Soap Opera Digest: Christel, what was your reaction when you learned that Lily and Billy would be giving romance another whirl?
Christel Khalil: I was really excited. I knew Jason was a good actor and would be easy to work with, so I thought it would be fun. I was also excited to try something knew since I had been with Daniel [Goddard, ex-Cane] on the show for 13 years, so it was nice to try another dynamic and work with someone new, in general. I was really excited see what the writers would do with them.
Digest: Jason, what did you think about Billy and Lily getting together?
Jason Thompson: I was really excited about it, as well. Christel and I hadn’t worked together that much before because Lily was with Cane. Even back in the day, when we were at Brash & Sassy, Christel would come in and out, but we never really did too much together, only when Lily was modeling and we had scenes here and there. I heard talks about [Billy and Lily] throughout the year Christel wasn’t here, and if she came back, what the potential might be if they paired us up, so I was excited about it.
Digest: Christel, were you elated about your character embarking on a new romantic story after years of Lily and Cane?
Khalil: Yeah, definitely. And when I found out that she and Billy would be running a company together, I thought that was a really interesting dynamic because it’s a part I never played before.
Digest: Jason, did you like seeing Billy move on from Victoria?
Thompson: Yeah, I mean, when I think about Victoria, she’ll always be in his life, especially with the kids and all. I do feel this is a way for him to mature a little bit and step out on his own. He had a challenging year where he tried to figure out what made him tick and what did he want out of life, so I think when the relationship [with Victoria] ended, he had a sense of freedom and self-worth for the first time in awhile. So I think it was interesting to see what Lily brought out in him, and vice versa. Billy is playful and not so serious, so there’s room for smiles, which helps to build a good kind of relationship.
Digest: It’s interesting that they started your characters off on an even play- ing field. They’re both in charge at ChancComm, 50/50, as opposed to Billy being Lily’s boss.
Thompson: I think that was a good move. Lily has a way of keeping Billy in check, which I think works really well. She gives Billy enough freedom to be who he is, but at the same time, she’s not afraid to call him out if he’s straying one way or the other.
Khalil: As a work relationship, I think it’s a great environment for two characters to get to know each other and let the sparks fly. At the same time, it can be a little complicated, which I think is what we do really well in this genre.
Digest: How well did you know each other before this?
Thompson: We didn’t see each other that often.
Khalil: Yeah. I didn’t really know Jason at all. I just knew that he was this cool guy driving in an old truck, dressed like a hipster. I mean, we would see each other at work parties and things like that, but we really didn’t know each other.
Thompson: Not much anyway.
Digest: So, what was it like working together and establishing your own rhythm?
Thompson: Don’t botch this up, Christel.
Khalil: Don’t worry. Our first scenes were with Jess [Walton, Jill]. So, it just started as the work dynamic but Jason and I didn’t know how long it would be until the romance would set in. It actually happened faster than we thought it would.
Thompson: I love Jess. She’s fantastic to work with and she always brings it and she’s always fun. Jill was always riding Billy when it was Victoria she wanted him to be with, but I think she’s really stoked that Billy and Lily are together.
Digest: Once you started working together, was there anything that was different from what you had assumed or expected?
Khalil: Not really … no.
Thompson: She was as bored as she thought she would be.
Khalil: Actually, I was less bored than I thought that I’d be. I thought for sure Jason would be boring and not joke around. From what I saw, he seemed so serious.
Thompson: Really? That’s how I come across? That’s interesting. I do like to take the work seriously, but depending on what we’re doing, I tend to carry that energy into my own stuff. If our characters are in a good place, I’m usually more joke-y on set. If the scene is a little more serious, I keep it within a margin of error with my character. But was I surprised? No.
Digest: You weren’t surprised that she was funny?
Thompson: Oh, she’s still not funny.
Khalil: I’m not funny? I have a couple of moments where I’m funny.
Thompson: She has made a couple of jokes, so I must give her credit for those times. She’s very endearing, to be honest. It’s always fun to come to work when I know we’re working together. Sitting opposite of Christel in a scene is very easy for me because I don’t have to do too much.
Digest: What did it feel like to create on-screen chemistry when you had to be socially distanced?
Thompson: It’s obviously been a weird year. They’ve been in a romance for almost a year and I think we kissed three times because of everything that’s going on. So it’s been challenging to grow this relationship from 6 feet apart, to be completely honest, but I feel we’ve done a pretty good job of making it work. It’s been interesting to fill the space up emotionally kind of with this dialogue.
Digest: Wow, only three kisses, eh?
Thompson: Wasn’t the first one in a hotel room?
Khalil: Yeah. I remember the last one we had was the most natural.
Thompson: In the apartment?
Khalil: Yeah, we were lying there and able to chat, which was nice.
Thompson: I was really excited when they got the apartment so we can see them outside of the office and give them a little sense of normalcy. It’s been nice when we get to see them be more physically together and more natural with it. Yeah, but it’s been an interesting year to try and build a relationship within these kinds of parameters, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of showing how much they care for each other.
Digest: Billy/Victoria, Billy/Phyllis and Cane/ Lily had such strong fan bases. Did you worry at all about audience reaction to them getting together?
Khalil: No. I’ve learned over the years not to worry about that. At the end of the day, I don’t have control over storylines, so why stress myself out wondering how fans feel? Some people will love it, some people will hate it. My job is just to do what the writers write.
Thompson: Within that job title, you do feel a certain sense of responsibility to do whatever you can to make it work. I put a lot of value in trying to make any relationship on the show work, whether that’s an adversary or a lover. All that chemistry can work in funny ways. To try and harness that kind of energy is important but if you try to please everyone, you’re in a tough place.
Digest: Was it gratifying to realize that Billy and Lily have gained their own strong following with the audience?
Thompson: Well, what do you think?
Khalil: I’m sorry, what?
Thompson: Were you even listening? This is the thing, Christel will be looking right at you but be in a completely different world. But if she caught you in that moment, she would lay down the gauntlet. What were you thinking? I cannot go forward until you tell me right now what it was!
Khalil (laughs): Okay, I’m back. It’s always nice when people are responding positively to your work, so yeah, I always feel happy when people actually like what you’re doing.
Thompson: It’s a long relationship with the audience, as well. It’s not the first time they’ve seen him in a relationship. It may be a different person playing Billy, but there’s history there and the actors who played Billy before me, they did their jobs to build that history and it’s my job to build upon it, so when it works, it’s wonderful.
Digest: The only discontent between your characters is when Lily chastises Billy for his aggressive reporting. Would you like to see more disagreements between them?
Khalil: Oh, absolutely. I think their relationship is ready for some sort of conflict between them. We haven’t had a chance to play that yet.
Thompson: I feel what their relationship needs is to bring them together more than separate them at this point. We’ve not really seen any adversity between them and I think there needs to be a moment when Billy has to support her, so she knows that he’s there to stay. There’s never been a moment where he really has Lily’s back, which I feel we need. But any sort of push and pull is always good.
Digest: Christel, what Is the best part about working with Jason?
Khalil: It’s just so easy. He always knows his stuff, and he’s so professional. There’s never any drama. Some people you work with, there can be a lot of anxiety, but with Jason, it’s very easy, which is really nice.
Digest: Jason, what is the best part about working with Christel?
Thompson: I really do trust her. She’s been Lily for a very long time, she doesn’t feel the need to push it or create something that’s really not there. She’s comfortable with letting it be what it is. She has a space there to let the scene evolve to whatever it’s going to be, and that’s fun. It’s not too structured, which is good.
Digest: Last question: Do you think marriage would be a good option for them?
Khalil: I think so. I just hope that there’s a road to get there, like, some sort of conflict happens and they have to find their way back to each other.
Thompson: Yeah, I can see it but I don’t know if Billy thinks he wants to get married again. I don’t think they have to be married to have a committed relationship. He’s been married a lot. Would anybody really come to a sixth wedding?