Who would have ever thought that veteran motion picture and television actress Sally Kellerman would end up on a role on The Young and the Restless? And in a role that ushers in the return of one of the most pivotal characters to the number one daytime drama canvas, Adam Newman, now the form of Justin Hartley!
As viewers of Y&R have seen over the last few episodes, Kellerman plays a wheelchair bound elderly woman named Constance Bingham, who seems to be believe that Adam with his newly reconstructed face, (which now is a dead-ringer for Constance’s grandson, Gabriel) … is truly her grandson Gabriel! Confused? Stay tuned! All the more intriguing is that Constance seems to be assisted with her daily routine by Sage (Kelly Sullivan), and as we have witnessed, Sage knows that Chelsea (Melissa Claire Egan) and Connor are Adam’s wife, and son. And on Friday’s episode, Adam’s bandages came off to which he looked in the mirror and with a smirk said, “Now, I can reclaim my life!” The story now begins to take its next turn!
So how did Kellerman, an Oscar nominee for her iconic role as nurse “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the classic film M*A*S*H, wind up in Genoa City? What has it been like for her working for the first time in her legendary career on a soap? And what does she have to say about her character … and working with Kelly and Justin? Read on for our enlightening and entertaining interview with the one and only Sally K.!
What was like for you coming in as accomplished and well-known motion picture and television actress, and taking on the pace and the rigors of performing on a daytime drama?
SALLY: I never thought about doing a daytime soap before, not even for a moment. I am on my knees in adulation for the people who do this. These young kids and the people that have been on the show for 28 years or so, and learning all those lines, it’s unbelievable! I kept thinking to myself, “How could I have possibly signed up for this?” (Laughs) But, I really enjoy my time there and love everybody. It’s so organized and amazingly run. They have given me the nicest dressing room and parking spot! They have treated me like gold. I love everyone in the make-up department. My idea of a good movie is a good make-up artist and some burritos and a donut and hanging out in the trailer! (Laughs) I will say … people seem so happy at Y&R and I have been really having fun. I know I may like to whine and complain sometimes, (laughs), but luckily they are not drowning me in 20 pages of dialog a day all of the time.
You share scenes with Kelly Sullivan (Sage). What has it been like working alongside her?
SALLY: Kelly Sullivan is so adorable and talented. She had to deliver a soliloquy the other day – and it was like three pages long with all kinds of names she had to remember. I love Kelly! She’s amazing.
How did this even come about that you were cast in this part on Y&R?
SALLY: I was sitting there doing the Mark Maron Show were I play his nice Jewish mother, where in story she had just got back from a cruise and was worried that she got STD’s, so he has to take her to the hospital! It’s very funny and I just loved doing it! And then, I get a call to do The Young and the Restless. They asked me if I would do the part, and they told me that I could keep appearing on the Mark Maron Show, too! It has been a wonderful experience. Doing Y&R, well, it just moves like the wind. It is fast!
And when you debuted this week as Constance Bingham, there you are in a wheelchair!
SALLY: My fantasy is I am leaping up soon. (Laughs) The whole thing just happened so quickly, and then I found myself in a wheelchair! (Laughs). They are wheeling me in and out of the room all the time going, “Hello, Constance!” They might also say, “Would you like to go rest?” Then, out I am wheeled! (Laughs)
In my interview with Kelly Sullivan, she says she has been “driving” you around in this wheelchair and bashing into set props! (Laughs)
SALLY: (Laughs) The other day they wheeled me in and said, “Would you like some tea to calm your nerves?” Constance had just been through a rather trying experience. I said, “Well that would be lovely. Thank you.” So, she gives me this big cup and saucer and then she says, “Would you like to go rest Constance?” So, out again I am wheeled with a teacup in my hand! (Laughs)
You are such a vibrant woman and actress; it was very unusual to see you, of all people, tootling around wheelchair bound!
SALLY: When I started I said, “Who is she?” They told me, “She loves her grandson.” I said, “But, what else?” Working on the soaps is a whole different world to me. On the second day, they gave me two scripts, and the second one had a lot of dialog on in it. So I had a boy who was running lines with me. I made it through the first script, and then I got through half of the second one, and then they said, “OK, now we are going right on to this other part.” I was horrified and so embarrassed! (Laughs)
So, what do you think of your “Gabriel”, our new Adam Newman, Justin Hartley?
SALLY: He is so wonderful. I know I must sound like Miss Pollyanna with a bow in my hair, but that is the way I feel. He is remarkable, too! Justin and Kelly get to have these long conversations of fighting and carrying on after I am wheeled out of the scenes. Justin is really nice and really talented.
You, Justin, and Kelly are all in scenes together in this gothic type setting. In story, the three of you are really kind of like an island on to yourselves right now.
SALLY: The first day, the rest of the cast is way over there on one side of the set and studio, and I am over here in my wheelchair! So, I did feel like an island on to myself. It was so brand new to me. I hope I brought something to the party. It was really different being in a wheelchair.
Does Constance truly believe that Adam is her grandson Gabriel?
SALLY: And the plot thickens!
Is Constance a kind and decent lady? We don’t know quite know what to think, or if she is a bit wackadoodle!
SALLY: She is a good person, and she doesn’t like her enemies. She is part of one family, and there is another family that has bad people in it. The viewers are supposed to like this lady, but let me know if they do! She loves her grandson and she loves Sage, and Sage loves her, too. Sage is caught in the middle of a lot of stuff; she is the character that is walking a fine line.
Have you met Y&R icon Eric Braeden (Victor)? Did he give you an official Y&R welcome?
SALLY: I did meet Eric Braeden. He came up to me and with that voice of his said, “Hello, and don’t you worry about a thing!” (Laughs) He was great. I could see why he had been on the show for so many years. He has such a presence about him, a great presence, even when saying “hello” in the make-up room.
When you made news in the mainstream entertainment outlets that you were guest starring in a story arc on The Young and the Restless, everyone of course made reference to your most famous role, that of Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the motion picture and 70’s classic, M*A*S*H!
SALLY: The series has been on forever, and a lot of these young kids don’t even know that there was the movie version of M*A*S*H, before the TV show, and that’s O.K baby! We had me, and Elliot Gould, and everybody that worked on it, and we had one of the best times of all of our lives.
You were nominated for an Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress for your role in M*A*S*H. Would you consider it to be the defining role of your career?
SALLY: I was nominated for an Oscar for that, and it was my first real break in my career. The rest of it I spent beating down “Hot Lips”, not really. I love it! People can call me “Hot Lips” until I drop over. I was just signing autographs in New Jersey the other week. Every guy who was in front of who wanted an autograph said, “Did you meet my nieces? Call me when you got no class!” and that is because I was in a film with Rodney Dangerfield called, Back to School. That was the most popular film. People see it like five or six times. So, in my career I have been in two blockbusters: M*A*S*H and Back to School. You know, I’ve done over 50 films in my career including A Little Romance, and Foxes with Jodie Foster, and Brewster McCloud to name just a few.
Now decades later, a new audience and new fans can get to know you from your mysterious role on Y&R!
SALLY: Now they know me from a wheelchair. “Hello dah-lin!” (Laughs) I said to Y&R’s executive producer Jill Farren Phelps, it says in the script, “Old woman goes to the door … or … old woman comes back” I then said to her, “Am I suppose to talk with a scraggly old voice?” She said, “No! We want you just the way you are.”
So, what do you think thus far of Sally Kellerman in her debut role the soaps and Y&R? Who is Constance Bingham? What do you think is happening in the storyline if Constance believes that Adam is Gabriel, and Adam assumes his identify? Will he be able to reconnect with those he loves and those he wants to seek revenge on? Where is the real Gabriel then? What are your thoughts on how this plot may play out? Intrigued? Comment below!