One of the top contenders for Best Actress at the Daytime Emmys is “The Young & The Restless” star Michelle Stafford. Over the years, this veteran actress has racked up seven nominations with two wins — Supporting (1997) and Lead (2004). We know Michelle rates highly among her castmates as she has almost always made the preliminary list since that system of voting was introduced in 2003.
While Stafford first appeared on the daytime scene in 1990 with a role on the now-canceled soap “Tribes,” it was her 1994 debut as Phyllis on “Y&R” that turned her into a soap opera icon. Between romancing the men of Genoa City and creating rivalries with the women of the town, be it shy and sweet Sharon Abbott or sassy and spunky Drusilla Winters, Stafford’s Phyllis has become the heart and soul of the series.
Her signature style of acting includes lots of histrionics — crying and screaming — accompanied by big facial expressions and lots of body gestures. Stafford is also able to focus on the heart of a scene and find the right amount of emotional depth. Emmy voters usually respond well to this type of over-the-top performance.
During this past year, Stafford has had the opportunity to stretch her acting muscles as Phyllis reeled from the break-up of her marriage to Nicholas Newman, who she married in 2007 after an emotionally-draining on again/off again romance. Following her divorce, Phyllis became the bitter ex-wife and started a scandalous blog in which she dished dirt about the other wives of Genoa City, including her mortal enemy Sharon Newman, with whom Nicholas shares an undying love. While this material doesn’t sound like much on paper, in the capable hands of Stafford it was elevated to must-see-TV.
Stafford has one weakness when it comes to submitting a showcase episode to the judging panel. Too often, her character is shown at full throttle, screaming and yelling, which makes her unlikeable to new viewers. This year, she should pick an episode that paints Phyllis in a sympathetic light, perhaps one of the many episodes surrounding the break-up. If she does, this leading lady will be a clear frontrunner for a nomination if not the prize itself.
Photo: Michelle Stafford at the 2004 Daytime Emmy Awards (NATAS)