By Deanna Barnert
As Lauralee Bell (Christine, aka Cricket) prepares for her 40th anniversary on The Young & The Restless, Michelle Stafford is celebrating Phyllis’ arrival in Genoa City 29 years ago and Michael Damian (Danny) has returned to the fold. Mums the word on just how long Cricket, Phyllis, and Danny will be in the same city, but the reunion promises good drama, sweet laughs, some piano time, and perhaps even a rekindled romance… or two!
Sitting down with Bell, Damian, and Stafford, we felt like a fly on the wall – and now you can too. Read on as the trio reminisces over the 90’s love triangle that saw Phyllis pull every machination to steal Danny from Cricket, touches on the magic of working with Y&R creator William J. Bell, and teases what’s to come now that they’re back together again. Plus, Lauralee Bell previews what fans can expect from her anniversary episode, slated to air November 2.
Q: It’s been 25 years since Danny left town and his visits since have been quick hits. What is it like to be back on set together again, after all these years?
Lauralee Bell: It’s so nice and so comfortable. The reason Y&R [being on for] 50 years is such a gift is because of storylines like this. We have a superfan who’s been posting clips from right when we started being together. We had the super high voice, tall hair, all of that – and now here we are so many years later, and it’s still the same people and throughline of the relationship. It’s crazy.
Michael Damian: It’s beautiful. There’s so much rich history, and Michelle and Lauralee are fabulous and committed. We have this high level of mutual respect, so we love working together. We enjoy all the drama, and we crack up right before it. People don’t know that we’re actually telling jokes right before she’s going to kill him or scream at her.
Michelle Stafford: I love working with Lauralee and Michael. It makes the day joyful. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
Q: With Christine – or should I call her Cricket, again? – newly single and Danny back in town, could there be a reunion in the works for this pair?
Bell: I still call my character “Cricket.” I never say, “Christine.” That said, to laugh again, for anyone, is like a stimulant, and Danny does that for Cricket. She may have been madly in love with Paul, but she’s just been so serious for so long. She hasn’t had carefree love and it’s human nature to realize, “This is gone from my life. I missed that, and I want it back.” So… will Danny be enough of a man for her?
Bell: And will Phyllis allow it… or will she rent another car? It’s so funny to separate myself and watch Phyllis’ scenes with Danny, as a fan. I’m like, “Oh, they could be kind of cute together,” and then she’s off with Tucker and I’m like, “No, she’s still a bad girl!”
Stafford: She is bad! Somebody said on one of my Instagram posts, “Please, just have Phyllis be nice and be a good mother to her children.” I had to respond. I said, “Well, then they’re going to have to find another actress to play it,” because I can’t imagine how boring that would be.
Bell: Michelle and I haven’t worked together in years and there’s no other person I would rather be in a conflict with than her. We’ve waited and waited! Now, playing Cricket against Phyllis, it’s not two 20-year-olds, trying to get the guy. We’re adults and we don’t need a man to make us happy…. but then you get caught up in the game because she’s your archrival.
Stafford: Michelle sides with Cricket, because that’s the truth of the story, but Phyllis doesn’t think she did the bad thing. Phyllis feels totally justified and she’ll always feel justified. It would be great, actually, if somebody could sit her down and say, “When you ran Cricket over with the car… why did you do that?” That would be a cool scene.
Q: Phyllis faked Daniel’s paternity and ran Cricket down with her car, but somehow, she and Danny have moved past that. With Danny back in the picture, should Cricket be worried about Phyllis?
Stafford: For sure. Let’s talk candidly: It’s been a long time for Phyllis. She needs a little something. It’s been over a year. She must be exploding!
Damian: She could explode on impact. Now I’m worried about that. No, I really like the way Michelle is playing our scenes. She’s very charming and sincere. And that’s been a nice surprise. I mean—
Bell: Fooled again!
Damian: Yeah, but she’s doing it with a lot of depth.
Stafford: Awe, thank you. You know, when I auditioned for the role, my character was coming in to ruin the golden couple. I thought, “Why would he leave this perfect girl? The only reason would be a sexual pull.” So that’s what I played when I auditioned, and then Bill went with that. And they’re still the golden couple, so that’s what I will play again – but now it’s infused with charm and history.
Bell: Phyllis and Danny also have a kid together, and you can’t beat that. It’s a big thing in Cricket’s head because that’s her big question mark: If she’d had a kid with Paul, would they still be together?
Q: Michael, what has it been like – then and now –to be caught between these two characters?
Damian: Fun! There’s great dynamics with both, and they’re so different, which makes it wonderful. You’ve got the sensible, logical, fabulous, positive lawyer, and then you’ve got this dynamic businesswoman who is wheeling and dealing and just making stuff happen – including drama and excitement. Genoa City has never been the same. Phyllis livened it up and created a perfect conflict. Bill Bell wrote incredible stuff. What a mastermind. Everything was so deep.
Stafford: We were so beholden to Bill.
Damian: Watching old clips, I can’t believe all the adventurous, wild, wonderful things our characters did. Obviously, the big wedding in Hawaii was epic. It was a beautiful, romantic, amazing remote. I tear up when I see some of the clips because I see Quinn Redeker (Rex) and how special that was. It was a beautiful, magical time on the show.
Stafford: It was. I came right after that, and oh, man. If you only knew you were in the good old days when you were in them!
Bell: What we’re also seeing in these clips is how much humor was in the show. Almost every single one of our scenes had something that allowed us to be goofy. We were watching one and the band was playing and we’re chasing each other around the room and then I’m running up a ladder. My dad was frickin amazing!
Damian: That was epic. Your dad! I knew he was funny, but not that funny. Watching all those scenes is hilarious. There’s a lot of physical comedy built out of reality.
Bell: Why do you think I’m so funny? I got it from him.
Damian: Yes! But we need to put that into the character now.
Bell: I plan to. Michael and I are very aware that we want to keep a lot of that playfulness Danny and Cricket had originally – whether it’s in the writing or not.
Stafford: Do you guys have a love scene coming up?
Bell: We have to have a date, first!
Q: Are you ready for those scenes, if they come?
Bell: I still feel like I’m 20, but I remember being young and being like, “I don’t want to watch those old people kissing!” I think it should just be that they kiss and then–
Damian: –they put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, right?
Bell: We’re just excited. We don’t know how long this is going to go or what’s going to happen, so I appreciate every day.
Damian: Yep, and I’ve gotten a strong reaction about the music and Danny sitting down at the piano with Cricket. Viewers like the whole music aspect.
Bell: The music’s all part of it. It has to be there.
Damian: Yeah, I’ve been sending tracks to the show and just got a call from the music guys about a song that I need to send them. We’ll see.
Q. Before we let you go, you three are always busy with other projects. Do you have anything to plug outside of Genoa City?
Stafford: I’ll always plugged my company, Skin Nation.
Damian: Wait, Michelle, look at my face! I love the product. I’m wearing it now. Do you see an improvement?
Stafford: You look amazing.
Damian: Paris Christmas Waltz [which I directed and produced] comes out November 19. I’m finishing that, as we speak. Then Irish Wish is coming to Netflix in early 2024.
Bell: My producing partner, Martha Byrne, and I continue to write and develop projects together. We have a few irons in the fire that we’re very excited about. In the meantime, make sure you watch Y&R on November 2 – the Cricket episode!
Damian: That’s gonna be fantastic.
Bell: It’s a little different than any other anniversary show. It’s not like, “This is Your Life.” It’s not a stand-alone show. It’s current, in terms of what’s happening at that moment, and progress happens during the show. I’m super excited about the episode, and what’s to come. Not that we know what that is!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.