TV Insider chatted with the Daytime Emmy-winner about her years in Genoa City – starting with her debut as a teen to her pairing with Daniel Goddard (ex-Cane Ashby), playing mom to teenagers (!), and her current storyline that has Lily paired with Jason Thompson’s Billy Abbott.
TV Weekly: Do you have memories of your first day?
Christel Khalil: Yes. My first scene was with Victoria Rowell. I remember being nervous and wanting to do a good job. My first few years, it was about introducing the character. I was a kid. I wasn’t quite old enough to be a part of the teen storylines. Around 15 or 16, I did the chlamydia storyline with Greg Rikaart [Kevin Fisher]. It was a great storyline and I think they did it really well. I remember doing PSAs [public service announcements] after shooting scenes related to the chlamydia storyline. It was great working with Greg and it was the first time I got a Daytime Emmy nomination. I submitted the scenes where Lily told her parents what had happened with Kevin.
Later, it was revealed that Malcolm (Shemar Moore) – not Neil – was Lily’s biological father. What were your thoughts on that since you and Kristoff worked together so much and also, Neil loved Lily so much.
I wasn’t terribly sad because they never played it that Neil wasn’t Lily’s ‘dad’ anymore. He was still her dad more than Malcolm was. Yes, Malcolm is her biological father but that didn’t distance her from Neil.
What memories do you have of Kristoff, who passed away in 2019?
I don’t know that I can say anything new that people haven’t been saying for years. Kristoff was an amazing person who made everyone feel special. He was always so jovial no matter what was going on. He was so present and he made you feel like you were the only person in the room. He was a really great guy and he was incredibly silly. I’m not sure people knew that about him. He was playing jokes all the time. He had terrible dad jokes.
You left the show in 2005 for a year. Why?
When I joined the show, I had a three-year contract. I joined when I was 14 and it ended when I was 17. I was so young. I was gone for a year. I ended up moving out and living on my own. I was enjoying life. But I didn’t have a clear direction. While I was away, I thought, ‘Oh. This is boring.’ So, I came back to the show.
Lily’s longest romance was with Cane Ashby. What memories do you have of being paired together?
I was 19 when Lily was paired with Cane. I was still a kid. Daniel was a man about to have a baby. It was different at first. We met in the middle pretty quickly. [Laughs] I think women are more mature than men – I’m kidding! It worked itself out but yes, in the beginning, we didn’t have as much in common.
Y&R has certainly had its share of popular couples. However, Cane and Lily rose to a level of supercouple stardom that hit a fanatical level. Do you recall when that happened?
I don’t really know when it happened. I’ve never been fully aware of that stuff. I’ve never paid attention. I just do my job and hope that it all works out. But I saw in the magazines that [Cane and Lily] were the No. 1 couple. They were favorites. It was so crazy. I was happy that people really liked them.
You come in and do the work, and you are excellent. You never phone it in. You always find the right level of gravitas to whatever situation Lily is facing. But you also don’t seek the soap opera limelight like other actors do. Is that accurate?
Yes. First, thank you. And, also, yes, that’s definitely how I feel. I just try to do my job. I have fun doing it but I don’t pay attention to the other stuff. Life’s too short.
Lily battled cancer. What are your memories of that story?
I did a lot of research. What would the symptoms be, how would a person feel…I relied on the writers and focused on how I would feel. I wore a bald cap on my head [when Lily lost her hair]. They’d make it match my skin. I’d wear a head scarf and later, a wig.
Lily was paired with Daniel Romalotti (Michael Graziadei) for a while, pre-Cane. What was it like working with him?
It was amazing. I love him so much. We always had fun together. We had great scenes together. [Michael] is hilarious.
Christel Khalil on The Young and the Restless in 2006 (Robert Voets / ©CBS / courtesy Everett Collection)
Cane was killed off at one point – or so we thought. It was his twin. Fans hired a plane to fly over CBS in protest. Then, Daniel came back to the show and it turned out to be his twin who died. Do you recall the fan response at that time?
It felt great that people cared that much and that they took the time and effort to do something like that. It was really cool.
Lily’s kids were aged up to teens when Noah Alexander Gerry and Lexi Stevenson joined the show as, respectively, Charlie and Mattie Ashby. Lily is mature and no-nonsense but she still seemed to be a bit young to be the mom of teenagers. Your thoughts?
I was very shocked. It was very surprising for me. It was weird. The kids were as tall – actually, taller – than I am. [Laughs] I wore heels so Lily was taller than Mattie. They were 18 or 19 in real-life and I was 30. It was a little strange but [laughs] you gotta do what you gotta do.
You left the show again a few years ago when Lily went to jail for her role in the vehicular death of Hilary [Mishael Morgan, who now plays Amanda Sinclair, Hilary’s twin].
I left shortly after that. I moved to Toronto. I went to recurring status but I was still on the show coming in once a month. My fiancé is Canadian and he was living in Toronto at the time. We talked about either him moving here or me moving there. We decided that me living up there was the best idea.
You came back to LA. Why?
[Laughs] After one Canadian winter, I thought this is not for me. I let Y&R know I was back in town and they were like, “Let’s do this!”
You won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Leading Actress in a Drama Series in 2012. What are your memories of that night?
I remember my mom and my best friend at the time came with me. I remember winning and being really excited. My mom was really excited. It’s always fun when you win. It makes the night even better.
Your current leading man is Jason Thompson (Billy).
Yes. He’s great. I was really excited when I learned I’d be working with him. I’m a fan of his work and I’m excited to try something new with a new character. I like Lily being involved in the business side and also working with Jess [Walton, Jill Abbott]. I’m really happy people like their relationship. We’ll see where it goes.
Billy’s matured a lot since Lily first met him. What do they bring to each other’s lives?
They ground each other and create this “true north” in each other’s lives. They are that for each other. They know which direction to be in because of the other person. It’s nice to see a couple that’s supportive and loving of each other.
How does Lily deal with Billy having had a lot of other women in his life?
It’s been challenging at times but Billy and Lily have a great, honest relationship. She relies on that and feels confident in that. That helps her not feel threatened.
Any shoutout to the fans who’ve followed you all these years?
Yes. Thank you for your support and for watching and for caring about Lily’s journey. I’m grateful that people tune in and want to see what’s going on. Hopefully, we can keep everyone interested!
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