INTERVIEW: Melissa Ordway on Y&R's heartbreaking Alzheimer's storyline and Abby's summer drama
Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 10:17:26 AM
Photo Melissa Ordway discusses her personal connection to Alzheimer's
The Young and the Restless' Melissa Ordway opens up about her personal connection to Alzheimer's, welcoming her second baby, and what fans can expect from Abby Newman this summer.

There's never a dull moment for The Young and the Restless' Abby Newman (Melissa Ordway), who has managed to accomplish quite a bit since returning from Europe earlier this spring -- including being somewhat central to Jack's (Peter Bergman) paternity drama and starting up a romance with a man also desired by her stepmother, Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott). And let's not forget that she also has her hands tied up in drama with both Summer (Hunter King) and Victoria (Amelia Heinle) while also juggling the continuing decline of her grandmother Dina (Marla Adams), who is battling Alzheimer's disease.

With summer heating up, Abby's storylines are only set to get hotter, as well. What's in store for the Naked Heiress and her new flame, Arturo (Jason Canela)? How will Dina's heartbreaking illness progress in the weeks ahead? And how is Ordway handling the Alzheimer's storyline, considering her real-life grandmother battled the devastating illness? Soap Central spoke with the actress to get the details on these questions and to learn what returning to work has been like now that she has two daughters at home: two-year-old Olivia and six-month-old Sophie.

Soap Central: You recently revealed that you have a personal connection with Alzheimer's, as your grandmother suffered with the disease. That must make this storyline all the more special for you.

Melissa Ordway: Yes, and that's why this story is so important to me. I feel like everyone has someone in their family or they know someone who has been affected by Alzheimer's, and so I think it's such an important story to tell and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Soap Central: Does having a personal experience with a story like this make it easier or more difficult for you to play?

Ordway: It's definitely hard because, in the writing, a lot of those same things happened to my grandma. So, it's hard because you kind of relive those moments, and it breaks your heart. But as an actor, it makes it a little bit easier because the reactions and the way that you play the story is easier to relate to. Sometimes in storylines, you think, "Oh, my gosh, what would I do if I found my mom sleeping with my husband?!" And those kinds of things are kind of hard to act sometimes because you have no way to relate to it, at all. [Laughs] So acting-wise, it's easier to relate to, but it's harder emotionally because you see so much of what happened in your own life playing out on-screen.

Soap Central: So, you are seeing a lot of similarities between what the Abbotts are going through and what your family experienced?

Ordway: There are definitely some, yes. My grandma didn't know my dad anymore; she didn't know any of us. She didn't think my dad was someone else, and she knew that she recognized him, but she kept going, "Oh, you're such a nice man. You're such a kind man." And Dina doesn't always know Jack, and sometimes she thinks he's her husband or other people. The fact that she doesn't recognize her own son, I can definitely relate to that because that happened with my grandmother; she didn't recognize any of us, and I think that's the most heartbreaking thing. And I know my grandma would be devastated if she knew that she didn't recognize us. It's so hard.

Soap Central: Is your grandma still alive?

Ordway: No, my grandmother passed away right after her ninetieth birthday. She always wanted to live to ninety, so she made it to ninety and then she left us, and we miss her dearly.

Photo Melissa Ordway discusses her personal connection to Alzheimer's

Soap Central: I love that she wanted to live to ninety and made it!

Ordway: I know! She did it. And what's funny is she was such a huge fan of soap operas and anything on CBS Daytime. She was a huge fan of The Young and the Restless, and she loved As the World Turns and Guiding Light when they were on, as well as The Bold and the Beautiful. So, acting this storyline out, and being on one of her favorite soap operas, is wonderful. I have been feeling my grammy so much; I have dreams about her so often, and she's always smiling so big. I feel like she's there, and I feel it's so important to tell this story, and to do it in such a beautiful way, which I think we have been doing.

Soap Central: Does it feel different for you as an actress when you know you're playing a story that brings awareness to an issue or can help people learn about an issue? Does it affect the way you approach the work?

Ordway: Definitely, because you know that these stories mean so much to people. Like I said before, some of the stories are like, "Wow, I really hope other people aren't going through this right now. I hope their mom isn't sleeping with their husband!" And some of the other outlandish storylines that we sometimes play out. But these stories, these stories that affect people, really mean a lot to us as actors. We want to take the time and tell the story right. I have actually learned a lot about Alzheimer's through playing this story. There are many things I didn't know about the disease. Marla will be playing the story, and in some of the scenes, Dina will be totally out of it, and she won't remember any of us or recognize any of us, and she's in another world, and then in the next scenes, she's like, "What are you guys talking about? This is crazy!" And she'll be back to her regular Dina Mergeron self. And I didn't know that someone could change so drastically so quickly. Or when she looked in the mirror and would see a younger version of herself. There are certain things that I didn't know about the disease. I was young when my grammy passed away, so I didn't know a lot about how drastically her moods could shift or that she would forget things all of a sudden. I remember the times where she was just starting to forget things, like leaving the stove on because she forgot to turn it off. I remember the little things, kind of the red flags that there was something bigger going on. So, it's been such a learning experience for me. I want to do this story justice, and I'm learning through it. I feel like as actors, we're always like, "Okay, could this really happen?" Because we want to tell the story in the best possible way, and we want it to be as accurate as possible.

Soap Central: What have you thought of Marla's performances these past few months? And also Peter, of course.

Ordway: I think Marla is knocking it out of the park. She is doing such an incredible job. I can't imagine anyone playing it any better. She breaks my heart so often in scenes. I'll just be standing there, and I'll start crying because she's breaking my heart. And Peter is always incredible, and he's doing an amazing job. There were times when I wasn't expecting to cry in a scene, and I'll just look at him and see the way he's looking at Marla, and it just breaks my heart. I think they're doing an incredible job.

Soap Central: The show has teamed up with the Alzheimer's Association, and you did a photo shoot with them. So, have you also spoken with experts yourself? Or are they more just working with the writers?

Ordway: Our executive producer and head writer, Mal, his mother had Alzheimer's, so he knows a lot about the disease. I think he's basing a lot of the story off of his own personal experience with his mother, and I think this is kind of a tribute to his mother. We are working with the Alzheimer's Association, and they've been very happy with everything that they've seen so far. It's a good team and good team effort.

Soap Central: There has been an extreme outpouring of comments from fans, many of whom have shared their own personal stories. You have many on your social media feeds. Do you feel a responsibility to try and respond to everyone?

Ordway: You know what, I read them. But I have a two-year-old and six-month-old, so [I'm pretty busy]. But when I'm at work, I try to go on and respond. I love that people feel comfortable enough to share their stories with me. It's amazing, and I feel very honored that they'll tell me their story. I'm somewhat really bad at interacting on social media at the moment, though. My daughter is obsessed with my iPhone, so when she's around, the moment I pick up my phone, she grabs it and says "Mickey, Mickey!" and wants to watch Mickey. So, I'm trying to be better about it. But I really do read every story and every comment that is written, especially about Alzheimer's and fans' personal experiences. I take them to heart, even though I'm not the best at responding right now.

Soap Central: I think your fans will probably understand, because one child is hard enough, and now you have two!

Ordway: Two is definitely a lot more difficult than one, but we're getting through it.

Soap Central: Obviously your job is super fun, so I imagine it was really great to go back after your maternity leave. But was it also kind of hard to get back into the swing of things now that you have two little ones?

Ordway: It was! Olivia was such an easy sleeper. As soon as she was born, she came home, and she slept through the night. I went back to work, and everyone was like, "How are you doing? You must be so tired?" And I was like, "No, are you crazy? I'm so good. She sleeps eight hours a night, and we're great!" But going back after this second one was a little bit more difficult because Sophie does not like to sleep! She's getting better, but she likes to wake up every two to four hours. She did sleep six hours last night, and I'm really hoping we continue down that path. So, it has been difficult. But you know what? I was so ecstatic to get back to work. Luckily, we have such an amazing job where I can bring Sophie to work, and she can sit in my dressing room, as can Olivia. [The people at work] are such a family, so even when you're gone a week, you're like, "What did I miss?! What's going on?" And I was gone, because we had Christmas break, I was gone for like two months. So, I was really excited to get back and see everyone, even though it was difficult being so sleep deprived and having to memorize lines.

Soap Central: During your maternity leave, I went to Paris to find Abby, but unfortunately, I didn't find her.

Ordway: That sounds amazing! Oh, Paris.

Soap Central: It was amazing! And it made me think that Abby gets to do so many fun things. Are there things about her life that you envy?

Ordway: She does get to do all the fun things! I think the amount of money that she has, I envy for sure! But also, she really lives in the moment and doesn't really have a lot of fear about whether things will work out or not, because I think she knows that one way or another, it will be okay. So that's something I envy about her life. But there are other things that I don't envy. There are things about her life that are more difficult than mine for sure -- like her whole family situation! And her lack of love and finding love. I don't envy that either.

Photo Melissa Ordway discusses her personal connection to Alzheimer's

Soap Central: It's always an uphill battle with her! The last time we spoke with you, Abby was dating a sex trafficker. Now she's into Arturo, and he seems to come with a lot of trouble as well, mainly Nikki and perhaps Summer.

Ordway: It's hard because with Arturo, she's being cautious, and I think perhaps she's being a little bit too cautious in this situation. But you know, he was sleeping with her stepmother, and I don't know that I would go down that path, as Melissa. She has already shared men with her mom and her sister. But I guess you can't fight want the hearts wants! [Laughs]

Soap Central: Did you ever, in your wildest dreams imagine that Abby and Nikki would be in love with the same man?!

Ordway: Never! Never. I grew up watching The Young and the Restless, and for me, I feel like Nikki and Victor belong together. They are the power couple, and so I don't feel like Nikki should be with any other guy. I feel like she should always be with Victor. So, I definitely did not think that I would ever be fighting for a guy that Nikki was wanting. I never thought that would happen.

Soap Central: Were you secretly hoping the writers would give you and Melody Thomas Scott a crazy, hair-pulling catfight scene?

Ordway: Yes! I am such a huge Mel fan. I love every time I get to work with her, and it's the same for Eric [Braeden, Victor]. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, I can't believe I'm working with them. This is so crazy." As great as they are, and as much as they've become like family, there's still that fan girl inside of me that can't believe this is all happening. So, to have a full-out fight with Nikki would have been a dream come true! There's still time.

Soap Central: They need to write that, and Victor can rush in to break it up!

Ordway: Exactly! I love that.

Soap Central: But I imagine Abby will be too busy. It seems she's already got her hands full with Summer (Hunter King), who's back to stir up trouble.

Ordway: Yeah, Summer and Victoria! There are a lot of people that Abby has issues with right now!

Soap Central: Usually in the summertime, they heavily play some of the younger set. Are you finding that you and Hunter have a lot of scenes together?

Ordway: You know, we'll see. She has a lot of juicy stuff going on, and I think the fans will be really excited to see what's going on with Summer. I am obsessed with Hunter. She's one of my best friends, so any time we get to work together, it's fun. And every time we get to work together and be mean to each other, it's even more fun, because we cannot stop dying of laughter. It's just so far from how we actually are. So, I look forward to anything they write between me and Hunter.

Soap Central: Sounds like a blast! Is there anything else you'd like to add about Abby's summer ahead or the show's work with the Alzheimer's Association?

Ordway: I just want to thank everyone for watching. There's a lot of amazing stuff coming up this summer, the Alzheimer's storyline included, so everyone stay tuned! And also, my heart and my prayers go out to anyone who is affected by Alzheimer's right now or any family member who is having to go through it. I hope that this story can help them somehow to feel supported or comforted.

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month. For more information about Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association's official website at alz.org.

What do you think of our interview with Ordway? Do you have a personal connection to Alzheimer's? How would you like to see Abby's storyline play out over the summer? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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