Judith Chapman on Bringing Sassy ‘Train Wreck’ Gloria Back to ‘Y&R’

Judith Chapman Young and the Restless Gloria Bardwell

Judith Chapman returns on-screen to CBS’ The Young and the Restless as the troublesome Gloria Bardwell Tuesday, October 20, barging her way into the Chancellor living room, probably to interfere with the lives of her children.

A veteran of several soaps, Chapman has seen it all, but there’s been nothing like working on a show in a COVID-19 world. Chapman also talks about another savvy lady she’s bringing to life – she’s been cast as Nancy Reagan in the Will Smith film King Richard. TV Insider chatted with Chapman about life, her return to Y&R, and playing a former First Lady.

What has kept you busy during the quarantine?

Judith Chapman: I taught some yoga classes via Zoom, but then I went into even stricter isolation when I heard about Y&R [calling me back]. The first few months were tough. I spent time touching up a play I’d found in Scotland. I found an incredible cast for it including David Lago [ex-Raul in ‘Y&R’], who is my lead. Christian [Jules LeBlanc, Michael on ‘Y&R’], Tristan [Rogers, Scorpio on General Hospital], and Sean Kanan [ex-Deacon, The Bold and Beautiful] were doing video clips for it.

Judith Chapman The Young and the Restless

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

Presumably, Gloria’s back in town to meet her new grandchild, as Chloe (Elizabeth Hendrickson) had a baby, and Kevin (Greg Rikaart) and his son. What’s it like getting back into Gloria’s skin?

I would never wear the tight clothes that Gloria does! She’s such a wonderful character. I remember when she first got money. I said to the [show’s] costumer that Gloria has never had money and now that she does, she wants to spend it. I’ve got big eyes, lots of attitude and I can wear lots of color. Gloria is not a “beige” person.”

And she’s a survivor.

Yes. I’ve always felt that as misguided as she’s been, she gets through things and lives to fight another day. She still has some sassy stuff going on and she’s confident. I want Gloria to be an inspiration even though she has been, and sometimes still is, a train wreck.

Gloria’s sons, Kevin and Michael (Christian Jules LeBlanc) have forgiven their mother a lot over the years. What was it like working with them again?

We didn’t missed a beat from the minute we walked on set. We literally did our scenes in one take. The chemistry was and is still there. There’s bickering. “Oh, mother! What are you up to?” There is this under glow – no pun intended – of absolute love for her from her sons even though she’s been a “bad mommy” at times. And they were bad boys at times, too.

How are you adjusting to the safety protocols Y&R has implemented?

I have so much admiration for the protocols and the rules and the hoops everyone is jumping through. Sony, CBS, and Y&R are keeping us all safe and they’re keeping the show on the air. It’s mind-numbing when you think of what everyone is having to do. At the end of the first few days, I was shaking and exhausted. Nobody is allowed in dressing rooms. Our costumes are outside [waiting for us] in plastic bags. I’d forgotten my gloves one day and the wardrobe assistant said, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t go into your room [to get them].” You have to be so responsible. You have to put everything back into plastic bags so they can be sterilized. There’s no food. You want water? Bring it yourself. It really felt like boot camp. You wear your own mask for [getting your] hair [done]. You can take it off for makeup.

The whole experience has been a real eye-opener. I have true admiration for everyone. I do so much theater that I’m used to schlepping my stuff around. There’s a lot less pampering than what we’re used to. It’s a very exciting challenge.

Judith Chapman The Young and the Restless

Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS

How did you come to be cast as Nancy Reagan in Will Smith’s King Richard?

My agent said they want to see you. This wasn’t just a casting call. They wanted to see me play Nancy Reagan. I called my hairdresser who helped with me [the play] Tallulah. I had a short wig and had her style it. I got the part. On a personal front, [at the same time] I got my mother out of her home in Palm Beach and into an assisted living home. Then, we went into lockdown. Not too long ago, I got a call from the film’s production and that said we’re back up in November. I’m very excited.

What’s King Richard about?

It’s about Richard Williams, played by Will Smith, who is Venus and Serena’s father, and how he put them on a world stage after training them and getting them to where they are today. I can’t wait to find out who’s playing Ronnie [Reagan]. I’m hoping the actresses playing Venus and Serena will be in my scene, which is about Nancy doing a pep talk. She’s very composed.

What research did you do for the audition?

I found every picture and video clip I could find to get her voice down. She has this very specific smile. At the end of my audition, I gave a little curl of my lip as I saw Nancy do.

Circling back to Gloria, it’s  always heartwarming when we see true forgiveness with Gloria and her sons.

I think that’s the secret for not just the Fisher/Baldwin clan, but for all characters. You find that ounce of decency and goodness. You throw that line out and then, you reel it back in.

Young and the Restless, Weekdays, Check Local Listings for daytime/syndicated shows, CBS