Young, Restless and YA/YA

Photo courtesy of Melissa Calico
Michelle Stafford|!!| Christian LeBlanc and Sharon Case of The Young and The Restless

I’ve admittedly never seen The Young and the Restless, though apparently I’m the only one. The 37-year-old CBS soap opera has been the No. 1 daytime drama for nearly 22 years, with New Orleans earning the distinction of highest market of viewership.

Possibly as a nod to their most loyal fans, the Y&R cast and crew are now filming in the Big Easy, and though plotlines are top-secret, the cast is making no secret of their love for New Orleans. “You can’t get a bad part of New Orleans,” says Michelle Stafford, who plays sometime-villain Phyllis Newman on the soap. “The food, of course, the art everywhere, the music everywhere.”

Sharon Case, who plays Sharon Abbott on Y&R, agrees: “I like all of it. I come here for the food.”

The cast of the long-running soap landed in New Orleans and immediately hit some culinary hot-spots. “Right of the plane, (we’ve) already been to Brennan’s,” says Christian LeBlanc, a New Orleanian and the face of Y&R’s infamous Michael Baldwin.

Immediately after the iconic lunch, however, the actors wanted to experience the art and philanthropic scenes; their trip to YA/YA encompassed both. Young Aspirations/Young Artists is a local nonprofit whose mission is “to empower creative young people to become successful adults.” The group encourages education through the arts and entrepreneurship for local youth.

Stafford, Case and LeBlanc met with YA/YA resident artists Monica Tyran, Donnie De Frazier and Quinton “Que” Gilmore, and Stafford even bought a piece of jewelry from Tyran’s new collection.

The actors wanted to give back to the community that has shown them so much support, and LeBlanc especially wants to highlight New Orleans. He says his favorite part of being home is “just being with family and friends…(Stafford and Case) get to see a little of what I love about (New Orleans),” he says. “Having the whole gang from the show here –– you get to show off your hometown. They love it! Who doesn’t love coming here?”

The cast especially love connecting with their most concentrated fan base. “It’s exciting to be around the people who watch,” LeBlanc says. “That’s our audience. We don’t get to see them everyday. We see a camera and Chico, our cameraman.”

The show wraps filming tomorrow, but the New Orleans-centric episodes won’t air until right before and after Thanksgiving. The cast and crew are thrilled to bring Genoa City drama to The Big Easy: “The city’s had a tough time in the last five years,” says Stafford. “And it’s good to bring this kind of thing down to New Orleans.”