Since assuming the role of Adam Newman (aka Victor Newman, Jr.) on The Young and the Restless in June 2009, Michael Muhney has become quite the fan favourite (even if he’s playing a character that some viewers love to hate). The actor was recently in Toronto and I got the chance to speak to him about what it was like landing the controversial role, whether or not Adam will reunite with Sharon and what are the soap’s plans to lure back unhappy viewers.
How did you manage to land the role, which at the time was an emergency recast?
I was standing in my family room and my agent called me said said, “Sit down, I have to tell you something.” I was like “Okay, I’m sitting,” and it’s what we all do — we don’t sit! I just froze and was thinking it’s bad. He goes, “CBS is interested in you for this role on a…soap opera.” And I went, “No thanks!” Then he goes to tell me, “That’s why I told you to sit down and let me explain this.” I was like, “Nope — It’s not my medium. I don’t know soaps, it’s a whole different animal. I’m probably going to be way over my head! It works super-fast. My world has been primetime for 11 years, let’s wait for the next pilot. I’m cool.” Then they started educating me, “This is a pretty iconic character in an iconic family on an iconic show. It’s the number one show.” I was like “Give me a couple of days to think about this.” I thought about it. I drove to the audition and I physically took a U-Turn around and said, “I don’t want to go.” I called my manager and had him talk me off a cliff!” I look back and that’s the audition that I almost utterly refused to go on! They pitched the character to me for about 90 minutes and told me about his inner workings, and the arc of the character and how he’s woven into the fibre of the show. In my head, I was like, “This is Iago meets the Talented Mr. Ripley,” he’s such a masterful, despicable [character, but you can] find some areas of humanity. It was sso much meat to chew on and how can an actor not want to play a role like this? My father has a saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and here’s this role that this guy — who I never met and know nothing about, so I’m not going to say anything disparaging about the guy, but I can say that this person walked away from something that he felt was trash and I rummaged through the bin and pulled it out and said, “This is treasure and I think it’s pure gold — let’s see if it is!” And it worked out to be that way.
There was a lot of buzz when you first joined the show in 2009. There were rumours that the previous actor, Chris Engen, was against how negative the character was becoming, as well as the rumours that it was because Adam, who was straight, was going to seduce his male lawyer, Rafe (Yani Gellman). Because of how public that exit was, did you feel like there were greater expectations for you at the time? There’s always pressure to be a recast, but did you feel that you had a greater responsibility to the fan base that may have been offended by why the former portrayer was rumoured to be leaving?
That’s a really good question and I’m completely comfortable answering it. I think a lot of people around me and a lot of people involved with the show have to be careful with what they say because they know so much. You want to be careful not to say something about some person to be me because I know nothing. I came in and that was the aftermath. I thought, “All I know is that this guy left.” He could have left for a myriad of reasons, who knows. But all I know is that I’m here and he’s not and I have to fill my feet into the shoes of this Adam Newman character and he’s in the mist of a pretty devious storyline right now.
Socially, I have been a huge advocate for gay marriage and a big No H8 campaigner. So, I thought I could make a statement playing this character. If I have an onscreen kiss with another man, it’s the same as having to do a scene with another woman that I perhaps don’t like so much. So I wouldn’t necessarily kiss this person in real life, but I might not necessarily kiss this guy in real life. It’s called acting and I completely and fully embraced it. Interestingly enough, the morning that we re going to shoot this scene that did have a kiss, but the camera panned away to Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott). Maybe the network didn’t want to see it? I don’t know. All I know is that it didn’t happen. I was in my dressing room and the actor who plays Rafe , came and we were running scene, doing the dialogue. I looked at him and said, “I’ve never kissed a guy before and the way the show works is that you get one take, so were’g owing to get one shot at this. Do you think we should rehearse the kiss, or should we not so it is awkward [on screen]? It’s your call, I just want you to know that I’m fine.” He looked at me and goes, “There is no kiss anymore!” I was like, “What?!” and he said, “Di you get the revisions?” I said, “No, I didn’t check my mail. I’m so glad I said this to you now because we would have gone on and shot this scene and everyone, the crew, the director and everyone involved would know there was no kiss, and then I would lean in a kiss you and everyone would go, “Yeah sure, you didn’t read the notes!” So, I dodged a bullet with that one.
You’ve stated in a previous interview that you don’t want Adam as a romantic lead, but rather a character that doesn’t bed every other character in town (just because it’s a soap opera), but is there a potential romantic pairing you’d like to see Adam explore?
To be honest if there were, I like the rehashing of Adam and Sharon (Sharon Case) from time to time, the yin and the yang. They’ve got to be together and then pulled apart. That’s part of the drama. I like that it’s there now, it’s a good sort of history and adds layers that he has with his brother and Sharon. I think that honestly, if Adam isn’t going to be an army of one, and he is going to be paired with someone, then I would say that it almost necessarily has to be someone who is not on the show right now. Because if you have to look at the residents of Genoa City and what they’ve sort of weathered with Adam Newman, would any of them realistically, without tearing apart their character, be involved with Adam? So I think that it would have to be someone new.
What about Avery (Jessica Collins)? She’s a relatively new character and she has issues with Adam’s enemy, Phyllis (Michelle Stafford).
It could be and I thought that maybe there was a potential for that by upsetting Phyllis. But, I think if you picked Avery, it could be contrived. Because it is so on the nose that it would definitely upset people. Then it becomes a relationship about upsetting people. If we’re talking about a real pairing, I think it has to be someone new.
We know Eden Riegel (Heather) is on her way out, but there have been some civil moments between Adam and Heather (she let him go have eye surgery). Will they revisit this pairing before Heather leaves?
It was sad to see Maura West (Diane) leave, and now Heather is leaving.
I will say that it’s been quite an educational experience working with Stacy Haiduk (ex-Patty/Emily), Maura West (ex-Diane) and now Eden Riegel, where all three, upon being told they were being dismissed had a final six weeks to shoot, and in their final six weeks, they happen to be in a storyline with me. I’m acting with talented actresses that have been given really sad news and they have to soldier through it. It’s been such a eye opening experience to see three very professional women handle themselves and come into work and just nail it and still find a way to enjoy what they’re doing knowing they’re one their way out.
Maura West on our final week of work, she started breaking down and said “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get this emotional” and ran off. She was trying to thank me and said, “Thank you for being the only person who didn’t treat me like a dead man walking.” And that really hit me. I come to play and at some point in time, I’m leaving the show. Three to five years, or ten to fifteen years and upon my leaving, there’s going to be that time where I know I’m gone and even if it’s on my own terms, I’ll want people being there and bringing it with me, everyday, until the very end. I’m still working with Eden and it’s been interesting. She’s another classy actress who is doing a very fine job.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you’d like for Victor and Adam to team up. What do you think it would take for Adam to potentially join forces with the Victor and the rest of his family? Could there be a day where Adam has Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of the Newmans?
What an episode that would be! I think that in a happily ever after aspect, sure…they could do that, but it’s once the show goes off the air in 20 years. The Newmans all get together in the end! In order to drive story and have drama, you can’t have them all jiving, they can’t all be the Partridge family.
Adam doesn’t have any friends in Genoa City. You’ve shared a few scenes with Tracey E. Bregman’s Lauren over the summer. I spoke with Tracey after the Newman board meeting scenes between Adam and Lauren aired and she was glad that I picked up on it. It seems like something she’d like to explore and said she really enjoyed those scenes. More recently, Adam and Lauren shared scenes at Diane’s funeral, do you think we’ll be able to see more of Adam branching out and making friends?
Yeah, she and I talked about that. You get to see a glimpse of Adam not having his guard up. Not being snarky or defensive. Just sort of be natural and have a confidante. The scenes with Lauren were refreshing. I would like more of that. We’ve talked about it with the writers and I guess there’s that possibility. But, I guess it’s finding the right character that makes the most sense logically who is in Adam’s orbit and I think that time is right now to move Adam from being a pariah to someone who can be more mainstream with people and sort of let bygones be bygones. Yeah, I think now is a crucial time for Adam to get someone who is a friend.
Days of our Lives is going through a reboot to bring back the viewers they lost, what about The Young and the Restless? It’s been the number one rated soap opera in the United States and Canada, however the ratings are falling. Fans aren’t too happy with the current storylines. They want to see Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) back for instance, rather than new characters that aren’t working out. What’s being done to make fans happy?
I have just heard some good news. There’s optimism that can be had on the horizon, in terms of steering the ship in more finer, maybe acute direction. Just a couple of weeks ago, there were folks that were let go from the show [Tristian Rogers (Colin), Darius McCrary (Malcolm), Sean Patrick Flanery (Sam) along with Eden Riegel (Heather)]. I sniff on the horizon that perhaps another three or four in another six months ago. There’s been talk by journalists, my fellow actors, by fans and by the network that we have a rather large cast. What if we streamline the cast and knock off, and this is just an arbitrary number, 10 folks and we really cut the fat off? I think that’s happening.
I want to tell people that I think there’s going to be a stronger focus on core characters. I think it’s going to take some time, after Thanksgiving, but before Christmas. It’s already happening. I can sense that the show is telling stories about more core folks and getting rid of other characters.Yeah, it’s losing viewers. It’s hemorrhaging viewers at times, and you have to wonder, how do you plug that leak?
Adam constantly shocks viewers. Has there been an incident where even you were surprised at what he was going to do? I mean for me, it had to have been when he dumped Sharon at the altar and destroyed the memory card that could have set her free.
With the memory card. I wasn’t thrilled with that idea — that’s just my two cents. There’s a lot of people who write the show, but I felt like it wasn’t quite an eye for an eye. It was more like an eye versus a decapitation! I would have enjoyed something like Adam being hurt that Sharon slept with this man (Sam), so he finds a hurtful way to sleep with someone else to get back at Sharon. Eye for an eye, he sleeps with Phyllis. He gets a one night stand where he sleeps with her arch rival.
So it was really hard for me to wrap my mind around throwing this memory card and it’s implications went on for months, so it’s not like anything that could be changed. It’s something that I had to embrace.
Well, Ronan (Jeff Branson) did fish something out of the water that looked like a memory card while he was investigating Diane’s death.
I can’t say anything about that!
Will Adam and Sharon reunite down the line?
Sure, yeah. That’s the push and pull of the characters — that they’re going to pull apart and then come back together, so you can have drama. They’re going to be together again I assume, I haven’t been given direct storyline information, but I think it’s inevitable. And they’ve been apart for so long that it seems to be that it’s going to be sooner rather than later.
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadian fans can also catch up with the series online, at GlobalTV.com, on demand or on their mobile devices.
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