August 5th, 2013  |  Leave a comment

The Michelle Stafford Interview – The Young and the Restless & The Stafford Project

Photo Credit: Duffimages.com

This past Friday, fans and viewers of The Young and the Restless were dealt a real blow when two-time Daytime Emmy winner, and one of the series leading characters, exited the series!  We are speaking of the one and only Michelle Stafford … and … the one and only Phyllis Summers Newman!  After almost 16 years with the CBS soap, Stafford’s Phyllis was put in a coma, and needed to be transferred to a facility in Georgia, which keeps her close to her son, Daniel (Michael Graziadei, who returned to the series to help facilitate Stafford’s exit).  While many are unhappy of the way Phyllis has been written off, it leaves the door open … if Michelle Stafford was to ever decide to return, or if the powers-that-be at Y&R decide to recast.  But as one chapter closes, another chapter begins in life, and that next chapter has started for one of the most extraordinary actresses in this medium, or any other!

Today, Michelle launched her new web series, The Stafford Project,which in many ways mirrors moments in Stafford’s own life, but with a twist, in this reality/comedy hybrid which was born out of Michelle’s real life struggles to have a child, which she ultimately did via surrogacy … and thus gave us one of The Stafford Project’s most precious co-stars, Michelle’s daughter, Natalia!  Plus, The Stafford Project, whose lead character is an actress named “Michelle” who appears on a soap opera, will also look at juggling aspects of life and the dating scene by “doing it as single chick”, as is Michelle Stafford’s mantra in her new website www.michellestafford.com, which features blogs about: parenting, men, dating, style, fitness and more! (You can also access The Stafford Project there too!)

On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Michelle, just as fans were seeing her final airdate on Y&R, to get her reaction on her decision to depart the series, and the way Phyllis was written-out, and how The Stafford Project became its own reality.  Next, we take a look back at some of the key on-screen relationships for Genoa City’s fiery Phyllis, including: Sharon, Jack, Summer, Ronan, and Nick!  And in true soap opera fashion, there are several cliffhangers for Michelle Stafford and her fans: Will we see her on another soap? Will she land her own primetime sitcom?  Will The Stafford Project become one of the most viewed and personally minted web series of them all?  While we wait for those answers to unfold, enjoy our conversation with Michelle, or shall we say, the coolest chick we know!

MICHAEL:

Last Friday was your final airdate on The Young and the Restless!  How do you feel about that when it actually came to pass?  Did you watch the episode?  Was it at all emotional for you?

MICHELLE:

Courtesy/CBS

I saw a bit of it, and she is very calm and comatose.  Phyllis is very asleep. (Laughs)  I don’t have an emotional tie to the character, I just don’t.  I have an emotional tie to the fans though, but not to the character, because I am an actress, and I want to play a bunch of different things.  And, that is what we do as actors … we create a bunch of different characters.  I am connected to what the fans care about.  It is very important to me how they feel.  That is why I did “Phyllis Friday” on Twitter and answered some questions.  I am on Twitter a lot promoting The Stafford Project, and it on the web, so you want to touch people already on the web.  I care about what they think, and a lot of them are upset about me leaving.  And, I am sure there are some that are not upset. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Your fans have been so upset about your departing Y&R, but support you on your new ventures, and the new opportunities that will arise for you.  At On-Air On-Soaps on the posts concerning your exit, many have written such touching words, and many telling you how sad they are that you have left the show.  How does it feel to have such a strong and passionate fan base?

MICHELLE:

It is so nice.  It was sad when I saw part of Friday’s episode.  And if you were really a fan of that character, it would be really upsetting.  I have watched soaps growing up, and I remember I watched Ryan’s Hope, and I loved Delia (originally played by Ilene Kristen) so much, and when she left the show that was it for me.  Actually, that wasn’t it.  They recast the role with another actress, and so I said, “Nope!”  And I was done.  I was really was way too young to be watching soaps at the time, but I just loved the character so much, and so it was upsetting for me.  Also on Y&R, Phyllis is in a hospital, and she is in a coma, and you want to hear from her.  You want to hear Phyllis yell at people, and fight back, and she is not doing that.  I think that would be upsetting for fans of the character.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Duffimages.com

So after Sharon and Phyllis’s war of words, Phyllis falls down the stairs.  And since that point, literally scene after scene, you were just lying in a hospital bed … just lying there!  Was that ridiculous to you?  Or, did you say to yourself, “I am doing my job…etc”?

MICHELLE:

I am doing the job … and the job is for me to lay here, right? (Laughs)  I do understand that viewpoint and people have told me that on Twitter that they were very mad that I was lying there, but you know, Y&R wanted to put the character in a coma, and it was actually a pretty nice gesture on their part.  They just wanted to make it so the role is still there, if I ever was to change my mind and come back.  I don’t feel like they should be blamed.  Of course, they could have had the character leave town too, or lose her mind and leave town…

MICHAEL:

But having Phyllis exit this way provided a secret for the other characters, and kept story going, so you can see why Y&R chose to do something like that.

MICHELLE:
Yeah.  It provides more story for the people remaining on the show, and that’s true.  Also, it also provided no one knowing about what really happened …. no one knows except Phyllis.  Sharon was looking through the window and Phyllis freaked out and then that was it … and then I had my massive seizure! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

How was you last day at The Young and the Restless?

MICHELLE:

I was nervous.  It was not an overnight decision, and there were a lot of personal reasons, that of course I am going to keep to myself.  Even if I told everyone all the reasons, they would still speculate. (Laughs)   I felt like this is it.   I went to work and I was on instagram doing a whole countdown on it, and I felt nervous like, “Am I going to lose it?”  And, I didn’t.  It was very sweet, and people were lovely.  They all wished me well, and Y&R writers Brent Boyd and Josh Griffith came to the party, and CBS Daytime’s Margo Wain came to the party.  Everybody was really cool.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credti: Ray Kachatorian

Did you feel when you walked out of the studio (after nearly 16 years of playing this one-of-a-kind character) that you had done everything you could have done with Phyllis?

MICHELLE:

For me, I feel that way.  I am sure if they choose to bring the character back and have somebody else play her, there is a whole new thing they could do, just because there is another actor.  They bring something different to the role.  It’s a tough character, and usually villains who turn nice it’s a tougher character to write for, because you are always sort of walking the line between good and bad.  I felt like that was it for me with that character.  I think that sometimes you want to do something in your life, and life presents itself, and you go, “This is the time for me to do something,” and that is how it kind of all worked out.  This is not to be taken at all that I did not want to work on the show because of the new EP, Jill Farren Phelps, and head writer, Josh Griffith.  I am a big fan of Josh’s and he was on the show before, and it was great.  I think that my sister getting sick, and the contract coming up a few months after made me realize that there is a time in an actor’s career that sometimes you think, “If I don’t jump off the cliff right now, I may never do it.”  I don’t look at the job at Y&R as being stuck, I don’t, but there were so many things that I desire to do as an actor, and so many goals that I had, that I just thought maybe now is the time to jump.  And that is mainly it.  It all sort of came together at one time, and I was like, “You know what?  Let’s just jump off, now!”   And so, I did!

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Ray Kachatorian

In your lifetime, you have been thrown so many things to deal with, and to overcome, and so many obstacles, and the fights you have had to fight.  So, when I saw your new web series, The Stafford Project, it made me smile, because knowing you as I do, there was a realism to the ridiculousness of the real life situations that happened to you.  I thought it was well done!  You were playing a version of yourself within these real-life moments that happened to you!

MICHELLE:

The whole situation was so intense and so insane trying to have a kid, and the doctor’s appointments and the surgeries, which I had documented and filmed in my real life.  It was so crazy, and every time I turned around it was so oppressive. Then when Natalia was born new things occurred, and I thought this was also nuts, being a single working mom to this kid, and going out and dating.  Then I talked to my friend Paige, who is one of the producers on the Stafford Project, and I said to her, “Let me pitch this to you!”  I said, “I really want to write a comedy web series in the vain of The Larry Sanders Show, where he is trying to keep it all together with the crazies around him.  I want it to be that she is just trying to keep it together, and every time she jumps off, she meets a crazy.”  Paige thought it was awesome, and wanted to get her writing partner in on it, Paige Long.  We just jumped in, and Paige and Paige’s comedy is just awesome!  I did the scenarios and I have very specific lines I wanted to use.  So I said, “These lines have to be in it, and it has to go like this…”  That is why all three of us are writers on the series. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

And then … who knew?  Your daughter, Natalia was a scene-stealer!

MICHELLE:

Well, I did of course! (Laughs)  She was so professional.  She did not whine, or bitch, or do anything.  In the second episode of The Stafford Project, Natalia is totally improving with me.  I am like, “Geez, look at this kid!”  I have an actress on my hands.  If she wants to go down that path, I am going to have her originate it; I am not going to push it.  But if she says to me, “Hey, I want to do this acting thing,” I just feel if your child excels, or is gifted in an area, you should cultivate that.   I do see an actress in my kid … and it is tormenting to say! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/TheStaffordProject

In the first episode of The Stafford Project, I loved when the reality show producer popped up in the backseat of the car with the “mulatto” line,  while “Michelle” is trying to explain about her surrogate, who was actually mixed-race or bi-racial!

MICHELLE:

Did you not almost die? (Laughs) You know all those comments that he made are comments that were truly said to me like, “Well, your kid is going to be mulatto!” I said, “Well no, it’s my egg.”  And they would go, “Oh no, well he or she will still be black!”… and other various racial comments.  And as the show continues on, the third episode is a flashback episode of what I went through, and it’s pretty cool.  As we go along, we enter more into her job and the shenanigans at the show she works at.  It’s Michelle Stafford, and she is on a soap, but we never mention the name of the show. It’s not Y&R. And, the character she plays is named “Francis”.  I make it very clear we not goofing on soap operas; we are goofing on actors, which is completely fine! (Laughs).  So we are goofing on actors, and the human condition.  There is a surprise guest in episode four, and the person is awesome and amazing, and people are totally going to dig it.  We have shot four episodes thus far, and we are going to keep doing them until people say, “Please stop doing it!” (Laughs)  I think we are going to release them every three weeks, and you are talking to the main producer here! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Do you think it’s hard in Hollywood for a soap actress to be considered for primetime or motion pictures roles?  Is there still the stigma?

MICHELLE:

I think it’s very hard for a soap opera actress to be many times viewed as a serious actor. There is just an idea out there … there just is!  It’s wrong, but you have to break through it like with anything, and be funny, and that is one thing I know I am.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Would you love to have a sitcom?  Remember, when Judith Light went from doing Karen Wolek and her stunning courtroom confession on One Life to Live to becoming Angela Bowers on Who’s The Boss?

MICHELLE:

Well, yeah you could make a lot of money! (Laughs)  I loved Judith on One Life to Live.

MICHAEL:

Your new website is also very clever, and has great branding to it, especially the tag line, “Doing it as a single chick”!

MICHELLE:

I came up with that hash tag on instagram and people started using it like crazy.   People would say, “I’m doing it as a single chick too,” and others would say, “I am married and I am doing it as a single chick!” (Laughs)  Listen, I found there is such a large group of women who are on the web who are working their asses off.  They are either single mothers, or married and handling the entire household and working, and the ones who are still single are out there still dating.  It’s a lot to juggle, man.  Back in the day, just taking care of the kids in the house was your only job, and that was a huge job in itself.  That is a lot of hats to wear, but my take on it is: I am doing the same thing, but I am just making it funny.  And, the blogs will be funny on the website, and it will be a portal into my life at how I am being a hot bitch in my forties getting my groove on, and taking care of my kid, and being a mom at the same time.

MICHAEL:

The blog piece you wrote on men on your website, that actually men get a bad rap, I thought was terrific. We all hate on guys a lot, and they don’t deserve it … well, not all the time!

MICHELLE:

I wanted it to be very gay friendly, too.  That can apply to my boys too, and it can apply to a lesbian too… it is all of us out there.  The guys do get shit on.  Sometimes I read these blogs, and they are so linear, and it is just for a mom who is married with a husband and has everything taken care of for her.  And I think, “Wow, you are not even writing for a chick who is single, and who works and who is trying to live her life, and you are not writing for a woman who is celebrating how hot she is!” (Laughs)  I love making women feel like they are important.  I love making people feel important.  It is a tough gig out there in life.  Everybody is just trying to do the best job they can.  I really want to give to people, and make them feel validated, and make them laugh.  I am really excited about the site.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Alison Sweeney (Sami) of Days of our Lives has been extremely successful building her brand from first: her soap career, to hosting Biggest Loser, to her website, to all her other projects.  What do you think of how she cultivated her audience, and how she speaks to women?

MICHELLE:

Alison is a smart girl, and an ambitious gal, and she got it.  I also think she had something to say.  I think she understood, and that would attract women who had a problem with their weight too, and that is a huge thing. The blog I have on my website on weight, that is the most asked question; “How do I keep my body in such good shape?”  It’s an interesting thing that body image is so on the forefront of women’s minds.

MICHAEL:

You also talk about dating experiences in The Stafford Project, and on your website.  How is dating going for you now that Natalia is a three-year old?

MICHELLE:

I was dating this guy recently and he started spending the night, and I was really like, “Oh, my God, I am a filthy whore!” (Laughs)  I was like, “You can’t be here when my daughter’s here!  You cannot be here!”  So my mom takes my daughter every Friday.  So I suppose whoever wants to have sex with me, it’s only going to happen on Friday or Saturday when my mom has Natalia! (Laughs)  But it’s going to be really good; it’s going to be a Mardi Gras! (Laughs)  It is very legitimate question you ask.   I think I am better about it now! (Laughs)

Courtesy/CBS

MICHAEL:

As a wrap-up to your time on The Young and the Restless, let’s take a look at some of the key relationships you have had on the show.  You and Sharon Case (Sharon) have this long standing rivalry as Sharon and Phyllis.   How do you feel that relationship played out on-air?

MICHELLE:

I wish that we had more of it.  I liked it.  I think it worked.  It was really great with Sharon Case and me, because we really understand the viewpoints of our characters. When we did the scenes both of us actors knew how we felt going on into the scene and about each other.  So there is never any fear of  “I don’t want to be mean to you” because some actor will pull back with those emotions.  She and I never did that.  I am not Phyllis, you know?  I am OK screaming at you, because I am just playing a role.  I don’t mean anything by it.  Sometimes actors will back off of each other, and Sharon and I never did that to one another, and I think that showed.  It was very real to people that these two women had such jealousy of each other, and there was so much emotion born from the death of a child, and the husband leaving.  It was such a great real story.  I loved Sharon and Phyllis’ relationship.  It was vicious and very real.

MICHAEL:

How did you feel when they told you that they were going to SORAS your on-screen daughter, Summer, to 18?  And, how Hunter King (Summer) has done in the role? She has done an amazing job over the last few months!  She has an Emmy reel for next year, for sure.

MICHELLE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Well, they aged Summer before Hunter, and they kept aging her.  And, so we had a baby, then we had a two-year-old, then we had a five-year-old, then we had an 8-year-old, and then an 18-year-old, and Hunter.  Hunter is great, and such a little doll, and I love her.  She has a great career ahead of her.  I miss my little Hunter.  I cannot say enough nice things about her.

MICHAEL:

At the end of your run on Y&R, Phyllis was once again paired with Jack (Peter Bergman).  What were your thoughts on this duo getting back together?

MICHELLE:

Peter Bergman and I had worked together off and on so many times, and so I was like, “What can we do new with this?”  I was like we have been together more years than anyone else, or probably equal with Nick, and I wanted to find something new in it, and probably would have had I stayed on.  Of course, I love Peter Bergman.  He is a lovely and beautiful human being.

MICHAEL:

I think we all loved you most with Joshua Morrow (Nick Newman)!

MICHELLE:

I know.  It was just clearly what these two actors had in a scene together, and it was so interesting to see.  We just had so much chemistry, and they weren’t really telling sexual type of stories on Y&R then.  They were never doing things where people were just ripping off each other’s clothes.  We started writing every scene like that! (Laughs)  It was very dynamic, and I loved working with Josh.  Josh and I literally just had to say the words and it really, really worked.  It was a huge spike in ratings, too.  I am really proud of that time on Y&R.  I think it was really great.

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

MICHAEL:

Jeff Branson (Ronan) and you also had some serious chemistry going on.  What did you think of Ronan and Phyllis?  And how ultimately, Jeff was written-off the show?

MICHELLE:

I thought their relationship was really interesting, but when they ended it, I guess they had him come back on, and he was totally in love with Phyllis.  I was not sure about that, but Jeff was great.  I am never a fan when they write a man totally heartbroken over a woman; I am just not a personal fan of seeing a man be like that.  I like to see men be strong.  I don’t like seeing them be desperate, and Jeff played it great.  He is a great actor, and he was let-go when Jill and Josh came in.  I said, “Jeff, you are great.  Just go do your gig and go be a star,” and he is working a lot.

MICHAEL:

Christian LeBlanc (Michael, Y&R) is your buddy.  Is it weird that he is there at Y&R, and you’re not?

MICHELLE:

I know he is sad, because it was first losing Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor) and now me … two main actors on the show.  Listen, Christian and I will always know each other, and know each other when we are 108!

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

 … And you will always hijack each others interview? (Laughs)

MICHELLE:

Yes, and I will always be funnier, and he will always remind me he has three Emmys and I have two.  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

What is the last word you would like to say to your fans?

MICHELLE:

I hope they watch The Stafford Project like 25 times each, and backwards.  If we get 50, 000 to 100,000 hits in the first week that is great, and means it’s successful.  If they are sad about Phyllis not being around, just watch The Stafford Project.

 

 

  1. Cathy Reese says:

    I watched The Stafford Project this eve and loved it. Its going to do well I think.

    Reply

  2. David J. says:

    I watched The Stafford Project last night and thought it was wonderful.

    Reply

  3. mollie says:

    OMG…the “mulatto” comments! lol. Viewers could tell this was ripped right from Michelle Stafford’s own experiences. What some people will say! I love that Michelle sees the humor in the ridiculous, and that she shares it so sublimely :)

    My only other comment is that I think an episode release every three weeks is much to slow…not only because I would like to see episodes more frequently, but I think the series will lose forward momentum with viewers. Just too slow a pace for interested viewers. Just my opinion.

    Love it, though.

    Reply

  4. Beacon says:

    Nice shout out to Delia on Ryan’s Hope! I can actually see that character may have influenced Stafford’s early Phyllis who was desperate for the security of Danny by having his son, just as Delia was desperate for the security of Pat (and had an adversary in Kate Mulgrew’s Mary who was disgusted by her, just as Cricket was disgusted by Phyllis.)

    Reply

  5. SZima says:

    I haven’t watched Project yet, but I will.

    I just have a comment…that top picture of Michelle is SO wierd to me…very un-Phyllis like. Never in a million years would Phyllis be caught in a princess dress like that!

    Reply

    Teresa Ungerer replied

    She’s Michelle Stafford, not Phyllis

    Reply

  6. Mad/hatter says:

    Thank you so much for letting Michelle clear it up once and for all that she and Sharon Case enjoyed working together and do not hate each other I was so sick of that story being told. I think she has a flair for comedy so good luck. The show is so different now that I think she was right to move on.

    Reply

  7. Robin says:

    OMG what cave am I living in? If not for you, Michael, and this interview I’d be wondering how long Phyllis was going to be gone lol. Great interview!!! Happy for her and wish her continued success. SO SAD for us Y & R fans. Show will not the same without her!!!!! I’m going to start my mourning process now.
    Thank God I have cookies in my cupboard :)

    Reply

  8. Jacqueline says:

    I wished they did not get rid of Phyllis. I loved her on the show and gonna miss her. I hope she comes back and get Sharon.

    Reply

    cheryl replied

    i hope that phylis comes back and sets things right with the sharon thing,i wish you success on your new adventure, but you will be so missed on my favorite soap..i have watched this show from the beginning, love it.

    Reply

  9. Lafaux says:

    I smiled all the way through! Great job! I can’t wait to see more.

    Reply

  10. Sharol says:

    I watched the Stafford Project and I completely loved it. It was so very funny, which really fits Michelle well. She is such a great actress and I’m sad that she left Y&R but I am loving seeing her in this project of hers. Keep up the great work and I look forward to a lot more!

    Reply

  11. Megan says:

    Michelle Stafford’s future is just beginning. I look forward to
    Her star becoming bigger and brighter everyday.

    Reply

  12. O says:

    I watched The Stafford Project It was funny and I wished Michelle would had stayed on Y&R ,Phylliss would had kicked ass and loved itwhen she battled Sharon and Christine Blair> I can’t wait until she does a primetime sitcom do 2 & a half men she would be funny with Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cyrer or Mike and Molly

    Reply

    Teresa Ungerer replied

    Oh yes! Great idea

    Reply

  13. O says:

    I would love to see Michelle team up with Colleen Zenk (Barbara) and Kim Zimmer (Reva) the 3 of them could do a sitcom together

    Reply

  14. Michelle says:

    Not everybody liked Phyllis with Nick.

    Reply

  15. Jackie says:

    Loved Nick and Phyllis together, show will not be the same without Phyllis. I wish Michelle well and will be tuning in on her show

    Reply

  16. janice layton says:

    She left because of Scientology. She refused to work with Michael (Murphy), because he came to his senses years ago and left the cult. She is doing a web series now, with all Scientology members. Talk about mind control.

    Reply

    k/kay replied

    I heard that to but he is never on could not figure out how that could be who knows. You have any idea how much money you put into this thing I call it a Pyramid cult. Lol

    Reply

  17. michael says:

    Scientology is her belief, who are we to judge. She is missed on Y&R – she’s an amazing actress, but I love that she’s got balls and isn’t afraid of doing what she wants. I didn’t want to like the stafford project because i was upset that she left Y&R – ha! how egotistical is that!? but i love it, she and the show is hilarious. and incredibly well produced

    Reply

  18. Darling says:

    Michelle what can I say, I hate to see you leave the Y&R but if that’s your wish, I wish you the best of luck. May you prosper in all you do; God bless you and your beautiful, little girl.

    Reply

  19. Thelma says:

    I love Michelle on Y&R . Hope she return if only to get Sharon lie straight. I pray your success in whatever you want to do . I know that you would be good at it.

    Reply

  20. jamie says:

    Does anyone know if Michelle is married in real life?

    Reply

  21. Red Rivers says:

    So Phelps fired Jeff Branson too. This witch just loves to kick actors out on the street. She’s a witch.

    Reply

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