As The Young and the Restless gears up to celebrate its 50th anniversary of March 26, ET Canada will air a special this Friday, March 17, where host Cheryl Hickey visits the L.A. to look back at some of the show’s biggest moments and to sit down for exclusive interviews with series stars Eric Braeden (Victor Newman), Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman), Eileen Davidson (Ashley Abbott), Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott) and more.
“Our grandparents had it on, then our parents had it on, and then we started putting it on while we were getting home from school, and now we’ve got it on while we’re getting dinner ready. It’s generational entertainment that we’ve all grown to love,” shares ET Canada host and soap fan Cheryl Hickey about how she got into the soaps. “It’s a comfort. You hear that theme song and you’re like “Ah yes!”
The comfort in hearing Nadia’s Theme is also something very Canadian thanks to its late afternoon and early evening timeslot, which provides a nice buffer between the workday and the evening routine. “With it on at 4:30 p.m. [ET], you’ve had your busy day and you’re just going into another part of it, especially for a lot of parents. Another very busy part of their day is about to start, which is dinner, bath time, homework, and then bedtime for the kids.”
For Hickey, the opportunity to take part in this special is a full-circle moment for her career. “My very first job in TV was when I was working at the New VR in Barrie [which is now CTV Two]. I was a camerawoman and told the program manager that I really wanted to be on air. He offered me 5 minutes between one of the soap operas [All My Children] and asked if I could fill it. I was like ‘Absolutely! It’ll be a soap opera segment and I’ll email the publicist for the soap, and we’ll answer viewers’ questions.’ This was back in 1998 and it went on for a couple of years. The segment was called Lather Up with Cheryl Hickey!”
And no, she didn’t have to pick up watching a whole other soap for the segment as Hickey confessed, she was watching all of them back then. “I would record them, and I would watch them all just because I was so fascinated by the whole process. I got to see how Y&R is filmed and I was so impressed with how it was shot. The camera crew are crossing each other, zooming at the same time. It was like a dance, and I was so impressed with what a juggernaut it is to make shows like this. I wish more and more people could see what goes into doing it, because, my goodness, they deserve mad respect.”
Hickey’s visit to the Los Angeles set marked her return to the city after three years following the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was like, ‘Yes, please!’ Could there be a better trip [to get me back to L.A.]?”
Hickey filmed an impressive 26 interviews with cast members in three days! As anyone who has covered Y&R’s 50th anniversary could tell you, it feels like you’ve been preparing for this project your entire life. Growing up, Hickey adored Sharon and Nick (played by Sharon Case and Joshua Morrow) and was always fascinated by Tracey E. Bregman’s Lauren Fenmore. “I also really loved the Cricket (Lauralee Bell) and Danny (Michael Damian) storyline.”
Not only will Joshua Morrow be taking fans through a day in his life in the special, but Hickey asked his fellow castmates if they remembered he was part of the 90s boy band 3 Deep! “You know who didn’t know? Michael Damian! I showed him a music video and he was just losing it! And then Joshua comes along, and I asked him if we’d ever hear him sing again, and he gave me a very interesting answer that I don’t think anyone else is going to expect…he may or may not have broken into song!”
Hickey also previews her interview with Lauralee Bell, whose parents William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell created the show. “It was amazing speaking to her because she’s part of such a dynasty, so it’s interesting to hear her thoughts on what her parents would think about it all, 50 years later, and then to find out how she joined the show – I mean we all assumed she got cast because her parents, right? That was always the story, but it’s not how it went down. So, we get to find out the true story of how it all happened and which one of her parents wasn’t for it.”
Another one of Hickey’s teased interviews is the one with Eric Braeden, who plays, the G-O-A-T, Victor Newman! “I was a little nervous about it because we’ve never met before, and of course, I know what Victor’s like on the show, right? We all know! Some of the crew members were saying he was very much like his character but then some of the cast members shared that Eric’s the one who breaks into great gales of laughter over everyone else! Sure enough, when I do the interview, he broke out laughing over something that he said and he kept trying to snap back into the strait-laced Victor Newman persona we are used to, but he kept crying and laughing…I was also crying and laughing, so we had to stop the interview because neither of us could get it together. It went on for like 3 minutes! It was so wonderful, and I haven’t belly-laughed like that in years, so I can’t wait for people to see that! I truly believe this will become a viral moment.”
In addition to the cast interviews, Hickey also teased the tour around the Y&R set. “You’ll go from like the Abbott family living room, to Victor Newman’s office in like three steps! It’s really fun.” Hickey even got the chance to sit behind Victor Newman’s desk, “It was just iconic. It’s so wild because you’ve seen him be so angry and some very tense moments happened on that portion of the set.”
Walking into the Abbott Mansion living room was also magical for Hickey. “Every family does renovations but it’s interesting that in soap opera land, they never do renovations because subliminally, the house is the Abbott house. You can’t change it because then it’s not the Abbott house anymore. So they’ll build new sets for new characters to have modern things, but there are certain things like Victor and Victoria’s desks that don’t change. It should have changed by now. It should be ergonomic. Or the carpet on the stairs should be updated. But we can’t change the carpet either.”
Seems like a hard lesson to learn as passionate fans are still upset that the Newman Ranch burned down a decade ago. “But her bar cart is the same! It’s the same one that Nikki would jingle jangle that drink and look off to the camera,” shares Hickey before reflecting on some of her favourite memories from the show. “Oh my gosh, I think this is terrible to say, but I loved it when Nikki Newman was deep in her addiction. It was fascinating! I also loved it whenever they’d tease Nick and Sharon getting back together. I love that tension between them. Back when I was a teenager, I loved the Danny Romalotti concert.”
As for villains, Hickey agrees that Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) is the villain you love and also enjoyed it when Michael Baldwin was a villain, “Remember in the beginning, he was caught scratching his way out of that closet?!”
A takeaway that Hickey had from her set visit is that the cast is not only all stunningly beautiful but recognize what a beautiful thing they have going on and are all incredibly respectful to each other. “You can go on another set and sometimes you can see through things and you can tell that there are some rough waters, but here, I can tell you that having met everyone and spending three very long days on their set, these people really love each other and this cast is as close as the characters that they portray. It goes as far as the crew, hair, and makeup people, to the publicity team, as well as the CBS and Sony Pictures crew. Over these last 50 years, they’ve taken the time to create a culture that seems beautiful there and you can really feel it.
Kristoff St. John, who passed away in 2019, is still very much part of the show. “We talked about Neil and the passing of Kristoff, and sort of how they dealt with that. It was really beautiful to see Kristoff’s pictures all over the set. He was everywhere. I thought that was a really lovely thing.”
Hickey is keen to visit fellow Sony soap Days of our Lives (which now airs on W Network in Canada) and would celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2025. “I’ve already soft-pitched that idea!” she laughs. “There’s a lot more of us soap opera viewers that we really know. Whether you pop in once a week or whether you’re a person who watches it every week, it’s just part of our culture. I’m really happy that they are continuing and that the networks can keep them going because it’s a really fun medium.”
In addition to the half-hour ET Canada special, Hickey’s message to soap fans is to also check out the digital content that’ll go up on ETCanada.com. “I pushed for an hour,” she laughs. “Absorb that stuff online – it’ll be extended interviews and all the stuff we couldn’t fit into a half-hour.”
ET Canada presents Still Young, Still Restless: 50 Years of Y&R airs Friday, March 17 on Global (check local listings) and stream it live and on-demand on STACKTV and the Global TV app.