Y&R’s Michael Graziadei on Returning Ahead of the Show’s 50th Anniversary, Rekindling Daniel & Lily, and Working with “Family” (Exclusive)

michael graziadei young and the restless 50th anniversary interview
michael graziadei young and the restless 50th anniversary interview

Michael Graziadei returned as Daniel Romalotti last November, ahead of The Young and the Restless’ 50th-anniversary celebration. Graziadei chats with The TV Watercooler on rekindling the romance between Daniel and Lily (Christel Khalil), one of his most memorable moments on the show, and how acting opposite his on-screen parents (Michelle Stafford’s Phyllis and Michael Damian’s Danny) really does feel like working with family.

How has it been stepping back into Daniel’s shoes after that time away?

Oh my God, it’s been a bit daunting with the sheer amount of material! I had forgotten how much work [goes into it]. But it’s an amazing feeling as well, to be welcomed back!

Stepping back into it has been 100% amazing. I must have done something all those years ago to have the opportunity to come back to the show after all that time away. I’m very grateful for that and for the opportunity to be working with Christel Khalil (Lily) and Michelle Stafford (Phyllis) again. They’re just like family. Coming back to this familiarity has been nice.

The show keeps teasing this reunion between Daniel and Lily. After all these decades, they’ve still got it! Were you both worried at all that the fans might have moved on?

No, I mean, I got nothing but positive responses! People really enjoyed that pairing and Christel is just lovely and easy to work with. It’s been nothing but a joy and pleasure to pick it up, almost where we left off. It’s been so long, but really nice to kind of rekindle that relationship between them.

You both remained good friends over the years. In fact, I read that it was a hangout between you, Christel and Bryton James (Devon) that sprung the idea of a return.

Yeah, they had come over to visit our boys after they had been born and brought it up. I hadn’t even thought about returning. Bryton just said to me, “Hey man, would you ever come back?” Christel was right there with him, and she was like, “Yeah! It would be so much fun to have you back there.”

I never really gave it much thought [before that]. I had just assumed that if they wanted me back, they would have asked [by now].

Bryton said that he’d go talk so some people and within weeks, the phone calls started with my managers and agents to see if it was actually something that I would entertain or be serious about. It all moved rather quickly!

It’s great having Daniel back ahead of the show’s 50th anniversary. Even before you were in the role, the arrival of Phyllis Summers with baby Daniel Romalotti was such a pivotal moment for Cricket (Lauralee Bell) and Danny (Michael Damien). And then we got that epic teen romance when Daniel and Lily were on the run!

Everybody asks me if there’s a moment during my time on the show that always stands out in my mind or that I’ll never forget, and my answer is being dressed like a banana on the beaches of Malibu! [Laughs]

I don’t know if there’s another moment that quite stands out like that one!

Yes, that’s definitely a classic! Definitely one for the montage.

Oh God, I hope so!

Daniel had a tense reunion recently with Heather and Lucy (Lily Brooks O’Briant). Vail Bloom wasn’t in the role when Daniel and Heather got together and left Genoa City. What was it like channelling a relationship that we didn’t really get to see and that neither of you got the chance to play? The three of you made such a believable family unit.

Vail’s a great actor. Lily, who they brought in to play my daughter is also a phenomenal little actor herself!

Vail and I were friends before, back when she was on the show, and yes, we went through a series of different Heathers by the time Daniel and Heather were in a relationship. I believe it was Jennifer Landon who they had brought on. I think I left the show not too long after that, so I didn’t really get a chance to work with her a lot.

Vail had actually sent me some scenes recently where she was litigating some case and Daniel went to her and asked to take it easy on the person she was going after. Watching that, I was like “Oh my God, we did have chemistry back then!” [In those scenes], we were able to bounce stuff off from each other and really bring those scenes to life.

So, when she did come back [this year], I already knew that she was going to deliver and perform. Even if Daniel and Heather weren’t in a relationship back when we were both on the show together, there was something familiar about her and it didn’t take anything for us to jump right into it and knock those scenes out of the park.

It was interesting to see Daniel be a father and carry the weight of that responsibility when just months earlier, he had scenes with his own parents and the roles were a reversed for Daniel. He was the kid. Phyllis is a character that the audience loves to hate and her relationship with Danny is so fractured but Phyllis and Danny managed to present a united front when they were worried about their son. There was this maturity to the character that we didn’t really get to see, in terms of her relationship with Danny, and then you echoed a vulnerability in Daniel. I think that’s the magic of soap operas right there where over decades, having the same actors can bring forth so much emotion and resonance.  

When you’re working with such talented people as Michelle Stafford or Michael Damian, there’s an ease to it. It’s very easy to finesse those scenes [with them]. Those scenes were also written so well, which obviously lends itself to making it much easier and much more believable. You’re not fighting anything in the scenes that way.

They were two of the first people that I ever really worked with when I got to the show. I learned a lot from both of them! It really does feel like family [here].

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadians can catch up with episodes on demand, the Global TV app, STACKTV, and at GlobalTV.com.


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