The Young and the Restless is about to get a new doctor on the scene, and it sounds like she won't just be taking care of patients; she'll also be taking care of business.
Former General Hospital star Brytni Sarpy (ex-Valerie Spencer) has landed the contract role of Dr. Elena Dawson, and she tells Soap Central that the strong, confident character will be a game changer in Genoa City.
But just how did the California native land a role on Y&R when she's been recurring as GH's Valerie since 2014? How did the powers that be at GH react when she told them she planned to jump ship? And what can Y&R viewers expect when Elena hits the canvas on Tuesday, March 19? To find out, check out Soap Central's interview with the actress below.
Soap Central: Congratulations on landing the role of Elena Dawson on The Young and the Restless. How are things going so far?
Brytni Sarpy: Things are going really good. It's been really calm.
Soap Central: Do you think that's because you've had previous soap opera experience, which makes the transition to a new soap a little bit easier?
Sarpy: Yeah, that has a lot to do with it. It's so different yet very much the same, as far as the environment goes, just kind of getting my grounding and understanding how everything works. It's very similar to how things work on the ABC lot. So, it hasn't been as much of a learning curve as I thought it might have been.
Soap Central: Not much has been revealed about your character yet, but we do know she's a doctor. What else can fans expect to see when you debut on Y&R this Tuesday?
Sarpy: As far as just character stuff, Elena is really cool. She's fierce, she has a little bit of pride, she's a strong woman, she's a protector. She's really cool. She is definitely today's woman. I feel like women today are really vocal and very on point about what they feel. We've always been strong, but I think in 2019, we're really leading the path lately. And she's one of those people.
Soap Central: Soap opera fans fell in love with you as General Hospital's Valerie Spencer. Do you think Elena is similar to Valerie, who was also quite strong, given that she was on the police force?
Sarpy: Yes, there are definitely similarities between the two, just in that they come on the scene as protectors and as caretakers. The first scenes for Elena and for Valerie are very similar. Actually, I have almost the same lines, which is kind of funny. They're very similar scenes. But where the characters differ is there's something about Elena that feels a little older than Valerie. When I played Valerie, the character felt a little more like early to mid-20s, and her mistakes were a little more of that age range. Whereas Elena seems a little more seasoned and maybe that's her background and being a resident and facing death a little more frequently, as opposed to Valerie, who really only lost her mother. I think Elena is a little more mature.
Soap Central: Has Elena been a pretty easy character for you to take on, or have you been challenged with the role?
Sarpy: You know, I haven't had much of a challenge with her. She aligns pretty well with myself -- we're pretty similar. She's a doctor, and that may serve as a challenge to me later; the dialogue and the storyline that we're doing points toward that, and it could eventually be a challenge. But as of now, who she is and how grounded she is and what she cares about and what her morals are, I'm very aligned with the character. It's a really good fit for me.
Soap Central: Does Elena come on the scene in a mysterious way?
Sarpy: Yes and no. She doesn't come as an open book; you're not going to know everything about her, and you're not going to know her full background at the start. But you'll know some small pieces and how she's connected to the scenes and to the people there.
Soap Central: What was the audition process for Elena like?
Sarpy: I screen tested, and it was a great experience, actually. I got to meet a handful of people, including my main scene partner [whose name I can't reveal]. My main scene partner is really awesome and really made it comfortable for me to work with, to play with. It's weird, because usually in these audition circumstances, there's always a level of anxiety and fear and all of that, but for some reason, with this whole experience, it's been, for the most part, pretty calm and really positive and light, which has been really nice.
Soap Central: Well, it kind of sounds like you're a perfect fit!
Sarpy: I hope so! You know, it helped that I knew a lot of the Y&R cast already. So that made it an easier transition, to go through doors where I already knew some of the people there.
Soap Central: Who did you already know, and how did you know them? Through industry events?
Sarpy: Yeah, I've done events with Christian [LeBlanc, Michael Baldwin] and Kate [Linder, Esther Valentine]. And I knew Camryn [Grimes, Mariah Copeland], and I worked with Jason [Thompson, Billy Abbott; ex-Patrick Drake, GH]. I went to school with Noemi [Gonzalez, Mia Rosales]. We both got our Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting at the same school. I actually did my last performance with her, my last theater performance, which was really cool. It's a small world, and it just keeps getting smaller and smaller!
Soap Central: I know you can't say who your main screen partner will be, but were you familiar with him or her before you landed the role of Elena?
Sarpy: Yeah, we hadn't met, but I was very familiar.
Soap Central: What did you know about Y&R before you joined, if anything? Had you watched the show before?
Sarpy: No, I had never watched Y&R, so I've been on a bit of a learning curve. But I got a really good breakdown from the hair and makeup room. They know everything. It's honestly looking at a lot of pictures and pointing, like, "That's such and such, and they've been on the show for a hundred years!" [Laughs] So I've been getting the rundown kind of in the same way that I did when I started General Hospital. You hear more from the vets and from the people who have really been there that can tell you who's who.
Soap Central: What was your first day on set like?
Sarpy: Well, I walked in and saw a lot of familiar faces, so it was nice. It was chill. Even behind the scenes, there are a few people who have worked at General Hospital or just watch, so they recognized me as Valerie, so that was really nice. It just made me feel very warm, to be in a familiar environment, even though I had never been in the environment. And we have a really good time with our scenes, doing group scenes. I think the group dynamic of the people I've been working with has been really nice.
Soap Central: What was the reaction from your GH costars about you joining Y&R? So many of them came from Y&R!
Sarpy: Yeah! Everyone seems really excited. Michelle Stafford (Nina Clay, GH; ex-Phyllis Summers, Y&R) and Emme Rylan (Lulu Spencer, GH; ex-Abby Newman, Y&R), they both came from there and had nothing but encouraging, nice words to say. I haven't actually talked to Billy Miller, but he also came from Y&R. It's like one big, happy family!
Soap Central: How did you break your exit news to GH, and how did they take it?
Sarpy: They were really, really, really supportive. Frank [our executive producer at GH] already knew! I went to talk to him about it, and he kind of already knew about it. So, he wished me well and said that he was bummed to lose me, but he knew it was a great opportunity. It ended really amicably, and it was a really nice goodbye.
Soap Central: The daytime community really embraced you as GH's Valerie and will miss you in the role. What will you miss most about your GH experience?
Sarpy: The people, definitely. Over the four years of being over there, I definitely forged some great relationships and lifelong friends. They're relationships that will go outside of those studio doors. It's different not seeing those people once a week or twice a week, and even being able to work with them. But who knows how it will turn out -- some of those people might come this way! You know, a lot of the people I know at GH came from Y&R. It goes both ways.
Soap Central: Do you feel like there's some unfinished business with Valerie, or do you feel good about the way her storyline wrapped up?
Sarpy: My last episode aired [last week], and it ends in a very final place. It just kind of happened that way. But there is definitely unfinished business there. I don't know what they'd like to do with her -- I just hope they don't kill her! [Laughs]
Soap Central: Is there anything you learned at GH that has really helped you over at Y&R? Something you're super thankful to have learned that has carried over?
Sarpy: Yeah, absolutely. General Hospital was my foundational intro into what the soap world is and what the demands are, what the schedule is like. They taught me everything I do know about how to go up there and do my scenes in one take and how to be in a fast-paced environment like that and to learn as many lines as people have to do in the soap world. So, I absolutely got my bearing and my work ethic from General Hospital.
Soap Central: Speaking of work, if you weren't acting, do you think you would have been more likely to become a police officer like Valerie or a doctor like Elena? Which would be the more natural fit for you in real life?
Sarpy: Jeez, neither! [Laughs] The structuring of both wouldn't work for me. First of all, I get really queasy with open wounds and knowing someone is in pain -- I get a lot of sympathy pain for people and feel sick to my stomach, so I'd be a horrible doctor. I would give no one peace of mind! And being a police officer or a detective, I just wouldn't be that interested in it. It just wouldn't be for me, because I'm such an arts person through and through. But I guess if I had to pick out of the two, I guess I'd say detective.
View this post on Instagram
Such a sad day in Port Chuck... what a stunning episode though, right? I got especially choked up while filming the flag folding scene, there's something about physically going through the action of a ceremonial ritual in remembrance and in respect to human life, that is so beautiful... 👮🏻♂️👮🏾♀️💔
Soap Central: Have you done much research into the medical world to prepare you for playing Dr. Dawson?
Sarpy: I haven't yet, but I think I will eventually. I'm easing into the role, and as of now, it's not something I need to know, because she's not in a hospital setting yet or anything like that. But I think when those times come, then yeah, I will definitely do some research. I actually have a couple of friends who are residents, and I will probably pick their brains. It will be super helpful, because I don't have any friends who are detectives or police officers!
Soap Central: What would you say you are the most excited about when it comes to your new role as Elena?
Sarpy: Just developing a new character. It's one of the funnest things to take one off the ground and create their nuances, peel back their layers, and see where they came from and how that influences who they are now and how it will shape who they become. And it's working on something that's not a movie, where there's a beginning, a middle, and an end. There's an evolution, you don't know where the twists are going to go. It's really fun. This is why I do it, is to be able to do things like this and create characters and learn about Elena just like I'm learning about myself.
Soap Central: I wanted to ask you about your commercial that just came out for Lay's Potato Chips. What is like to see yourself as the face of a product nationwide, because that is some major exposure.
Sarpy: It's pretty freaking cool, actually! I've got say, I wasn't really that excited about doing commercial or print work because it's not what I studied and it's not what I'm in love with. But this was definitely one of the funnest things I've ever completed. I did five slots for them, so they'll be unrolling slowly but surely. It was really, really, really fun. The team over at Lay's is really nice and awesome. And I had so many chips.
Soap Central: Do you get free chips for life now?
Sarpy: One of the people over there said she'd send me whatever I wanted, and I was going to ask for the Canadian chips.
Soap Central: Oh, really? What are the flavors you like from Canada?
Sarpy: They have ketchup and pickle.
Soap Central: Um, that sounds... interesting?!
Sarpy: [Laughs] Honestly, they're not as great as the traditional flavors that we all know, but they are interesting. And they're conversation starters for sure.
Soap Central: Do you have a favorite dessert snack, something that's sweet?
Sarpy:Doughnuts are kind of my thing, and a lot of the fans know that. I kind of have an obsession with doughnuts, and that's kind of how I celebrated [landing the role of Elena].
Soap Central: You've got several years of soap experience under your belt, and now you're getting quite a lot of exposure through your commercial work. Have you ever seen yourself somewhere weird, like on TV at a doctor's office or a billboard or yourself in an unexpected place?
Sarpy: Yeah, I've had a few experiences like that. I see myself at the gym a lot because of the timing of soaps and going to the gym.
Soap Central: Has anyone ever said, "Hey, girl on the treadmill -- is that you on the TV?!"
Sarpy: [Laughs] No, I don't think so. I hope nobody has noticed because that would be weird. [Laughs] I've seen myself at the car wash before. I feel like with the commercial now, it'll be a lot more because it's airing quite a bit. A lot of people have been posting about it and sending it to me, but I personally haven't seen it pop up on TV yet. But that will probably be cool.
Soap Central: Is there anything else that you'd like to add about taking on the role of Y&R's Elena?
Sarpy: I'm looking forward to the character, and I hope everyone follows her journey, all of the Y&R fans, and also, I hope some converts from the GH community. I think it's going to be a really fun run.
What do you think about our interview with Brytni Sarpy? What are your initial thoughts on the character of Elena Dawson? How much will you miss seeing the actress as GH's Valerie? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.