Although THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS’ Beth Maitland has been playing Traci Abbott on and off for nearly four decades, she admits that it was still a special thrill to see her face back in the opening credits. “This is a catchphrase, and I want to say it with all the gravity that I can put on it — I was over the moon!” she said to Soaps In Depth with a laugh. “It’s been a long time coming again. I don’t think I’ve been in the opening credits for about 20 or 25 years!”
In the past, spots in the opening credits were reserved for actors who were on contract, but Maitland says that there has been a policy change, which allows cast members who are recurring to be featured in “the opening credits if they are in that show — which has been to my good fortune. We’ve seen Traci come back for family events and then go again. It’s usually a month at a time — a month here, two or three episodes there, a holiday, whatever. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been used regularly a little bit more, which is a tremendous blessing. I am so grateful! I’ve had so much fun sort of finding my legs again and feeling much more part of the community instead of a visitor to it. I feel part of the family again!”
In fact, one could argue that Traci is the beating heart of the Abbott family and perhaps the moral compass of Genoa City. Maitland said it’s a mantle that she will gladly wear. “I think in the older days, Katherine Chancellor was the moral center of Genoa City. She was the one who would tell it like it is, even with Victor. When he’d come in, she would say, ‘Old friend, I have a few things that we need to discuss,’” smiled the soap vet. “It’s sort of the blueprint of every soap — you need bad guys and good guys and those who are tempted. But there has to be a fulcrum to that teeter-totter. For the Abbott family, it was John, and for Genoa City as a whole, it was Katherine.
“To me, that’s what makes soaps human,” she continued. “It maintains the balance to a family, to a community. It makes everyone accountable for their actions. Somebody has to say, ‘That’s not right!’ I love that that somebody is me!”
Maitland believes that Traci’s transition to becoming the town’s moral authority figure is a logical development. “She was not the one who pursued a career in beauty in her family’s company,” she reminded. “She was not the one who felt confident and sure of herself. She learned with hard knocks and had a different experience than her gorgeous sister and her handsome brother. Traci struggled to find her way, so now she’s someone who has earned her place honestly and can give advice. She can be trusted.”
And when Traci offers advice, she does so without being judgmental. “That’s really important to me to make sure that line isn’t crossed,” said the Emmy winner. “Traci needs to be that loving spirit. She can hold you to a course, but she can’t judge you for it. And she won’t.”
Maitland confessed that Traci’s refusal to cast the first stone has been colored by her own life. “I haven’t been through Traci’s struggles exactly, but I have found that life certainly hands out things that you don’t expect. It’s not easy for anyone, and the people that it has been easy for [at first] usually at my age find themselves in a jam because they haven’t come to terms with so many things. So, judgment can’t be a factor in our lives or in my portrayal of Traci. Judgment shuts down people, and Traci’s purpose is to keep everyone open and thinking.”
Such a generous spirit has made both Maitland and Traci beloved by fans. In this, too, Maitland is quick to give back. “I am in my 38th year on the show, and I have fans who have watched me since the first day and still communicate with me through social media,” she said with a smile. “I’ve gotten to know them a little bit over the years and the miles. And their gift to me is as great as they say my gift to them has been!”
For more from your favorite Y&R stars, keep reading the CBS edition of Soaps In Depth magazine.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine