A year ago last spring, Phyllis wed the wrong guy! Instead of spending her honeymoon with Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman), she was with his evil doppelganger, Marco Annicelli. Duped in the most intimate of ways, all thanks to a ‘trading places’ initiative set in motion by Jack’s number one enemy, Victor Newman (Eric Braeden), Phyllis months later found out the horrible truth.
While Jack never seemed to get payback or retribution to what Victor did to him, his wife, or his family, Phyllis never forgot. Now hell bent on bringing Victor Newman to his knees, Phyllis is scheming in her own way to bring down the moustache! Her first order of business was to enlist her brother-in-law, Billy Abbott (Jason Thompson) in this vendetta. Both have been wronged by Victor, professionally and personally, and their mutual disdain for the man has brought them together in a computer caper they hope will land this groundbreaking software program in their hands, and the bogus one in Victor’s. They have even enlisted computer nerd and hacker, Natalie (Mara McCaffrey) to help their cause, but it does not come without massive complications. Natalie is working for Victor under the watchful eye of Victoria! Ah, and things are about to get even messier. And let’s not forget: it is Phyllis who had Adam (Justin Hartley) kidnapped, but no one has yet uncovered that truth. When they do … what will happen?
On-Air On-Soaps sat down with two-time Daytime Emmy winner, Gina Tognoni to get her thoughts on Phyllis’ hot new storyline where for the first time since Gina has taken over the role, Phyllis is the one pulling the strings as a woman deeply troubled by the events that transpired. With her marriage to Jack on the rocks, and becoming much closer to Billy, it would appear it’s only a matter of time before Billy and Phyllis will hit the sheets causing a seismic shift in their relationships with Jack and Victoria (Amelia Heinle). During our conversation, Gina weighs-in on working with Jason Thompson as the new Billy, if she thinks Phyllis is headed down a dark path that may leave her struggling to hold on to her sanity, or if she thinks Phyllis can win and take the power once and for all from Victor, and more. Here’s Gina on all things Phyllis.
Phyllis is taking matters into her own hands. Viewers have wanted to see the fiery Phyllis! I think for awhile, fans of the show were going, “What happened to her? She has just become this married lady!”
GINA: I think what’s happening now is great. I think it’s a product of the story when we were focusing on Jabot, and getting it back on its feet. And then we had Burgess Jenkins (Ex-Billy) moving out, and Jason Thompson coming in, so that had its place, but yes, it’s time to see Phyllis fight a bit. It’s exhausting to play physically, and don’t know why! (Laughs), but I love it! As an actress you have to pull the emotions from somewhere that will resonate with people. Every day we have been having these stand-off scenes, and in the thick of it with Victor and Jack, and Phyllis trying to make Victor pay, and all the ways we can do that. The stakes are high. This is all coming from the fact that Marco violated Phyllis, but it was Victor who truly violated Phyllis in a way that is hard for her to articulate and is very upsetting to her, because she lost some control.
And there were some story points within the Jack doppelganger arc that fans questioned and wanted answers to.
GINA: Yes, we did take some heat for the Marco story and fans questioned, “How did she not know?” What I like is that we are addressing it now in episodes that are coming up that show what her mindset was. So I like it, because we have a good story.
After all, Marco infiltrated Phyllis’ life! At the time this all happened to her, Phyllis’ reactions, emotions, and the fallout for her were not really dealt with.
GINA: No, they didn’t deal with it then … they held on to that. Now Phyllis is starting to rattle, which is what is great about what is happening now.
You are now working a lot with Jason Thompson as the new Billy. How is that going?
GINA: I love it. I also want to say I do miss Burgess Jenkins a lot, and I miss Burgess as human being. He is a great guy.
You could see they were building the relationship between Phyllis and Billy even when Burgess was still at Y&R.
GINA: Yeah, they were. They were building a friendship, because they are both passionate in what they do. Now, I’m seeing on Twitter that Phyllis and Billy are going to hook-up. All I can say to that, and hope as Gina, is they don’t do it to quick. I want to earn whatever happens. I have said that before, and I will keep saying it: I think the audience deserves to get the chance to invest in the characters. In my career in soaps, I have had it where things happen to quick or the audience is not invested, or I have had them invested and then we lost them. I’ve experienced it all. I have been doing this for twenty plus years. The one thing I don’t want is to disappoint the audience.
Do you get to voice your concerns to the powers-that-be over story, if there is anything you may want clarification on, etc?
GINA: I will talk to anyone who will listen. We are family here. We all care about this show so much. My job is to make this work, and I will make this work as best I can. But I have feelings about things sometimes, sure.
Had you seen Jason Thompson’s previous work as Dr. Patrick Drake on General Hospital, before he took over the role of Billy Abbott?
GINA: I had scene Jason’s work before on General Hospital and he was so good as a doctor, and this leading man with this gentle beautiful side. Billy has a darker layer, and a compulsive layer, and to see Jason bring that forward is remarkable. I know he’s pulling that from somewhere, and he is so interesting to watch. Jason is a lovely human being, and professional. We are so lucky to have him.
This storyline is going to have huge ramifications for Jack, Victoria, Billy, and Phyllis, Victor, Summer (Hunter King), Luca (Miles Gaston Villenueva), etc!
GINA: Yes, it’s going to be great for everybody. Everyone has an objective, and what does that do to our relationships? One of the things this show is great at is relationships and life.
In Phyllis’ mind, will she be satisfied and happy once she has the computer program and Victor takes a fall?
GINA: One thing Phyllis said recently about when she feels things will be set right was … she will know it when she feels it.
We have seen Gina Tognoni in her soap opera career play crazy, having a mental breakdown etc. I am referring to your Daytime Emmy-winning turn as Dinah on Guiding Light. Could you see it going to that place here at Y&R for Phyllis?
GINA: Yes … I think you can probably see her fall from grace.
Would you welcome the opportunity to take Phyllis to those dark, emotional depths?
GINA: Yeah, I will do it, but I don’t like falling from grace because it hurts, but it usually brings out the best in me, and the best in the character. We get to see her flaws and her cracks, and we see her vulnerability, and that has to go somewhere, because you don’t just want to stay there as just this just a crazy loony girl. But, I would like to see Phyllis crack.
What do you think about Mara McCaffrey who playing hacker girl, Natalie? Is Phyllis going to glam her up? (Laughs) You know if she takes off those glasses and lets down her hair … a Cinderella moment is awaiting!
GINA: Mara McCaffrey is a terrific actress, people liked her right away. She is just a bright light. Isn’t that the first thing you want to do to her… glam her up? She is so dang cute.
So what does Phyllis hope to accomplish by enlisting and entrusting Natalie in this double-crossing of Victor?
GINA: Phyllis needs her technical savvy. They need Natalie to develop a passkey, so Billy and Phyllis can get it back into their control. Victor would have the dummy version, and they would have the good version. They want Natalie to be fired by Victor, so they can hire her out in the open, and out right with their hands clean. Phyllis and Billy really don’t want to lie anymore. They say they are done lying to their spouses and that they don’t want to live their lives that way, but then something gets screwed up with that!
Another wrinkle is that Victoria is overseeing Natalie’s work on the computer program for Victor!
GINA: Yes, and that presented a big problem. When you read this stuff in the script, you think, “How is this going to work?” But it’s interesting to watch, it’s almost like a tennis match – point won, point loss, another point won, and then another loss. It starts to pick up a rhythm, and it’s cool.
Can we talk about this bombshell … Phyllis kidnapped Adam (Justin Hartley)! What did you think when you first saw that in the script. Were you like, “Say, what?”
GINA: The first thing I did when I opened the script was say, “Can someone please tell me why I kidnapped Adam? (Laughs) And then Justin Hartley said to me, “Why did you kidnap me?” I go, “I don’t know, because I don’t like you?” (Laughs) But the reason is because Adam is Victor’s child, and she felt that it would garner some attention. Phyllis gave clear directives to not hurt him. I like it, because it kind of introduced us to the point in the story where Phyllis is not messing around. She is like, “Don’t mess with me!” So in a way, the kidnapping helped her get that point across. I like the fact that no one saw that coming!
People know it’s a woman, who kidnapped Adam, but no one knows yet it was Phyllis behind it all. That will be interesting when that bit of Intel comes out!
GINA: Right, people know Adam’s kidnapper was a woman. Adam heard the thug that was watching him on the phone talking to a woman. Phyllis was controlling the situation from afar. The thug did not know who Phyllis was, because it was all done through a burner phone, and he was probably paid by PayPal or something! (Laughs)
What did you think about the reveal? The audience did not see that one coming.
GINA: The audience was so thrown, and how nice to be able to throw them! It’s hard to do that in these days, because we have to compete with Canada being a day ahead all of the time, etc. It’s a good thing in this day and age to be able to surprise the audience. I hope within this story there will be more surprises for them.
What has been the best part of playing this side of Phyllis in this story thus far?
GINA: I’m out of a passive position and more in an active position, and not a reactor, but actually an influence in the story. What was going on before was being part of the Abbott family. I would not have the foundation of my relationship with Jack without all that has gone on before. Right now, Phyllis is where she should be and I am happy for that.
You made the Pre-Nom list for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for this year’s Daytime Emmys. What material did you go with that earned you a spot into the blue-ribbon round of voting?
GINA: I used when Jack told Phyllis about Marco for the 4 minute reel to get the pre-nom. We have these two cameramen Ty and Chico, and when I was done with these scenes that I chose for the pre-noms, they came from behind the camera and gave me a fist pump, and that to me meant the world and it was something that stuck out. That warmed my heart. I felt good about it and that I did not my job that day.
You have now been with Y&R for a year and half. How has the journey been thus far?
GINA: I feel like I’m in it, now it’s time to have fun. I don’t know how much fun I was having at the end of day when I first started at Y&R, because I was working really hard. Now it’s a priority of mine to have fun and enjoy it.
What are fans saying to you the most about Phyllis on social media right now?
GINA: I’m getting from the fans: “Love that fiery Phyllis”, or “I’m glad she’s back” as if she left! (Laughs) They also tell me they love Billy/Phyllis/Jack and they really seem to be wrapping their arms around Billy.
People think you and Jason Thompson make a hot, good looking couple on-screen. Thoughts?
GINA: I have heard that! I just don’t even go there, but he is just so gorgeous, so all I can say to the fans is, “thank you”.
So, could you see an on-screen catfight coming down the line between Phyllis and Victoria, where you and Amelia Heinle go at it over Billy? Would you be willing to do a down in the mud type of soapy catfight, if the scene called for it?
GINA: I like Amelia so much, and she inspires me. Our job is to go there; I would do a mud fight if it’s well-directed and if I look good. (Laughs) “Go for it” is my motto.
In closing, what should viewers be on the lookout for in the coming months from Phyllis as she takes control of her life, and shows some power?
GINA: More fire, more ownership, more purpose in everything she does and to show Victor and anyone else, “You are not going to take my power away. I will keep my power.” You will see me and you will hear me, because that is what Victor does. He tries to take the power away from Phyllis, and Phyllis isn’t going to let that happen. Does she win? The audience says no one ever wins against Victor, but we are definitely going to see her try. This is a powerful woman and I want to celebrate that. I want to find it in myself, because God knows, I don’t always maintain that, but try to bring that out and own it. You don’t always have to be the loudest in the room, and Phyllis can do this in lots of different ways and explore her power. It’s cool to see a woman do that, I think. I like being that woman.
So, what do you think of Phyllis’ plans for Victor? Will she get the retribution and payback she so wants? Are you enjoying seeing the fiery Phyllis rise again? What do you think of the on-screen chemistry between Gina Tognoni and Jason Thompson? Are you rooting for Billy and Phyllis to start a romance? What do you think about Phyllis being behind Adam’s kidnapping? What will happen when Adam and Victor find out what she did? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!