Soap Opera Digest: Let’s start with the biggie and that’s Diane being alive. Her very existence affects a lot of people and story. How long have you thought about bringing her back?
Josh Griffith: Maybe a couple of months.
Digest: That’s it?
Griffith: It grew out of what we were really looking for: a way to solidify the Abbott family, which has sort of splintered into different directions, so we really wanted to bring them back together. We started looking into their history for unfinished business and we thought about bringing in another generation.
Digest: What do you want to accomplish by resurrecting this character?
Griffith: What happened with Diane when she came back [in 2010], she was sort of a different incarnation that Maura West [Ava, GH] brought, who seemed more connected to the Newmans at that time, and then with Nikki being blamed for Diane’s “death”. So, all right, there’s always a way to bring somebody back to life and we already had this mystery in mind with Jack and the connection to Keemo that would be the first half of the story, which would then lead Jack to an even bigger mystery. That would be Diane, and bringing her back to the Abbott world and causing conflict with Phyllis. So we decided that was the way to go because that would mean connecting the Abbotts to the Susan Walters version again. From there, everything just fell into place.
Digest: You were banking a lot on Susan being available.
Griffith: Yes, we reached out to Susan and she was thrilled to come back, so we were off and running!
Digest: So, where did Allie come into play?
Griffith: We were looking for ways to find that next generation of Abbotts and that led us to Keemo. What if he passed away, causing Jack great conflict? And then there’s Allie, but finding her seemed too easy, so we came up with the mystery of who would want her to meet the family she never knew about. So, one thing flowed into the other.
Digest: The specter of Keemo was always hanging out there. Did that bother you, too?
Griffith: Yeah, it was always there, that unfinished business for Jack, but how can we make it so it’s not the typical reunion between father and son? What’s the other level to that? Okay, what if Keemo is dead and there’s a grandchild, a whole new Abbott out there? It was one of those things that we just kept getting excited about, and by adding Diane, wow, Genoa City would explode.
Digest: Why did you decide to not have Keemo be a part of this?
Griffith: We wanted to lead this in one direction and not have it be what everyone would presume. If we reunited Jack and Keemo, we asked ourselves, “Then what?” That felt more like the resolve of the story as opposed to a new beginning. Allie feels more like the start of a new story. There’s a lot of twists to this story that will come out.
Digest: Traci and Billy are excited about Allie, but Ashley not so much. Why did you make her suspicious of her new niece?
Griffith: As this is playing out, Ashley thinks there’s another shoe that has to drop. Traci is smart and clever but at the same time she has such a big heart and wants to support Jack. Ashley, on the other hand, has been burned before, so she’s more like, “Let’s be a little careful here.”
Digest: Kelsey Wang came out of the gate impressively as Allie. Does she inspire you?
Griffith: She’s just fantastic! She came in and read with Peter [Bergman, Jack] and we thought, “This is everything we could hope for and more!”
Digest: Do you have big plans for Allie?
Griffith: Oh, yes. Through finding the Abbotts, Allie finds herself. And there’s still this whole other side of, why is she estranged from her mom? All she had was her dad and now she has no one, but she’s left with a grandfather that she never knew existed. She’ll be coming into this very cautiously and she’ll have a wonderful journey to take.
Digest: With a really ugly start. She was used by Diane to get to Jack, and Allie was absolutely horrified to be sucked into this family drama.
Griffith: That would send most people running to the hills but she’s still intrigued at the same time. With the death of her father, she feels all alone in Los Angeles, so she’s willing to take the first step toward her new family.
Digest: Of course, there’ll be a new love interest for her in Genoa City, right?
Griffith: Of course.
Digest: Hmm, which young male character on the canvas is in need of love?
Griffith: I wonder who that could be [laughs]?
Digest: Diane’s miraculous return has got to be a huge relief to Nikki, who thought she killed Diane.
Griffith: On one hand, Nikki will be, “Oh, thank God I never killed her”, but on the other hand, “Now I want to kill her!” We’re doing a slow simmer on that side that will be building because we have two great players in Susan and Mel [Thomas Scott, Nikki] that will make this all fantastic.
Digest: That means Diane won’t be only mixing with the Abbotts.
Griffith: No, and I love when stories cross over because then it’s a story about the town. It’s not isolated anymore and stays in its own little box. That’s the great thing about Susan, her Diane has so much history with the Abbotts and the Newmans. Victor will have some choice words for Diane when he finds out she’s alive.
Digest: There are a lot of people in Genoa City who won’t be happy to see Diane. How will she deal with that?
Griffith: She’s coming in, saying, “I know everybody hates me but I’ve got to silence that noise because all I care about is making amends to my son.” But silencing the noise and making amends with Kyle will be easier said than done.
Digest: Which means this story begs for Kyle to come back to Genoa City.
Griffith: The profoundly emotional aspect of the story is Diane’s desperate desire to make up for all those years to the son she abandoned. This puts a lot on Kyle, who has to decide, “Can I forgive her for all of this?” This will not be an easy road for him and we’re thrilled to have Michael [Mealor, Kyle] back.
Digest: Will you stay true to Diane’s history of being a troublemaker?
Griffith: It’ll be interesting because Diane is sincere when it comes to Kyle, but has she shed that skin and is she really reformed? We hope so, but you never know.
Digest: On the big business front, you have Newman/Locke in flux, Lily as a newly minted CEO and combining Chancellor Industries with Hamilton/Winters. What’s going on there?
Griffith: I’ve been working toward this for the last three years, to establish three influential corporate arenas that are the temples of power in Genoa City. These are Newman, Jabot and Chancellor/Winters. Now we’re going to have real conflicts and battles. If I were to define YOUNG AND RESTLESS as what I think it is, that would be, “the clash of the titans”. And we can also say that this is what Katherine and Neil would’ve wanted as their legacies.
Digest: Why did you decide to turn Nate, a respected doctor, into a corporate suit?
Griffith: I just feel that he would have more of a central role. If we’re talking about clash of the titans, a doctor isn’t going to be one of those titans and I wanted Nate to be that.
Digest: It’s interesting that Sally isn’t a fashion designer anymore and is now mixing it up with the sharks.
Griffith: Yep, and I think the dynamic between Sally and Adam is so delicious.
Digest: Fans have been waiting for you to pull the trigger on that couple, so can we expect more coming down the pike for them?
Griffith: Oh, absolutely. And Chelsea is still a wild card because she and Adam have a son and Chelsea doesn’t like Sally, so there’s a lot to play there.
Digest: Speaking of Chelsea, that brings us to Nick and Sharon. There’s always such a warmth between Nick and Sharon that could easily go in either direction. Now, no one wants to see Rey hurt, but at the same time there’s a lot of chemistry going on between him and Chelsea. Are you foreshadowing something there?
Griffith: Oh, it’s going to get complicated and it’ll take some unexpected turns.
Digest: Well, the cop and the con woman is an interesting setup.
Griffith: The reformed con woman. At least, for now [laughs].
Digest: With Ashland’s cancer hoax being exposed, one would think his days are numbered in Genoa City, but there’s this feeling that he’ll be picking up even more steam.
Griffith: Oh, this still has more mileage, you have no idea how much more. Never underestimate the power of love. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Digest: Well, we can’t forget all the reprehensible things Victor has done in the past, and he’s still standing.
Griffith: Absolutely, which Ashland will continue to bring up. When Ashland tells Victoria, “Yes, I came here to do these monstrous things but then I fell in love with you,” he’s telling the truth.
Digest: Richard Burgi brought so much to Ashland, but Robert Newman has successfully picked up that mantle. Do you feel re-energized with Robert?
Griffith: It’s such a joy to have Robert, he has brought a whole different level to the role. I thought Richard was terrific, but Robert has really made Ashland his own. The direction he’s taken Ashland has spun the story even further than I thought it would go. There’s a lot more coming.
Digest: Finally, why did you decide to make Chance’s story so intense?
Griffith: Quite frankly, because Conner Floyd is amazing! When I saw him in the audition, I knew he was Chance and that we had the opportunity to tap into what’s mesmerizing about this actor.
Digest: Chance was always like Captain America, but Captain America isn’t who came back after that explosion in Spain.
Griffith: That’s right. He’s got all these demons and all these complexities going on now; that’s new to Chance because he’s historically a solid, together good guy. But when we saw Conner, we knew this would open up so many doors emotionally for the character. We knew Conner was the man for this job and he’s delivering in spades. It’s given new life to the Dominic story and also to Abby, who is trying to figure out how she can help her husband heal. With all of these stories, again, there are going to be twists that you never see coming, and we’re very excited.