The fireworks that Americans recently saw for the Fourth of July are nothing compared to the fireworks that are on the horizon for some of the residents of The Young and the Restless' Genoa City. Imani Benedict is making herself at home in the small town, and portrayer Leigh-Ann Rose says her alter ego is certainly coming in hot! Imani knows exactly what she wants, she knows exactly how to get it, and she's not afraid to leave a lot of colorful explosions in her wake. But could there be more to Amanda's (Mishael Morgan) newfound sister than meets the eye?
Soap Central caught up with Leigh-Ann Rose to get her take on Imani, and we also asked the actress for details about the Benedict family murder mystery, the strained sibling relationship between Imani and Amanda, and those sexy flirtations with Dr. Nate Hastings (Sean Dominic). Read on for the details, but know this: Imani is definitely trouble with a capital T!
Soap Central: The Y&R fans have really enjoyed Imani and all of the trouble she's been bringing these past few months. What has the experience been like for you?
Rose: I love Imani, and I love playing her. She has a big space in my heart because she is so family-driven, but she's also a strong, firm person. I'm a strong person in real life, but Imani, let's just say compromising is not her strong suit! [Laughs] She's very strong-minded, she knows what she wants, she goes after it, and I really love those qualities about her. I get to play that and have no apologies, and that's one of the things that I like about playing Imani.
Soap Central: She's very direct, which I find refreshing, but that personality trait can rub some people the wrong way. Do you think Imani's directness makes her her own worst enemy, or do you find that it's a strength?
Rose: I think it's a strength -- though I can see how it could bite her in the butt! [Laughs] It's one of the qualities that I love the most about her, her directness. She just storms in, goes for what she wants, and says exactly how she feels. But as viewers will see, she is starting to be more open and listen and be a team player. But that directness is definitely a strong part of her.
Soap Central: You mentioned that you are also strong in real life. Do you find that you're much like Imani, or are you strong in different ways?
Rose: We share the quality of saying what we feel, but I have a nicer way of doing it. I can be earnest and real in a kind way, whereas Imani just says it! [Laughs] And not that she has intentions of being mean or cruel or harsh, but I think I handle things with a more human quality than she does. I have more of a gentle touch.
Soap Central: As we know, Amanda is also a very strong woman, and it's been fun to see Amanda and Imani go toe-to-toe. What are your thoughts on their sister relationship?
Rose: I like that they're both strong women and both in law. It's a battle between them, but I think it's their similarities that make them go at each other. They really are just so similar that they're either going to come together or kill each other! [Laughs] We'll see how it unfolds, but Imani can see things in Amanda and vice versa -- the qualities that they both have, they can see that within each other, or at least, I hope they eventually can, because I see it from the outside. And I think the audience sees it, too, like, "Oh, these two are really similar. But they're going at each other!" [Laughs] The more that they get to know each other and spend time together though, they'll see that they're more similar than they thought.
Soap Central: What has it been like for you to work with Mishael Morgan?
Rose: I love Mishael! We are always like, "Hey, sis!" We just got along so well from the beginning, and the sisterly thing has spilled over into our real lives. It's a beautiful thing. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to work with her, especially as sisters. We're getting really close, and I love that connection that we're building. I respect her craft, I respect her work, and I think she's just an amazing person to work with.
Soap Central: At first, your storyline was really insular with Amanda's, but Imani has suddenly taken quite the interest in Dr. Nate Hastings! What is her intention with her flirtations? Is it solely to attract the hot doc, does she hope to stir up trouble -- or maybe a mix of both?
Rose: Hhhmmm... we'll have to find out! [Laughs] I can't say too much, but you'll learn, and you'll see! One thing about Imani is that she goes after what she wants, and the doctor is fine, so... I don't want to say too much about that, but whatever her intentions are, she's going to make it known! There will be no question about what it is once you see more.
Soap Central: Do you suppose that the writers knew all along that they wanted to explore a Nate/Imani pairing, or is it possible that they saw a spark between you and Sean Dominic that got their imaginations going?
Rose: I think it was written before because I hadn't met Sean until we got to work together. So, they must have thought, "Oh, these two could work off of each other." But they never saw us together before those scenes.
Soap Central: Ah, so it was a happy accident that you two ignited this fire!
Rose: [Laughs] Well, Sean is very easy to play with. He has charm and is very fun.
Soap Central: What do you suppose Imani thinks about Elena? She cheated on Nate, which I can imagine Imani has strong opinions about!
Rose: Mmm-hmm! Oh, yeah, Imani has opinions about that! She's taking it all in, and when she needs to say something about it, she will. But she likes to sit back, watch, and observe, and keep it in her bank until she needs to use it. Imani doesn't take Elena as seriously as she should.
Soap Central: I was wondering if she would think of Elena as a true adversary, but it sounds like Imani feels like she can walk all over her.
Rose: Yeah, Imani feels that way about most people! [Laughs] She truly does.
Soap Central: What has it been like for you to work with Brytni Sarpy?
Rose: Oh, I love Brytni! She's so sweet. In the beginning I only worked with Mishael and Ptosha [Storey, Naya Benedict] for the most part, and I recently just started working with Brytni, and I really enjoy working with her. She's funny, too! She has a really good sense of humor. So, I really enjoy working with her. We're always laughing on set.
Soap Central: What is your general opinion about soap opera cat fights?
Rose: Oh, I love 'em! Give me more!
Soap Central: I think they're coming to you, Leigh-Ann! No worries there.
Rose: You think so?! You really think sweet little Imani would get into cat fights?! [Laughs] But really, yeah, I love a good cat fight, so let's see.
Soap Central: Cat fights are fun, the romance angle is fun, and you've had the added excitement of being involved in the murder mystery storyline with Sutton [Jack Landron], Naya, and Richard. What has that experience been like for you, and have you been just as surprised by the twists and turns as the viewers have been?
Rose: Absolutely! The twists and turns are so much fun, and I'm always like, "Wait, what?!" I don't want to give too much away about the murder mystery with Sutton. A lot will be unveiled as you continue to watch how our family figures out who we can trust and who is telling the truth, and who takes advantage of our family. A lot is still to come -- you'll see what I'm talking about! It's been a bumpy ride, and it's been a roller coaster for Imani to learn who she can trust.
Soap Central: I think what's made this storyline even more intriguing is that we don't really know these characters well yet, so we can't even really guess what's going on.
Rose: I agree! It can go anywhere because you don't know the history of these characters. It's a new family coming in, so you're learning while Imani is learning. So, we'll see!
Soap Central: The storyline has mixed in with the Newman clan, specifically Victor Newman. Were you familiar with the character and Eric Braeden before you started at Y&R?
Rose: Yes, of course! He is a staple of soaps. I know his face, and I was so excited that our story got intertwined with the Newman story.
Soap Central: Did you or your family watch Y&R before you joined?
Rose: Yes, I have, and my mom and my stepmom have, as well. And my aunt in South Carolina, she watches it religiously. She'll be like, "You're on today! You had this outfit on." [Laughs]
Soap Central: What do they think about Imani? They must have opinions!
Rose: My mom is always like, "Why are you so mean?" [Laughs] But I'm like, "Mom, just give her a chance. She's coming in hot because of the situation, but give her a chance." So, my mom doesn't really like Imani, but she likes seeing me play this type of role, just because it is so opposite of my personality. She loves it. She giggles and sends me emojis with messages like, "Ooohhh, you went off on Amanda today!" [Laughs] She gets a little kick out of that.
Soap Central: I don't know if you thought about being on a soap opera before this, but if you had, is this whole experience anything like you imagined it to be?
Rose: It is what I imagined it to be, but in the best way possible. I knew that soaps film really quickly, and I used to be like, "How do people memorize all this stuff?!" I wasn't sure how the schedule would go, how long between taping and when you'd get your script, so I was like, "How do people do it?" But now I think, "Wow, I can do anything now that I've been on a soap!" It can seem like a lot to someone just starting, but once you figure it out and you get in your zone and you see how other people do it, it becomes okay... I really enjoy it, and I'm learning how to work differently and quicker. It's really a cool opportunity.
Soap Central: What excites you the most about playing Imani?
Rose: I love the fact that I don't know where any of the stories will go. I love finding out when I'm reading the scripts, and I go, "Oh, my gosh -- wait, what?! This is where we're going? Oh, Imani. Okaaay..." [Laughs] That is exciting for me, being surprised with her choices. I love that part. She's a wild card, and I really enjoy that. I can't wait to see where they're going to take her as a character.
What do you think about our interview with Leigh-Ann Rose? Have you been enjoying having Imani on the canvas? What do you hope that the writers have planned for the Benedict family murder mystery and the budding connection between Imani and Nate? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.