INTERVIEW: Meet Y&R's newest powerhouse, Alice Hunter

Posted Friday, November 09, 2015 3:40:43 PM

She's brave, she's determined and she's absolutely lovable. Meet The Young and the Restless' Alice Hunter, who has taken on the role of charismatic chemist Kerry Johnson.

It doesn't take a scientist to know that The Young and the Restless has struck gold with the casting of Jabot's newest chemist. Alice Hunter has only been in a couple of episodes, yet she's already made quite an impression as Kerry Johnson. Fans are intrigued, as is leading man Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman), who seems to have developed an extra spring in his step since meeting Genoa City's newest resident.

With a possible Jack and Kerry romance on the horizon, Soap Central decided to lightheartedly play the traditional "big brother protector" role: who is Kerry Johnson and her portrayer, Alice Hunter? And what makes either think she is good enough for our beloved Jack Abbott?

As it turns out, Kerry is shaping up to be an extremely likable powerhouse brainiac -- which is exactly the kind of equally matched playmate Jack so desperately needs. And as for Alice? Well, keep reading and you'll see why the powers that be fell in love with the actress and why you're probably going to fall in love with her, too.

Soap Central: You were born in Middlesex, England -- which is now part of north London -- but you left when you were a child. Do you remember much about your childhood there?

Alice Hunter: I was nine when I left, so I remember very clearly my school, and my best friend, and walking to the local supermarket, the weather, everything being indoors -- the jungle gyms and the pools and the everything -- and then I went to Australia, which is completely the opposite! As a nine-year-old, to go from being cold all the time to being in Australia, it was amazing.

Soap Central: Out of the two -- Australia or England -- which do you most associate as home?

Alice Hunter: I feel mostly Australian. But what's funny is my mom and I are planning a trip back to London next year, like a real one where we're going to go visit our family and things like that, and I'm going to look and see if there's any connection. I'll go to my old stomping grounds and see if I feel connected, because technically, I'm British. Even my accent, sometimes!

Soap Central: How did your journey to the United States happen? Did you move for your acting career?

Alice Hunter: I did, entirely. My dad is American, which means I have dual citizenship -- Australian and American.

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Soap Central: What?! Oh wow, you are so lucky!

Alice Hunter: I know! It was hard for me to make Australian friends when I first moved out here, because people were genuinely mad at me! They were like, "How did you get your green card?" And I'm like, "You don't want to know my story. I'm sorry!" [Laughs] But yeah, I was on a show in Australia called H20: Just Add Water, which was this mermaid show. It was a kids' sensation, and I think the show is actually still going. I was on the very first season of that, and then back like twelve or thirteen years ago, when I was auditioning in that market, there wasn't a lot of work that was substantial for people of color, people like me. And now it's totally different -- it's totally diverse. But at the time, I was like, "I've just got to go to America. I've got to make that move." So, everybody was planning for their college that they were going to or what they were going to do for their gap year, and I was mapping out where the studios were in L.A. and what agencies I was going to apply to. [Laughs] I had a whole folder, and I still have that folder, of all the research I did to move here. I was a good student, a straight-A student, and I loved school. So, I was like, "This is my school. Moving myself to America is my school." The week that I turned 18, I moved out here. My mom came with me for a couple of weeks to set me up, and then that was it: she left me here. And I'm still alive! [Laughs]

Soap Central: That is such a brave thing to do, when you're only 18 years old, to pick up and move to a foreign country. I really applaud you, because that is not an easy thing to do.

Alice Hunter: Looking back, I honestly don't know how I did it. At the time, I just did it and thought of course I'd be fine. I moved in with roommates that I found on Craigslist, and then two months later, something really terrible happened between the roommates, and I was like, "Mom, I've got to get out of here!!" So, I found more roommates on Craigslist, and I rented a U-Haul and moved myself. It's just so crazy to think that I did that on my own. When I have my own children, I'll have to be really careful when they want to do things, because they'll be like, "Mom, when you were 18, you moved yourself across the world!"

Soap Central: And it paid off, because now you've made your debut on The Young and the Restless!

Alice Hunter: I know! Isn't it great?

Soap Central: Did you have dreams of being on a soap opera?

Alice Hunter: I always thought I would be on one, and I predicted that I would be on one of the Aussie soaps like Home and Away or Neighbours. When I was in Australia, I would go on "go-sees" for those shows. A go-see is when there isn't a particular role, but you go and take meetings with the casting directors, and they sort of size you up, and they'd be like, "Oh, yeah, she's great. But we just don't really have a place for her." And I sort of felt like the Aussie soaps -- at that time -- weren't really going to be for me. But I would have loved to have done it. I love the idea of sinking into one character for all that time. So, moving here, I started doing guest stars and little movies, but soaps just never really happened for me. I remember testing for Days of our Lives with casting director Marnie [Saitta] ten years ago. I was like, "This is the one! I'm going to get this one!" I loved the role, and I loved DAYS, actually. But that didn't pan out. It was between me and another girl, but neither of us got it.

Soap Central: Do you know what the role was?

Alice Hunter: I think they ended up not going with the role. So, at the time, I thought maybe soaps just weren't in the cards for me. I've done all these other things: I've been on Comedy Central, I've done Showtime, so many things. And it's funny, because it has all come back around, and I finally get to sink my teeth into one character and really grow with her. It's my favorite thing about this journey. You just don't get that [opportunity] very often. It's so rare... and it's why you see the connection between the fans and the characters; it's like nothing else.

Soap Central: How familiar were you with Y&R before you landed the audition?

Alice Hunter: I was actually a big All My Children fan. My mom and I would watch that, and I remember being in Australia, watching that show quite a bit. By the time I was watching All My Children, Peter Bergman [who used to play AMC's Cliff Warner] had left, but I recognized some of the characters that had come from All My Children over to Y&R, so I would tune in to Y&R every now and again to watch them. I wasn't an avid soap opera watcher, but I have always loved the genre. I understand the genre, and it makes me happy. Really, nothing made me happier than watching All My Children and Home and Away and Eastenders -- all the soaps from the different countries. There's just something about getting that opportunity to tune in to somebody's family every day.

Soap Central: Did your DAYS audition help you at all with your Y&R audition?

Alice Hunter: It did help me, actually. Marnie was a big champion of mine back in the day, so she would always give me little hints and tips. I saw producers and was testing for that show, so I was so sure I was going to be on DAYS all those years ago! [Laughs] But I remembered, when I auditioned for Y&R: look as beautiful as you can, know your lines through and through, and connect -- connect, connect, connect with whoever you're reading with. Those were the three most important things. Other auditions sometimes, it's more like, "Okay, let me break this scene down. What's really going on here?" But for [soap opera auditions], it's all about connection and knowing your lines, in and out. They want to see that you can do the job and look good doing it. And that's what I carried all through, right to the test.

Soap Central: Who did you screen test with?

Alice Hunter: Mr. Peter Bergman! I knew by that point that my character was going to have something to do with Jabot, and so I just binge-watched as many Y&R episodes that I could find and, of course, started to get into the story. That's what soaps do: you can not tune in for years, and then tune in, and they suck you right back in! I started watching episodes, but then I thought, maybe that wasn't a good idea because I kind of got a little in my head, thinking, "Oh, they're so good! And this is so important, this role coming in, this chemist!" I mean, Eileen Davidson [ex-Ashley Abbott] is phenomenal. I'm a big fan of her and her acting on the show... and this character is not replacing anybody, but she is filling a role at Jabot as the chemist that does fill Ashley's literal profession on the show. So, I started to get in my head, but upon meeting Peter, everything fell into place. We connected instantly. And we had a ball! He's an extremely charming man, and he's kind and giving. I lay it on thick, but he deserves it! He's a wonderful, wonderful person. He made the screentest fun; he would say lines that weren't on the page, and then I would say lines that weren't on the page, and we were laughing when there wasn't laughter. We just had a ball, so I left and was like, "I don't know what just happened, but I had fun."

Soap Central: Isn't he just the epitome of a gentleman? I haven't told him this, but I consider him daytime's Cary Grant.

Alice Hunter: Oh, I love that! And yes -- even the other day, we were on set, and he could see that my feet were hurting, so between takes, he was like, "Sit, sit, sit." And he'd be pulling up a chair and asking if I was thirsty or needed water. He's so attentive. I was like, "What? Who are you? I love it!"

Soap Central: I think actually, one of my favorite parts of that story is the admission that your feet hurt. High heels are no joke, so I like that even soap stars have a hard time wearing them for so long.

Alice Hunter: Yes! I was in heels, and I'm 5'10" -- I'm a tall gal. Peter actually said to me once that whenever we do scenes together, he said, "It's so nice to not have to worry about blocking your light!" [Laughs]

Soap Central: Now that you've been playing the role for several weeks, you've gotten to know Kerry a little bit more. What are your initial thoughts and feelings about her?

Alice Hunter: They kept a lot in the dark at the beginning, and I think it's because they had one idea of Kerry, and then they met me, and things sort of started to morph. Especially with the chemistry that I have with certain cast members, I think that they sort of adjusted and realigned her a little bit. I was talking with some of the writing staff about her, and I think my instincts are correct. I really like her; I've liked her from the beginning. She's a hard worker, and she's really dedicated to her career, and that is something I can relate to. She has really put everything else in her life aside for her career, much like in my life: I haven't been in a relationship in quite a while and because of that, great things have happened in my career, and I'm more centered and focused than I've ever been. But Alice's ultimate dream -- my ultimate dream -- is to raise a family, to be in a happy relationship, the white picket fence thing, the whole deal. I sort of relate to that very female struggle. Obviously, men have that struggle, too, but with women, you have to take time out to be pregnant and things like that, you have to take time out to raise a family. So, all of that stuff I've brought to Kerry. I'm like, "Yes! She's written as this powerhouse, 'I work, work, work. I do nothing but work!'" But it's like, what areas of her life suffer because of that? And I think that starts to be revealed as time goes on. But what else is nice is that Kerry did not come to Genoa City expecting to fall for anybody. And I think that she is surprised by what unfolds in that case.

Soap Central: You've been quite complimentary toward Gina Tognoni, saying Phyllis is one of the most dynamic, layered characters on television. Considering your admiration, were you intimated to work with her?

Alice Hunter: Absolutely -- until I met her. She said to me, "Hey, wanna run these lines?" And I was like, "Oh, she's such a lovely actor and a wonderful human!" Phyllis is a powerhouse, and if you're going to work for Phyllis, which is what Kerry comes in wanting do from the second she meets her, that told me a lot about Kerry as a person and her confidence in what she does. Luckily, in my own life, while I'm not a chemist, I'm very confident in what I do and what I bring to everything that I'm good at, so it wasn't super hard for me relate to that. So, Gina... I hope she gets the credit she deserves. I don't read blogs and keep up with too many things, but really, in all of TV, her character Phyllis is just so cool. The things that she gets to do, playing the love interest at the same time of playing this murder thing and taking charge in that arena. She really takes charge of all the stories that she's involved in, and I know that she's really enjoying it, and she deserves it.

Soap Central: Kerry may be confident and she doesn't get intimidated easily, but is she at all intimidated by Phyllis and Jack's strong romantic history?

Alice Hunter: Oh, yeah. Alice as a person, as a fan of the show, I've always seen that connection between Jack and Phyllis. Actually, the Emmy reel of the two of them, which I think was of their divorce, those scenes where Phyllis is bawling her eyes out in the house and Jack is leaving, those were some of the most beautiful scenes that I've ever seen. So, I understand their history from that perspective. Kerry is just dipping her toe into Jack's history, and that's going to be interesting, too, because it's not just Phyllis. Jack has been around! He's a legacy character and has had a lot of connections, and that's tough for any woman to deal with. And it's not just that they've had the history: Kerry is living in his history; she's directly in the center of it. Everybody that she interacts with in the town, in this very small town, is directly connected to him in different ways, and they share children here and there, and it's just a lot. It's definitely going to come up and be a bit of a bump for Kerry. It will be interesting to see how she deals with it!

Soap Central: Kerry is really good at chemistry. What about you: did you lean toward math and science in school?

Alice Hunter: NO! [Laughs] No, no, no. I'm a talker, I'm a writer, I'm an artist. My brother loved math, and he became my human calculator, so whenever I have to add something up at home, I'm just like, "What is 37 times 40 minus whatever" when I'm doing my bills and stuff. I think if I could have chosen to be better at anything in school, it would have been chemistry or the sciences. But math? Never! Math definitely never interested me. But with chemistry, there's something really fun about adding one thing into another and changing the color of it or blowing it up! [Laughs] But that's why I'm an actress. Now I get to do that!

Soap Central: Well, I certainly would love to see Kerry blow something up in the lab!

Alice Hunter: I hope so! I want a lab set, and I want it now! [Laughs]

Soap Central: I saw that you joined the show for the Walk to End Alzheimer's. Did the show approach you to join in?

Alice Hunter: Yeah, Y&R are very involved in all kinds of things like that, and they asked if [I would be interested in joining], and it's interesting, because my grandfather had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's a month ago. He's older -- he's in his 80s, and he's taking drugs to slow it down, whereas some of the Alzheimer's stories are extremely tragic. But it was a no-brainer for me, in that sense. I loved the chance to do something bonding with the cast, but also to do something that means so much to me at this time in my life. It was a joy.

Soap Central: Does your grandfather know or realize that you honored him in that way, that you did the walk?

Alice Hunter: He does, and he's doing well. It was actually really cool to have him watch my first episode of the show, because it airs in Australia on Arena, and it's just the most exciting for him. [My grandparents] have pictures of me all over their walls and they have quite a few neighbors in their retirement village that watch the soaps and were extremely excited. I probably could have been Wonder Woman, and it probably would have meant as much to them as me being on The Young and the Restless!

Soap Central: When you're not working, what kind of things do you like to do?

Alice Hunter: I'm really adjusting to that right now, because I was working almost seven days a week on many other things, just trying to bring in enough money to live and to train in acting. So, getting on the show, it's been my main focus. So, when I'm not here, I'm obsessively learning lines and thinking about my character and working out and things like that. But I'm really finding that I'm having more free time than I've ever had, so I'm starting to sing again, and I'm getting back into dancing. I'm also looking for a more intensive acting class. I'm just sort of reshaping my life around the arts, and it's one of the biggest gifts that Y&R has given me.

Soap Central: So, you're a singer, a dancer, and an actress? A triple threat!

Alice Hunter: Don't tell anyone! [Laughs] They were my first loves, singing and dancing. I turned away from them a long, long time ago, but I'm finally coming back to them, thanks to Y&R.

What do you think about our interview with Alice Hunter? How are you liking the role of Kerry Johnson? What do you think of the chemistry between Kerry and Jack: does it sizzle... or fizzle? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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