The Soaps: Tune In Tomorrow

Beth Maitland's current status with "The Young and the Restless" -- the former contract player now resurfaces as Traci Abbott for specific story arcs throughout the year -- is a perfect fit for the actress.

"I am having the time of my life," says Maitland. "There was a period of time when it was uncomfortable for me, because I didn't really have a fit. But in the last 10 or 15 years, there's been a whole shift. Daytime has changed. It's not 'Who is on and who is off contract? Who is in a big storyline and who is not?' It is a group effort to do the best we can to keep the medium active and thriving."

Maitland has also seen a major shift in her character, who over the decades has emerged as the heart and soul of the Abbott clan and the family's voice of reason.

"I love that so much, because Traci used to be the train wreck," recounts Maitland, who first aired as the insecure Abbott sibling back in 1982. "To have evolved into this is so much fun for me. Traci has become this mature, contributing sort of conscience for so many people. She's the person people come to for advice or to get feedback. It's as if my character has evolved into this whole new contributor. I feel like I drive things. I don't mean storyline -- I mean as the voice of reason and the moral compass, as people have described her. I feel like Traci being there keeps everyone accountable."

Added to the story mix has been the return of Marla Adams as Dina Mergeron -- Traci, Jack and Ashley's deadbeat mom. It's conjured up emotional baggage as the Abbott siblings attempt to make peace with the woman who abandoned them as children.

"Isn't she wonderful?" says Maitland of her TV mom. "I think she did her first play on Broadway, when she just finished acting school at 18. She brings that historic commitment to work every day. She's such a talented actress ... a real gem."

Onscreen, Traci has yet to confront her mother about the past. "I don't know. Maybe it's on the table," says Maitland, who would welcome "an actual heartfelt moment where Traci says, 'This is what you did to me. This is how I feel about it.'"

"So far, the timing's been off with the complications of everything that has recently aired and everyone being thrown into action," notes Maitland. "There has been no time to deal with personal things. I'm hoping there will be a time when Traci and Dina discuss their past -- the impact it's had on each of their lives -- and come to terms with it."

Maitland already had a similar moment, a few years back, when Traci and Lauren (Tracey Bregman), addressed "their tormented relationship from their youth," recounts Maitland. "Lauren apologized. Traci accepted her apology. They both got to say, 'We have grown up. Life goes on. Let's make amends and be adults about this. It's over.' I am hoping there might be moment like that for Traci and Dina. But so far, it's been crisis management."

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