My Casting Story: Kelsey Wang on ‘The Young and the Restless’
From Susan Sarandon to Laurence Fishburne, a number of A-listers have gotten their start on daytime TV, and for this installment of My Casting Story, we wanted to talk with someone who landed their biggest role to date in the genre. With a rigorous filming schedule, Kelsey Wang made time to sit down with Casting Networks and share how she won a contract role on The Young and the Restless, complete with the high-stakes casting classic of an in-person test for the network.
It’s great to virtually meet you, Kelsey, and before we dive into your casting story, I’d love to hear how you’d sum up your character Allie.
She is a new character on The Young and the Restless this year, and for those unfamiliar with the show, it’s essentially a combination of This Is Us and Succession. Meaning, The Young and the Restless explores the personal lives of the members of several big business dynasty families. One of the big rivalries on the show is the Abbotts versus the Newmans, and I play the granddaughter of Jack Abbott, the longtime patriarch of the former. Allie is the daughter of his oldest son Keemo, who was estranged from Jack. So, my character grew up in Vietnam not knowing anything about her grandfather, and vice versa. She moved to the U.S. after her parents’ divorce and winds up in Los Angeles. When Keemo passes away from a heart attack, Jack finally learns about Allie’s existence and goes to LA to find her. My character’s story starts from there, when she finds out that she is related to the Abbotts.
That would be a big surprise!
Yes, and the rest of the Abbotts are also of a different race than her, so it all throws Allie for a big loop as she tries to find herself within her newfound family. This contract role is incredibly important for representation of the Asian American community on daytime. It feels like a big milestone, and I only have amazing things to say about CBS and The Young and the Restless for creating this role. Plus, I’m excited for everything that’s to come with the character since she’s rooted in a legacy family connected to so many different storylines within the show.
Thank you for that insight into what the role means and its impact. What can you tell us about the process of booking it?
Everyone has a different story, and I feel so lucky with mine. I had done General Hospital, so I was familiar with the pacing and style of soaps. Then I took a break because of Covid, as well as personal reasons, and I didn’t really come back to acting until April of last year when I got to the final stages of casting for the lead in a Netflix series. The whole process took about six weeks and involved a lot of chemistry reads and sessions with the director. I was really excited because it was going to be a huge opportunity and the character was so dynamic — I really thought I was going to get it. And then they decided to go with another actress who was a star name. I was heartbroken, and it took me awhile to get past it.
That is understandable.
But, they say that everything happens for a reason, and I got the audition for The Young and the Restless a few months later. I wouldn’t have been available for it had I been on the other show, and it felt like an amazing opportunity to be a part of what they were doing with introducing an Asian American character that was a contract role. Funnily enough, though, I actually thought the self-tape I submitted for it was horrible. But casting said they loved my read, and the whole audition process felt like it snowballed quickly after that. About a week and a half later, I was doing a network screen test for the role, which was my first time experiencing that. You go to this small theater room at the network and see four other girls your age that look similar to you waiting outside it, too. And with my particular experience, I have to say that the casting director, Nancy Nayor, was just amazing. She had us all rehearse once with her so that we were warmed up before going into what was a pretty intimidating room.
There were about 10 people from Sony and CBS in addition to the showrunner, the writers, the Covid compliance officer, etc. All in all, the room was just filled with people, but then you also had this giant light in front of you, so you couldn’t really see anything. And then in walks Peter Bergman, who plays Jack Abbott and is just this legendary actor. I was the last to test of all the actresses, so I had plenty of time to get fully nervous before walking into the room! [Laughs] But, Peter and I just hit it off — there was an instant connection. He actually reminded me of my own grandfather, which helped me a lot during the read. They also had me share a little bit about myself during the test, which I think made a difference. I’ll add that for a long time, it had been hard for me to just be honest and authentic with my story. I had a whole different life before acting, and it took me awhile to be open about it because I thought I had to fit a certain mold/experience to be an actor. So, this experience actually showed me that being truthful and authentic about who you are is always the best route to go.
That’s such a beautiful message to share. And before we wrap, could you tell us a little bit about your filming experience?
The shooting style is essentially multi-camera drama — they’re using four cameras and it’s all incredibly fast. You have one dress rehearsal, and then they shoot one take before moving on. That’s why they say that daytime is such good training. You have to come in prepared with your choices and be ready to play with the other actors. Plus, shooting with Peter and the other veterans provided some guard rails for me of what to do and what not to do. They were all so open and helpful, which isn’t always the case on set. Peter especially took me under his wing, and our onscreen relationship of grandfather and granddaughter is actually very similar to the sort of mentor/mentee relationship we have offscreen.
Before the interview concluded, we asked how booking the role had impacted Wang’s career so far. “It’s a long-term contract role, which is definitely the most sizable thing I’ve booked to date,” she shared. “There’s a big story coming with Allie, and playing her has already so impacted my growth as an actor. I’m constantly learning and pushing myself every day.” Those interested in keeping up with her acting journey can find Wang on Instagram, where she has a highlight on her page dedicated to her The Young and the Restless character.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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