Somebody call the Vatican, because there's a freakin' miracle happening on The Young and the Restless! On May 11, Beth Maitland will once again return to the soap as Traci Abbott — earth mama, moral compass, the very soul of Genoa City — and this time she'll be mixed up in the big Abby Newman (Marcy Rylan) drama. Though Maitland won Y&R's very first acting Emmy back in 1985, the beloved actress fell out of favor with some of the past producing teams and, for a while, was only showing up for weddings and funerals. Then she wasn't seen on the show for two full years. Thankfully, the current powers adore Maitland and keep finding cool ways to bring her back — no small thing in an era where so many of our great suds vets are considered as disposable as Handi Wipes. "When Beth shows up on our set, it tells me that the folks who run our show do indeed know the importance of heart and remember the value of family," notes Maitland's TV bro Peter Bergman (Jack). "People like Traci who look you in the eye and tell the honest truth are a rarer and rarer breed — in soaps and in life." TV Guide Magazine spoke with Maitland about her upcoming stint, her remarkable renaissance and — gasp! — her "double life" in Hollywood.
TV Guide Magazine: Who's the angel over at Y&R who keeps bringing you back? Is it [exec producer] Maria Bell? One of the old-timers on the writing team?
Maitland: I truly have no idea. I have to think it's Maria but I don't know for certain. [Laughs] In the last two years I've seen her twice, both times in the CBS parking lot, but we've never really had a conversation. It does feel like this is part of her commitment to keeping the core families important and reminding people what the Abbotts are all about. In previous regimes, there was a lot of dismantling done to the Abbotts, especially when they decided to kill off John [the patriarch played by Jerry Douglas]. Traci has kind of moved into his spot to make everyone accountable in the Abbott universe. She's the conscience everyone has to 'fess up to.
TV Guide Magazine: Word is, Traci will be lending emotional support to pain-in-the-ass Abby. Talk about your odd couple! What's up with that?
Maitland: Unlike everyone else, Traci doesn't judge Abby. And the funny thing is, they're polar opposites! Abby has a complete lack of inhibition. Traci, in her younger days, couldn't have been more inhibited. Now Abby's acting out and Traci is the only one left defending her. She's defending her to her uncle Jack and to her mother, Ashley [Eileen Davidson], and saying, "Look, there's something really wrong here!" Traci sees all of Abby's nightmarish behavior, the drinking, the manipulative pranks, the naked-heiress stuff, as what it really is — a cry for help. Traci becomes suspicious that maybe Abby's right about some of her complaints, that maybe her dearest family members are somehow betraying her. There's a lot of bad stuff going on. Abby hates her mother's fiancé, Tucker [Stephen Nichols]. She hates her life. She has too much money. She hates that people are trying to control her. Traci is the one person Abby trusts at this point.
TV Guide Magazine: Jeez, sorry to gripe about such a lovely new relationship, but isn't Abby a little too old for this crap? She's a grown adult, for crying out loud, not some confused, errant 14-year-old.
Maitland: Look, when most of us are young adults, we have to take care of ourselves. I didn't grow up with a trust fund. I had to wait tables and pinch pennies, and eat peas and macaroni and cheese every day and try to find a hundred ways to make that interesting. But that's not Abby. She's a girl who has had every privilege in life and doesn't know any better. She doesn't know her behavior is having a far bigger impact and that there may be consequences she won't be able to reverse. Hey, maybe she's conning Traci, maybe she's full of baloney, but I don't think so. She's living in a world where no one listens to her. Everyone has their priorities. Ashley is all wrapped up in her wedding plans. Jack is all obsessed with getting back Jabot. And her father, Victor [Eric Braeden], is too busy trying to control every single thing in Genoa City to worry about his daughter. Traci is her last chance.
TV Guide Magazine: Enough with Abby-mania. Let's discuss you. When times got tough for you at Y&R, did you fear you might never act again?
Maitland: It got to the point where the show stopped calling altogether and I thought my soap ship had sailed. But, after Maria took over, I suddenly had 30 episodes when [Traci's daughter] Colleen died — the biggest storyline I'd had in over 10 years. It came at a time when I was off contract, off the radar, off the map! [Laughs]. Before that, when I'd show up for the occasional wedding, I was kind of treated like a second-class citizen. Now I no longer have to hide in my dressing room because people won't talk to me or because the new, young actors don't know who I am or because someone thinks they should have the makeup chair first. I don't have those problems any more. I feel like an honored member of the cast. The climate has changed.
TV Guide Magazine: For many years now, your real day job finds you working in TV sitcoms as a sound recordist. Do you reveal your Emmy-winning suds life to your co-workers?
Maitland: Hardly ever. I don't really talk about it. But people do recognize me now and then and they are shocked! [Laughs] Right now I'm working at the Disney Channel show So Random, and one day the director, Eric Dean Seaton, looked at me and said, "Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh my God! What are you doing here? Can I take a picture of you on my cell phone to send to my mother?" He's been watching Y&R since he was 14!
TV Guide Magazine: A lot of actors would find it difficult taking behind-the-scenes work. Their egos couldn't handle it.
Maitland: Listen, at first it was not so easy for me, either. [Laughs] But now that I'm post-menopausal I really don't care anymore! When you're an actress over 50 there are less and less opportunities and I knew by taking non-acting work that it would change the way people in the industry looked at me, and the way I think of myself, but after a lot of crying and a few fits and tantrums, I accepted that. Now when I go back to Y&R, I'm so grateful and excited I can't sleep the night before. I'm like, "Yeah! I get to go be an actor in the morning!"