Exclusive Interview: The Young and the Restless’ Christel Khalil

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christel khalil interview 2017 lily winters

Christel Khalil first hit screen as The Young and the Restless’s Lily Winters in 2002, and for over 17 (!) years, her character has been through it all: a cyber predator, a runaway teenage romance, a bio-daddy reveal, three marriages (2 to the same bloke), cancer, surrogacy, and a few scheming vixens here and there.

In recent weeks, Lily has discovered that her husband Cane (Daniel Goddard) not only slept with former co-worker Juliet (Laur Allen) in Japan, but they’re expecting a kid! Lily now finds herself as the sole breadwinner in their family, which includes their recently rapidly-aged twins.

We caught up with Christel while she was in Toronto to chat about Cane’s latest transgression, playing mom to teenagers and portraying a “stronger” version of Lily.

Cane’s lied to Lily again! Why hasn’t she kicked him to the curb yet?

He’s such a liar! [Laughs] No… I mean, I think it’s hard because now they have the kids to think about… They’re a family. The kids are grown, what can you do?

Teenage Mattie (played by Lexie Stevenson) and Charlie (Noah Alexander Gerry) are definitely bringing a whole new dynamic to Cane being exposed. Cane had to deal with attitude from Charlie last week, which was completely warranted.

Yes!

What was your reaction to learning that you were going to play a mom to teenagers?

[Laughs] It’s very odd to be the shortest person in the family! That’s really uncomfortable. Look, I get why they did it… It gives us a lot more to play, which is really nice. But, it is a little weird. For Daniel, [the age]difference makes sense… But for me, they’re 19 — so I’m only 10 years older than them. It can be weird to be like “Oh, come here and give your mom a hug!” when they’re bigger than me! So that’s a very interesting dynamic to play.

It’s taken the viewers some time to adjust, but you’ve been very motherly to them.

Yeah, I’m trying to play it as best as I can. It can be a stretch, but I’m trying!

christel khalil interview 2017 lily winters

Did you look back to when you first started on the show? You were about 15 years old at the time. Did you look to Kristoff St. John (who plays Lily’s father Neil) for advice on fostering a parent/children dynamic on a soap?

I didn’t actually go to him for advice, but I know what you’re saying… I did think about what it was like for me when I first started. I thought about how Victoria Rowell (ex-Dru) and Kristoff were with me. I definitely tried to give that sort of insight to them with certain things and want to get to know them on a deeper level. But in the beginning, it’s really tough because we’re only seeing each other right before our scenes, in hair and makeup. It’s definitely crossed my mind though.

When I interviewed Daniel Goddard a few years back, we discussed the popularity of the Cane and Lily romance. He credited that popularity to escapism and how the couple gave the audience something to believe in. They’re really been through everything — cancer, having children via surrogate, his death…

[Laughs] Yeah…

What would you attribute to the longevity of this pairing?

That sounds about right… I feel that they are one of the only couples on the show right now that has a foundation built on true love. Whereas, some other couples have gotten together through scheming, cheating, or lying. I think that’s why so many fans are pro-Cane and Lily… It’s because of that.

Do feel that it’s a double-edged sword at times? A lot of regimes have tried to write for you but it’s been hard because even the notion of causing a rift between the couple, the fans are up in arms.

Yes, definitely. There have been a lot of head writers who have tried to break us up and it’s never worked. I don’t know what the plan is with this new regime. I’m not sure what their end goal here is, but what they have done is create some realistic problems and they are taking their time with it. Even I don’t know what’s going to happen next! I really don’t.

christel khalil interview 2017 lily winters

There are different layers to it because he didn’t just cheat on Lily, but there’s potentially a baby involved. But you never really know with Cane, he’s been duped by women many times before!

Yeah, he can be an idiot! [Laughs]

There are also some financial implications involved. Cane’s out of a job and he’s given the bulk of the children’s tuition money to pay off Jesse. There was an episode last week where Lily told Cane that she wished they were smarter when it came to saving money. Seems to be a very realistic beat as the job market is tough out there and many families are facing similar issues.

Yeah, which is great to play. I’m happy that it’s all very “real.” Money issues, losing a job — I like the realism of it all. I’m glad we’re not playing some silly storyline.

Or where the money would be an afterthought. Many think she can just go to Neil or Devon (Bryton James) for help… But why should she when she’s an independent woman?

Right? She’s not going to go ask for help.

christel khalil interview 2017 lily winters

With Sally Sussman now in charge of writing, Lily definitely feels a lot stronger. In previous regimes, whenever Cane did something bad, Lily was the victim. She’s a lot stronger now. Is this something you spoke to the writers about?

She was the victim back then! I didn’t speak to the writers about anything, Sally just wrote it — and it’s so nice because as an actor, you have to play what’s given to you and you just try your best with the cards that you’re dealt. Then, the fans get mad at you because they’re like “Oh my god, I can’t believe that Lily acts like such a victim!” And I wanted to be like, “I know guys — I get it!” It’s nice to have someone [write Lily like this].

There’s definitely more layers to the characters now. It’s a lot more character-driven as well. A lot of the fans seem happier.

Yes, and Sally knows the history of the show. She’s going back to the way Bill Bell intended to the show to be. There’s no need for an explosion every week. She’s really allowing for things to build and gain some momentum. I like that with the storyline that we have right now, it’s taken time to get to this point. And that’s like real life. It’s how it should be.

The seeds were planted during Cane’s trip to Japan and that was months ago.

Yep!

christel khalil interview 2017 lily winters

Something that the viewers may not know is that you are actually really good friends with Mishael Morgan, who plays Lily’s nemesis, Hilary!

Yes, we’re like best friends! [Laughs] Whenever we post pictures together, people are like “What? I don’t understand! You guys are supposed to hate each other?!”

That rivalry has been present on the show for quite some time now. She first tricked Cane whens he first came to town and then caused trouble between Neil and Devon… But now Hilary’s about to get a job that Lily had auditioned for. They’ve managed to keep that rivalry fresh and it hasn’t relied on a man or a triangle to keep it going.

Yes, which is fun. I like the whole dynamic that Lily and Hilary have got going on. It’s a throwback to Dru and Phyllis, who were always bumping heads and hating each other! It’s also fun to play since we like each other in real life, so much so that we’re always cracking up after [filming]the scenes. It’s so hilarious [to us]. I like what they’re doing with it.

Y&R has known for the epic feud between Katherine (who was played by the late Jeanne Cooper) and Jill (Jess Walton). Do you hope to have the same longevity with this feud?

Yes — I hope that’s how it’ll be. If they keep Hilary as this villain as far as Lily is concerned, I think that they’ll continue to have issues.

christel khalil interview 2017 lily winters

“Lane” has their worshippers, but your first big romance, on the show was with Daniel (played by Michael Graziadei). They were like Romeo & Juliet. Do those fans still reach out to you?

It happens very rarely now. I do feel like it was so long ago, but I will get it every now and then. Maybe it’s because he’s no longer on the show? I think that if he were, some fans would still be rooting for them! I guess they don’t now since he’s not here and it’s not an option.

He did come back for a short visit last year!

Yes — and we didn’t even get to work together. It was so weird.

Lily has been through so much… Is there a story that you haven’t done yet that you may want to play?

I do like the modelling thing she’s doing again. That’s fun because for awhile there, Lily didn’t have a job! And then when she did, it was just managing the Genoa City Athletic Club — which was odd! I would love that if after Cane, Lily turned to the dark side! I would love to play something like that. Or something where she gets hooked on pills. Something that’s more gritty and dark because Lily has always been this virtuous angel that does everything right… So that would be a fun storyline.

I saw some potential for that when they did that fantasy episode awhile back, I think Chuck Pratt was still writing. Lily was married to Nick and was kind of a bitch! It was fun to watch!

Yes — she was a bitch! It was fun. I loved that. I’ve taken pole dancing classes, so I’ve always made this joke that I would love for Lily to become a stripper! Be on the pole!

She and Nikki could re-open the Bayou!

Right? [Laughs] Yes!

Check out a ‘Rapid Fire’ clip as Christel answers some Lily Winters trivia questions and her music, movie & TV picks!

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadian viewers can catch up with episodes On Demand, on GlobalTV.com and on the Global Go app. Click here for more soap news and previews.

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About Author

Jeevan Brar is a digital content producer and freelance entertainment writer based in Toronto. Jeevan has managed The TV Watercooler since 2008, the Canadian blog has focused on daytime soaps, primetime hits and reality TV guilty pleasures. The blog has also connected Canadian soap fans with exclusive interviews with the cast of enduring daytime dramas The Young and the Restless, Days of our Lives, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful. 'Like' The TV Watercooler on Facebook. You can also follow Jeevan on Twitter and Google+.

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