Characterization and Portrayal
Goddard described Cane as a "typical Australian, working-class kind of guy who mined opals, raised goats, then went off for travel and adventure to sort of find himself." The character's initial story positioned him as the love interest of Amber Moore (Adrienne Frantz) and the son of Jill Foster Abbott and Phillip Chancellor II, Phillip Chancellor III.
William J. Bell created Phillip Chancellor III in 1976. From that point, he stayed a part of the show's storylines until the character was killed off in 1989. In 2007, former head writer Lynn Marie Latham rewrote the birth of the character by establishing that Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper), Jill's enemy and Phillip II's wife, switched their child with another, hours after his birth. The character was brought back to the show as an adult named Cane Ashby.
Cane debuts as an Australian in search of his birth mother. During that time, Goddard did not want to know the real motives of his character because he did not want that to influence his performance. After the reveal that Jill is Cane's mother came to light, his views changed. "Now, I welcome the information because it adds more color to my portrayal," he said. The initial lack of information made playing Cane difficult since there was an amount of ambiguity over whether he was a good, bad, or in between character. The ambiguity deepened when Goddard read the script revealing that the DNA test performed for Jill and Cane came back negative. "I had never gone to Lynn to ask what's going on," Goddard said. "But I went to her then and said, 'I can play anything I need to, but just answer this one question- am I really Jill's son?' And she said, 'Yes, you are.'" A second test later reflected that. Though the maternity question was cleared up, more ambiguity about Cane's intentions appeared as the character received a phone call from his uncle Langley that hinted towards Cane scheming against Jill and Katherine. The original intent of the call was to show that Cane wanted what was owed to him after being given away. The writers changed directions after the popularity of the character grew. Goddard said he felt the phone call was resolved within the story when Cane sent money to his uncle as part of taking care of him.
The writers detailed Cane as a smart, loyal, and moral survivalist with an edge. They showed that edge during the character's reaction to Amber's betrayal. After that relationship ended, the writers planned on pairing Cane with Michelle Stafford's Phyllis Summers. A scene aired between the characters in the same episode as Cane and Amber's break up. The popularity of Phyllis with Nicholas Newman halted the plans for the pairing. Cane was instead written into a romance with Christel Khalil's Lily Winters. Viewers felt the character lost some of his edginess when paired with her. "I can say, as an actor, that Cane has lost a certain amount of edge, a certain amount of his dynamic," Goddard said. "But at the same time, it's been replaced with a level of compassion, understanding, tolerance, romance, and love...all the things that daytime is really about at its core."
Goddard compared the romance between Lily and Cane to Lady Chatterley's Lover since both characters grow and learn from the relationship. The storylines designed for them included the controversy with the gap in the character's ages, a miscarriage, and a quadrangle with Chloe Mitchell and Billy Abbott. Within the quadrangle story arc, Chloe tricks Cane into thinking they conceived a child together. To make the story work, the writers scripted Cane as less intelligent, a strategy they used previously with the Amber storyline. To keep the character from looking bad, Goddard said he made acting choices to justify Cane's actions. Despite the lessening of the character's intelligence, Goddard said he liked the story because of the originality of the plot. Love triangles and questioned paternity happen regularly in soap operas, but he felt that head writer Maria Arena Bell managed to make those conventions fresh and new.
In 2008, Bell took over as head writer of The Young and the Restless. A storyline she readdressed was the phone call Cane received from Langley. In her revised version of the story, Langley is really Phillip Chancellor III, portrayed by Thom Bierdz. The show kept secrecy around the twist by sneaking Bierdz in to shoot scenes and asked that he not tell anyone of his return. Goddard told Soaps In Depth he liked the story twist because it added another dimension to Cane. "This change will allow another metamorphosis to begin, another development and evolution of Cane..." he said. "Cane has always been a three-dimensional character, but now you will see a fourth dimension, because you will finally find out where he's coming from and who he is."
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“From the oyster to the eagle, from the swine to the tiger, all animals are to be found in men and each of them exists in some man, sometimes several at the time. Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us to give us food for thought.”
—Victor Hugo (18021885)