Mishael Morgan (Amanda, Y&R) reveals how she was lured back to Genoa City
Soap Opera Digest: Bryton James (Devon) said when Hilary died, he really felt that the show had lost you for good. Did you think you were forever done with Y&R after you left?
Mishael Morgan: Yeah, I did. I really, really did. I really thought I was done. I mean, even my personality, even boyfriends when I was younger, it’s kind of like, “You know, I’m done with that, moving on.” I never really looked back. So I’ve never ever gone back to an old job, an old boyfriend, an old anything, so I was really like, “We’re probably ‘done done’. ” But I wasn’t!
Digest: Did you have an inkling that Y&R would want you to come back?
Morgan: Yes, I did. There were a few occasions before the ghost thing came up. Some people that I knew were kind of like, “Oh, well, you know, maybe Hilary can just come back.” And then I would just kind of laugh it off. I don’t know if they were really serious, but as they kept joking about it a couple more times I was like, “I think they might actually be serious about me coming back.” But it just wasn’t something that I thought would ever really happen.
Digest: Did someone call you personally from Y&R?
Morgan: It started out as a personal thing — we were in contact because of bringing Hilary back for the ghost episode. And then when that came about, that’s when I realized, “Yeah, they really did want Hilary back somehow possibly.” But even speaking to Tony [Morina], the executive producer, it was just crazy, like, Hilary was really dead. It wasn’t like she disappeared or she fell off a cliff; she was really gone. Everybody thought it was an amazing ending to my story. It was definitely something that you can’t pretend didn’t happen. So when they called me and they were talking about the ghost episodes, I was like, “Yeah, this will be fun.” It didn’t really feel like I was going back, it felt like I was just visiting a little bit. And then they finally just called me and said that they had this idea of how to bring me back and would I be open to it. I was like, “Um, maybe? Okay. I don’t know.” I was flattered. They were making a lot of changes and they were bringing back a lot of cast members. I felt really honored that they felt that I was one of those cast members that made a huge impact on the show and that they thought that the show would benefit from my return. Josh [Griffith, head writer] went over this new character who had a different name at the time. So Amanda was a new thing when I found that out. But he went over this character of her being an attorney. I was almost sold when he said attorney because when I left the show, there were a number of factors, a number of reasons why I left, but one of the big factors was that I felt like I had played this character for five years and as an actor, it felt like I told her story. For sure I could have gone on for 20 years playing Hilary, but it did feel like she had a nice full-circle story. She found herself, she found the love of her life and it felt like a good time to leave. But now when they brought up me coming back as an attorney, I was like, “Oh, this is my dream come true,” because I wanted to be a lawyer in real life, but I gave up being a lawyer to be an actor. Two weeks into law school, I booked a series regular role that basically my agent said, “This is gonna pay for your law school career, so you’re doing it.” So I ended up turning down my acceptance. After that, I went full-throttle into acting and I never really looked back. But now I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, this will be my chance to, like, be a lawyer.” What I loved about Hilary and playing Hilary was just her drive and her ambition and just the fact that she was a woman of color that had this role that drove story that was very big on the show. If I was going to come back, I would love to do that again, but in a different way. So when Josh started laying out all of the pieces of this new character, I started feeling like, “Yeah, I could really do this and be happy.” To me, it was kind of a no-brainer. I was really happy that it worked out. It was such a win-win.
Digest: How would you describe Amanda?
Morgan: I think the main difference with Amanda and Hilary is that Amanda knows who she is and I think Hilary was still trying desperately to find out who she was. To me, I almost feel like Amanda is Hilary 10 years from where Hilary was when she passed away. If she had a little more time to grow, she would eventually become or feel like Amanda. She wasn’t emotionally scarred by what everyone says to her. Amanda comes from a place where she’s very grounded, there’s not much that you can say to her that will shake her, she’s always very professional, she’s always very put together, but she still has some of those strong undertones of being very ambitious, very driven, very intelligent. Hilary was a lot more sassy and sarcastic, where Amanda is a lot more direct and she’s not trying at all, she just is who she is.
Digest: How do you play her differently?
Morgan: It’s been so hard. I think a lot of the writers are so used to writing for me, so when they know it’s going to be for me they write a certain way. She sounds so much like Hilary when I read it on paper that I have a really hard time trying to figure out how to say these things differently. Because I’m playing through my body where she’s more professional, I do carry myself differently. My hands move a little differently. But I definitely think I’m a lot more still when I’m playing Amanda. Hilary was all over the place.
Digest: Does hair and makeup help?
Morgan: Well, that’s the other thing, too. Amanda wears a wig. She’s a brunette. I love that because I’m such a Method actor in that way where as soon as I put on her shoes and I put on my wig and I look in the mirror, I feel different. But I’m still working through it; I’m still trying to figure it out. As I get more of the meat of the character and I get more scenes to play and build more relationships, that’s when I think I’ll really have an ability to show how different she is.
Digest: What was your first day like?
Morgan: It felt like I was coming home. It was awesome. Tony announced that I was coming back. He just announced it on the floor and all of the cast and crew were there and they all clapped. I got to say thank you and just be like, “I’m so happy and looking forward to this new journey that I’m going to be on.” I felt like I just arrived. I was back home. I was excited to get started and work with everybody again.