Interview: Eric Braeden on 50 Years of ‘The Young and the Restless’
Special interview from veteran soap columnist Michael Maloney.
The Young and the Restless is celebrating its 50th anniversary in style with a masquerade ball hosted by Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) and wife Nikki Reed Newman (Melody Thomas Scott). Watch for familiar faces from the past to return for this auspicious occasion, which begins on CBS Thursday, March 23 (the show’s official birthday is March 26).
“Hell of a long time, isn’t it?” Braeden shares. “We’re very lucky.” Many behind-the-scenes creative folks have been and continue to be responsible for bringing Y&R to life. However, no one is more important, Braeden says, than the late, great William J. Bell, the show’s cocreator, head writer and senior executive producer, who died in 2005. “I cannot emphasize how much we owe Bill Bell. He laid the foundation. We are still profiting from that. That’s as simple as it is.”
Originally, Braeden was set for a short-term run as villainous Victor back in 1980. However, after witnessing Braeden’s charismatic performances, Bell chose to keep Victor around; he humanized the mustached mogul by revealing his backstory. Born Christian Miller, Victor was left at an orphanage by his mother Cora, who could only afford to keep Victor’s younger brother, Matt.
After leaving the orphanage, Christian set out into the world and created an empire. He changed his name becoming, literally, a new man. When the show was ready to reunite a grown Victor with his parents, the show cast Dorothy McGuire (A Summer Place) as Cora, and later, George Kennedy (Airport) as his father, Albert Miller.
“We did those scenes in one take,” Braeden recalls. “One take! That speaks more highly of Dorothy and George than it does me. I am used to the medium. They were not.”
Y&R viewers are devoted to the epic love story between Victor and Nikki. What’s the secret to the couple’s chemistry? “We get each other,” Braeden says of Thomas Scott. “I genuinely adore her. She has a great sense of humor. It’s best not to dissect things too greatly.”
Victor’s boardroom battles with Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman) are legendary. “[Peter] is a wonderful actor,” Braeden says. “We go at each other and he’s very strong in our scenes. It just works.”
Braeden also raves about Victor’s children — Victoria (Amelia Heinle), Nicholas (Joshua Morrow), Adam (Mark Grossman) and Abby (Melissa Ordway). “I love working with Joshua,” Braeden says. “He’s got a great sense of humor. He pretends to have this ‘Aw, shucks, [I’m from] Oklahoma’ stuff going on, but he’s very bright. Amelia is wonderful, as is Melissa Ordway. Mark is doing a damn good job! They gave him reams of dialogue from the start and he’s never missed a beat.”
When Victor returned from the dead in 1994, after his sojourn to Hope Adams’ (Signy Coleman) farm in Kansas, the show’s ratings soared to a 9.1. Today, the actor stays in touch with the show’s loyal fan base via Twitter. “I love them,” he says of Y&R’s viewers. “I really do.”
Y&R has never been more important to viewers, Braeden feels. “The world around us is changing so much,” he says. “Our show gives audiences comfort and continuity.”