When The Young and the Restless debuted in 1973, it was the wealthy Brooks and blue-collar Foster families that drove the storylines. Newmans and Abbotts wouldn’t be heard from for many years to come. Julianna McCarthy was one of those original cast members, playing Foster family matriarch Elizabeth “Liz” Foster.
Catching Up With Julianna McCarthy
Liz was a single mother trying to support her family, which included sons William “Snapper” Foster, Greg Foster, and daughter Jill Foster. Snapper was studying to be a doctor, Greg an attorney, and Jill was trying to figure out what she wanted out of life.
Many in the cast were newcomers to television, including Julianna McCarthy. She recalls, “We were all novices with the exception of [Robert Colbert and] the wonderful Robert Clary who’d been on Hogan’s Heroes when it came to working on episodic television, to say nothing of a soap opera. YR began in a half-hour slot and I remember our director, Richard Dunlap, at the first read-through saying ‘At 7:30 am, a large iron door will begin to close and it’s your job to keep it open until 11:30 and the show is taped.’ We were ‘live on tape’ and it was the most incredible on-the-job training.”
It took some time for the show to catch on with fans, but once it did, YR became one of the most-watched soaps on TV and its actors became hugely popular. One of the earliest breakout stars was William Grey Espy, who played Snapper. After a couple of years, Espy chose to leave the role. For the first time, YR was forced to recast a popular performer. They found his replacement in novice actor David Hasselhoff.
McCarthy, whose character had an extra special relationship with Snapper, reflects on her feelings about the situation. “I loved working with Bill. He was charming and kind. But I wouldn’t say it was a hard adjustment. We were three years in by then and the show was moving smoothly.
“There’s an old story that was told during WWII – it was supposedly an exam question for pilots in training and it went like this: ‘You’re carrying the King to a secret place when suddenly the door flies open and the King falls from the plane. What do you do?’ The correct response had nothing to do with retrieving the King. Indeed, the answer was ‘adjust to accommodate the change in weight and continue on course.’
“It was kind of like that. We wished Billy well and tried to make David welcome. It helped that he was a serious and responsible actor who knew when to work and when to play. He is still cherished and I enjoy hearing from him.”
Fortunately for everyone, the recast worked and Hasselhoff went on to become even more popular than Espy had been. When asked if she has a preference, McCarthy gingerly replies, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly choose. OK, David.”
An addition to the cast that McCarthy speaks glowingly about is Jeanne Cooper, who joined the show about six months after its debut, playing Katherine Chancellor until her death in 2013.
“[Working with Jeanne Cooper] was great. I loved playing with her and I like to think she enjoyed working with me. She was a hell of an actress.” And even though Katherine and Jill Foster had a nasty rivalry, Kay and Liz, as well as the actors playing them, developed a deep friendship. Recalls McCarthy, “I like to think we built the relationship and the writers took advantage of it. The crew called us ‘Frick and Frack’ after an old vaudeville team. We had a great friendship going and also comforted each other through some rough times — Jeanne’s divorce and my working mom stuff.”
Liz was a part of the Genoa City canvas for over a decade, returning occasionally through the years afterward. When asked if the show had changed upon her returns, McCarthy replies, “The plot changed but the show didn’t. Beloved cameramen and make-up and hair folks were always there to greet me. It was a little like going back to school.”
During one of those returns to the soap, it was revealed that Jill was actually adopted. Lots of people had a hard time with the show rewriting Jill’s history, including Julianna McCarthy. When asked what she thought of the story, McCarthy replies, “Frankly, I hated it – still do.”
Julianna McCarthy made her final appearance on YR in 2010 when her character was killed off. McCarthy fondly reflects on her years on the show. “It’s been fun to recall those times. Hard, too. I miss Jeanne. And Bill Glenn. He was my favorite director and we became close. John Conboy is gone, too. He was our first producer. I feel blessed to have known them.”
And surprisingly, a cast member McCarthy keeps in touch with isn’t one that began the show with her. “Jess [Walton] became a great friend and we stay in touch via Facebook, etc., sharing messages and memes.” The Young and the Restless (YR) airs weekdays on CBS. Check your local listings for airtimes.