We're just days into 2013 but it's safe to say that Jill Farren Phelps, exec producer of The Young and the Restless, has scored the casting coup of the year. On Jan. 29, Emmy winner Steve Burton — who previously worked under Phelps when he played hit man Jason Morgan on General Hospital — will join Y&R as Dylan McAvoy, the presumed-dead ex-lover of lawyer Avery Clark (Jessica Collins). It's no secret in the suds world that Burton and Phelps are thick as thieves. In fact, they're currently teamed with actor James Franco on a telenovela in development at Sony. But how the heck did she land Burton for Y&R? Citing a need for normalcy, the fan fave left GH just three months ago and relocated his family to a quiet homestead outside Nashville. Why's he back so soon? Phelps gave TV Guide Magazine the lowdown.
TV Guide Magazine: It's no shock Steve Burton is joining Y&R, given your relationship. But how'd you make the magic happen so soon?
Phelps: We didn't start talking seriously until about five weeks ago. We put out the character breakdown for Dylan McAvoy and we were seeing actors for the role. I just kept thinking how great Steve would be in the part but, at first, it was just a dream. I talked to his manager and we were able to make it work out so that Steve could continue to have the life he wants in Nashville. Plus, Steve loved the idea of playing a character very different from Jason Morgan.
TV Guide Magazine: The current GH brass wasn't able or willing to create that kind of schedule for Burton and he walked. If you were still exec producer at GH, would you have made it work?
Phelps: Yes. In fact we did work out a schedule for him to fly back and forth when I was still there. He has long wanted to be in Nashville. This is not some capricious thing with him.
TV Guide Magazine: Back when he was having unsuccessful talks with GH did you say, "Don't worry, Steve, I'll always give you a job at Y&R"?
Phelps: Oh, I'm willing to bet I said something like that. [Laughs] But jokingly! Contrary to whatever rumors are out there, I promise you I did not lure him away from GH nor did he leave GH to come to Y&R.
TV Guide Magazine: What if Burton had said, "I'll play this Dylan guy but I need more time. I'll do it in six months or a year"?
Phelps: Then we would have moved on with another actor. The part was locked into scripts.
TV Guide Magazine: Were you looking for a big star in this role?
Phelps: We were seeing the cream of the crop — well, the cream that's available and affordable.
TV Guide Magazine: We know Burton doesn't come cheap.
Phelps: I'm not going to get into that.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you afford him when your mandate is to cut the budget at Y&R? Did you drop Stephen Nichols [Tucker] from the show in order to pay for Burton?
Phelps: Absolutely not. I know that's what people are going to think, but no. I love Stephen Nichols. He's a wonderful actor. I'm sorry we couldn't make it work out with him.
TV Guide Magazine: Meaning you did offer him some sort of deal he didn't accept?
Phelps: It wouldn't be right for me to discuss that. You'll have to talk to Stephen.
TV Guide Magazine: Back to Burton, what can you reveal about his character?
Phelps: Dylan is a war veteran who was greatly traumatized by what happened to him in Afghanistan. He was severely injured and was rescued by a family who helped him recuperate. He's not been heard from for a couple of years, which is why people think he's dead.
TV Guide Magazine: Will we be seeing any of that in flashback?
Phelps: No, but we will use flashbacks to bring the audience into the history of the Dylan-Avery relationship. Avery was the great love of his life, though I'm not sure she quite had the same feelings for him.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you going for the obvious romantic triangle with Dylan, Avery and her current man, Nick [Joshua Morrow]?
Phelps: Dylan does come to town to find Avery but this story has much more complexity than that. It's really pretty delicious. What you think is going to happen is not what's going to happen.
TV Guide Magazine: A tweet went out, supposedly from Melody Thomas Scott, saying that Dylan is Nikki's long-lost secret son. True? Or was it just some evil fan yanking our chains? Because it's a damn good idea!
Phelps: I know nothing about any such story. People on Twitter are having a blast making up stuff.
TV Guide Magazine: Then Dylan is completely new to town? No secret pasts with anybody?
Phelps: He's brand new. Initially, he'll be with Avery and Nick and also Sharon. But there's a long story for Dylan that takes him on a journey from character to character and, ultimately, to someplace you never dreamed he was going to go.
TV Guide Magazine: Is this swell shooting schedule you gave Burton going to piss off the other big cheeses at Y&R?
Phelps: I'll do anything in my power to not have the cast pissed at me. I love this cast! We don't shoot Mondays, and we'll collapse Steve's material into fewer days so he'll have several long weekends. Then we have several dark weeks per year. It's not that big of an accommodation. And, let me tell you, getting Steve is a big shot in the arm for Y&R. People there are very happy to see him. And he's very, very happy to do something different. [Laughs] He has new hair! And he's actually going to be wearing colors other than black!
TV Guide Magazine: He was famous at GH for refusing to take off his shirt on-camera. You plan to fix that?
Phelps: I'm going to try. [Laughs] We'll have to wait and see what happens!