Eric Paulsen / Eyewitness News
LOS ANGELES – Behind the scenes on the set of “The Young and the Restless” at CBS’ Television City, it can sometimes be like watching organized chaos.
But this is a well-oiled machine of true professionals putting out an hour-long soap opera five days a week.
On the set the day we visited were two Louisianans: Christian LeBlanc, who plays Michael Baldwin, and Jessica Heap, born and raised in Covington, who is now playing Michael’s half sister, Eden.
We got to tour the set, or sets, of Y&R with Christian and Jessica on their day off, while an episode of the show was being shot on two sets.
For soap fans, Christian is a very familiar face - an Emmy award winner who has been on this show for years.
Jessica is a newcomer with a film background, who is now getting a taste of life on daytime TV. On her first day here, they handed her 25 pages of script.
“When I worked my first day, I was shooting two episodes, all back to back,” she said. “So it was a lot of dialogue, a lot of material and it really helped having someone there who was like ‘Here’s what’s happening,’ as it was going on.”
She says having a guy like Christian, who is from New Orleans, playing her brother is great. There was an instant bond.
Putting out a show like this can be a grind. The pace here is often grueling. But Christian says this is something he loves. He said it is the closest thing in television to doing live theater.
In both cases, the actor is called on to do a lot in a very short amount of time.
“Every day you have this incredible challenge, which, as an actor, that’s what I find, that’s what keeps it interesting,” he said. “Michael Baldwin is not me. Every day I have to say ‘This is a character I created,’ and I have to find him again every day and commit every day, 12 months a year.”
“For me, I'm just loving it,” said Jessica, “because I’m learning from people like Christian and these other great actors and I’m learning new skills. I’m taking it all in. In terms of what comes next for me, it’s all going to add to that as an actor.”
As serious as these two are about their craft, this is a fun set. We saw that when we walked over to watch a scene with soap opera icon Eric Braeden, who plays Victor Newman. He and Christian shared a laugh or two with us, and then Braeden had a message for his many New Orleans fans.
“New Orleans, I must say, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve always had a good time down there,” he said in his unmistakable accent.
Life on a television soap opera is anything but real, and you notice that as you walk around from set to set.
This truly is a world of make believe, made to look like reality. Walking from set to set, you recognize the places that fans of Y&R see all the time and know well. Take the park setting, for example, where nothing is real, from the trees to the snow.
Christian has played Michael Baldwin for years, and knows how devoted fans are. For Jessica, joining an established show, it’s been a whole new world.
“It was a lot for me to take on, these storylines, to learn that much,” she said. “It’s crazy coming onto a show where the fans know more about the character than I did at first. It’s amazing, it’s such a fascinating thing.”