Perfect timing! Former All My Children and As the World Turns sensation Cady McClain has joined CBS's The Young and the Restless as grieving mom/town pariah Kelly Andrews, just as she's published her brutally frank memoir, Murdering My Youth (available on amazon.com and cadymcclain.com). The two-time Emmy winner tells TV Guide Magazine all about it.
TV Guide Magazine: What a year it's been for you and it's only April! You got married to Jon Lindstrom, the short film you directed, Flip Fantasia, is a hit on the festival circuit, and you join Y&R April 16, just a day after your book goes on sale. Yikes!
McClain: [Laughs] I got a lot going on! And this Y&R job came totally out of nowhere. I'm one of those über-realistic people who knows this business only gets harder, especially for women. I wasn't expecting, or even thinking about, getting back into daytime.
TV Guide Magazine: How does it feel to land on a healthy, high-rated soap after your last two died such dismal deaths? In fact, AMC died twice!
McClain: It's the most amazing thing. Y&R had its 41st anniversary a couple of weeks ago with the big press party and the cake-cutting and a lot of celebration — something I never thought I would experience again. [Laughs] I thought the party was over for me!
TV Guide Magazine: Are you still stinging from the failure of Prospect Park's reboot of AMC?
McClain: When you watch a beloved show come to an end and see the toll it takes on everyone with the production and the fans who have loved and supported it, it's like the death of an entire family. The experience with Prospect Park was nightmarish and heartbreaking. I was a big supporter of the show and what they tried to do with it online, but the powers that be who held the purse strings did not have their plan in place. It was all rather sad. [Laughs] Now there is nothing to bitch about! I'm, like, "You people at Y&R don't even know how bad it can get!" Every time I drive on the lot at CBS, I say a big prayer of thanks and gratitude. I hate to say it — and I would never wish those soaps to have been cancelled ever — but the gift of that loss is that it put a hot fire under everybody's ass. The surviving shows got their s--t together and everybody — actors, writers, producers — stopped taking their jobs for granted and worked a lot harder to make the most of the opportunity. It also made the networks realize how much these shows mean to the public.
TV Guide Magazine: You're replacing Cynthia Watros, who left Y&R to do an MTV series. She was last seen April 14 and you hit the air two days later. How are you dealing with that crazy-fast switch?
McClain: There's much more pressure being an instant replacement. Boom! Usually when this happens on a soap there's a break of a few months or at least weeks. And Cynthia was mind-bogglingly good and really made her mark with some award-worthy work. So I'm like, "Oh, s—t!" But I'm bringing my A game and hoping the fans will accept me.
TV Guide Magazine: So you were okay watching Cynthia's performance? A lot of replacement actors try to avoid doing that.
McClain: I had to see what the audience was expecting, how she portrayed the character, what I thought was working and what I'd do differently. It was important. However, I did not talk with Cynthia about the role. She offered, but I think that would have really gotten into my head and left me thinking, "Am I trying to do it the way she did it?" Because that's a no-win situation.
TV Guide Magazine: Kelly easily could have been written out when Watros left, but the decision was made to keep the character because Peter Bergman needed a love interest. Do you feel used in a way? This seems so much less about Kelly and more about Jack.
McClain: Peter is an amazing actor and this is a soap opera, which is about love and romance. He needed somebody to play with and I'm thrilled to be the one. In a way, it's very special. When you're dancing in a couple, there's a leader and a follower, and there's an art to being a follower. You have to be present and open and pay attention to the cues you're given, and I love that. That's a big part of why I worked so well with Michael Knight on AMC — we were great dancing partners. I think the same thing is happening with Peter. He's very responsive, as well. He catches what I throw. But it's fine with me to let him be the lead. I have no problem with this!
TV Guide Magazine: Murdering My Youth, your shocking survival story, is a fantastic but tough read, marked by years of family madness, alcoholism, abandonment and domestic violence. You were also sexually abused by your father. Was it hard to get it all down on paper?
McClain: Pure torture. It took me five years to write this book. In fact, I originally wrote it as a fiction piece because I wasn't ready to say, "This happened to me." I really struggled with the idea of forgiving my parents but I persevered. I had to get the story out of me.
TV Guide Magazine: Plus, you were a child actor and the sole support for your family. Do you ever really recover from that?
McClain: For years I could not return to L.A. and spend more than two days there without freaking out and needing to leave quickly, because that's the town where I was put on sale. I know my story is bigger than life — not everyone was a kid in showbiz — but I wrote the book for anyone who was forced to grow up in chaos and violence. A child's innocence should never be for sale. I really wanted and needed to understand what had happened to me. It didn't really sink in until 2012 when I fully realized that my parents had spent all of the money I had made as a child actor — and it was a lot! It wasn't until I started writing the book that I thought, "What the f--k did happen to all that money?" And so I dug into my old boxes of crap and found the original incorporation papers and found out that I had been paying the mortgage on our house and that my parents were taking salaries. Finding out the truth — 100 percent of the truth — was essential to me. That's how I know who I am. That's how I keep myself from going nuts or turning into a drug addict.
TV Guide Magazine: You don't write about your early years at AMC with much happiness.
McClain: It was tough. It was brutally hard. Michael Knight always made me laugh, God bless him, but you're right. I wasn't a happy person then. I was going through a lot of s--t and there was a lot of fallout. Maybe it was a happy time for other people there but I didn't have a lot of joy in my heart back then.
TV Guide Magazine: The book concludes when you are 25. Will there be a sequel?
McClain: I wanted to end the book when my mom died, which was the most dramatic and profound thing that ever happened to me. The years after that? [Laughs] Oh, dude, I got into a lot of trouble! I decided after a life of so much pain and childhood crap that I was going to have fun and, oh boy, did I! That is a different book and, if I ever write it, it would have to be called something like Days of Being Wild. I turned into a wild child who set out to have fun but instead I got really hurt and really screwed up and made some really stupid choices. That was part of the reason I starting writing Murdering My Youth so many years ago. It was my attempt to say, "Whoa! Slow yourself down, girl!"
TV Guide Magazine: It's important to say that your book, despite all of the horror and the hell, is a real hoot! It's very zippy and entertaining and hugely funny. Did your sense of humor help get you through those years of crisis?
McClain: I guess my take is: "If you don't laugh at it all, you might as well just kill yourself." [Laughs] Is that too dark? Actually, I believe that pain is the wellspring for all humor. When we recognize something in a situation that we relate to, we laugh. Embarrassment also makes us laugh and I've had so many embarrassing moments in my life I laugh a lot! Even now, when I read through certain bits of the book, I laugh out loud. It's just the best feeling. The ridiculousness of it all gives me a certain kind of joy. My goal was not to make high literature, but a damn entertaining story, with a little wisdom thrown in there to boot!