EMMY INTERVIEW: Y&R's Michelle Stafford gets a nod for Phyllis "spinning out"

Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2023 7:41:33 AM
Vertical Y&R Soap Banner

The Young and the Restless' Michelle Stafford (Phyllis Summers) opens up about receiving an Emmy nomination after a ten-year gap and recalls special Leading Lady memories from New York.

Michelle Stafford is a television legend who has earned two Daytime Emmy awards and twelve Daytime Emmy nominations over the course of her career as The Young and the Restless' Phyllis Summers, but fans may be surprised to know that it's been an entire decade since an Emmy nod has come her way. The last time she was honored with a nomination was in 2013, which makes this year's recognition all the more special to the actress.

"It's always exciting, and it's been awhile since I've been nominated, so it's really cool," Stafford tells Soap Central's Dan J Kroll, adding that despite the fact that she's been in this boat many times before, receiving a nomination never gets old.

"I don't think anyone feels like, 'Oh, yeah, of course. It's just another nomination. Whatever.' Oh, my God! No, no... no one feels that way. No one feels that way at all. Listen, it is such an honor to have a job, right? In general. And so, getting a job as an actor and then getting an acknowledgement for your work, and also the way that Emmys go, like, somebody's actually seen it, and has decided, 'Oh, you should be acknowledged!' That's like icing. It really is."

Y&R writers definitely gave Stafford some Emmy-worthy material in 2022 with the storyline that had Phyllis' longtime nemesis, Diane Jenkins (Susan Walters), make a surprise return from the dead. Pretty much everyone in Genoa City was rocked by Diane's reappearance and the news that she had faked her death, but while many of the town's residents eventually came around to forgiving her, Phyllis did not (and still isn't willing to) accept having her greatest enemy back in her life.

"If somebody comes back from the dead, somebody who has made your life miserable and actively tried to take you down... and everybody's just welcoming that person with open arms, that has got to make her insane. First of all, it would make anyone insane -- absolutely crazy," Stafford explains.

However, the actress didn't initially think that the writing reflected just how crazy Phyllis would be, which prompted her to have a discussion with the show's head writer, Josh Griffith, about when her alter ego would reach her breaking point.

"I said, 'Josh, this is insane,' And he goes, 'Oh, I know. We're getting there.' And, so, that was, like, freaking April of last year, right? He said, 'Oh, I know. I'm with you. We're getting there.' And so, I was like, 'Well, I'm just gonna play everything where she's just starting to spin out.' And she didn't really spin out until this year!" Stafford says with a laugh. "And I'll tell you, I remember saying to Josh, like, I don't know, maybe around September of last year, I said, 'Whew. She's spinning out.' And he goes, 'Oh, well, yeah. I mean, we have a long way to go, Michelle!' But when he told me in April, I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm gonna jump into this." So, I may have done it a little prematurely. But certainly, people can spin out for a really long time before they fall apart."

As for what made Stafford's work stand out this year as compared to the last ten years that she didn't receive a nomination, the actress says it's really the luck of the draw.

"I was kind of driving the story, but it wasn't centered around Phyllis' foibles or Phyllis' downfall... so, who knows why," she says. "I'm sure you know stories of people having great years and not getting nominated, right? Well, case in point, Susan. I didn't know that she put herself in Lead, and I was so bummed [that she didn't receive a nomination]. It's such a bummer to me that she's not in the group, because she's so good, and she's so great to work with. It's a bummer for me that she's not sharing in this because I have such respect for her as an actor. So, you don't know. You don't know how it's gonna be."

She continues, "I had years and years on General Hospital [as Nina Reeves] where I had some good material, but ultimately, I didn't get a nomination. So, you don't know how it's gonna go. And I swear, [if] any actor thinks, 'Yeah, I wasn't good enough,' that would be the silliest thing in the world. Because it kind of is just the luck of the draw. It really is."

One of the perks of being nominated in the Outstanding Leading Actress category is the pleasure of taking part in the Leading Ladies Lunch, which has become an annual tradition. All of the Leading Actress nominees gather for lunch, which last year's winner pays for. But not everyone knows about that last part: Stafford had to explain to 2022 winner, Mishael Morgan (Amanda Sinclair), that she would be responsible for this year's lunch bill!

The origins of that tradition, as Stafford recalls, took place in New York City in 2005, along with that year's Leading Actress nominees, Susan Flannery (Stephanie Douglas, The Bold and the Beautiful), Martha Byrne (Lily Walsh, As the World Turns), Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer, One Life to Live), Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis Davis, GH), Juliet Mills (Tabitha Lenox, Passions), Erika Slezak (Victoria Lord, OLTL), and Kim Zimmer (Reva Shayne, Guiding Light).

"We went to some place in New York that was on the water, and we had this lunch that lasted, I swear, like, I want to say it was five hours. And there was alcohol, and there were some who were partaking a little more than others," she says with a laugh. "Oh, my God, it was still the funnest lunch... It was seven of us, and we were really loud. And they kicked us out!"

She continues, "Flannery [created the lunch] like four years prior to this, but then Flannery went to the bathroom, and she comes back, and she paid. Susan paid for it. We were like, 'No, no, no! I can't believe you paid. Oh, my God!' And she said, 'No, no, no. Whoever wins tomorrow night, pays next year.' That's what she said. That was Flannery. I don't know if you remember, but Erika Slezak won. She was on stage, and she talked about the lunch, because it was truly epic, and she said, 'It looks like I have to pay next year,' or something like that. And so, that's how it started. The winner the prior year pays for the thing."

That's just one of many fun memories that Stafford has from the time that the Daytime Emmy Awards took place in New York City. She recalls another time when she and Susan Flannery had to waltz down a crowded street in their Emmy gowns to return priceless jewelry.

"I remember we got jewelry from Harry Winston or something, Susan and I one year, and the minute the show was over, we had to give them back," she recalls. "But they didn't have someone come [collect the jewelry]. We had to walk to f'in Harry Winston with our jewelry... and in our gowns! They were like, 'Give it back! That's enough!" [Laughs]

This year's Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony has been postponed due to the Writers Guild strike, but when (or if) it takes place, Stafford already has her gown ready to go.

"I've actually been eyeballing this dress for a while. It's from, and I don't mean this as a political statement, but it's from a Ukrainian designer," she shares. "I came upon them about a year ago, and I bought something from them because I thought, 'Oh, that's a tough gig,' right? You know, with everything going on. So, I supported them. I didn't want it to get political because everything seems to be [so] political right now! But I'm supporting a company that needs support right now. And so, I had my eye on this dress for the last year, so, I just thought, 'Okay, well, I'll buy it. And let's see if it works!'"

In addition to wearing a really great dress, another thing Stafford says she's looking forward to during the next Emmy ceremony is seeing her colleagues in the industry receive recognition for their hard work, especially Y&R's writers, directors, and camera operators.

"Listen, our camera guys doing this during COVID? You know, at one point, they had masks and... shields looking into a camera," she says. "I'll never forget, one guy had glasses. He had a mask on, and he had a shield. I remember at one point, he had to take his shield off to see something, and our COVID person was like, 'Can you please put your shield back on?' It was hard for me during COVID to do this, and I can't imagine [what it was like] for them. So, all of them, from every show, should be acknowledged forever, I think, for going through that."

As for herself, Stafford says she considers herself a winner no matter what happens on Emmy night.

"The award is that I get to entertain folks for a living. That's the award, that's always the award, that will always be the award," she explains. "I especially got this through COVID that, damn, people are having a freaking tough time. And it means so much for them to come home to connect to something that means something to them. And our show means something to so many people... because it's in the family, right? They watched with their grandmother. That is so meaningful, and to be a part of that in somebody's life, that is the award. That is the award, and it has always been the award for me."

What do you think about Michelle Stafford being nominated for a Daytime Emmy award this year? Do you think she'll take home the gold? Stafford shared some really fun Emmy memories -- what are some of your favorite Emmy memories? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

Post a Comment Share on Facebook Tweet this Submit Feedback
Related Information


© 1995-2024 Soap Central, LLC. Home | Contact Us | Advertising Information | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Top