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ICYMI Josh Griffith Interview

Soap Opera Digest: How did you feel as you started thinking about how to play out the 50th anniversary of Y&R?

Josh Griffith: I was excited, like I haven’t been in a long time. Just to be able to craft story for the 50th anniversary is a dream come true. And because we had so many stories just heading towards huge turning points, and they all seemed to be coming to that at the same time, we were able to say, “Well, this is perfect.” We were able to create an event that would allow us to celebrate in story on air with a gala and at the same time, bring back people that the fans would want to see that they haven’t seen for a while, but who can fit into the stories we have ramping up, and those stories can all come to a head during this event. It was the perfect storm of story and event and celebration.

Digest: When did you start outlining and shaping what you wanted to see on screen for this milestone?

Griffith: Oh, I would say probably three months ago I started talking about it because the great thing that we had is I was locked into a date. So that focused me because I’ve got this date. Up until this point, we’d been kind of treating the 50th as the whole season, where we’ve had little teases of people coming back from the past, but here was a specific date that we could celebrate and so I knew, “Okay, I’ve got three months out, so I’ve got to finesse all these stories so that all their culminations happen over the course of this sort of two-week period that we’re having the gala take place.”

Digest: How did you track all of this? Do you have a storyboard?

Griffith: I just keep it all in my head [laughs]. I actually have a white board in my office where I’ve got it down. We’ve created three arenas of storytelling on the show, the Newman arena, the Abbott arena and the Chancellor-Winters arena. Everything falls within those three and there’s some crossover, but it falls within those three. So it was pretty easy to have three columns of story and then time it out so that this would happen and that would happen.

Digest: What were the staff meetings like with your writing team? Were ideas tossed around or did you already have a singular vision of what you wanted?

Griffith: It was pretty clear what I wanted. I mean, I worked really closely with Mandy [Beall], who’s my co-head writer, and I said, “Here’s what we have to do,” and she kind of filled in the holes and she had ideas that we presented to the team. Between the two of us, we kept things pretty tight and pretty focused. And the support from the production team and the support from the network has been just unprecedented.

Digest: Does having the title of executive producer add to the pressure and/or job duties?

Griffith: This will sound strange, but in a way, it makes things easier because there’s no separation between story and production now. There’s no people asking the executive producer, and the executive producer then going and asking the head writer, “What were you thinking, so I can tell production what is going on.” Now, we talk directly. In a way, it’s made sort of a seamless flow between production and creation.

Digest: Did you still need to get a stamp of approval for what you envisioned? Did you run everything by CBS and Sony to get their thumbs up?

Griffith: Oh, always, yes, absolutely. And it always leads to very exciting discussion. There’ll be things like, “Well, I’m not so sure about that,” and then I’ll go, “Okay, then the way we could do it is this way,” and then, “Oh, that’s good.” So it’s very collaborative and creative and positive. I do get my hands slapped if I sneak something in that I haven’t run by them.

Digest: How did you decide which characters from the past to bring back?

Griffith: Well, it’s sort of connected to the three family arenas and who could come back that could tie into that. The stories pointed us in the direction of who we can get back. For instance, with everything that’s happening and what’s going to be happening over the course of the gala with Daniel, we needed to bring back Danny, along with Gina for good measure.

Digest: The last time Amanda was in Genoa City, she was pretty wounded by Devon’s infidelity. I imagine there’ll be some pretty good scenes with those characters.

Griffith: With the Devon/Lily conflict and the huge battle that’s been brewing between those siblings, bringing Amanda back felt sort of natural and fit right into story. So we got Mishael Morgan [Amanda] returning and let’s just say she comes back with a vengeance.

Digest: Mamie is the much-loved Abbott housekeeper who fans will be thrilled to see again. How will Jack, Ashley and Traci react to seeing her?

Griffith: With all that’s going on with the Abbotts, bringing Mamie back just made sense. Mamie means so much to Jack, Ashley and Traci, she was a mother figure to them for many years because she raised them, so the affection and the connection there is profound and it’ll be so heartwarming to see their reunion.

Digest: Leanna Love has always been a wild-card character. Please tease how she figures in this time.

Griffith: How can we have all these events taking place, swirling in all of this mischief and mystery, and not have Leanna Love poking her nose into everyone’s business?

Digest: Will we be treated to some reunion scenes with Nina and Chance?

Griffith: With the fallout from the Abby/Devon/Chance situation, of course, Nina has to be there.

Digest: Not too long ago, Nina truly loved Abby. What will go down with them?

Griffith: Nina may love Abby but that doesn’t stop her from giving Abby a piece of her mind.

Digest: Were there any characters you wanted to bring back, but because of time constraints, you didn’t think you would do the returns justice?

Griffith: No, we pretty much got who we wanted. We had to maneuver a little bit, but it was worth it.

Digest: What is the reason for this big gala event in Genoa City?

Griffith: It’s the bicentennial of the city, so 200 years of Genoa City. Nikki, Lauren, Michael and Traci have been organizing this and, of course, Nikki and Victor are the hosts.

Digest: Why did you decide on the Genoa City Athletic Club set, which we haven’t seen in years, as the backdrop of the gala?

Griffith: Well, we talked about various possibilities, but none of them had the weight because if you’re gonna do the Genoa City bicentennial, the Athletic Club just seemed like the perfect place, and it allows us to launch a new set that will have huge emotional ramifications during the gala.

Digest: Did anyone suggest The Colonnade Room, which is where Victor and Nikki’s first wedding took place?

Griffith: It did come up but ultimately, it was just a room and the GCAC gives us more range. So we brought that set out, spruced it up, and it looks better than ever. It looks spectacular.

Digest: What else can we look forward to?

Griffith: Romantically, we’re revving up Tucker and Ashley, and events will push them in a new direction. The rekindling of the romance between Daniel and Lily will explode, and Jack and Diane’s world will be turned on its head because of Phyllis and Stark.

Digest: In the past year, you’ve made some big changes with the show: resurrected Diane; Jack and Victor are both trying to put their families back together; you broke up two very popular couples (Billy/Lily and Abby/Chance); pitted siblings against each other (Devon vs. Lily, Jack vs. Ashley); and brought back Tucker. What are your feelings about how you’ve positioned Y&R for 2023?

Griffith: I’m feeling excited and really energized. I feel I’ve gotten all of the pieces in place for an explosion of story going into the summer and then into the fall. I think we’re really in a strong place with the cast and with the character dynamics and having really solidified these three arenas that I previously mentioned. I hope that we’re using the 50th in a way to get back to the core of what makes Y&R work.

Digest: How do you feel the Y&R of today reflects Co-Creator William J. Bell’s original vision?

Griffith: My hope is that it completely embraces his vision of these core families with story driven by characters, by relationships, by family and by business. I’ve always said the show is a clash of the titans. It’s business titans, it’s familial titans, and I feel like we’re set to carry that legacy forward in a very dramatic way.

Digest: What does it mean to you personally to be the one orchestrating this milestone celebration?

Griffith: I’m thrilled, I’m humbled, I’m honored, and I’m very optimistic that the audience will feel rewarded and excited by what we’re bringing together for this momentous, amazing milestone.