Choctaw, MS – The characters they portray on daytime TV are entirely different from their real life personas. Their work consists of bringing the trials and tribulations of life in a small, but angst-ridden city, into the lives and psyche of the TV viewer. But off the clock, they are four superbly gifted actors who travel around the country cavorting and just simply exposing their true inner selves to the delight and total appreciation of multitudes of Soap fans.
In the fictional town of Genoa City, Wisconsin, Michael Baldwin is an ingenuous (albeit slightly shady) legal eagle, his brother Kevin Fisher, a coffee shop owner and former “Chipmunk”; and Cane Ashby is a charming identity thief merely longing for the emotional reward of a mother-son relationship. Katherine Chancellor is the grande dame and a veritable force to be reckoned with even for the likes of one of the most powerful and destructive men in the world… the fictional Soap world that is.
Christian LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin), Greg Rikaart (Kevin Fisher), Daniel Goddard (Cane Ashby), and Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor) are four of the stars of the number one rated daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. They are also part and parcel of Joyce Becker’s Soap Opera Festival that landed in Choctaw, Mississippi on Saturday, August 1. For thirty-two years Becker has been directing these events in which fans have the rare chance to ask their favorite stars questions for about an hour.
Our Prattville had the extreme pleasure of spending “ten minutes” with the group in the green room for a pre-show exclusive personal chat.
Christian LeBlanc (on Twitter as CJLeBlanc) had tweeted the night before, “Suddenly in the middle of rural Mississippi… the casino!” He was, of course, talking about the Silver Star where the event was held (across the road is the Golden Moon Casino and Hotel).
“I’ve driven these roads before, however, as I’m from New Orleans,” LeBlanc said. “So, this area is familiar to me.”
Both Cooper and Rikaart had visited Mississippi in the past, but not to the city of Philadelphia or the community of Choctaw. Cooper commented that she had been to Biloxi and Rikaart said, “I was in Oxford a few years ago for Mississippi Rising.” That was a concert/telethon benefitting Mississippi and Louisiana hurricane recovery funds. Several soap stars including Deidre Hall, Peter Reckell, and Melody Thomas Scott, also made appearances.
When asked if the actors could divulge any delicious Soap scoops, Cooper excitedly exclaimed that she could indeed spill the beans about the relationship between her and Jill.
“Even though we were recently brought together because of Cane, that is not going to last for long,” Cooper asserted. “You know, Jill is not my daughter. Well, we’re going to find out who really is my daughter… so start guessing!”
Cooper also remarked that as much as she loved Murphy and did appreciate him saving her life, Katherine did not like to go fishing! Michael Fairman (who plays the character of Murphy) was lauded by one and all in the room as being a great actor and a complete joy to work with on the set.
The group shared another intriguing item regarding contract negotiations. Cooper related that LeBlanc’s contract was up soon and that she knew exactly what they were going to do. Countered LeBlanc, “I’m just white-knuckling my career as it is.”
But Tracey E. Bregman, the actress who plays department store heiress Lauren Fenmore is not gone, although she has been noticeably absent from the Soap for weeks. “My hot wife has been on vacation,” LeBlanc explained. At least she has not gone to that mysterious “Soap Opera Attic” where certain characters go for a while and reappear as an older completely different person.
“She keeps getting younger,” LeBlanc added. “She is the only one of us who is getting younger on the show.”
And speaking of a true youngster, the subject of Lily (age 22) and Cane arose and Goddard agreed that the estranged couple should reunite. Rikaart, Cooper, and LeBlanc all stated that no one wanted her to have cancer.
“The storyline is helping Cane look like a nicer person and a redeemable sort. No one liked what he had done to fool everyone into thinking he was Phillip Chancellor, III,” LeBlanc noted.
Rikaart said that there was other good stuff happening on the show, but naturally he was sworn to secrecy. He did, however, share an idea that he believed would make a compelling plot twist. “I’d like Jana to become pregnant by someone else!” he exclaimed.
After much laughter and hamming for the lens, especially by LeBlanc and Cooper, our time in the green room had expired. As we were exiting, Cooper declared, “You know that I’m richer than Eric Braeden… and I’m richer than Victor Newman!” When it was suggested that she could probably buy Genoa City, with a straight face, she replied, “I did!”
We wished everyone well and left to resume our positions at stage left in preparation for the main event. An estimated thousand loyal Y&R followers were seated at the Silver Star Casino and Convention Center hoping to interact with the quartet.
At 2:00 PM the excitement in the crowd peaked, and a thunderous roar of applause filled the arena when the Soap’s theme song began playing and Joyce Becker introduced the actors. LeBlanc bounded up on the stage with the energy and vitality of a man half his age (born in 1958) and knelt down at the front of the stage to smooch a lucky female who had bolted toward him upon his arrival. Following him onstage were Rikaart, Goddard, and last, but not least, Cooper.
Audience questions ranged from how the “Chipmunk” story was born all the way to a proposal that was made by a young woman to Goddard even though he sported a wedding band on his left hand.
“I have been married for seven years and if I ever look tired on the show it’s because we have a seven-month old son at home,” Goddard explained. “We also have a three year old son.”
Another female audience member described LeBlanc as “silly” and he replied, “Silly? I was actually hoping for hot… but silly is good.” Rikaart spoke of the “Chipmunk” plot, explaining that the writers approached him with “something kind of off the wall,” but “we know you can pull it off” kind of thing.
Many of the audience participants were seeing these four actors in person for the very first time. Nancy Chisolm, Mavis Thomas, and Kim Watkins, all from Mississippi, were no exception. The three agreed that Katherine Chancellor was their favorite character. Thomas, who has been watching since the 1970s, even devised a few story concepts.
“I’d like to suggest to the writers that Victor was involved in Sabrina’s death, that Victor and Jill be kidnapped either separately or together… and that Jack finally goes back to Sharon, for now and forever,” Thomas articulated.
Our soap favorites came out to play with the fans, to clown, to be rowdy and even to be somewhat approachable. But at the end of the day, it was time to board the plane back to resume the frantic schedules of the Soap universe.
“Genoa City, Wisconsin” beckoned the foursome back to their other world where the cosmetics business is ruthless, the jail cell is a revolving door for most of Michael Baldwin’s family, and the Duchess still reigns.
Article by Melissa Parker
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