The Untold Truth Of The Young And The Restless

Back in the early 1970s, soap operas were already an ingrained staple of daytime television when writer/producer William J. Bell and wife Lee concocted an idea for a soap that would reflect the tumultuous times, tailored to the younger generation. Initially focusing on two Wisconsin families — one rich, one not — "The Young and the Restless" premiered on CBS in 1973.

The show proved to be an instant hit and has been a mainstay of the CBS daytime lineup ever since. In fact, the soap's success has continued pretty much unabated throughout the ensuing decades; as the network pointed out, "Y&R" has remained the No. 1 soap for a staggering 32 consecutive years, as viewers continue to tune in to follow "the loves, enmities, hopes and fears of the residents of the fictional Midwestern town of Genoa City."

Despite having been part of the television landscape for well over four decades, even the show's most ardent viewers may not realize all the fascinating details that make up its long, rich history. Here is the untold truth of "The Young and the Restless."

The Young and the Restless wasn't its original title

When series creator William J. Bell initially envisioned the daytime drama that would become "The Young and the Restless," he had a very different title in mind: "The Innocent Years."

In a preface he and wife Lee Bell wrote for the book "The Young and the Restless: Most Memorable Moments," Bell explained how the rapid societal changes that were taking place during the early 1970s ultimately necessitated a change. "We were confronted with the very disturbing reality that young America had lost much of its innocence," Bell wrote of times that shaped his idea for the show. "Innocence as we had known it and lived it all our lives had, in so many respects, ceased to exist." Instead of his suggestion, Bell explained, the network went with "The Young and the Restless," a title that better "reflected the youth and mood of the early seventies."

While it's difficult to determine whether the show would have been a hit under the moniker "The Innocent Years," there's no denying its subsequent success over the decades. As CBS Watch pointed out, since "The Young and the Restless" first appeared on television screens in 1973, it has rocketed to the top of the ratings to become television's undisputed No. 1 daytime drama.

The show originally aired for a half-hour each day

When "The Young and the Restless" first made its TV debut in the early 1970s, it ran for just half an hour. As the show's popularity grew, CBS became understandably keen on expanding the show to a full hour each weekday. As series creator William J. Bell told the book "Worlds Without End: The Art and History of the Soap," he was initially reticent to double the show's running time, for a variety of reasons. He eventually relented, but only "after months of enormous pressure from the networks and the affiliates."

However, expanding "Y&R" to an hour didn't have the result the network was expecting: ratings plunged, and it was three years before the show returned to the No. 1 spot it had so quickly captured. One big reason for this, Bell explained, was that several members of the cast bolted; since they were now free from their original contracts (which stipulated a half-hour show), those actors decided to try to parlay their soap stardom into primetime television or movies. 

With all those cast defections, Bell was forced to rethink the entire concept of the show, which had originally focused on two families — the Brooks and the Fosters. As a result, Bell decided to introduce two new families, built around the characters Paul Williams and Jack Abbott. Even though CBS told him "with the strongest possible conviction" that he was making a "grave mistake," Bell carried on with his plan. 

There's an actual Genoa City

As fans of "The Young and the Restless" are certainly aware, the beloved soap is set in the fictional locale of Genoa City. As it turns out, there actually is Genoa City, located in Wisconsin, although the name is pretty much all that it shares with its television counterpart.

The name was not chosen at random. While brainstorming the series, the Chicago Tribune pointed out, Chicago-based spouses William and Lee Bell regularly drove from their home in the Windy City to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Along the way, they would pass by Genoa City, and decided to set their new series there. 

As William Bell told the Tribune, it was during the period when they were driving from Chicago to Lake Geneva each weekend that he and his wife came up with the original concept of focusing the storyline around two families, one wealthy and the other working-class. "It took about a year to figure out the characters," Lee said of how they came up with the idea that became "Y&R." "We read a story in the Chicago papers about two sisters in love with the same man, which was immediately interesting and curious."

A lot of famous folks got their start on The Young and the Restless

Having been on the air for more than 50 years, "The Young and the Restless" has established a long history as a launching pad for actors who went on to bigger and better things. "In the early years, we brought two unknown actors — David Hasselhoff and Tom Selleck — into our company," series creator William J. Bell divulged in "The Young and the Restless: Most Memorable Moments," noting that both went on to become "major stars."

Some of the actors who've passed through "Y&R" over the years have included: future "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, who played troublemaking schemer Isabella Braña; the late Paul Walker, who played Brandon Collins before going on to fame in the "Fast & Furious" franchise; "You" star Penn Badgley, who was just a kid when he played Phillip Chancellor IV, son of Phillip and Nina Chancellor; Shemar Moore, who played Malcolm Winters before going on to primetime fame in "Criminal Minds" and "S.W.A.T.;" Adam Brody ("The O.C."), who joked about having "had two lines on 'The Young and the Restless'" before landing his big break; and Justin Hartley, who exited his "Y&R" role of Adam Newman to take the role of Kevin Pearson on "This Is Us."

Other future stars to get their starts on "Y&R" include Vivica A. Fox, Eddie Cibrian, and Chrishell Stause

The show's most iconic character wasn't intended to stick around

If there's one character who is instantly synonymous with "The Young and the Restless," it's Victor Newman, played by actor Eric Braeden. While most fans of the show can't imagine "Y&R" without Victor, the character wasn't initially intended to stick around Genoa City for long. As series creators William and Lee Bell wrote in the preface for "The Young and the Restless: Most Memorable Moments," Braeden was brought in "for a short-term role, several months at the most, very probably less." Seeing Braeden shine in the role, however, led the Bells to alter the character's trajectory so "the death which was to have been part of his story instantly changed ..."

According to Braeden, he was pretty much ignorant of soap operas when he was offered the role, and was initially hesitant to join "The Young and the Restless." However, as he told Soap Opera Digest in 2021, he was playing tennis with fellow actor Dabney Coleman (best known for playing the horrific boss in "9 to 5") and sought his opinion. "He said, 'Do it! You'll love it.' He knew because he had done it," said Braeden. "I'd never have gone otherwise, never!"

More than four decades later, Braeden remains on the show and has insisted he has no intention of packing it in anytime soon. "The word retirement is not in my vocabulary. It really is not," he declared. 

Y&R was the first daytime drama to air in HD

When high-definition first took hold on television in the early part of the 21st century, "The Young and the Restless" made history as the first soap opera to broadcast in HD. While HD is the norm these days, back then it was seen as a bit of a fad, given that most American television viewers didn't have HD-compatible television sets, and wouldn't see much (or any) difference in the picture quality.  As Soap Central reported, the switch to HD took place on June 27, 2001. Interestingly enough, TV Insider pointed out, its "sister show," "The Bold and the Beautiful," didn't follow suit until a decade later, making the transition to high-def in 2011. 

Of course, it shouldn't be surprising that "Y&R" was the first HD soap, considering it was "the first truly visual soap opera," the Museum of Television and Radio proclaimed in the book "Worlds Without End: The Art and History of the Soap." "Shadowy, sensuous lighting, intriguing camera angles, and Hollywood production values supplied a lavish romanticism that not only appealed to its female viewers but also influenced the way other soaps were photographed," read one passage.

In addition to its cinematography, noted the book, the "frank sexuality" on display in "Y&R" wound up "eroticizing" the entire genre, and ultimately "banished forever the twin beds and shy sensuality" of the past by bringing "daytime television directly into the middle of the sexual revolution."

Jeanne Cooper's real-life facelift was written into the show

Another actor who will always be identified with "The Young and the Restless" is Jeanne Cooper, who portrayed Katherine Chancellor from the show's start in 1973 until her death in 2013 at age 84. As Cooper's obituary in The Washington Post recalled, she made television history when her real-life facelift was written into the series, with her character having the exact same surgical procedure. The idea, she said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, came about when she asked series creator William J. Bell about taking some time off to recuperate, and he suggested it become part of the show. 

Cooper loved the idea, but had one key condition. "I said to Bill, 'If you're going to do it, you've got to do it in a documentary fashion, or I don't want to do it," she said, recalling how the whole thing led to a "breakthrough" in cosmetic surgery. 

In fact, Cooper told the Associated Press (via The Washington Times) that filming her facelift for "Y&R" led to positive ramifications she never saw coming. "It opened up reconstructive surgery for so many people, youngsters getting things done," she explained. "To this day, people will come up to me and say, 'Thank you so much for doing that. My mom or I had something done, and not just cosmetic surgery.' That was an incredible experience in my life."

There were three different Sharons in a single year

One of the many, many characters written into "The Young and the Restless" is Sharon Newman. While viewers associate the character with actor Sharon Case, who's played the role since 1994, she wasn't the first actor in the part. In fact, she was the third — and not just the third actor cast, but also the third person to play Sharon within a single year.

As She Knows recalled, the first actor cast was Monica Potter, who went on to future fame in NBC drama "Parenthood." "I worked on 'The Young And The Restless,' and I was fired because I was terrible," she admitted during a 2010 appearance on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson." After Potter was let go, the role went to Heidi Mark, who was mainly notable as a former Playboy Playmate and ex-wife to Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil. Mark too was shown the door (after just two months, SheKnows noted), but did manage to make the site's list of Daytime's Worst Recasts of All Time. Case was then cast, and the rest is soap history.

Meanwhile, Case's Sharon broke new ground in daytime drama when the character was revealed to have bipolar disorder. "Playing someone who is bipolar is very exhausting but it worked out perfectly and explained all of Sharon's past behavior," Case told said in an interview with Michael Fairman.

Jeanne Cooper's final scene aired just five days before her death

Eric Braeden's thoughts on retirement were echoed by co-star Jeanne Cooper. In a 2012 interview with Associated Press (via The Washington Times), she explained why she had no intention of walking away from the role she'd played since 1973. "What would I do? I'm no good at crocheting," she quipped. "My fingers would bleed."

The following year, she was hospitalized due to an undisclosed ailment, and died within weeks. As Entertainment Weekly reported, her son, actor Corbin Bernsen, took to social media to confirm that she died on May 8, 2013. Because episodes of "The Young and the Restless" don't air until about six weeks after they're shot, Cooper's character, Katherine Chancellor, had recently undergone successful surgery to remove a brain tumor. According to Soap Opera Digest, Cooper taped her final scene on March 26, but it didn't air until May 3 — just five days before her death.

Speaking with TV Guide (as reported by TVLine), "Y&R" exec producer Jay Farren Phelps revealed that episodes had already been written into July, "so it will take some time before we can address [Cooper's character's] departure on air." During the interim, she explained, scripts noted that Katherine and her husband were traveling. Katherine's death was eventually revealed to viewers, reported Today, with her memorial service airing that September. Fittingly, Bernsen guest starred as Father Todd, the priest officiating Katherine's service.

The Young and the Restless theme song has a lot of history

For viewers of "The Young and the Restless," the show's opening theme song provides a familiar entry into the ongoing shenanigans in Genoa City. What even longtime fans may not realize, however, is that the "Y&R" theme song actually has a far deeper history outside of the show. 

In fact, recalled CBS Watch, the song was originally titled "Cotton's Dream" — and wasn't written for "Y&R," but for the 1971 film "Bless the Beasts and Children." The mournful piano tune then found a second life two years later when it was enlisted to open "Y&R." 

However, the song gained a whole new level of popularity thanks to Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci, who took the 1976 Olympic games by storm when she became the first gymnast in Olympic history to earn a perfect 10.0 score from the judges. As it happened, noted Time, ABC's "Wide World of Sports" aired a highlight package of Comăneci's most memorable gymnastic routines, using "Cotton's Dream" as musical accompaniment. The combination of Comăneci's dazzling athletic artistry and the atmospheric song was a winner with viewers, many of whom phoned their local ABC affiliate stations asking about the music. Within weeks, there had been so much demand that the song was released as a single. Retitled "Nadia's Theme (The Young and the Restless)," it hit No. 8 on the Billboard charts, where it spent an impressive 22 weeks.

Almost all the scenes are done in a single take

While it's no secret that the pace of filming television series is far faster than that of movies, soap operas are shot at a speed that can be described as lightning-fast. That's not surprising when considering the typical soap airs one hour (less commercials) of scripted drama, five days per week.

As a result, production on "The Young and the Restless" has become a finely oiled machine, with most scenes only shot once before making it on television. In order for that to happen, cast and crew must all be working at the top of their respective games, leaving actors little room to flub lines. That's even more true when it comes to the show's steamy love scenes. "They might do an insert of the belt coming off or the zipper things like that, but 95 percent of what you see is like one take," actor Jason Thompson (who plays Billy Abbott) told Entertainment Tonight.

And while those love scenes might appear both torrid and spontaneous, they're actually the result of extensive rehearsal in which the director walks the actors through their physical "blocking" in advance. As Thompson joked, looking good onscreen while shirtless not only involves some dedication in the gym, but also a good relationship with whoever's controlling the on-set illumination. "I usually pay off the lighting guys," he joked.

Y&R boasts the longest-running feud in soap history

"The Young and the Restless" may not have invented the soap opera feud, but the show certainly knew how to take the concept and run with it. In fact, the animosity between two of the show's key characters — Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) and Jill Abbott (played since 1987 by Jess Walton) — spanned decades, becoming the longest-running feud in soap history. As the "Y&R" website noted back in 2012, at that point their feud had been simmering for nearly three decades and "set a record as daytime's longest rivalry."

Walton once addressed the characters' ongoing feud in an interview, via She Knows, sharing her thoughts on what made their battles so epic. "I guess because it goes so deep and it's time-tested and true," Walton explained. "We'll never co-exist peacefully," said Cooper of the characters in an interview with the Television Foundation. "It's a love-hate situation ... between two best friends, two sisters, what have you ... I mean, when somebody else has your husband's child, you can't very well say, 'Welcome into our home, dear.'"

Yet this epic feud, which included such over-the-top moments as a cake-flinging food fight and a battle royale in an attic — ended on a surprisingly sweet note. In the final "Y&R" scene that Cooper filmed before her death, Jill asks Katherine if she needs help going up their shared home's imposing staircase. "I believe I can manage," Katherine responds, adding, "thank you, though."

Two of the biggest stars reportedly got into a physical altercation

Not only have characters on "The Young and the Restless" engaged in bitter feuds, this has occasionally spilled over into the real-life relationships of some of the show's actors. In fact, at one point, reports emerged of tensions between two of the show's biggest stars, Eric Braeden (Victor Newman) and Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott), which culminated in what was reported to be a physical altercation on the set while filming. 

Abbott addressed the unpleasantness in an interview with Michael Fairman. "It is part of our history here," Bergman explained. "Eric and I had a number of problems when I first came here and they climaxed in an ugly situation that Eric wished would never had happened and I certainly could have done without it in my life." However, Bergman noted, he and Braeden had managed to put the incident behind them. "But Eric and I worked together for 20 years, and we have this enmity that the audience clearly loves," Bergman added. "It's a crazy rivalry and it still has legs, and I am very grateful for it! We work together just fine."

For his part, Braeden told Soap Opera Digest the altercation was "something that obviously I wish one could have avoided ... We just have different ways of approaching [the work], but we respect each other a lot."

An actor was fired after some shocking allegations

Back in 2013, HuffPost reported that actor Michael Muhney had been fired without warning from "The Young and the Restless" after several seasons playing Adam Newman. Speaking with the outlet about his departure, Muhney was asked point-blank about rumors that co-star Eric Braeden (who played the father of his character) had engineered his dismissal. In his response, Muhney neither confirmed nor denied the rumors, but did acknowledge "disagreements in the past with Eric ..."

Speaking with Daytime Confidential, Braeden was asked why he'd written about the incident in his memoir, "I'll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America's #1 Daytime Drama," but without mentioning Muhney by name. "Simply not to dignify them," Braeden explained. "It was all so egregious that I will not dignify that person by name again. All there is to it. Egregious. And that's all I'm going to say." 

A report from TMZ alleged that the "egregious" behavior in question involved Muhney — who was then 38 — fondling his 20-year-old co-star Hunter King, who played Summer Newman at the time. According to the report, King complained to bosses on the show that Muhney had fondled her breasts on two separate occasions, both of which were uninvited. However, when Muhney's fans began to harass King on social media, he issued a tweet imploring people to stop. "That internet rumor was FALSE. It never happened. She NEVER made those accusations," Muhney wrote.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The show has been hit by some lawsuits

"The Young and the Restless" has seen a lot of actors come and go over the years, but sometimes those actors sue for wrongful dismissal. One of those cases, reported Deadline, involved actor Briana Thomas, who launched a lawsuit targeting the show's producers, CBS Studios and Sony Pictures Television, alleging she was sexually harassed by "Y&R" showrunner Anthony "Tony" Morina. Originally hired in a bit part as a coffee shop barista, Thomas claimed she was fired when she refused Morina's repeated advances. Both Morina and Sony Pictures Television filed legal responses denying the claims in her suit. As of May 2022, the case has yet to go to trial. 

Meanwhile, back in 2015, Deadline reported that actor Victoria Rowell filed suit, alleging wrongful dismissal eight years after she parted ways with the show (she portrayed Drucilla Winters from 1990 until 2007). Rowell claimed that her firing was in retaliation for her public efforts advocating greater diversity in soap casting. Rowell's lawsuit contended that she had been removed from audition lists for "Y&R," "The Bold and the Beautiful," and other soaps, which had left her "impoverished and blackballed because she had chosen to speak out against the discrimination and injustice that she had endured and witnessed happen to other African Americans." Rowell ultimately dropped her suit, apparently after a settlement was reached. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

A Seinfeld favorite guest-starred on The Young and the Restless

Wayne Knight has played numerous roles in film and television, yet he'll always be most famous as perpetually disgruntled postal worker Newman on "Seinfeld." In 2017, Knight made his soap debut when he appeared in two episodes of "The Young and the Restless." 

As Yahoo! Entertainment reported, Knight portrayed music promoter Irv West. According to Soaphub, his primary goal was to watch Tessa Porter (Cait Fairbanks) perform at The Underground, where Irv wound up meeting other "Y&R" characters Mariah Copeland (Camryn Grimes), Noah Newman (Robert Adamson), and Devon Hamilton (Bryton James). In addition, Knight's character also performed in scenes with cast members Sharon Case and Daniel Hall. As it turned out, Irv played a pivotal role in rescuing Tessa's younger sister from a nefarious sex ring.

Hilariously, Knight had the chance to reference his iconic "Seinfeld" role when he briefly shared the screen with Eric Braeden in a promotional video. In the clip, Braeden is seen sitting in his dressing room working on a laptop when there's a knock on the door. Rising, Braeden opens the door to reveal a scowling Knight. "Hello Newman," says Braeden, referencing the iconic line uttered disdainfully by Jerry Seinfeld whenever he encountered his nemesis. Knight responds in kind, referencing his "Y&R" character, Victor Newman. "Hello, Newman," he sneers, as only he can, before Braeden slams the door in his face.

A Y&R regular moonlights as a real-life flight attendant

It's not uncommon for a fledgling actor to hang onto a "day job" in order to keep the bills paid as their career is taking offf. "The Young and the Restless" star Kate Linder, however, has taken that concept and flown with it — literally. Prior to being cast as Esther Valentine on the show in 1982, Linder was a flight attendant with United Airlines — and never quit, despite her role on "Y&R." As a 2008 profile in the Los Angeles Daily News pointed out, that year Linder became the only person in history to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame while still actively employed as a flight attendant. "I love the people that I work with," Linder said. "I love the show and I love the role. It was only supposed to be for one day." 

During her early years at "Y&R," Linder kept her airline job a secret — but found herself busted when "Y&R" legend Jeanne Cooper was a passenger on a flight upon which she was working. "I told her the truth and she thought it was really great," Linder said. Since then, she's continued to juggle her dual jobs. "I do the show during the week and fly on weekends," she explained.

According to Linder's official website, her job as an actor satisfies her creativity, but she's maintained her gig with United in order to stay "grounded."

An actor was fired for violating COVID protocols

When film and television production resumed after the pandemic-related shutdown that hit in the spring of 2020, actors and crew members were met with new on-set safety protocols due to COVID-19. While these new rules have been successfully used throughout Hollywood, those same protocols also led actor Richard Burgi to be fired from "The Young and the Restless." 

As Variety reported, Burgi — who joined the show in the role of Ashland Burke in 2021 —addressed his firing in an Instagram Live message, claiming the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He had "naively and inadvertently violated the show's COVID policy," Burgi explained, after he had tested positive for COVID-19. According to the actor, he subsequently tested negative and returned to the set; however, he claimed that he mistakenly believed that new CDC guidelines that had recently been introduced, reducing the isolation period from 10 days to five, also applied to "Y&R." They did not — the show's protocols still required 10 days of isolation after a positive test.

"I felt terrible about it," Burgi said of what took place. "I still do. It bothers me mightily but it is what it is. I respect whatever the show's decision is. They're doing the best they can, as we all are."

How they kept Diane Jenkins' return top-secret

During the 2000s, Susan Walters became a fan favorite on "The Young and the Restless" in the role of Diane Jenkins; as Soaps in Depth explained, she took over the role in 2001 until leaving the show in 2010. The following year, the role was recast, and within months the character was seemingly murdered.

Diane was apparently not as dead as viewers had assumed. In 2022, Walters returned as Diane, who was very much alive, having faked her own death. Speaking with "Dishing with Digest" podcast (via People), Walters shared her thoughts on returning to the show more than two decades later. "It just felt like we had just done this, you know, it didn't feel like 20 years have passed," she said.

Meanwhile, producers took extraordinary measures to ensure the character's return was a surprise for viewers. As she told Soap Opera Digest, the character's name was changed to "Taylor" in the scripts, and the live camera feed that normally plays on monitors throughout the building was cut when she shot her scenes. "I was also told, 'Best not go out for lunch,' and whenever I was called to the set, they used my character's faux name," Walters explained of the subterfuge. "It was actually kind of fun."

The Young and the Restless scored an unprecedented four-season renewal

Despite being on the air since 1973, any concerns that "The Young and the Restless" had gone past its sell-by date were quashed in 2020. That was when CBS made the announcement that it had renewed the show — not just for one more season, but for four.

As Entertainment Weekly noted, the renewal news wasn't particularly surprising, given that "Y&R" had maintained its status as TV's most-watched soap for decades. What was unusual, however, was the unprecedented four-season order, demonstrating a faith in a show that's a rarity in the television industry. "The last time any other show was on top, Ronald Reagan was president, and the Berlin Wall was still standing," CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl quipped. "It's a remarkable achievement and a testament to the extraordinary cast, gifted writers, talented producers and supremely passionate fans, as well as our tremendous partnership with ['Y&R' studio] Sony Pictures Television."