A TYPICAL DAY for Michael Muhney, who plays Adam on The Young and the Restless: causing a woman’s miscarriage; stealing another woman’s baby to make the aforementioned woman think she was still a mother; faking his own death; framing his brother for his murder; committing countless forgeries; faking his own blindness.
IN SHORT, Adam is a one-man wrecking ball. But no matter what the writers have thrown at Muhney, the actor has delivered each time. And he’s having a blast playing the role.
“Playing Adam is like Baskin-Robbins and 31 flavors,” Muhney says. “How could you pick one flavor? I enjoy the whole store. If you’re an actor and you’re offered the part of Othello, you take it.”
The would-be Othello is getting raves from critics and fans alike. “There’s something so delicious about watching a great actor who is having a ball,” says TV Guide’s Michael Logan. “You will follow him anywhere.”
It wasn’t until Muhney took over the rolethat the character really came to life. Actor Chris Engen, who previously played Adam, found the character a little too “out there” for his comfort zone and in June 2009 quit with a day’s notice, leaving producers scrambling to find a replacement. Enter Muhney, who started the next day—albeit begrudgingly.
“I was narrow-minded when it came to soaps,” he says. “I thought it was all about saying ‘Brenda, I love you’ while flexing your abs and sweating.”
Muhney still wasn’t sure daytime was the place he wanted to go; the self-described nomad didn’t want to be tied down to any role for any length of time. He’d already made a name for himself as a regular on The CW’s Veronica Mars and in showy guest-star roles on just about every primetime drama—many on CBS, including JAG, Without a Trace, Numb3rs and CSI: Miami. (“I should own stock in CBS,” he quips, “or vice versa.”)
After the Y&R powers-that-be outlined where Adam had been and where he was going, “I was pretty much salivating,” Muhney says. “Adam was intelligent, emotional, inherently flawed, duplicitous, ambiguous, power-hungry, narcissistic. … I was rubbing my palms together.”
Muhney is “a dangerous force,” Logan says. “The kind of actor who stirs up unconscionable hell on screen and still has viewers begging for more. Like all truly special stars, he never plays it safe, never operates at less than full throttle and never forgets the audience is here to be dazzled.”
Muhney won over most of the show’smost ardent fans as well, despite the havoc the character has wreaked through town. “There are maybe
11 fans who will never get over Adam and some of the things he’s done—and they’re very vocal about it,” says the married father of two. But “I think the audience is seeing his pain; he’s not just a sociopath. Sure, he uses people like human chess pieces. But I do believe he has shown remorse for some of the things he’s done.”
And as the antics continue, Muhney will continue riding the roller coaster of his life. “I feel like I’m on a ride at Six Flags; I don’t want to get off. I feel like every time the [safety restraint] bar goes up, I want to pull it back down on my lap and go again.”
Not that playing one of TV’s most awful human beings doesn’t give Muhney pause and time for self-reflection. “I put a lot of me in the character,” he says with a laugh, “and some days I think maybe too much. I put a lot of me in Adam, but is there a lot of Adam in me? There are days I drive home and think, ‘Am I a bad person?’ ”
No. Just a good actor.