Soap Opera Digest: What was your first day back on Y&R [like] after production had shut down for a few months?
Joshua Morrow: It was really weird because our studio is, like, this really lighthearted, nurturing, fun environment, you know, everybody’s together, and they’re hugging and laughing. Then we came back and it’s isolation. We’re really not supposed to leave our dressing rooms ever, there’s no more communal areas to, like, hang out and catch up or run lines. It’s just a different vibe, but it’s almost, like, sterile. The hallways are really quiet and spooky, it’s weird, man, but we’re so appreciative to come back to work, but it’s just a different environment, one that I’m not super-fond of yet. Everybody’s being super-careful because we’re really trying to be really committed to making this work and it requires a great deal of effort on so many people’s parts, and so far, our show has been doing a really good job of it.
Michelle Stafford: Yeah, they really have, I commend them. They worked really hard prior to us coming back, right? Everybody is very careful and it’s great to be back. I don’t know if I brought this up, but I’m a very odd and inappropriate crier. I can get information that someone passed and be totally numb and not cry at a funeral but I can be at a party somewhere and someone says something and I fall apart and I can’t control it. It’s a very odd thing about me now in my older years. And I’m not a pretty crier, like I’m a crazy-ass, projectile, ugly-face crier now, you know. That said, I felt very emotional about coming back. I felt like — okay, I have to contain my tears right now because I’m inappropriately crying —
Morrow: What a crybaby.
Stafford: But it’s just been an emotionally, very difficult time in the world with everything that’s gone on…. As we know, it’s a been a very, very intense time and you just can’t skate through that as a human being, this affects us all. So, when we were doing the promos that we were coming back, I couldn’t stop crying because it gives so many people joy, and I feel emotional about that. I’m weird.
Morrow: I shed nary a tear, not one.
Digest: Did the two of you stay in touch during the shutdown?
Morrow: Yeah, we texted quite a bit. Um, Stafford is a homey, we stay in touch a lot.
Stafford: I’m one of the lucky few that Josh decided to communicate with.
Morrow: Oh, yeah I’m like the Unabomber, like hidden away and working on my, uh, you know, my manifesto. No, we would talk a lot and just kind of share stories about what our kids were doing in this crazy time.
Stafford: Oh, my God, I sent Josh a shot of us coming into Pepe’s Roadhouse and Phyllis is wearing that wedding thing, it wasn’t really a gown, wedding dress, with her [pregnancy] belly and a cowboy jacket and a cowboy hat and I’m looking, like, so jovial … no disrespect to cowboys, and I took a screenshot and sent it to Josh and I wrote under it, “No.” [Laughs.]
Morrow: We had a lot of fun with that story, man. If you remember, I, like, saved a church or something.
Stafford: Yeah, a burning building.
Morrow: The whole scene, I had all this soot on my face, so I literally looked like Tom Hanks from Cast Away. It was just so funny. We got married, we were dancing, it was good times.
Digest: Let’s go back into history a little bit. I’m curious, you had both been fixtures on the show for a long time before Nick and Phyllis got romantically involved, so were you two buddies even when your storylines didn’t cross?
Stafford: We were total homeys. And you know what, I was thinking of you the other day, Josh.
Morrow: Was I in a Jacuzzi?
Stafford: Remember how you use to impersonate every single person? You don’t do that anymore. What happened? And he was like spot on. And then I remember I said, “Wait a second, do you do me?” and he’s like, “Oh, yeah.” [Laughs.]
Morrow: Honestly, the world has gotten so sensitive, you have to be very careful with impersonations. I kind of put that on the back burner.
Digest: Now, Joshua, did you have any trepidation back then when the show was going to pair Nick and Phyllis because [of] the fan feeling about Nick and Sharon?
Stafford: Hell no, you wanna hit this.
Morrow: The “Shick” fans are a very, very feisty bunch. Like, you’ve gotta be very careful with them. I kind of saw it unfolding but Nick and Phyllis never even crossed paths. Then the bread crumbs started to get left around and I remember in the commissary, telling Michelle Stafford, “Hey, you know we’re gonna be getting naked soon.” And she’s like, “No, we’re not.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s gonna happen.” And several months later, Daniel was involved with Cassie and Phyllis needed to save Nick’s life by using her body and she did and off it went like electricity, man. It was crazy, so awesome, It was such a hot story. I mean, honestly, that’s when we really told hot triangles. It’s honestly my favorite storyline ever, when Nick and Phyllis starting hooking up and the fallout with Sharon. It was a great, well-written, awesomely played triangle.
Digest: Michelle, were you nervous about ruffling the “Shick” fans’ feathers?
Stafford: I love fan bases, I think they’re important. Listen, soap fans, as you know, are the best fans anywhere, so I think if people are passionate about it, even passionately hate something, I think that’s a good thing. I think being complacent is the enemy, so even if they’re not a fan of me, and they’re a passionate fan of the show and not wanting Phyllis with Nick, it’s something.
Digest: Michelle, how do you think falling in love with Nick changed Phyllis?
Stafford: It made her softer, definitely. It was a very different relationship with Jack, where they seemed to be like two businesspeople almost, although that was a very fun thing to play, as well, and you know we all love the great Peter Bergman [Jack].
Digest: Joshua, how do you think Nick evolved after falling in love with Phyllis?
Morrow: The feeling I always got from the pairing is that Phyllis gave Nick humility because with Sharon, he was always in charge, controlling her life and being very Victor-esque with her. Even today, when they’re not together, Nick can be very controlling of Sharon, but what Phyllis did for Nick when Cassie died was, she saved his life. He was going down a really dark place and for the first time in Nick’s life, he realized that he needed someone else. I feel like he was always a very cocky, hotheaded guy with a lot of hubris and Phyllis made him realize, “Dude, you need something else. It can’t just be you.”
Digest: Could you each speak to what your relationship with your TV daughter Hunter King (Summer) is like?
Morrow: Hunter is like my real daughter. I am so in love with her and I care about her so much. She’s turned into an incredible young woman and we got to see her grow up. I couldn’t be more proud of her and I just love her to pieces. Since we’ve been back, I can’t hug her, so it’s bad, but she’s going places, man. She’s a winner. Your turn.
Stafford: When she first came on, I think I worked with her for about 6 or 7 months and then 6 years didn’t, but having worked with her before, we just fell right into the thing that we had. She’s so lovely and so amazing and smart. And not only that but there’s an aspect to the Phyllis and Summer relationship that, and I really want to be specific about this because it’s not that my daughter is like Summer, but there’s a wild child-ness as to my daughter and Summer that is very similar, so sometimes I literally feel like I’m talking to Natalia when I’m in a scene talking to Summer, it’s a really weird thing.
Morrow: She’s so talented and we love her. We’re very, very lucky to have her.
Digest: In terms of your working relationship, when it comes to your own scenes, is your process similar or different from one another?
Morrow: They’re very different. Michelle would be like, “Hey, do you wanna run these? We’re up in four scenes.” And I’m like, “Yeah, lemme go read them and I’ll learn them and then we’ll meet and we’ll do that.” I can’t run the lines until I learn them. I don’t know, I’m a very last-minute kind of a guy when it comes to that but we run lines — but I don’t love running lines with her because I don’t want to see what she’s going to do. I like to be kind of surprised with it.
Stafford: One of the great things about Josh is that he, um, wants to make it fresh when you’re onstage, so a lot of times we don’t run stuff and I’m kind of like that, too, I don’t wanna go over it a bunch of times with no change unless it’s very particular writing and I have to say things about development, then I have to run it with the other person. But Josh is a good improviser, too. He’s a, you know, on-your-feet kind of guy and it creates more of a challenge for him which makes it fun.
Morrow: Thank you. Can we go back to insulting each other again?
Digest: The spectre of Sharon and Nick’s long history with her has always loomed large over “Phick”. Obviously, Sharon is going through her own personal battle right now. Is there any concern that Nick will be drawn back to her?
Morrow: There’s always a threat of that just based on the history and kind of the way soaps go. This seems a little different this time because Nick seems to constantly be promoting Rey to Sharon and he really respects Rey and what he’s providing her, so, um, I could be totally wrong on that but the game plan seems to be that Nick is really counting on Rey to kind of be that rock for her, and Nick will obviously do everything he can to help but I think he’s pretty into Phyllis at the moment and they’re kind of trending in the right direction. But Nick can’t ever seem to turn that page on Sharon and who knows?
Stafford: I think it would be interesting if Sharon and Phyllis actually had a bond of some sort through the cancer storyline. Or feeling Sharon as a threat but, “Oh, my God, I can’t feel that because she’s sick right now.” I think all of that is interesting to play and I hope to have scenes with Sharon and see what comes of it now.
Digest: What can you tease about what viewers can expect with your characters?
Stafford: Since there’s no touching, we’re not gonna be making out, so I’ve gotta, like, play this up somehow. These characters touch all of the time.
Morrow: As far as like where the story is going, I think Nick and Phyllis are in a really good place. Obviously, there are a lot of outside elements like Sharon’s illness and Phyllis’s ever-present war with Abby. So, who knows if they’ll weather all these storms around them and keep going? Summer is back with Kyle, which Nick doesn’t like, so will their interest in each other be able to get past all this other stuff is the question. As far as I’m concerned, my answer is “Yes!”
Stafford: Yes! Damn it!