Soap Opera Digest: Michael, you announced you were leaving the show. Hunter, what is your status with YOUNG AND RESTLESS?
Hunter King: Well, I want to start off by saying that I loved playing Summer. She’s been a big part of me for the last, I mean, almost a decade … There are a variety of things that happened, but I hope to always have Summer in my life in some capacity … What the role will continue to look like, I’m not sure yet, but I know that I hold her very near and dear to my heart.
Digest: Can you both talk about what went into your decision to go?
Michael Mealor: It’s funny because contract negotiations are a weird thing … and I was kind of going through the process of it all … I hadn’t been on the show as long as Hunter has, so I never experienced this before and I was kind of, you know, just going through the motions. My manager and I were working ourselves through it, and I think a couple of weeks into it … we were about to film a scene and, Hunter, correct me if I’m wrong, but it was, “Hey, I’ve got to talk to you about some business stuff.” I didn’t realize she was going through negotiations at the same time, so it kind of turned out to where I spilled everything. Negotiations are a private thing, and I was like, “Hunter, this is what’s happening….” It’s difficult because you love the show and, you know, all that kind of stuff, and you’re so dedicated to it. I mean, it was my life. We worked 50 weeks a year, four days a week, so it becomes such a piece of your life and everyone there is family … You just weigh all of the options, and there are so many factors that go into it that it makes it difficult, and at the end of the day, we were just trying to come to a middle ground … and we ended up not seeing eye to eye on certain aspects of it all, and we decided that this chapter as we know it, for Kyle at least, seeing him every single day on TV, it’s coming to a close as we know it, but that doesn’t mean that we [won’t] see Kyle again in the future. Who knows what happens?
Digest: And Hunter?
King: I kind of echo everything that Michael said, yeah, we were going through contract negotiations at the same exact time. Michael did wind up telling me everything that was going on with his contract negotiations, I wanted to tell him everything that was going on with mine, but yeah, it’s such an odd process when you’re doing that but also feeling that you’re family, so, it’s definitely weird, especially with soap operas … I’m just kind of taking it day by day and figuring things out, but who knows what will happen? Nine years is a long time being on one show and I loved every second of it.
Mealor: We’re obviously sitting on our couches right now, so life hasn’t taken us very far at the moment.
King: True, and I do want to say that, like Michael said, it’s difficult to be in the middle with the show, and that’s no ill will toward the show, because they have to do what’s best for them and we have to do what’s best for us, but at the end of the day, I love everyone on that show. I cherish that time so much and all of the people I’ve met, even this sh*thead.
Mealor: Hold on, we need to clarify that she says that in the most loving way.
King: In the most loving way.
Digest: You’re both privy to the outpouring of fan support and the ginormous reaction online to the possibility that you may be leaving, so what has that meant to be on the receiving end of that?
King: It feels amazing to have their support and knowing how much Summer and Kyle meant to them. We put so much into Summer and Kyle and their relationship, and it feels nice that they can see that and they feel the love that we put into the characters. It feels good to know that you’re being recognized by the people who matter the most.
Mealor: It speaks volumes to what the writers have done, what the show has done with Summer and Kyle, and I loved every minute of it … It’s so heartwarming and so affirming, like maybe we did touch some people along the way.
Digest: There have obviously been previous Kyles, but when Kyle and Summer got together with Michael playing the role, it took on a whole new life. So, Hunter, at what point did you think this was working in a way differently than before?
King: Is it weird to say instantly? I just knew instantly with Michael. There are very few people in my life that I … connect with on a deep level right away, and there was something about Michael that I felt comfortable with. I don’t know [if] it was this instant bond or banter that we created, but I felt very comfortable with him and I think that kind of showed on screen.
Digest: The dynamic between Summer and Kyle changed when Lola entered the mix, so what do you remember about Sasha Calle’s introduction and working with her in that triangle, which became a point of contention with fans?
Mealor: Sasha was fun … Kyle and Summer were, like, butting heads, they were in love with each other but kind of that angsty love. And then the Lola thing came in as such a love story and was fun and easy … Sasha played it beautifully, and she was lovely.
King: It was a really fun dynamic when Sasha was added to the mix and creating this love triangle. It was something Summer and Kyle hadn’t really gone through before. We’ve gone through them breaking up and moving away, and coming back together and the family dynamics, but we’ve never added another person to the mix. So, I thought it was really fun to play … It gave us something different and Sasha was so much fun.
Digest: Summer and Kyle got back together and the “Skyle” fans went wild. Was it fun to be on the receiving end of so much love from the audience at that time?
King: Yeah. I thought it was so much fun. I’m not huge on social media, but if [Y&R] posted a picture of the three of us … it was fun to kind of watch the fans go crazy and fight over who they liked more.
Mealor: It really divided fans but it gave everyone as far as fans go a lane to be in … Seeing that response on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram brought a lot of joy to my heart.
Digest: There was so much excitement when Kyle showed up in Milan and swept Summer off of her feet. Were you excited to play that and what can you share about what it was like to film?
King: Even though I kind of already know what happens, I was so excited to read it, as a fan of the show, and Kyle says, “I’m here to take you home.” They kiss and I was so excited because it was such a big moment for the two of them … It was nice to have that.
Mealor: I wanted it to be a happy ending for the fans … They’ve poured so much love and time and investment into it, you want to give them an ending that they’ll enjoy and like. A lot of times, when actors leave soaps, I’ve noticed, it’s a rocky ending … [Their char- acters] leave town or run away or die. More often than not, it’s a dramatic and sad ending, so I love that Kyle and Summer got what they wanted and we got the happy ending for sure. It was a lot of fun.
Digest: What was it like to film your final scenes together — for now?
King: I was holding back tears the entire last day … I’m so happy that the scenes were so sweet and such a happy ending … It wasn’t some tumultuous breakup and left on bad terms. So, it was sweet to have my sidekick by my side and going through that together. It made it really sweet and I liked how it ended.
Digest: We’ve solicited fan questions from Y&R viewers for the two of you and we were flooded with questions … Michelle has two questions for Michael: Who do you wish you got to work with more on the show, and would you be open to doing another soap?
Mealor: Totally Bryton James, Devon Hamilton. I love Bryton and I always thought it would be very cool for Kyle and Devon to have like a bro’ relationship. That’s always the one thing I wished Kyle found on the show was a best friend kind of thing … Kyle and Mariah had that but I think it would’ve been fun if Kyle and Devon had that, as well. The second question … Well, never say never but YOUNG AND RESTLESS is my home. They’re my family. Michelle [Stafford, Phyllis] has been on a different soap, Eileen [Davidson, Ashley] has been on different soaps and Peter [Bergman, Jack], so I’m all for it, but I’m so new to the soap world and I’m such a loyal person that I just love YOUNG AND RESTLESS. But never say never though, so I wouldn’t count it out, but my people are at Y&R.
Digest: Despina wonders if you see yourselves working together on a project outside of Y&R?
King: That’s all we talk about, that we come as a unit now. Wherever we go, we’re a package deal, so I don’t know what that’s going to look like in a future project, but to anyone listening: If you hire Michael, you get me, too. That would be the most fun.
Mealor: The fact that people can imagine you in other things is a huge compliment as an actor … It’s very sweet when they say they want to see you in something else.
Digest: [Noemi] wants to know, Hunter, if you would’ve liked to play a pregnancy story for Summer?
King: I have asked so many times if I could be pregnant on the show because I love babies in real life but it never happened. So when Mariah got to be pregnant, I was pretty pissed! I have waited years for this moment. I say it’s because I love babies and it partially is, but I also like to snack and it’d be nice to wear the pregnant belly [pad] and not have to worry if my pants are too tight or if my belly pooch is going to stick out in a dress because it’ll have to be there anyway, it’ll just add to the effect, so that’s another reason why I would’ve loved that, but it never happened and I’m livid that I never got to play that.
Digest: Ashley has questions, the first of which is: What was the best part about playing Summer and Kyle individually?
Mealor: Well, for me, it was being part of the Abbott family and getting to work with Peter so closely. He’s such an amazing guy, and him and I have built a lifelong friendship. And Jason Thompson [Billy], Eileen and Beth [Maitland, Traci]. The Abbott family is really close, we have a text chain and we all text. So, getting to work with them and also … I felt as if I got to play a lot of things that are very coming of age for an adult, and having to make adult decisions. That was fun because it’s not too far off as I am as a person or I had just been through that when I started on the show when I was 26.
King: Some of the favorite parts of playing Summer for me was that I felt like I got to grow a lot with her. She went through a lot of changes throughout the time I was on the show, from being the angsty teenager to a rebellious young adult to coming into her own and having a new appreciation about life and her loved ones. That was just a really fun arc to play. I never felt stagnant, I always felt that there was some kind of change that was going on with Summer, and that’s always fun as an actor to play that because it’s how it is in real life. For me, I’m always trying to grow and better myself and I felt like Summer, at times, was trying to do that … I’ve made some lifelong friends and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
Digest: And in the second part of her question: What is your favorite thing about each other?
Mealor: Her giving me crap because I know it’s her love language … and everybody needs that person in their life that brings them down a notch and she’s that person for me … That is the funny part and the root of that is that I enjoy our banter and how comfortable we are with each other, how we can make each other laugh without saying anything and that is priceless for sure.
King: My favorite part about you is how you make me feel. I feel so comfortable when I’m around you and I feel that I get to be the most authentic version of myself when I’m with you, so there are very few people in my life that I feel that with, and you bring that out in me, so that’s my favorite part about you.
Mealor: That’s so sweet. I love that.
Digest: Elizabeth has a question: What would you like for your characters in the future?
Mealor: That’s funny because I was going to say, “I know what her answer is.”
King: I want a little “Skyle” baby. I think that would be so much fun.
Digest: What about a “Skyle” wedding?
King: I would love a “Skyle” wedding. It doesn’t matter which one comes first.
Digest: Or she can be pregnant and have it right after they say, “I do.”
King: Mind blown!
Mealor: She could have the baby at the altar.
King: Genius! My water breaks, I can’t get to the hospital and the contractions are so bad that she has to give birth in her wedding gown. I mean, we’re on to something!
Digest: The number one question we’ve received again and again from “Skyle” fans is: Are you open to returning? Is there a possibility that we might get a visit from the two of you?
King: I’m definitely open to coming back and popping in for a visit. I think you’ll see Summer and Kyle visit from Italy sometime soon.
Mealor: I am always open to coming back. No matter where you call home, you’ve got to go on vacation. So if we’re calling Milan home, then we’ll need to come on vacations to the United States. So maybe there will be a little vacation to Genoa City sometime soon. Who knows?
Digest: Before we let you go, we’d like to give each of you the floor to talk directly to your fans, who have been so loyal and vocal in their support for both of you.
King: I don’t know you guys but I feel that I do know you. You’ve been so supportive and so amazing to both me and Michael through the years and you’ve made me feel so loved and supported … I just love hearing your feedback and knowing that you like what we’re giving you. I’m so appreciative of all the love through the years, getting to grow up with Summer since I was 18, it’s been such a wild ride and a big part of my life and I’m just so grateful for all of you. I feel like you’re part of the family … so thank you for being my family for the last nine years.
Mealor: I love each and every one of you and I want to thank you for all of the support. When I made the announcement that I was leaving the show, my social media was flooded with kind comments from you … I was constantly brought to tears. We wouldn’t be here without you and you constantly giving us that level of communication, that many comments, that many tweets, it tells us that whatever we’ve done … has spoken to you … Thank you and I love you so much and I hope to see you in Genoa City one day.