‘Young & the Restless’: Gina Tognoni Previews the ‘Mother’ of All Showdowns Between Phyllis & Summer


Most mothers don’t like to think their daughters are capable of going after their boyfriends, but the mounting evidence that Summer (Hunter King) is aggressively chasing after Billy (Jason Thompson) on The Young and the Restless can simply no longer be denied.

While that’s bad news for Phyllis, played by three-time Emmy-winner Gina Tognoni, it is great news for Y&R fans as there’s going to be a real mother of a mother/daughter confrontation on Friday’s episode.

TV Insider spoke with Tognoni to get into Phyllis’ mindset as she calls out Summer on her wicked ways. Read on to get the scoop!

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How aware has Phyllis been of what Summer’s been up to?

Gina Tognoni: She’s been noticing a difference in behavior since she came back into town. Summer returned in a stolen car, had had an affair with a married man, and gone through her trust fund. Phyllis saw this attitude in Summer that was never there before in her little girl or even in the young woman she had become. Phyllis was seeing a chance in summer that was disturbing. It that touched a nerve within Phyllis in that it reminds Phyllis of herself. That’s brilliant writing.

We’re seeing Summer make mistakes similar to ones that Phyllis has made.

Yes. This is a young Phyllis in front of her and it is driving her mad in the sense that she wants the best for this young woman. Phyllis doesn’t want to see her make the same mistakes that she did. But Phyllis a very different entity than Summer. She wasn’t spoiled growing up. Phyllis wanted her daughter to have everything she never had. She’s been tough on her daughter and maybe that’s led to some resentment. Does she see what she’s up to behind her back? I don’t think Phyllis would have ever dreamed that Summer would do something as distasteful as going after someone in her own family. It’s been fun balancing it. It’s been complicated, too.

Hunter King as Summer and Gina Tognoni as Phyllis (Photo: Howard Wise / JPI Studios)

How frustrating is it for Phyllis that Kyle (Michael Mealor) is the one to clue her in on Summer chasing Billy?

Very. Because they don’t have an intimate relationship. And Kyle’s going to be the one to tell her about her daughter? She’s not trusting of Kyle. She knows where his loyalties lie. Kyle coming in with this information blows Phyllis away. She finds out that Summer has a ticket to go to Philadelphia, which insinuates she’s going after Billy. There’s a denial phase, but then there’s a moment of truth where Phyllis calls out Summer on what she’s doing.

How would you describe the showdown?

It’s pretty intense and raw. It’s not an attractive episode. (Laughs) It’s probably the most unattractive I’ve ever been!

Phyllis has had her share of rivals — Sharon, Christine, but for it to be her own daughter this time must be heart-wrenching.

This is a scenario that’s uncharted territory. As an actress, it’s stretching me and it is fun. I like it. Mal Young [executive producer/head writer] has done a wild job. The editing is beautiful. It’s going to be a great episode and I think people are going to like it. I can’t wait to hear their response.

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When you started on daytime on One Life to Live as Kelly, fan responses to storylines came via snail mail. What’s it like to get such immediate feedback in today’s world?

I think I’m a little too close to the forest to see the trees. Audiences are seeing it for the first time. We don’t do shows in front of a live audience so social media is our feedback. I don’t lean too hard into it. I’m a big proponent of telling people, ‘Please don’t believe what other people say. It’s very important to believe in yourself. Take it all with a grain of salt.’

What’s Billy’s onus in all this. He’s known from the beginning this is inappropriate behavior from Summer. Would Phyllis have preferred Billy had come to her with this?

Yes. I think she would have preferred it if Billy had been more head on with her about Summer. That’s how it might be handled [in real life], but because there are so many emotional issues within both of us we’re missing the mark. Billy’s starting to numb himself with his [gambling] addiction. He’s being pulled back in by old demons. Phyllis senses that. It starts to break the intimacy in their relationship. Phyllis doesn’t want to lose him. It’s a classic codependency. This is all causing him not to handle his life the way he needs to handle it.

Jason Thompson as Billy and Gina Tognoni as Phyllis (Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS)

Phyllis loves her daughter. Will that love prevail throughout this?

Phyllis is actually having compassion for her daughter, but it’s possible that even Summer doesn’t know who she is. She’s causing all this toxicity. But this is something that Phyllis has been guilty of, too. The question is how does Phyllis forgive this, forgive Summer, forgive herself, and still survive?

Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS