‘Young and the Restless’ Star Justin Hartley to Adam Newman Fans: Tell Me if You Hate My Guts (Exclusive)

“People are going to have their opinions, which I think is great,” the actor tells TheWrap in his first official interview since joining the CBS daytime drama

Photo: Ed Mcgowan / PlainJoe Studios

Justin Hartley is stepping into some big shoes on “The Young and the Restless” — and he doesn’t mind if some fans don’t think he can fill them.

On Nov. 5, Hartley will take over the role of Adam Newman on the CBS soap, following the departure of Michael Muhney. But he’s not particularly worried if viewers don’t take to his portrayal of Newman.

“People are going to have their opinions, which I think is great — I welcome it and I love it,” Hartley, a veteran of “Passions,” “Smallville” and “Revenge,” told TheWrap.

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In his first official interview since landing the role, Hartley told TheWrap about dealing with fan expectations, his take on Adam Newman and how the new kid in town has been received on set.

You’re taking over an established, well-known character. Are you adopting any of Michael Muhney’s portrayal, or are you hitting this fresh?
I wouldn’t say that I’m going to try to emulate Michael at all. He did a great job with the character, there’s no question about it, and I have a lot of respect for him and his work. But I think it happened at such a rapid rate, and you’re thrown into it, and you have a choice to make. My approach was, this is how I would like to play the character, and this is what I would like to do, and this is what I’m comfortable doing and this is what I would enjoy spending the next however [many] years of my life [doing], if it happens to be that, and going in there every day enjoying playing this character.

Also read: ‘Smallville’ Alum Justin Hartley Cast in ‘Young and the Restless’ as New Adam Newman

That said, let’s give credit where credit’s due. A lot of this stuff that I’m going to be doing and a lot of the great story that I’m sort of inheriting only came about because the people ahead of me had done a great job with the character. If he went in and stunk up the character, there’d be no reason to have the character — it wouldn’t even be there, it would be gone. I have a little bit of experience going in and playing a character — I played a character on “Smallville” that had been established for decades and decades before I took it. People are going to have their opinions, which I think is great — I welcome it, and I love it. As long as people are talking about it, you know? I am having a blast doing this. 

Also read: ‘Young & the Restless’ Star Michael Muhney Fired for Allegedly Groping Co-Star

Soaps fans can be fiercely loyal, and they’re going to have opinions about the new kid on the block.
They should! I think that’s fair. They absolutely should, good or bad. That’s one of the great things that comes about from watching TV and all of the social media that’s happening now, is you have your opinion. And if you have four Twitter followers, you can say to them what you think about someone else. And you can talk to me! You can tell me that you hate my guts, you can tell me that you love me. It’s great! I’ve been very, very fortunate to have had the kind of response that I’ve gotten, because I know it could easily go the other way.

What is your general approach to the character? What will distinguish your portrayal?
I’d like to add a little bit of levity to certain things, depending on what’s happening. In this genre, there are days where you go in and there is absolutely no room for any kind of levity, it’s all serious and things like that. And then there are other days where you can get a little broader with the character and things like that. I think as long as I have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on story-wise and the character and where I’m coming from, I think it will just sort of happen. And I think I’m taller — I think I’ll add a little height.

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The guy’s gonna have a little humor, and I think, after going through what he went through, he truly is driven to sort of maintain his life and slow his life down a little bit. Maybe make sounder choices, maybe give some things a little more thought. I don’t know if he’ll be successful. But I think he’s going to be a little more mindful of that. And then we’ll see what happens; I’m sure he’ll still get pissed off and people will irritate him and drive him to do things that are absolutely insane, which is always fun to play as well.

Photo: Ed Mcgowan / PlainJoe Studios
Photo: Ed Mcgowan / PlainJoe Studios

Of course, succeeding at one’s goal doesn’t always make for the best drama.
Well, failing — and that’s also probably what’ll happen. It’s like, “We really want this guy to … oh, why did he do that? Come on, I hate this guy!” And then he’ll build up your trust again and then, BAM! He’ll let let you down.

Also read: ‘Young and the Restless’ Casts Sally Kellerman

You’ve done daytime before with “Passions” and then done primetime with “Smallville,” “Emily Owens, M.D.” and other series. What are the differences between the two, and do you have a favorite of the two?
Obviously, the glaring difference is the pace that we produce this stuff at. I think yesterday I did 27 or 30 pages, which is close to a week on a primetime TV show. I enjoy the slower pacing; the preparation is a little bit different because you can go in and you can experiment with things on the set. But I do like the fact that it’s sort of like a play in daytime. I mean, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. There are definitely advantages to both.

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You’ve had a handful of days on set. Have any of your castmates been particularly helpful?
All of them, actually. I’m completely blown away by how nice everybody is. There’s people who have been doing this on that show for decades. And yet they stop and talk to the new guy. Like Josh Morrow — he’s been on the show for 20 years, and he walks right up to me and show me the ropes. Just as far as, “This is how you get here, here’s a shortcut here, here’s a couple of storyline points that you probably don’t know about that you might want to know, here’s what happened to your character a few years ago.” He’s telling me stories about my character that happened five years ago. I mean, this is really great stuff. He doesn’t have to do that  And this is in between one of his scenes that he’s got to prepare for and he has five pages of dialogue to memorize. So he’s a really nice guy.

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You’ve primarily been working with fellow newcomer Sally Kellerman so far. What can you say about your experience with her, and Adam’s interaction with her character?
Fantastic. She’s prepared, obviously, but in a way that sort of … she has a lot of flavor to what she does, so the words jump off the page for sure, and it’s fun to work with her. And it’s totally different dynamics because of the generational gap, so it’s not the typical, “Here’s the guy, here’s the girl, they’re dating, and they get it a fight and then they make up.” It’s a totally different thing. I’m sort of going behind her back and doing something that she’s unaware of, and she’s this sweet older lady and she’s playing this sort of frail, very lovely woman. She’s right in the wheelhouse of Adam’s shark jaws. So we’ll see what happens. I think he’s gonna be kind to her — I hope he is. I hope they end up working it out. I hope he doesn’t end up destroying this sweet older woman, but that’s not up to me.