Since winter time, fans of The Young and the Restless have seen a definitive change on air with storylines created by the series latest head writer and executive producer, Chuck Pratt Jr.
The head scribe is certainly known for his own style of writing daytime and primetime television continuing dramas that either you are a fan of, or you may be not, but one thing is for sure, Pratt’s writing sure gets people talking. Since taking the reins in Genoa City, Chuck’s stories have had viewers witnessing … a plane crash, and several other cataclysmic disasters where characters have had to fight for survival and relationships were changed, a doppelganger plot focusing on three-time Daytime Emmy winner Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott), a murder storyline involving the younger generation of the town, and the long running soap is on the verge of making some apparently new couplings to shake up the canvas, and more.
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Chuck Pratt Jr. to get his insights on a myriad of his story points and decisions for the beloved characters of Genoa City. While there are always good stories and bad stories that are served up to the fans of daytime drama, it is the job of the head writers and their writing teams that seem to be the most daunting in daytime … serving up 250 or so scripts a year and trying to interweave the characters and stay true to the history of the show, while also injecting new energy and life into it.
Here’s what Pratt Jr. had to say about where he is headed with his storylines involving Victor (Eric Braeden), Jack, Sharon (Sharon Case), Kelly (Cady McClain), Michael (Christian LeBlanc), Dylan (Steve Burton), and Adam (Justin Hartley), and what he hopes to ultimately bring to the brand that is Y&R.
Since you came to Y&R and your scripts have started airing you can see your stamp on this show. The pace has picked up, and there is more of a sense of shock and awe to the show. This is clearly different from what people may have been expecting, or those perhaps wanting to see a return to their old classic Y&R.
CHUCK: From my perspective, I can’t sit and try to please a network, a studio, and nine writers that have been here for decades, and try to please all these other people. You have to come in to a show and look at all the characters and the actors, and go, “I am here for one reason, and one reason only … to service the audience.” I want them to like it, and I want to like it. I can’t write it if I don’t enjoy it. There might be some discrepancies I might come up with, and a story that people don’t want to play in reference to the actors. And to the audience, “I am doing this for you and if you don’t like something, I’m sorry, but this guy in the audience did like it.” You just don’t know. That’s about numbers and ratings, and that is what I look for just to get the undercurrent … then I look at the monitor to see if I like it. When I first got to Y&R people were drinking coffee and having conversations, and sometimes very interesting conversations. Now they come in and they’re red-faced and their blood pressure is up. It’s life and death stakes, whether it be this show, All My Children, or General Hospital it’s like what I do. I am not mob like Bob Guza (former head writer, GH), and I would argue about that while I was writing at GH. The first thing that they said to me at Y&R was “no guns,” and “don’t kill anybody!” I said, “OK, no guns is fine.” But, I think I had Steve Burton (Dylan) holding a gun within two weeks, and I said, “He’s just not a coffee shop kind of a guy. He needs to hold a gun!” (Laughs) Then he has a gun, and I said, “Now, is he going to kill Joe (Scott Elrod)?” Because now the story interests me!
Is there a concern when you come into a show like this and inherit the legacy and the characters, and knowing it has had several different writing regimes over the last several year of, “Can I make this work?”
CHUCK: There is that moment where you go …’This is an awesome responsibility, and this is a huge responsibility, and this is a good responsibility, and it’s really up to me where I go from there.’ The skills they teach at West Point are what I believe are keys, which are: leadership and belief in your decisions, and believe in what you are doing, and the ability to back it up and defend it. When someone comes at you and goes, “I don’t like that,” I go, “What don’t you like about it … and what would you rather see?” What I try to do is to avoid that, and hope that cast members are reading the scripts and going “This is great. I would watch this show.” You also hope that the actors can’t wait for the next script. So those are indicators to me that I am moving in the right direction. I also know at some points I will be moving in the wrong direction.
You decided to give Peter Bergman (Jack) a dual role. Something you have been known to do on your past soaps.
CHUCK: Peter is doing an amazing job, because he is doing it subtly and he is resisting the obvious things, and he is working with me on this. I have done a lot of “Dopplechuck” and a lot of these types of stories where there are things you can fall into. When the two come together, which ultimately in these stories you put that off as long as you can, then we get to see in this case, Peter Bergman play against himself in scenes, which will be fun to watch.
What was your inspiration to decide to do ‘Fake Jack’ and have Victor (Eric Braeden) behind it and driving this outrageous plot against his arch-nemesis?
CHUCK: I brought it in when I started here. When I was watching the show all I said was, “You know what? Eric Braeden (Victor) and Peter Bergman are this show!” They were important in the show that I was watching, but they are the show!” They are not the tent poles, they are not controlling it, and I thought Peter Bergman is such a great actor, and the Victor/Jack relationship is such a great rivalry. How do I mix that all together and give Victor what he wants? In my mind, Victor wants everything that Jack has all the time, even if he never says it. Eric and Peter are so good in completely different ways. So, I thought I have to create the dark side of Jack, and so this character becomes Victor’s best friend. There is tons of melodrama and story around it, and lots of back-story. Who is this guy … and where is he from? People have to find out, or not find out, and this story will go for a good period of time.
Now we know Kelly did not commit suicide, but is on the doppelganger plot with Victor. Did you make the decision to make Cady McClain’s character of Kelly a wackadoodle?
CHUCK: No. They were just starting that when I got here. I said, “Keep doing that!” (Laughs) I saw Kelly in bed with Jack before Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) came back, and I thought, “I don’t really want to watch this!” I know Cady is such a great actress, and she always is such a myth to me in this kind of secondary role, because Phyllis was coming back. The writers started calling me, going, “We have this crazy idea about which women is crazier!” I said, “I love that story. But don’t show your hand of who is crazier.”
What did you think about how your “Flirt with Disaster” storylines played out during February Sweeps? So much disaster in one week, but not causalities!
CHUCK: I was happy because of the energy it created for all of us. This is an assembly line kind of job, and when suddenly the assembly is building Porsches instead of Volkswagens everybody gets excited from it. The production design people who are on tight budgets were allowed to go crazy and nuts. The stories sort of rejuvenated everybody here, plus I wanted to rearrange a few pieces on the chess table. It all started when plotting when Neil (Kristoff St. John) would get his eyesight back. I thought it has got to be big. We could have done six months of him pretending he could see. By the way, that story between Devon (Bryton James) Hilary (Mishael Morgan) and Neil is not going away. It didn’t end there. Neil can go off on this direction and that direction. Neil can drink, not cut his hair, and a lot of stuff, but that desire for revenge is not going to go away.
All of a sudden, viewers were thrust into and witnessed the Austin (Matthew Atkinson) murder storyline, and a reveal of his back-story that never existed before, and these Scooby-Doo gang-esque cabin murders. What was the impetus to create this?
CHUCK: That was a writer looking at the character of Austin, who is this good-looking guy who is married to Summer (Hunter King), and who was told of some of the wacky good stuff about his back-story. So, I thought that was over-the-top, and then the writers ended that, and now Austin and Summer were in this boring marriage and it’s a story about money, and he is a documentary filmmaker, and he is on once a week. Hunter is amazing, and she is on one and a half times a week, as well as Melissa Ordway (Abby). There is personality on this show with these kids, and I thought they weren’t being used. That’s what happens on the soaps, especially when you have a dynamic upper tier veteran cast and a big middle tier like with Justin Hartley (Adam) and Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea). So it was about taking these kids and giving them their own story, and killing somebody. I then go, “OK. Which one do I sacrifice?” And that is a very difficult decision to make, because these actors are all people and human beings with jobs. So, when I started going over the story I thought Austin was perfect for this, because I will give him the back-story I would have been telling before I got here. I would have been telling the story of Austin having an affair with Abby. Then have Fen (Max Ehrich) being a part of it and finding out, and then we will bring in Lachlan Buchanan as Kyle, this really good looking young guy who has this thing for Summer. Then it’s about who killed Austin? We have gotten to play pretty much all the cool stuff you get to see in a murder storyline. We are going to have a big shock when we reveal who the murderer is.
The big question that every recent Y&R head writer has faced; what are your plans for the long-suffering Sharon (Sharon Case), whose character has often been ruined by plots from other regimes?
CHUCK: When you read Sharon’s story it’s like The Perils of Pauline! She is a beaten, doormat on this show. Now I came into the show when Sharon’s wedding to Nick went up in shambles. So I got a lot of the Mariah (Camryn Grimes) stuff and the changing of the DNA records, and whose kid is whose kid. I go, “Well, Sharon is much more interesting when she is crazy!” So we have to make her crazy, but not too crazy, where the audience thinks we are reinventing her, and the audience then doesn’t buy it. What I sensed from the audience is that they love her with Nick (Joshua Morrow), and they like her. But then I had this idea with Dylan (Steve Burton), which we are starting to play now. I looked at Steve Burton and I thought his character is not underused; it’s just not being used properly. I knew him as Jason Morgan on General Hospital, and I don’t want him to be Jason again. However, Steve Burton plays Steve Burton, and what that is about is he brings sincerity, honesty, and he fights for the underdog. And so I thought, “If ever there was an underdog … it’s Sharon!” We have one of the most beloved characters on the show, and the other characters treat her like dirt! I thought we have got to give Sharon a chance to get resurrected, and then make a lot of mistakes, because she can be very interesting when she has a bipolar episode. I have said she is one of those characters who plants the landmine, and then forgets where she put the map, and then steps on it.
You inherited the prostate cancer storyline of Michael Baldwin (Christian LeBlanc). Are you going to continue to go down this story path?
CHUCK: Honestly, it would not have been a story I would have told. However, I inherited it, and I think Christian LeBlanc is an amazing actor. He is another actor with so much ability to make any writer happy. But this story is very isolating to the people involved, and it’s quite frankly about a man’s private parts, and I am thinking I am uncomfortable hearing about this. I mean, a prostate cancer storyline is so curable, and an ED story has been told over and over again. I am kind of moving it in that direction and challenging Christian, and in the middle of it all giving him a really melodramatic story, which I won’t go into, because it’s just been starting. Christian is wonderful, and everybody is great on the show. It’s like a deck of 52 valuable cards where everybody is king on this show.
What are your thoughts on Justin Hartley in the role of Adam Newman? How much longer will the audience have to wait before more people than Jack find out he is really Adam back-from-the-dead, and not Gabriel Bingham?
CHUCK: Justin … he is the future. He is great! I was just watching him in scenes with Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) and Burgess Jenkins (Billy), and he was a minor part of the scene, but he just blew me away. Justin made it work just with a look. I am going to continue the true identity of Gabriel as long as I can. It takes a lot of twists and turns, you will see. It kind of gets all mixed up together with the two Jacks. I like mixing Adam up with Victor, as much as with the women. There is a lot to come!
So, what do you think of Chuck Pratt Jr’s storylines thus far on The Young and the Restless? Are you intrigued by the two Jacks story and how it will play out? What do you hope happens with Sharon? Who do you think murdered Austin and Courtney (Kelli Goss). Do you hope everyone finds out that Gabriel is Adam soon? What do you hope happens with Michael’s cancer storyline? Share your thoughts below!