Michael Gross by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
One of the great patriarchs of '80s TV, Family Ties star Michael Gross, will join The Young and the Restless on Aug. 15. He'll once again be seen as an antiestablishment, hippie dad - only this one is radically different.

On his beloved sitcom, Gross played Steven Keaton, a former '60s peacenik holding onto his flower-power principles while trying to raise a family in Reagan's America. On Y&R, he's River Baldwin, a former Vietnam-era activist who was connected to a group of student terrorists.

So far, viewers have been led to believe that River - the long missing dad of Genoa City attorney Michael Baldwin (Christian Jules LeBlanc) - was a drifter, druggie and draft dodger who abandoned Michael and his mother, Gloria (Judith Chapman), and fled to Canada. He was also wanted for murder after his participation in a bank bombing.

"But the truth is not so black and white," says Y&R head writer Maria Arena Bell. "In trying to track down his father, Michael fears he's going to find a very amoral guy. What he ends up finding is someone totally unexpected." Adds Gross: "River is a very different character than you're
accustomed to seeing on a soap - it's like he's from another planet. He was part of a political movement that greatly affected his family. Now he'll be forced to examine the choices he made."

The 61-year-old actor says he's loving the role but admits he's in suds shock. "I walk through the halls at CBS and see all these photos of Y&R actors - every one is young, chiseled and picture-perfect," Gross says with a laugh. "And then here I am, the Old and the Feckless! What am I doing here? I just hope they have oxygen and a stretcher standing by." - Michael Logan