Magazine: Now it's considered a superhuman accomplishment. And we can watch all those rich actresses with hired help on The Talk yapping about how hard it is to be a mom!
Stafford: Some of my girlfriends try to throw that on me. They say "Oh, my husband doesn't help." And I say, "You have got to be f--king kidding me! At least you have a husband! Even if he just sits there watching TV holding a beer with one hand and j--king off with the other one, he's still another body in the shop who can watch your kid while you take a shower!"
TV Guide Magazine: And now Phyllis is going to be a grandmother! How are you adjusting to that recent plot development?
Stafford: One day someone in our wardrobe department, who gets all the story stuff in advance, said, "You're not gonna like this! You're not gonna like this! You're gonna be a grandma!" People think I should be horrified, but I think it's awesome! It humanizes Phyllis and balances out all that funky s--t she does. And I just love that! Most women who are at an age where they can become a grandmother do have an issue with that. So even though they're not really writing it that way for me, I keep playing it as if Phyllis has a big problem with it. I think it's much more realistic. And it's definitely Phyllis.
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