Christel Khalil has plied her trade on The Young and the Restless, the long-running CBS soap in which Khalil plays Lily Winters. She began the role in 2002 when she was only 14-years-old and after briefly leaving the program in 2005, Christel returned last year and when she did, she fell right back into place as one of the soap world’s brightest young stars. Christel has worked in film and prime-time television, but for now she’s focusing on The Young and the Restless. Christel took some time to speak with us recently about her career and her role as Lily.
Below you will find both the written transcript and full mp3 audio of the interview.
Looking at your biography, you started acting at a really young age. Can you tell us how you broke into the business?
Well, I have three other brothers and they were all in acting and they were all—like, the eldest brother is six years older than me so they were all in acting and my mom just kind of put me in it but I was really, really shy cause I didn’t really wanna do it at first, and I liked it and started doing it and I was the only one who never quit, so that’s how it came to be.
You worked a lot of years before you got cast on The Young and the Restless. Can you tell us a little bit about that journey through Hollywood and ultimately getting cast as Lily?
I got an audition for the part and I went there, it was the first soap I ever auditioned for. It was the first time my manager had come with me to an audition which was nice. So that kind of took the pressure off. And luckily the casting director at the time, Marnie Saitta, she was just the best casting director I’ve ever met in my life. Because, normally when you go on an audition you’re at the final thing, that’s done, it’s just you and two other girls or you and one other girl. You’re both just going to sit in a room together just staring at each other’s faces and you’re really nervous and psyche each other out, but Marnie was really great, cause we each had our own room that we were able to sit in and prepare what we’re gonna do and then I had the screen tests with Kristoff St. John, who plays my dad, and he was just such a great actor, and he just really made it easy for me and I went there and I did it and I did the best audition I ever did in my whole career. The producers gave me a hug and said “Oh great job” and I go back to my room and the casting director Marnie came to me and she was like, “Oh I just want to say bye to everyone and thanks for coming.” And so I’m like “Okay.” So I walked up there, I go there and she was like, “Congratulations, you got it!” And I was like, “Oh cool!” So it was really funny cause nobody will tell you right there on the spot that you booked it.
You said prior to that you hadn’t ever tried for a soap opera. Were soap operas something you’d been interested in?
No, I never watched a soap, I’ve never even auditioned for it, so for anything I didn’t know what it was like at all and it wasn’t like I wasn’t interested in it, it’s just that I’d never had an audition for one. And I’ve never watched them either, so when I went there and they’re like, “Do you know who that is?” and I’m like “No.” So, I never realized what a huge world this soap world is in itself. Like, they have their own magazines, their own channels. You know everything is just so…so I had no idea about this whole other world outside of movies and TV existed.
You left the show in 2005, but have since returned. Was coming back a difficult decision to make?
Yeah, it was a little difficult. I mean, what happened was that my agents told me they wanted me back, and I was like, “Oh really?” I wasn’t expecting it at all and I was actually thinking about the show before they asked me back. I was thinking I kind of missed it, cause when I was there, because I was in it, I was so young I couldn’t handle the stress of the job, and I just had to leave and it was just so stressful and when I left and I was able to have time off and relax, and look on as things were coming into perspective and I realized what a great job it was. And when they said that and it happened so quickly, like “If you sign the contract, you’re working this Thursday.” And it was Tuesday. So I was like, “Oh okay, you need a decision right now cause you’re gonna be working in two days if you do.” So I just, I prayed to God, and I was like God, please, if this is the right thing, let it happen, and I was listening to worship music and put it on pause and all of the sudden after that the music just came on full blast, and I was like, “Huh, I wonder if that was a sign?” I’m just going to go back and do it, so I did and I’m glad. This was the best decision ever so.
You’ve done a lot of non-soap work as well, like on Malcolm in the Middle. Do you prefer one to the other? And which would you say is more difficult for an actor?
Well, I think that the material you have to learn on soaps is definitely more difficult because we do a show a day, rather than a show a week, so whereas in Malcolm in the Middle you just have one scene each day and maybe you have not too many lines, so it’s really easy, but then again, in the prime time world, you’re sitting around and you have a ten, twelve hour day every single day. Whereas on the soap, at least you know when you’re going out, how much you have to do, how long it’s gonna take about. So, in primetime, you get there and you get ready and you’re waiting around for six hours and then you do your little tidbit which takes an hour and then you have to go back and wait some more, so I think the material soaps are harder but actual work of just being there, I think the prime-time is harder just because you’re there, you have twelve or fourteen hour days, on the soap, you can have as easy as a two hour day, so I think that’s the difference.
You’re still early in your acting career. What do you see the path of your career taking next decade? Do you want to continue soaps? Do you want to branch into film, TV?
Yeah, I’d definitely love to branch into film and TV, but I think I would still like to be on the soap as well, it’s such a great job. I’m definitely starting a production company, but you need a lot of money for that so that won’t happen for a long time, but I want to get more into it and more involved. There’s still a lot of things I want to accomplish and just even things outside of acting, just traveling. I want to travel a lot and I just want to stay on the soap, but still try to do other things as well.
Do you have anything planned outside The Young and the Restless, coming up in the near future?
No, not as of right now. Right now my contract doesn’t allow me to do anything for another year, I think. So, there won’t be anything in the future, but after that, yeah, definitely. Hopefully something will come up.
(Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl)
(Image Courtesy of CBS)