‘The Young and the Restless’: Remembering Michelle Stafford and Victoria Rowell’s ‘Spit Take’ Seen ‘Round the World

It’s been years since former The Young and the Restless star Victoria Rowell appeared on the set as Drucilla Winters. The actress went on to other projects, primarily centered on highlighting and advocating for minorities in entertainment. Still, fans of the long-running soap remember one pivotal scene between Rowell and co-star Michelle Stafford that involved a “spit take.” Here’s why that particular moment is more relevant — and controversial — today than ever.

Victoria Rowell claimed Michelle Stafford’s ‘spit take’ was ‘premeditated’

'The Young and the Restless' cast
‘The Young and the Restless’ cast | Tony Esparza/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

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From 1990 until 2007, Rowell remained a part of The Young and the Restless‘ primary cast. Rowell’s character, Drucilla Winters, led the Winters family with her rags-to-riches storyline. She and on-screen husband, Neil Winters (the late Kristoff St. John), soon became fan favorites.

In real life, Rowell’s exit came after a series of what she calls “racially charged attacks” that spanned her years on the set of Y&R. The incidents were so bothersome that Rowell filed a lawsuit against Sony and CBS Television Distribution.

She claimed she wasn’t re-hired as an act of retaliation for her “public and private complaints regarding the lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera on the show,” according to The Wrap.

While Rowell included multiple examples that contributed to her distress, there’s one in particular that fans might remember.

“During the scene, as Dru is about to tell Phyllis she’s her boss, Michelle [Stafford] elected to freely pick up the mug, fill her mouth with water, and spew the contents therein on me,” Rowell said in a 2010 TV Guide Canada interview via Michael Fairman TV.

She continued: “You could hear a pin drop on the set. No one moved. Dead silence. Michelle began laughing hysterically and couldn’t stop. In fact, Michelle ruined the tag of the scene because it was supposed to end on her, but she couldn’t refrain from laughing.”

Rowell said that action was “premeditated” and alleged that former co-executive producer Ed Scott encouraged Stafford’s move. Rowell added that Stafford then said, “You are a freak, and no one here likes you.”

Fans remain divided on the ‘rivalry’

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Rowell’s been outspoken over the years about the way the network (and show) handled her exit and character.

“It was cold and callous to announce they were looking for a cheap Dru version in just one breakdown paragraph. It minimized 17 years of blood, sweat, and tears in a breakdown that clearly is describing my character, Drucilla Barber Winters,” she said in the same interview.

She continued: “It’s like taking a painting and taking over that painting by throwing new colors on it. It’s outright plagiarism, but because they own the character, they have the legal right to paint over a masterpiece.”

In Rowell’s numerous interviews, she has highlighted the racial disparity and treatment of black cast members on the set of Y&R — with the “spit take” as one of the bigger examples.

Fans of The Young and the Restless remain divided on what really happened during filming.

“I find it interesting that VR is criticized for standing up for herself in real life, yet a vicious character on a tv show (Phyllis) gets all kinds of kudos for ‘supposedly’ standing up for herself, however illegal the crime,” one fan said via The Young and the Restless message board.

“I think it’s a form of disrespect to have someone spit on another person, acting or not. Victoria had every right to stand up and demand an apology because the act was unacceptable,” another added.

“The clip clearly shows MS did not spit on VR… she spits her drink out…This is part of why VR is not welcome back. She totally overstated what happened,” another viewer pointed out.

Only those present know exactly how things went down that day. However, the scene remains one in which fans of The Young and the Restless will never forget.

Are Stafford and Rowell friends now?

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The “spit take” scene aired many years ago. However, that doesn’t mean all relationships have healed. Stafford has explained her version of that scene, saying when she pitched it everyone agreed it would be a good choice.

“Unfortunately, some of the spit got in her face. Technically, I guess I did spit on her, but it’s not true that I did it on purpose. That’s what happened. You can ask the director,” she said via Daytime Confidential.

She went on to describe how she thought their relationship moved past the previous tensions.

“I saw Vicki recently and we had a pleasant talk about my daughter,” she said. “Before I left the show I even picked her brain about adopting. I valued her knowledge because of her history [with the foster care system]. Listen, I really consider ourselves friends. It’s hurtful to me that she would say anything bad about me now. I don’t understand it because I thought we were OK.”

She continued: “She’s a fantastic actress. I loved working with her. There was one point I didn’t like so much, but overall, I thought we worked really well together. If I didn’t like Victoria, I’d probably not go on the record about this and just issue a no comment. Usually, no comment means, ‘Oh, I have a big comment.'”

Rowell tweeted in response to Stafford’s comments.

“Michelle Stafford admitted in TVGuide Canada, the disgusting tactic to spit on me while I worked on CBS stages was premeditated & complicit,” she said, garnering support from fans.

Regardless of how Stafford remembers the incident, Rowell’s feelings over that day still linger. It’s unclear where their friendship stands now, especially with racial tensions high. Rowell has stayed busy uplifting underrepresented voices while Stafford enjoys a return to Y&R after years away.

Only time will tell to see whether the two stars work together again.

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS.