Phyllis and her portrayer, Michelle Stafford: Young and the Restless

· Popular culture

The character of Phyllis is very polarizing on the daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless. You either love her or hate her. The actress, Michelle Stafford, plays her very well; full of energy, and bravado. She is like the Bette Davis of daytime. Her new dark hairstyle makes her look even younger than she already did (her body has always been fantastic). How is Michelle Stafford like Bette Davis? She plays Phyllis with a nervous energy that helps us know what lurks under the surface. Now that I have expressed my admiration of Phyllis’s portrayer, let’s talk about Phyllis!


The woman is a psychopath. I believe it was Socrates who was referred to as the dinner guest from hell but I think it might just be Phyllis. She is constantly in people’s faces. She attempts to murder someone (and accidentally almost kills someone else in the process), and it is other people’s fault when they call her on it. Stafford has to play her this way because if she played her like a victim or someone sympathetic, it would not fit the script. That is another commonality between Davis and Stafford: they act what they are supposed to act; they don’t try to curry favour. They perform what is written.


One thing that Stafford does that is unique, is she repeats lines. Sometimes this works better than other times, but I’m all for anything that differentiates one character from another. The character as written is abrasive, loud, takes-no-prisoners. And that is exactly what Stafford portrays.


Phyllis is interesting to watch because she is truly one of the most obnoxious characters to ever appear on television. I know someone in real life like her, unfortunately. If you challenge this type of person on their bad behaviour, then they turn it around and say that you are being mean, unsupportive, etc.


But the best thing about this character is if (and it’s a big if) there’s going to be a payoff with her going to prison, or suffering in some other way. Schadenfreude. It would be glorious to see a humbled Phyllis emerge from this attempted murder (I refuse to call it a hit and run because that’s not what it was; it was not accidental at all) a new woman. That is what daytime is all about and why everyone should watch daytime. We get to see all sides of a story. People change, their perspectives change, and we see it all. If Phyllis does not pay for her crimes, a lot of people will not be very happy. But if she does, that’s darn good storytelling.


One final word: A few months ago, when Phyllis and Ronan were sharing scenes together, they had Stafford’s hair done in an homage to Veronica Lake, a film noir star from the ’40s. Clever touches like this, as well as Stafford’s stellar, Bette-Davis inspired acting, make Phyllis an unforgettable character.

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