With the Coronavirus pandemic keeping most of the world at home, Christel Khalil is hunkered down with her 10-year-old son, Michael Caden, and boyfriend Sam Restagno in Toronto, Canada, where isolation has presented its chal- lenges. “I’m a grade school teacher now,” sighs the actress. “Caden and I have our own little schedule now that we follow. Everything is online and his teacher sends the work, plus she’ll do a little Zoom meeting with them every other morning. It’s actually worked out really well, but what I’ve noticed the most is how much of my grade schooling I actually forgot. I’ve had to relearn long division and my timetables. Fractions are the worst and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ But luckily Sam is a mathematical genius, so I can just say, ‘This is a question for Sam.’ ”
The family of three has been faring well dur- ing lockdown. “I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised of how well we’ve done with the quar- antine,” KhaliI chuckles. “We haven’t killed each other, so that’s a good sign!”
Khalil credits Restagno’s easygoing nature for creating a serene environment. The couple first met in 2016 when both attended the annu- al Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, CA. “We just ran into each other and our friend groups hung out,” she recalls. “We kind of hit it off right away. He’s Canadian, so he was really nice [laughs]. Another big one for me was that he wasn’t in the same industry. I felt that was all I was around. It was just a dif- ferent conversation with Sam, but there were a lot of other great things about him. We went out on our first date two weeks later and had so much fun together. About six months later, I knew he was the one.”
As the relationship deepened, the once- divorced Khalil not only reconsidered her vow never to marry again (“I’m not opposed to it anymore, but there’s no plan of that”), she also decided to simplify their long-distance romance by moving in with her businessman beau. That meant a big change for her son, as well. “It was hard for him, it was a big adjust- ment for all of us at first, and then you just go with it,” she concedes. “Now he loves his school and loves his friends, but we’re moving back so there’s going to be another adjustment.”
When the coast is clear, Khalil plans to pull up stakes again for a return to L.A. this summer to focus on her acting career. That decision ended up coinciding nicely with Y&R’s request that Lily become a bigger presence in Genoa City instead of intermit- tent visits. “It means a lot to me that they think Lily is still important,” she admits. “I’m also happy that they do see me that way, too. It’s flattering. I’m excited to be back and be a part of a big storyline.”
Which will be a significant departure from the long-running and very popu- lar pairing of “Lane” that Lily shared with Cane. This time, she’s in the cor- porate world running a new media company with former boyfriend Billy. Working with Jason Thompson (Billy) has been a bonus, Khalil reports. “Jason is amazing,” she praises. “He’s profes- sional, he’s on time, he knows his stuff and he’s easygoing, so it’s been a breeze. I think it’s just nice to see Lily have that interaction with somebody different and it was a good arc, as well, for Billy from going what he’s gone through to trying to make a change, with Lily keeping him in line. Jason and I like to discuss things that are coming up or conversations that we’ve had with [Co-Executive Producer/ Head Writer] Josh Griffith. But mainly we’re just rehearsing together and going through it. It’s really collaborative, which is nice.” Khalil also appreciates more air time with Jess Walton (Jill). “I love Jess,” she smiles. “I’ve been working with her off and on for a while because she was basically Cane’s mom. Jess is the best and so much fun. This really gives us some- thing to play.”
As the brewing chemistry between Lily and Billy builds, Khalil believes her char- acter is ready for love. She adds, “I think after all the drama that happened with her and Cane and how things ended, I definitely think so.” Although Khalil is close friends with Daniel Goddard (ex- Cane), staying in touch hasn’t been “often enough. I need to change that.”
During her last L.A. stay, Khalil returned to Canada before getting the opportunity
to hang out with long-time bestie Bryton James (Devon), who she’s known since they were child actors. When Khalil relo- cates to the West Coast (Restagno will commute back and forth), she looks for- ward to getting better acquainted with his girlfriend, Brytni Sarpy (Elena). “She’s super-sweet and I think she and Bryton are great together,” Khalil raves. “I moved right when they started dating, so I haven’t gotten to know her well yet, but I think they’re a cute couple.”
Until then, Khalil is laying low and balancing motherhood with homeschool- ing with her No. 1 pupil. “Caden is 10 and he’s like this real person now,” she marvels. “Our conversations are becom- ing different. He’s fun and we really get along. It’s cool.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: November 30
Born In: Los Angeles, CA
Years Of Service: Khalil played Lily from 2002-05. The role was taken over by Davetta Sherwood in 2006, but Khalil returned later that year.
Boy And How: Khalil has a son, Michael Caden, 10, from a previous marriage.
Relationship Status: Lives in Canada with partner Sam Restagno, who works in private equity.
Toronto Life: “Living downtown, it’s wonderful to walk everywhere. People here are really nice and the food is amazing, there’s a really great restaurant scene. When the weather is nice, there are so many activities to do.”
I’ll Meet You There: Toronto is the hometown of Khalil’s co-star and BFF, Mishael Morgan (Amanda), who splits her time between there and L.A. “I’ve gone to Mishael’s house for parties and birthdays. I was at [her daughter] Naliyah’s baptism.”
That Girl: Thanks to Y&R’s popularity in Canada, Khalil shares, “I get recognized here more than anywhere else.”
Golden Opportunity: Khalil won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress in 2012. She also scored an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 2008.
Out Of Sight
Missing her TV dad, Kristoff St. John (ex-Neil), who passed away in February 2019, has been an interesting process for Khalil. “I’ll actually forget about him being gone until I’m on set,” she explains. “There’s a picture of Kristoff and me on my desk in Lily’s office. I see it and I’m like … I’ve had to stop myself because I look at the picture and, obviously, I’ll get emotional and I’ll have to ignore it. That’s when it’s weird, so I try not to think about him too much.” However, there was a standout quality about St. John, whom Khalil had worked with since 2002. “The biggest thing that always stands out to me is that no matter who he was talking to or anytime he saw you, he always had just this happy, jovial kind of energy that would come through,” she shares. “He was just so
warm and inviting, and I’ve learned from him just how important it is to be that way toward people because it does have a positive impact. The thing people will always remember about you is how you made them feel. That is something that is across-the-board what people talk about, is how Kristoff made them feel.” St. John’s sense of humor was also memorable. “I just remember his pranks and how silly he was,” Khalil smiles. “Kristoff, Daniel [Goddard] and Bryton [James] used to have me on their text chain and they were just so silly all of the time. Finally, I said, ‘Can you please take me off this text chain? I don’t want to be a part of any of this!’ ”