The TV Watercooler was invited to attend Kate Linder’s “OpportuniTea” event this past Sunday, June 4, in Toronto, which supported March of Dimes Canada.
Held at the Beanfield Centre within the Exhibition Place grounds, Kate’s first in-person “tea with friends” since the pandemic. Joining Kate, who has played Esther Valentine on The Young and the Restless since 1982, was joined by her co-stars Bryton James (Devon Winters), Brytni Sarpy (Elena Dawson), and Cait Fairbanks (Tessa Porter).
Global TV’s The Morning Show’s Carolyn Mackenzie co-hosted the event which benefited March of Dimes Canada’s Conductive Education program.
Here are some highlights from the Q&A with the cast of The Young and the Restless at the event!
Kate Linder’s (Esther) audition process:
- Kate Linder went in on a general interview with the casting director at the time (Tom Holland) and left him with a tape. She went home thinking not much would happen from it, but he told her that there was a small role (“if you blink, you’ll miss it”) but said he’d find her another role on the show (which usually doesn’t happen in soaps).
- Her first line was “Dinner is served.” “That was 41 years ago! Here I am now. I always look back thinking what if I said “no”?”
- Her character was always referred to as “Maid” until Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor) started calling her “Esther” while they were rehearsing their lines. Jeanne managed to get the other actors to also start calling her Esther until it made it into the script.
- What Jeanne didn’t know was that Esther was Kate’s grandmother’s name.
- The show had a national contest for Esther’s last name. Bill Bell came to Kate with several names from the entries, including Diamond and Valentine. Kate thought Valentine would be good luck as she was married on Valentine’s Day!
Cait Fairbanks’ (Tessa) audition process:
- “Was way more traditional. I showed up at an office building and sang a lullaby. I then did a screen test with Joshua Morrow (Nick Newman), who said ‘I have no notes!’”
- Cait sang two songs and brought with her a broken guitar (she broke a string on the way there), and then had to play the piano. She only knew one song but managed to pull through, “It was pretty crazy.”
Kate Linder’s favourite memory of Jeanne Cooper (Katherine):
- “There are so many, many, memories. I was very fortunate to work with Jeanne Cooper and we became great friends. I am still in touch with her daughter, and we have a lot of fabulous memories (including her naming my character) and running lines together with Jess Walton (Jill Abbott). We had [some] great times. I will always be grateful to Jeanne Cooper, and I miss her very much.
Kate Linder’s closest confidant on set:
- “Jess (Walton) and I talk all the time, even though her character is mean and calls me all these crazy names! But she [Jess] loves me! She called me last night.”
- “I also tell Bryton things that I probably don’t tell anyone else. He’s very honest.”
Cait Fairbanks’ (Tessa) closest confidant on set:
- “Kinda everybody. We’re all pretty close. Everybody is so great, and so sweet.”
Brytni Sarpy’s (Elena) closest confidant on set:
- “I have to agree with Cait. I come from another soap so I say this with honesty, this group is like family.”
Bryton James’ (Devon) closest confidant on set:
- “It’s always been Christel [Khalil; Lily Winters]. We’ve known each other for so long. I did my screen test with her. She’s the closest thing that I have ever had to a sibling.”
Bryton James on if Abby (Melissa Ordway) and Devon will get married:
- “If I would bet on it, I would say probably. We already have a child together and we live together!”
What determines a character’s longevity on the show?
- Kate (Esther): They [TPTB] really do listen to you [the fans]. “CBS has a comment line at CBS.com and if you tell them what you want to see or who you want to see more of, they pay attention.” Years ago, people kept asking me where my daughter was, and that’s how we got Chloe (Elizabeth Hendrickson). That’s how it worked.
- Bryton (Devon): “Many different things, like actors can sometimes choose a different opportunity, or the writers decide to rest a character, or through fan feedback.”
What advice would you give your character right now?
- Kate (Esther): “She better learn how to type better!”
- Brytni (Elena): “She understands not to trust Nate!” [Received a big applause] “Maybe don’t date for a little while and to focus on yourself, and find a house! I’d love to see Elena dive back into her past and see where her family/father is at.”
- Bryton (Devon): “Get a nanny who he can really trust for Dominic, like Esther.”
What would you like to see your character do next?
- Kate (Esther): “I’d love to see her be involved in one of Phyllis’ (Michelle Stafford) schemes.
If you could play any other character on the show, who would it be?
- Kate (Esther): “I would have always loved to play Jill so that I can call someone else a Chihuahua and wear her gown!”
- Cait (Tessa): “Phyllis, or Sharon when she was burning stuff down!”
- Brytni (Elena): “Sharon!”
- Bryton (Devon): “Most people would say Victor because he’s so powerful, but I’d say Phyllis!”
What do you do in your spare time?
- Kate (Esther): “What free time?” [Laughs] “I love giving back and meeting people. I’m also a tap dancer! If you don’t see me at the studio, you know where I am – dancing!”
- Cait (Tessa): “I love to hang out with my boyfriend and my dog. I also love to do pottery.”
- Brytni (Elena): “I loke to do a lot of yoga. I enjoy meditation.”
Which storyline would you like to have been part of?
- Cait (Tessa): “Anytime two characters fight. I want to fight! Fighting is so fun when you are doing it with someone you trust. It would be a healthy place to rage. I have never yelled at anyone, except for in a soap opera.”
- Brytni (Elena): “Whatever they gave Sharon Case (Sharon)!”
- Bryton (Devon): “The Who Killed J.T.? storyline.”
Why do a lot of the characters live in hotels?
- Brytni (Elena): It costs a lot of money to build house sets, so that’s why we see a lot of people living in hotels. It’ll cost the show less.”
How comfortable are you (and your real-life partners) with love scenes?
- Brytni (Elena): “It really just depends on who you are doing them with. When Elena was with Devon, my partner was Bryton, so he wasn’t mad! They were very fun scenes. He was someone I was comfortable and I had already kissed him before. Now that Bryton and I are friends, it could be awkward. It’s never intimate. There are so many people around you. Every scene is choreographed by our director, Steven.”
On working with Eric Braeden (Victor Newman):
- Cait (Tessa): “He’s lovely to work with but I’ve the only few scenes we’ve had together were of Victor threatening me!”
- Brytni (Elena): “He’s great to work with. He’s wonderful.”
- Bryton (Devon): “My first scenes were with him. He’s one of the funniest guys on set. Eric once started reciting Shakespeare when we were just supposed to be in the background. He also once put tequila in my glass for a cheer’s scene! I was surprised! He’s one of the best.”
Which former co-star(s) do you miss the most or stay in touch with?
- Brytni (Elena): “I miss my Gilbert Glenn Brown (Jett Slade) and Loren Lott (Ana Hamilton).
- Bryton (James): “I keep in touch with Daniel Goddard (Cane Ashby) and Victoria Rowell (Drucilla).” [Huge applause for Drucilla]
Are you able to change a story?
- Cait (Tessa): “You can’t change the direction of a story, but you can change a phrase.”
- Bryton (Devon): Not everyone has the power to change a story. “They were going to write Nick and Mariah [getting together] but both Josh Morrow and Camryn Grimes said ‘no!’”
Following the Q&A, the cast held a charity auction which included signed scripts. Scripts don’t actually get printed by the show anymore. The actors have to either print them themselves or read them over their phone or tablet.
Highlights from the auction (all prices in Canadian dollars), benefitting March of Dimes Canada’s Conductive Education program:
- Terriah’s Wedding script sold for $1,500
- A script from Kate Linder’s archives (April 13, 1982) which still listed her character as “Maid” sold for $275
- Tracey E. Bregman’s (Lauren Fenmore) 40th anniversary script sold for $500
- A composite image of Kate Linder at her Walk of Fame Star featuring photos from previous tea events sold for $250
- There were a couple of paintings donated by Christian LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin) that sold for $425 and $700
- A poster of an episodic still of Bryton James (Devon) and Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters) sold for $600
- A group photo that will be featured in Soap Opera Digest with the bid winner was sold for $1,000
- Another photo op and autograph sold for $450
- The big one was for a trip to Los Angeles (flight for two and two-night hotel stay) and a tour of the Y&R set was sold for $9,000. Kate surprised the audience by saying there would be two opportunities and raised another $9,000!
Toward the end of the event, Kate thanked the attendees for their support and loyalty in both the show and her charity events. She wanted to acknowledge Robin Wyss, who co-founded the charity events, Len Baker (CEO of March of Dimes Canada), Jessika Diamond, Mary Lynne Stewart, Andria Spindle, and the late Linda Yielding.
Kate announced that while this would be the final “OpportuniTea” with March of Dimes Canada, she would be partnering with a new charity, Canada Cares which will benefit family caregivers (those taking care of loved ones with disabilities).
Those looking to get the latest information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on a list for any upcoming events taking place in the Toronto area. “We will see you next year!”