When Mishael Morgan departed The Young & The Restless in fall 2022, she left a gift behind for the next actor that would inherit her dressing room: a plaque that says “You never know who you’re inspiring.”
“I think it's important for everybody, no matter what you do in this world, no matter if you're in the forefront and the face of something or if you're just working in the background, it's so important for everybody to walk with that sense of purpose,” Morgan tells Los Angeles Confidential. “You really don't know who you're inspiring or whose lives you're changing just by the small commitment to doing what you love to do.”
The mantra is something Morgan carries with herself every day on set. It serves as a reminder that her purpose as an actor goes beyond herself and it also helps her root her characters in authenticity.
No greater example came when Morgan became the first Black actress to win the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2022.
“It was pretty surreal for me, the whole walk up to the podium,” she remembers. “I really understood that this was a big moment, not just for me, but for everyone who looks different. I look at it like for all minorities and for somebody who doesn't think that they have a place or they can't break that ceiling— it's just another reminder that there are ceilings to be broken still and we're in this time where it’s happening all over.”
Morgan’s trailblazing milestone is an impressive moment in The Young and The Restless’ also impressive history. Celebrating 50 years this month, the beloved soap opera is CBS’ longest-running scripted series and has been the No. 1 daytime drama for 35 consecutive years.
In commemoration, special Y&R episodes kicked off on March 23 with romance and suspense taking focus as Genoa City celebrates its own bicentennial at a masquerade ball hosted by Victor (Eric Braeden) and Nikki Newman (Melody Thomas Scott). The series’ official broadcast golden anniversary takes place on March 26 and will feature a true-to-fashion drama-filled storyline for Genoa City residents and special returning guests.
“I think that Y&R [has] just been a magical little experiment that really works and it's hard to put your finger on it,” Morgan says. “But I do think that it comes down to those characters that are created and the people's commitment to their craft that's behind it.”
To be part of the Y&R legacy as it reaches the 50-year mark is a dream come true for Melissa Ordway, who plays Victor and Ashley Abbott’s (Eileen Davidson) daughter, Abby Newman.
“I always thought that everyone was just so beautiful,” Ordway tells Los Angeles Confidential about watching the show as a kid. “It was the ‘80s and the ‘90s, so [it was] the big hair and beautiful dresses. And I thought that Nikki Newman was just the most beautiful woman in the world. I was just so enamored by all of these beautiful people on television.”
Ordway herself is reaching a landmark point in her time on Y&R. A year after her first Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress, she will hit ten years as Abby Newman in May.
In that time, Ordway has come to see Y&R as a true acting bootcamp. Production takes place nearly year round and an episode and a half is shot in one day.
“I memorize at least 20 pages a day,” Ordway says. “It’s just forced me to be on my game all the time. It has helped my memory like no other. I can look at something and remember the words in like two seconds.”
In addition to excelling at line memorization, Ordway describes learning to perform an extreme variation of emotions. As a Newman, one day she’s happy and the family is great. Then the next day, everything comes crashing down.
“One thing that I was never great at before I started the show was crying,” Ordway says. “That was a skill as an actress that I was just not good at. And so I feel like it really has helped me get in touch with those emotions and figure out how to access that. And it's made me a better actress all around.”
Morgan echoes Ordway. “I really looked at it as my university experience. I was [able] to hone skills that would take me years to develop on any other production.”
Television has changed drastically since The Young & The Restless first aired in 1973. One way the series has kept up in the streaming era, as Ordway points out, is that it is also available on Paramount Plus and the CBS website, in addition to its standard CBS broadcast.
Audiences have immediate access to a series that is classic, which clues into the soap opera’s long history. Ordway explains that “people crave the classics” and just want to watch something that makes you feel like you're tucked under a “warm blanket.”
“We go into people's homes every day,” Ordway says. “We become a part of their family. We tell stories that people can relate to and we keep people entertained. My mom would either iron or do some sort of laundry and she would watch The Young and The Restless, and so I know that it just becomes a part of your daily routine… It's also the great storytelling, but really it's just we become a part of people's families.”
Photography by: Courtesy of CBS; Sonja Flemming /CBS Photo