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Interview: chatting with 'The Young and the Restless' EP Jill Farren Phelps

Jill Farren Phelps of The Young and the Restless
Photo by Christopher Polk

Things are really heating up on “The Young and the Restless.” Fresh off six Emmy wins, including the top prize for Outstanding Drama Series, CBS’s #1 soap is promising more exciting stories with lots of twists and turns.

Daytime TV Examiner caught up with the show’s Executive Producer, Jill Farren Phelps to get her thoughts on the Emmy wins. Phelps also talked about the challenge to maintain ratings and the difficult decision to recast Billy Abbott.

Check out the interview below:

Phyllis: Congratulations on the Emmy. Some people were surprised by it. Were you surprised by the win or the number of wins the show got this year?

Jill Farren Phelps: I was ecstatic about the number of wins. You never know. You don't know how it's going to turn out. There are so many factors. I've been on both sides, it’s really exciting to be on the side that's winning and it's really not so much fun if you're not. But it was a great night for “Y&R.” A lot of really talented people got rewarded.

Phyllis: The Delia storyline was a great and gave great story for so many actors. How far back where you planning that story? Was there anything about it that you thought would go one way or was that your goal from the beginning?

Jill Farren Phelps: The goal from the beginning was always something about telling a story for Adam Newman and Billy Abbott -- to set up that kind of animosity and rivalry between the next generations. We knew it was going to be a tough story to tell we felt that it was a risk but I think in the end it involves so many characters as it would and it gave so many people an opportunity to do great work and that's why we did it so the reward in the end is that we is that these people get to go home with statues and the show won.

Phyllis: Is it hard sometimes have a balance of A and B stories at the same time? This one was a really heavy one. How do you decide how often to play them for so many days each week. How do you decide that?

Jill Farren Phelps: I don't think you can ever be a scientist about it. I think that it's…I mean for me, and not everybody would agree with me, but for me it's about making people watch; making them need to watch and want to watch. If you're too dark, then they won’t. So yes there has to be a balance. But I think that really high stakes gets ratings. Humor makes people happy but it doesn't necessarily mean they have to watch every day, so you really have to do it smart.

Phyllis: What I like about “Y&R” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” is that you have the ability to do the crossovers. Are there any coming up or are you planning any?

Jill Farren Phelps: Yeah, we are we talked about it. They’re right down the hall from us, they’re our neighbors and whenever there's an opportunity to we do. We have some stuff we're doing right now. We mentioned Chelsea going to visit Los Angeles and work with the Foresters so yeah whatever we can do to plug each other, we are very happy to do.

Phyllis: You have to have one of the most stressful jobs in television. Being a show runner for daytime seems more stressful than primetime because they have more time to prepare. I know you’ve done some primetime in the past with Nickelodeon. Did you ever consider staying on that side or did you always know you'd be back in daytime?

Jill Farren Phelps: I love daytime. It's like doing a play every day. It's really hard, it doesn't get easier…in fact I think it gets harder. But it’s my home. I been doing it for my whole career and very happy to be on “The Young and the Restless.” I am very excited to be on this show and love the people on it. I’ve made a lot of families over the years.

Phyllis: It must hard when an actor leaves the show. I think this is the third Billy in a year. How do you decide when it's time to make that difficult decision to recast?

Jill Farren Phelps: Well I think the decision was made for us when Billy Miller left, when he decided to leave. I think David Tom was fantastic and I think that Burgess Jenkins is going to be Billy for a long time, hopefully forever. He’s wonderful. They’re all different. I don't know when you make it. You make the decisions when you have to.

Phyllis: I know you can’t always see it coming but with a ratings surge or a ratings peak, do you feel pressure to maintain the ratings or do you just focus on the story?

Jill Farren Phelps: I think…I know if you're telling a great story, the ratings will follow. I think we all know that if the stories are off, we can get soft numbers. That's more when we think about it - when we're actually getting them.

Phyllis: You have new additions to the cast coming in who have a great daytime history. I talked to Cady McClain (Kelly) recently and she said you were so welcoming and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) recently came on board. Do you have any rituals? How do you welcome a new person to the show?

Jill Farren Phelps: I don't know that it's a ritual. Hopefully we introduce them in the same way, we meet them in the same way for anybody going to any place. We welcome them with open arms. We welcome them, we say “this is your dressing room this is the stage. My door is always open if you need anything” and then we have to do this thing and then we let them do their thing. The cast is doing a wonderful job.

Phyllis: Lastly, are there any teasers for the end of summer for our readers?

Jill Farren Phelps: The show is great. We're really cooking right now. Just when you think you know what's coming with Devon, Hillary and Neil, there will be a big change; Victoria’s getting pretty pregnant; Stitch’s secret is coming out and Nikki/Paul/Christine, it’s just revving up. It's going to be fun.

Catch “The Young and the Restless” weekdays on CBS.

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