The 50th season of The Young and the Restless kicks off on Friday, September 30, with the promise of a lot of drama, a lot of history, and a lot of general Genoa City fun. One shakeup that Y&R's golden anniversary will be bringing is the return of Michael Graziadei as Daniel Romalotti, a character whose reappearance could have a major impact on some of the soap's top players -- including Daniel's long-ago love, Lily Winters (Christel Khalil).
Soap Central caught up with Khalil to find out how the return of Lily's ex-husband will affect the character's life, which currently includes a wow-worthy career as a savvy businesswoman and a happy relationship with Billy Abbott (Jason Thompson). Will everything in Lily's life change during Y&R's 50th season?
Soap Central: How do you feel about the state of Lily's life as we head into fall and Y&R's 50th anniversary?
Christel Khalil: I think it's great! I've been on the show a long time, and I always used to say, "I wish Lily had a career or that she was in business," and now that's exactly what she does. It's nice to see the character become this powerful businesswoman. So, yeah, I think Lily is in a pretty good place.
Soap Central: But drama looks to be coming, starting with Billy's son, Johnny [Paxton Mishkind], finding out that Chelsea [Melissa Claire Egan] is his biological mother. That's really Billy's family drama, but does it have an effect on Lily, as well, considering she's so close to the situation?
Khalil: Yeah, it's definitely going to have an effect on her relationship with Billy. There's a lot going on, and it's very stressful for everyone. Lily will definitely be impacted by this, as well.
Soap Central: How would you describe the state of Billy and Lily's relationship right now? Are they in a strong place, or could they be vulnerable to major shakeups?
Khalil: I think they're in a good place, but like any couple, really, especially right now, they're pretty vulnerable to something happening. I guess we'll have to see if anything sticks out!
Soap Central: Well, we know a blast from Lily's past is coming -- Michael Graziadei as her former flame, Daniel Romalotti. How do you feel about Michael returning?
Khalil: I am so excited! I have always loved working with him, and I've always loved Lily and Daniel together. They have a really great history, and it's like that first love coming back into your life. I'm really excited that he's back and excited to be able to work with him again.
Soap Central: Have you guys been able to keep in contact over the years?
Khalil: You know, we didn't, actually, but then Bryton James, who plays Devon, he was the one who kind of got us back in touch, and we went to visit him, and that was my first time seeing him in a really long time. And it was my first time seeing him outside of work, too, which was fun.
Soap Central: Did seeing him bring back all the memories of your early Y&R days together? You guys shared such powerful scenes together years ago, like going on the run after Daniel thought he'd killed Cassie [Camryn Grimes].
Khalil: Yeah! I've always said over the years that [the two of them going on the run together] was my favorite storyline that I've ever done, so, yeah, it's great to have that history from when I was younger and to see him and reminisce about old times. It definitely comes back, for sure.
Soap Central: In celebration of Y&R's 50th, I was going to ask if you have a favorite storyline -- is that one still your favorite?
Khalil: Yeah, that's definitely still my favorite. It was just so fun to play that story at that age; it's something that I think a lot of teenagers could relate to. And also, we got to film on location in Malibu, and that was really nice -- they don't usually let us out of the studio! [Laughs] So, that's also why it's such a favorite of mine, because we actually got to film on location, which was great.
Soap Central: What do you think Lily's initial feelings might be when Daniel returns?
Khalil: I think it's a mixture of shock and surprise and happiness, like, "Oh, my God, it's so good to see you!" It's a nostalgic feeling, reminiscing about the past. It's what you would feel if you were to have a blast from the past come back. That's the initial feeling.
Soap Central: Could his reappearance in town be a game changer for Lily in terms of her life, relationship, and future?
Khalil: I guess we'll have to see! Who knows what's going to happen for her romantically, career-wise. I'm not sure -- they don't tell us anything, to be honest!
Soap Central: How do you feel in general about Y&R turning 50?
Khalil: It's so exciting. It's great to be a part of a show that's been on for 50 years. It's a really big deal. It's exciting to celebrate half a century of television and this iconic show, and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Soap Central: What has the general mood been on set as you guys have been celebrating and filming leading up to the 50th?
Khalil: There's been a lot of doing this kind of stuff, helping to promote, and getting everyone else excited about the anniversary and what's to come.
Soap Central: Y&R did a fun crossover with The Bold and the Beautiful as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. How do you feel about crossovers with B&B, and would you like to be a part of one in the future?
Khalil: I love it! I always think it's great when we do crossovers because it helps promote both shows. I think we should have more crossovers, to be honest. I'd love to be a part of one -- I think it would be great to go over to B&B and have a little something happen there. I love it when they do crossovers. We're all a team, and I think that we should constantly look at it that way.
Soap Central: Is there anyone in particular from B&B that you'd love to work with?
Khalil: Not necessarily. I don't get a chance to watch B&B very often, so I'm not really sure what's going on over there, but I know Don Diamont [Bill Spencer], because he was on Y&R as my best friend's dad, [Brad Carlton]. So, it would be fun to work with him -- or whoever, really! It doesn't really matter; it would be fun no matter what.
Soap Central: Since you work in the same building, you see a lot of the B&B people quite often, right?
Khalil: We don't get to see them that often, but when we do see each other in the hallway, we say hi and that sort of thing. That's the great thing about our medium -- with soaps, everyone is so friendly, and we've all been working in the same place for so long that you really do become this family. The B&B people are kind of like our uncles that we get to see every once in a while. [Laughs]
Soap Central: I also wanted to ask about a film that you did that came out over the summer called We Need to Talk, which is about a video-game influencer [James Maslow] who talks to millions of online fans every day but has problems talking to real-life people, including his girlfriend, who you play.
Khalil: Yes, I auditioned for that because I loved the script and thought it was really funny. When I got the part, I was thrilled. And it was so fun to shoot. It was a really fun set to be on, and we got to shoot in Philadelphia, which was great. I had never been to Philadelphia, and it was such an amazing city; it definitely caught me by surprise, how much I loved it. And yeah, it was just a great cast and crew to work with.
Soap Central: I love that they explored the idea that we can get very caught up in the online world and some people get so caught up in it that they forget how to connect with human beings in real life. What did you think of that message in the film?
Khalil: It's a big deal. I have a twelve-year-old son, and it's something that I'm constantly talking to him about. I think it's great that the film showed that, of people getting caught up in that world and not really paying attention to what's going on in life alongside of that, and how easy it is to get caught up in that. So, yeah, I think it's a very timely message, and I think they did a really great job with saying that.
Soap Central: Did it make you change any of your own social media or online habits?
Khalil: No, actually. I feel like I'm pretty good about that. I make sure to have Instagram in a separate widget on the third screen of my iPhone so it's not the first thing that I click on. And I try not to watch too many reels, because I feel like with the reels, you really get drawn into them, and then before you know it, you've just wasted ten minutes looking at reels! [Laughs] I'm pretty aware of it, and I like to be pretty conscious of it, just because I know it can be a time suck, and there's too many things to get done!
Soap Central: Is there anything else you'd like to add before I let you go?
Khalil: Just that I'm excited to be celebrating Y&R's 50th -- it's an exciting time.
What do you think about our interview with Christel Khalil? Would you like to see Lily and Danny Romalotti rekindle their romance? Why or why not? How do you feel about the way Y&R is celebrating its 50th anniversary? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.