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The Young & The Restless

Tonya Williams Opens up About Returning to Y&R

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Soap fans love it when beloved characters come back to the show after some time away. And Tonya Williams admitted that people ask her all the time if she would ever reprise the role of Olivia on The Young & The Restless. Unfortunately, her answer is always no.

“The show is fantastic, by the way,” the actress told SheKnowsSoaps. “I left on great terms. I absolutely love the show. It has nothing to do with the show. But I try to explain it like this: Have you ever dated someone for a long time and you don’t want to date them anymore? And you have broken up with them and like, 10, 15 years have passed and people are saying, ‘Would you go back with that guy?’ I’m like, ‘No.’ Because you’re a different person now.”

Williams debuted as Olivia Barber Winters back in 1990 and before her 2005 exit, earned two Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She returned to Y&R in 2007 to make sporadic appearances in the years that followed. The last time viewers saw Olivia on screen was back in February 2012 when she joined the family to celebrate Lily and Cane’s wedding.

The Young and The Restless Dru and Olivia
Dru and Olivia’s sibling rivalry was a Y&R staple.Aaron Montgomery/

“I know that recently the show had reached out — they reach out every once in a while — for the 50th anniversary,” Williams revealed. “And it would have been lovely to do but I could not imagine doing the role. It takes a lot for me as an actor. You don’t just turn up and start reading a script. I don’t know how to explain it… I trained as an actor. I go through a lot of process into who that character is. And that character was someone from 20 years ago.

“And I said to them, I don’t want to do it a disservice,” she continued. “I really feel I left Olivia on a high note and everybody has a great memory. And it would stress me out to think of the weeks I would need to shut down the other things I was doing to focus only on this. I would need to mentally prepare for this character and I just don’t feel I have the chops for it anymore. Or the desire, really.”

Tonya Williams award

Currently, Williams is the executive and artistic director for the Reelworld Film Festival which she founded back in 2001. The annual festival is held in Toronto and celebrates talent from ethnically diverse communities. At the 2024 Canadian Screen Awards, she received the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s Changemaker Award.

“I’m the boss now,” Williams declared with a laugh. “I lay down the law. People are following my directions. I honestly can’t imagine going back to a place where I’m waiting to be told what to do. I’m just not that person anymore. And that in no way puts down actors who decide to stay on. It’s a personal personality that is me. And I really feel at the end of the day, it’s your one life. And I need to make the most of this life and so there are choices that I make that won’t make sense to other people… but they make sense to me.”

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