The new generation of Abbotts are set to take center stage on The Young and the Restless, one of them being Jack's son, Kyle, who will be heading back from Italy in the near future, and the other being Jack's previously unknown granddaughter, Allie Nguyen, who's currently in Los Angeles but will soon be making her way to Genoa City.
Allie is already creating small sparks of friction within the Abbott clan, with some family members not being sure what to make of this new family member they've never met before. And added to that mix is the soap's previous tease that Allie is set to catch the attention of an eligible bachelor when she finally makes her way to town. How will all of that go down, and what else can fans expect from Keemo's daughter once she joins the Abbotts in Genoa City? Soap Central caught up with the character's portrayer, Kelsey Wang, to find out.
Soap Central: Hi, Kelsey! How are things going at Y&R so far? Are you having fun?
Kelsey Wang: It's been such a great experience! Working with Peter Bergman [Jack Abbott], they really gave me a mentor figure to work off of for the first few weeks, so I loved that. I've been working with Michelle Stafford [Phyllis Summers] and Peter Bergman and Susan Walters [Diane Jenkins], these wonderful vets who gave me guardrails for the first month. I've loved working with them and loved learning from them. So, it's been a really great experience, and there is very exciting stuff coming up. I can't say what it is, so you'll just have to tune in. It's going to be pretty awesome.
Soap Central: As you said, you started working with legacy Y&R actors right off the bat. Were you familiar with Y&R and who they were before you started?
Wang: Nothing to be nervous about, right? [Laughs] I moved here from Singapore when I was very young, like seven or eight years old, and when I moved here, I was watching the soaps because they were on during the daytime, and I used that as a way to learn English. So, I watched Y&R and GH when I was younger, and I have these vague memories of these guys from like 20 years ago! [Laughs] So, it's kind of surreal seeing them now and working with them. Peter Bergman was in my screen test, so, of course, I did my research and found out what an incredible legend he was. The scene during the screen test was basically testing my chemistry with him as granddaughter and grandfather, so I knew I was going to be working with him a ton, so I did my research, and it was definitely a little intimidating, but it was also the best thing that happened to me because they are so good, they make you so good, as well, in the scenes. It's just easy to work with them.
Soap Central: Do you remember when you first became interested in acting?
Wang: I became interested in acting when I was in high school. I was really lucky, because I got a full scholarship that I randomly applied to and went off to a boarding school by myself when I was fourteen, and this scholarship let me go to any summer program of my choosing, and on a whim, I went to Yale Drama School, to their summer program. I had moved around a ton when I was younger -- when I was seven, I moved from Singapore to Texas, and after Texas, I moved three times -- so, I always just sort of felt a little bit like a chameleon, and for me, acting was just this wonderful thing, where you get to play all these different characters and use your imagination. So, I got to go to a summer program at Yale's Drama School, and for eight weeks, their professors taught us acting, and it opened my mind like no other way; I was like, "Wow, to be able to live in your imagination and do this? I'm sold!"
Soap Central: A lot of actors have memories of performing as children or watching TV and wanting to be in the world. Do you have any memories like that?
Wang: The moment that I actually decided that I wanted to do this as a profession was after I watched the Broadway play of Skylight, by David Hare. It starred Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy, and the acting was so fantastic, it basically transported you into this world. It made me cry, and it was such an experience for two hours. I remember watching it in college -- I was able to go to New York and watch it, and I was just like, "This is what I want to do!" Acting brings issues to light that you wouldn't otherwise really know about, and if it's done right, the audience and the actors get to live through something, and I love that.
Soap Central: Well, if you like living through things as an actor, get ready for all the things they might throw at you on The Young and the Restless!
Wang: I know, right? Peter Bergman, who is so wonderful, I've had many chats with him, and in one of the chats, he was like, "For an actor, there is nothing greater than the soaps, because you get to live through so many key moments of someone's life and really experience these huge ups and downs that normally, in your real life, you probably wouldn't get to experience." And it's all real stuff that people can relate to; you're not playing a superhero losing their power, but more like, what happens when your partner cheats on you? It's the stuff that every human goes through -- you know, besides crazy kidnapping and stuff like that! [Laughs] But it's about life's highs and lows, about family, about the struggles that we go through day to day. I so agree with Peter -- it's such a fantastic opportunity.
Soap Central: What have been your first impressions of Allie?
Wang: Allie has a very different perspective -- at least, that's really what I want to bring to the character and the show. She did not grow up in Genoa City. She didn't even really grow up in the U.S. -- her and Keemo were in Vietnam for quite a while before they moved to L.A. -- so, she did not come from this world of wealth, she did not come from this world of privilege. She's an incredibly motivated, hard-working woman who is very smart and very grounded. She's young, and losing a parent so early and having a mom who is estranged, there is a sense of being lost and being overwhelmed. Imagine if you find the Abbott family after losing your dad and not having a relationship with your mom. [Laughs] But Allie knows where she comes from, and she's incredibly grounded in that, but she's also a little lost, and she's trying to find herself and also find the sense of who she is with these people. And she grows tremendously as a person, her confidence with these people grows, as well. They're very intimidating -- Phyllis and Jack are not the most easy people to meet! And she's very young and doesn't have anyone, so she's a little intimidated. But I think there is a really great story that the show and Josh [Griffith, co-executive producer/head writer] and Tony [Morina, co-executive producer] are telling with Allie. She has a totally different perspective, and she grows as a person, and her confidence grows over time. It's a wonderful journey to take as an actor.
Soap Central: Jack is ready and willing to accept Allie into the family, but Ashley [Eileen Davidson] expressed some early doubts. Will there be challenges as she gets to know the Abbott family better?
Wang: There will be a lot of different points of view. For Jack, this is precious -- this is his chance to recoup his relationship with Keemo in a way that he never got to do. But for other people, having a new, grown-up Abbott may not necessarily be the best thing in the world. I think I can say that Allie is coming to Genoa City -- of course she's going to come to Genoa City! [Laughs] That is happening pretty soon, and she's going to have a wealth of different reactions when people are meeting her. She's smart, and she's going to take all of that in. She's going to be happy to meet everyone, and she's going to take everything in, and she'll figure it out.
Soap Central: When news first broke about Allie coming to Genoa City, the show teased that she would be catching the attention of an eligible bachelor in town. Is there anything you can tease about that at the moment?
Wang: [Laughs] You know, there are lots of great guys in Genoa City -- quite a few great gentlemen. I can't say who specifically, but I can say that I have started taping some scenes with a really wonderful guy, and that will soon be coming.
Soap Central: Do you think Allie is ready for a romance?
Wang: That is a great question! So many things are coming at Allie at once. She comes to this new city, and she's still grieving her dad, but I think a relationship could help her heal, if the right guy comes into her life. And I'm not talking about a hookup or a really quick relationship, but someone who she truly can find as an equal partner. I think that could really help her heal and be another grounding factor in her life, besides her grandfather.
Soap Central: I saw on IMDb that you appeared on Y&R as an extra back in 2011. Do you remember anything from that experience?
Wang: Okay, there's an interesting story about that. I was talking to the show, and I am not actually sure if I did that or not! [Laughs] I came for a semester during college here -- Duke had this program where we could live at USC for a semester, and so I was just trying to figure life out, and I did some extra work. I think it was at CBS [Television] City, but I don't know if it was Y&R. No one on the show has confirmed, either! Honestly, it happened so long ago, it could be, it couldn't be, but maybe it is? Which would be crazy to think about, right?
Soap Central: If you look remotely similar now to what you looked like back in 2011, I'm fairly certain fans of Y&R will find the clip!
Wang: Yes, you're right, someone will find it! I think I was behind a stall, this outdoor stall, and I was playing a vendor, so if anyone goes into the archives and looks, they might find a little me. Crazy, how the world comes around!
Soap Central: You do have some prior experience on General Hospital, and I know it was a short-term thing, but did you learn anything there that has helped you at Y&R?
Wang: Yes, absolutely. I loved GH. Mark Teschner, the casting director there, and all of the people were wonderful there. You're right, it was a smaller recurring role, but I think what it helped me do was figure out the rhythm and how the soaps work, the schedule, the rhythm of shooting. So, that gave me a good expectation of how things work. With that said, this is a very different show with different people, and because I'm able to be on it on a regular basis, it's really wonderful then to be able to go deeper with the acting. Soaps are so fast, but when you're able to be on in a more regular [capacity], you're able to go deeper with the character and really bond with the cast and crew. So, this has been an extension of my General Hospital experience, which gave me a little bit of a head start, I would say.
Soap Central: Did you work with anyone at GH that left an impression on you?
Wang: Everyone there was wonderful, but I worked mainly with Lexie Ainsworth (Kristina Corinthos), who was such a great actress. I also worked a lot with Coby Ryan McLaughlin (ex-Shiloh), and it's so funny, because he could turn it on and off so fast, playing the creepy, slimy Shiloh. He's such a good guy in real life -- he's a dad and he'd always talk about his daughter, and he always encouraged us to have fun on set. He was like, "Kelsey, are you having fun yet?" And then, as soon as we'd start shooting, he'd turn into sketchy Shiloh, which shows you how good of an actor he is. And Lexie is such a pro, as well. She's a long-time veteran of General Hospital and was so great to have as a scene partner.
Soap Central: You're really surrounded by so much talent in the soap world, whether it's General Hospital or Y&R.
Wang: You are! I think that is one of the things about soaps that people don't realize; the actors have to be really good because they shoot so fast. On primetime, you have multiple takes so you can warm up into it. There's no warming up here! [Laughs] It teaches you to be prepared, to work hard, and to really be on it with the first take, because that's all you get.
Soap Central: Speaking of talent, I've read a lot of fan reactions and responses to you, and many say you have great screen presence and show a lot of promise. What kind of fan responses have you received so far, and how does the support make you feel?
Wang: I know soap fans love the show so much, and I was pretty nervous at first, because I know people can have strong reactions to new characters. So, I was definitely very nervous in the beginning. But I've seen a little bit, and my friends have looked on the Internet for me, and I think overall, people have been so kind and so welcoming and open to my character, which I'm so appreciative of. Most fans have been letting me grow into the role, and they're giving me time for the character to develop, and they've been pretty positive, I think. I haven't looked too much into it, but to me, it's so lovely. I'm on Instagram -- it's my only social media right now -- and I've gotten so many lovely DMs and follows from people, and whenever I post about Y&R, I get so many encouraging comments, with people saying, "You're doing great. We love you!" And honestly, just giving this character a shot. I'm so happy to be embraced by most of them.
Soap Central: You are at the mercy of the writers, but do you have any personal hopes or goals for the character of Allie and the mark she'll make on Y&R?
Wang: The writers are the powers that be, and first of all, I am so grateful that they created this character and that they're investing in her and giving her so much depth. She's wonderfully three dimensional, and I can only hope that I can add myself and make her a person that has flaws as well as strengths. Right now, she's at this spot where she is so unsure about her place in the world -- her whole world changed overnight, essentially, and she's about to come to a new city and a new place -- and I just want her to flourish. I want her to find herself, and I want her to find her strength and confidence and really grow into a wonderful [part] of the Abbott family.
Soap Central: Is there a wacky soap storyline you want to play during your time in soaps? Like, an evil twin or a baby swap situation or being buried alive? I don't normally ask that for Y&R actors, because it's usually such a realistic show, but they just had someone come back from the dead, so it's fair game now!
Wang: [Laughs] You're right! And let me just quickly say, Susan Walters is such an amazing actress. I was blessed to have quite a few scenes with her at the very beginning. But yes, what a surprise, with Diane coming back, right? But for me, I think it would be super interesting to have a doppelgänger story. That's such a wonderful challenge for an actor. I love that Allie is a wonderful heroine, but it would be so interesting, a few years later, after Allie is established, to see a devious doppelgänger. I think that would be really, really interesting. But I really do love that Allie is someone who is good and kind. It's really empowering to see a character like that who has a different perspective. I'm so excited for this opportunity, and I think it's a wonderful role. I'm very happy that they're writing such a wonderful, three-dimensional role for an Asian American actress. I don't think that the race defines the character in any way, but I think it's wonderful to have that aspect of Allie, as well.
Soap Central: Especially on daytime, because we haven't had many Asian Americans on soaps. You're not walking a totally brand-new path, but it's not a very well-worn path.
Wang: Yes, exactly. For me to get this opportunity to work and grow as an actor is huge, and I so appreciate CBS and the show for coming back to the Keemo storyline. It's really, really wonderful in so many dimensions. And there is so much great stuff coming up. I can't say what, but there is some really exciting stuff coming in the next couple of months, so you'll have to tune in!
What do you think about our interview with Kelsey Wang? What are your first impressions of Allie? Which eligible bachelor do you think will fall for Jack's granddaughter when she arrives in Genoa City? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.