Ever since THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS’ Tessa arrived in Genoa City, she’s been a nebulous character, with fans trying to figure out if the dark-haired beauty is someone they should root for or rage at. Considering her bad behavior — stealing Mariah’s private diary to boost her singing career and now blackmailing Sharon, Victoria, Nikki and Phyllis in order to make some quick cash and pay off the human traffickers she’d hired to smuggle sister Crystal into Canada — the needle seems to be tilting these days towards rage! “I find that exciting!” her portrayer, Cait Fairbanks, insisted to Soaps In Depth. “I actually like the challenge of making bad behavior into more of a human instinct. It’s more interesting as an actor to try to take a character that is a villain and try to humanize them as much as possible. It becomes a fun game!”
Of course, it’s a game that can occasionally evoke angry tweets! “It is interesting, because sometimes people don’t just attack the character of Tessa, it turns into personal attacks, which is where I’m like, ‘Wait, wait, wait! That’s not me! I promise you, that’s not me! I’m not hurting Camryn [Grimes, Mariah]. It’s Tessa hurting Mariah!’” shared Fairbanks. “But I think it’s hard because Mariah is such a loved character, and hurting her leads to a negative response. So I do understand the reaction!” Still, the actress is quick to point out that her alter ego isn’t the only one in town who has crossed lines! “I think there are a lot of flawed characters in Genoa City!” she laughed. “If you look back at the history of some of the show’s characters, they’ve done worse things than Tessa, so to see how personal this storyline feels with her and Mariah is very interesting.”
Even though Tessa’s decision to blackmail her girlfriend’s mom, Sharon, put her on Santa’s naughty list last year, Fairbanks doesn’t think her character is so much evil as she is selfish! “Tessa tends to be opportunistic and always takes the quickest action to get what she wants,” she admitted. “But she’s very good at compartmentalizing. With the blackmail thing, it was such a personal betrayal with Sharon, but I don’t think that Tessa ever truly thought about it or thought she’d be found out! Maybe in the back of her mind, she was always going to protect Sharon. She’s like, ‘I never had any intention of making this happen, I just wanted the cash!’ That’s how simple it was. That was her way of rationalizing it.”
It might be Tessa’s way of rationalizing it, but it has certainly created tension between her and her fellow Genoa City denizens, including her sweetheart! Indeed, given Tessa’s penchant for lying, many fans have even begun to wonder if Y&R’s first same-sex couple might be doomed. For Fairbanks, however, the Tessa/Mariah relationship is a lot like all the other relationships in Genoa City! “Look at all those couples on the show that break up and then get back together — Nikki and Victor, Sharon and Nick, Billy and Phyllis,” she reminded. “I think Tessa and Mariah have a bond that goes beyond. Real love is when you do bad stuff, and the other person can look at you and say, ‘I love you despite all those messy bits!’ And Tessa’s messy bits are about self-preservation and her willingness to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. If Mariah can accept that about Tessa, it will be fine. I think there are so many things that bring this couple together. Now that the secret is out, they can be truly honest about who they are. It could be a new beginning!”
For more on your favorite Y&R stars, keep reading the CBS edition of Soaps In Depth magazine!