When fans of The Young and the Restless learned that the CBS soap opera had moved forward with recasting the role of Summer Newman, trepidation was first and foremost in their response. Hunter King had been playing the role since 2012, and it seemed like a tall order to find someone who could take her place. But happily, the second that new portrayer Allison Lanier appeared on-screen in the Tuesday, May 17, episode, viewers realized her potential and began welcoming the new actress with open arms.
In just her first week, Lanier was thrown into big group scenes and she had to jump into a love scene when Summer and Kyle (Michael Mealor) hit the sheets. The actress handled both challenges like a pro, and from what she revealed to Soap Central in the following interview, it sounds like she'll handle her first big crying scenes like a pro, as well.
Keep reading for the scoop on some "super soapy absolute drama" and to learn how Lanier feels about sharing the screen with Y&R legends like Michelle Stafford (Phyllis Summers), Susan Walters (Diane Jenkins), Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott), and more.
Soap Central: Welcome to The Young and the Restless! How is it going so far?
Allison Lanier: Thank you so much! It's going really well! It's so much fun, and everybody has been very welcoming. I've been having a great time with it.
Soap Central: Were you familiar with the show before you started, or even just soaps in general?
Lanier: I had never been on a soap opera, but everybody has some sort of connection to soap operas and to The Young and the Restless, so I definitely had an idea of what I was walking into. I have close family members -- aunts and uncles -- who are massive fans of the show, and I heard about the show from them.
Soap Central: How do they feel about you being on the show and sharing the screen with iconic Y&R stars like Michelle Stafford and Peter Bergman?
Lanier: Everybody is so excited. I've been getting texts like, "Oh, my God, you're in a scene with Eric Braeden! That's crazy -- it's Victor Newman!" And of course, Michelle and Peter and just everybody, they can't really believe it, to be honest.
Soap Central: And how about you? Can you believe it?
Lanier: Honestly, it's just amazing to get to work with such skilled actors. To be in that kind of environment, it just feels like such an honor for me. It's awesome.
Soap Central: What was your audition process for the role like? Summer is a really big character, so I imagine they put you guys through the wringer!
Lanier: I did a self-tape to start, so I sent that in, and that got a positive response. Then they wanted me to come in and test in-person with a few of the actors, so, I did that, and I was amongst a small pool of women who were there, as well. And then, after that, they told me that I got the part. It was great!
Soap Central: Who did you have to test with?
Lanier: I tested with Josh and Michael, so, Nick and Kyle. They both made me feel so comfortable. I shook off the nerves really quickly with those two; they were great.
Soap Central: How did you feel about being a recast in such an important role? Were you at all nervous about that?
Lanier: Yeah, definitely! [Laughs] There's a lot of nerves and pressure that comes along with that. Hunter King is obviously a very beloved person amongst the cast and crew, as well as the fans, so I knew walking into it that I had big shoes to fill. She's a great actor, and she brought so much to the role. But I think you just kind of have to go into it and take it as, "I'm going to do my best, and I'm going to do my job and bring what I can to this character." That's really all you can do. It's really a funny thing that's specific to soaps.
Soap Central: Summer has been off of the canvas for a bit, living in Italy, and that can really change a person and bring out different aspects of their personality. Is that something that you've been working with or incorporating in your performance?
Lanier: Yes, exactly. Summer has gone through a lot of changes while she's been away. We alluded to that in my very first episode, being a wife and a mother will change you. It changes your perspective on things, and maybe she's coming back with a little bit more maturity and different priorities in her life. So, yeah, I did kind of latch onto that. Summer is going through a life transition, so it makes sense in some ways.
Soap Central: And she was even nice to Mariah [Camryn Grimes], which was a pretty big deal!
Lanier: She was at least trying to be nice to Mariah! [Laughs] There were little undertones of jabs there, but she was putting in the effort.
Soap Central: Viewers are very, very happy to have Summer back in the fold, but obviously, she's still living in Italy, so, will her reintroduction be a slow burn, or is Summer pretty quickly right back in the center of the action?
Lanier: They did come back for this visit, but obviously, a lot is going on at home, so there might be things that they need to stick around for and handle and see if it's going to be a short little visit or if they'll decide to stay a bit more long term.
Soap Central: I think we can guess which way it will go, because they brought you on! I'm not sure Y&R has the budget to follow you around in Italy -- but we can dream!
Lanier: Exactly! Wouldn't that be nice? [Laughs]
Soap Central: I'd love to ask you about working with Michelle Stafford and what it's been like to form a mother/daughter relationship with her?
Lanier: Michelle is so great. She's been super welcoming to me, and I really admire what she brings to the table in every single scene. She also makes me laugh so much. Her energy is so unique and interesting -- when you're doing a scene with her, like, when we're rehearsing, I just can't help but laugh because, well, she's amazing! Let's just put it that way. And yeah, I feel like Summer and Phyllis' relationship is developing, and there's going to be challenges, especially now that Diane is back in town. But I think Phyllis and Summer have a fierce love for each other, and that's always going to be the center of their relationship.
Soap Central: As we've seen, Summer is pretty suspicious of Diane and doesn't think Diane can be trusted. But how much of that suspicion do you think is coming from Summer herself, and how much is perhaps just following in Phyllis' lead?
Lanier: There's a bit of both, for sure, but I think Summer is in a place now where she's trying to follow her own intuition, and a lot of it is coming from a protective place for her family. The things that Diane did to her husband, Kyle, are awful, and I think Summer is balancing this knowledge of this history that Diane has with Kyle and everyone else in Genoa City and this desire that her husband has to potentially get to know this person. So, she's balancing both of these things.
Soap Central: Will Summer's juggling of those two feelings create problems between her and Kyle?
Lanier: I think Summer and Kyle's relationship is super, super strong. They have open lines of communication right now. I think it's still to be determined how all of this settles, but I think the overall tenor is that Summer wants to be supportive of Kyle in whatever he wants to do.
Soap Central: What's it like working with Michael Mealor? We sort of talked about it in terms of your screen test, but now you guys have obviously been working together a lot more and a lot more intimately, so, how is that going?
Lanier: I really couldn't ask for a better scene partner. He is so nice and kind, and he really has taken me under his wing and showed me the ropes. We really, really get along. So, that has been great. We're also from similar places -- we're both from small towns in Georgia, so there's a lot in common there, and he's been absolutely great.
Soap Central: What a fun thing to have in common! That must be super bonding, especially because you guys are so far away from Georgia!
Lanier: Totally, totally! And there are a few cast members who are from similar areas to us -- Melissa Ordway [Abby Newman] and Susan Walters are both from the same area, which is really funny.
Soap Central: Speaking of Susan Walters, what's it like working with her? She's a legendary bad girl of soaps!
Lanier: Um, yeah! She is amazing. Susan is so funny, and again, just a really kind person. And similar to Michelle, she brings a certain energy to scenes that makes you want to step up and be better -- be a better scene partner and be a better actor. I'm honestly so lucky to be surrounded by these fierce women actors who are showing me how it's done.
Soap Central: As you mentioned, Summer is balancing being supportive of Kyle but also being quite suspicious of Diane. Do you think there's a mother-in-law from hell situation brewing there?
Lanier: I'm definitely wary of Diane! I don't know what to make of her, and there are definitely going to be moments of trepidation, but we'll see how it all plays out.
Soap Central: At least Summer is a feisty woman herself. Summer can handle a lot, or at least, that's what she's shown in the past. Is that the vibe that you get from her, as well? That she's strong and independent and can hold her own?
Lanier: Oh, a hundred percent, Summer can hold her own! She's going to tell people what she's thinking and feeling, and she's going to stand up for what she thinks is right, so you'll definitely still be seeing that from Summer!
Soap Central: This is slightly unrelated, but Summer and Chelsea had some scenes together, so I'd love to hear what it was like for you to work with Melissa Claire Egan and if you can reveal whether or not we'll see more between the two of them?
Lanier: Melissa is such a sweetheart and is so great to work with. I think you'll see those two talking a lot more often in the future, for sure!
Soap Central: I know that you're super early in the role, but has starring on a soap opera been anything like you imagined it would be?
Lanier: Oh, man! I kind of went in with zero expectations because I had no idea what I was walking into. And all I can say is that I have been very pleasantly surprised by the supportive environment that I've found myself in, and I just feel very grateful and happy to be here.
Soap Central: Have you been challenged with any really extremely emotional scenes yet? I know you can't give anything away, but just from an acting perspective, have you had anything super soapy?
Lanier: We've touched on things like that, but I don't think I've really been hit with that super soapy absolute drama quite, quite yet. I'm still just getting my feet wet. I know it's coming, though!
Soap Central: Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johannson recently tested out their acting skills by trying to cry on cue, which was pretty entertaining to watch. How do you think you would do with that challenge?
Lanier: Oh, my gosh! [Laughs] I've definitely welled up in some of the scenes I've done, and I think it's just about being grounded in what's going on and being in connection to what is happening for your character. When you've done that preparation, that work, those emotions come. It's real. So, I'm not -- well, maybe I shouldn't say this yet -- but I'm not too worried about being able to cry on cue! [Laughs]
Soap Central: You are totally at the mercy of the writers, obviously, but is there a crazy soap opera storyline that you hope you get to play while you're on the show? Like evil twins, paternity swaps, that kind of thing?
Lanier: Yeah, playing an evil twin would be so awesome! It would be so much fun to play the opposite or the extreme of your character. It would be really cool. But obviously there are so many soap stories that I haven't gotten to play and that I definitely do want to, so it's kind of hard to answer!
Soap Central: What kind of interaction have you had with the fans so far? Have you received a lot of support and warm welcomes on social media?
Lanier: Yeah, there's definitely been a lot of that, and I appreciate everyone who has left supportive comments. I know that it's going to take a while for the fans to adjust to a recast, but I just hope that I can do them proud.
What do you think about our interview with Allison Lanier? How do you feel about her portrayal of Summer Newman so far? What would you like to see for Summer now that Lanier is playing the role? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.