Rumors were swirling among “The Young and the Restless” cast members that two of them would be involved in a lesbian-love storyline.
“Literally the first thing I thought was, ‘It’s going to be me,’” says Camryn Grimes, 31, the gorgeous redhead who plays Mariah Copeland on the CBS soap opera and came out as bi last year. “I don’t know why I didn’t realize I was bisexual back then.”
Grimes was right. And then, along came Cait Fairbanks, the raven-haired beauty who plays Tessa Porter. Thus began the “Teriah” romance in 2017 – a femme-femme love relationship adored by countless Y&R fans, both queer and straight.
“I think maybe one of the first things I said to Cait was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to be making out at some point,’” Grimes jokes. “It was quite an introduction, I’m sure. I’m very blunt and to the point.”
Fairbanks, 28, a straight actress who joined a Zoom call with Grimes to talk to GO, playfully observes: “I’ve made out with so many of my friends.” Grimes adds with a grin: “I think those are the best kind of friendships.”
Both Grimes and Fairbanks – who have a close and trusting friendship in real life that shines through their acting — get compliments about how the lesbian love story has touched fans’ lives, and the queer fan base especially is very invested in the relationship. The actresses even have heard some encouraging words from viewers who say they have had a positive change of heart about lesbian relationships from watching the show.
“It reminds you that it’s not just a job,” Grimes says. “Especially in entertainment — it makes a difference.
“The Teriah fandom is … crazy. That’s been the most amazing part, is getting to see a completely different side to our audience.”
Inevitably, any gay storyline is going to attract its share of negativity and haters, but the actresses ignore it and even avoid looking at the comments on Facebook. Family might alert them about a mean thing someone said, but they don’t read it.
“I’ve been on the show for so long. I know our audience and I knew it was inevitable that there would be some resistance,” says Grimes. She started on the show in 1997 as Cassie Newman, who died in 2005, then returned as twin sister Mariah in 2014. “I have to say overall, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. That’s honestly what I choose to focus on.”
The Teriah relationship started with Mariah and Tessa as friends, but feelings sparked and culminated in a hot kiss in a hotel room that got fans talking. In a soapy complication, Tessa was dating Mariah’s brother, and Mariah was dating a good friend. Then, Tessa – a character that began as shady but is now on the, ahem, (un)straight and narrow – did many hurtful things to Mariah, like lying and stealing.
And therein lies an ironic hypocrisy about any soap fan who argues the immorality of same-sex relationships.
“I’ve blackmailed the family, I’ve stolen from you – but at the end of the day, the worst thing we can do is love each other,” Fairbanks points out to Grimes. Fairbanks is also a singer-songwriter who performs under the name Ginesse.
Then, in a heartbreaking surprise last year, Mariah cheated on Tessa one night after she thought Tessa was cheating on her with a guy. Our hearts warmed when Tessa forgave her, and the women affirmed how much they love each other. Also, like in real life, the couple’s mistakes made them stronger.
“[Tessa] saw that she could hurt someone, and she’d [Mariah] still want to be there. That is why she forgave her,” Fairbanks says. “They are each other’s number-one choice. When you find that number-one choice, you do what you can to protect that relationship.”
Y&R may be a soap opera, which is based on drama, and stable couples are rare. But for now, Tessa and Mariah are a steady, devoted pair in the show’s fictional Genoa City – for now, anyway. Teriah fans will be furious if the Y&R writers split the women up and put them with men.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a soap opera,” Grimes says with a smile. “Just know that if you want interesting, something bad is going to happen eventually.”
Gay couples also are underrepresented in daytime TV, the actresses say, possibly because many traditional viewers are conservative, and soaps might be hesitant to risk alienating fans. The Teriah story shows that these relationships are needed for the soap fanbase.
“Soaps are meant to represent what society looks like, and it looks like all the colors of the rainbow now,” Grimes tells GO.
Playing Mariah helped Grimes identify her bisexuality and come out in 2020, although her attraction to women wasn’t a big deal or a big secret. She’d never been shy about talking with friends and family about this, but because labels can be so narrow, she wasn’t sure she qualified to be called bisexual and didn’t think much about the label.
Her boyfriend, Brock Powell, also is bi, and they talked about this a lot. Grimes hasn’t been in relationships with women, but she’s had her share of intense crushes on them.
“I wish I could have come to this moment sooner,” says Grimes, who jokingly tells Powell: “If you and I split up, that’s the first thing I’m going to do – go straight to women afterwards.”
Even though they both grew up in the open-minded Los Angeles area, Grimes and Fairbanks are grateful that society at large has become much more open-minded about differing sexual identities.
“It’s wonderful that this is being talked about so much more,” says Grimes. “It’s less taboo, and a more open subject.
“I think what people are realizing is, it’s not so black and white anymore,” she says. “There’s a million shades of a million different things and you just add more colors to your palate, more flavors. You don’t have to put yourself in a box so much.”
Grimes advises women struggling with their sexuality to reach out to trusted people and share, and to embrace themselves. She gives this advice: “Celebrate your life and celebrate your sexuality, no matter what it is.”