Paul Williams is a fictional character on the American CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless. Introduced by show creator William J. Bell, he has been portrayed by Doug Davidson since May 15, 1978. Upon the character's introduction, Paul was a "bad boy" who had a romance with Nikki Reed (Melody Thomas Scott), who he gives an STD. The relationship ultimately ended, whilst the two have remained friends since. After a year on the series, Bell gave the character a proper backstory, surname and family. This included his notoriously unstable sister Patty Williams (Stacey Haiduk). After a failed marriage to April Stevens (Cynthia Eilbacher)—who gave birth to his daughter Heather Stevens (Eden Riegel)—focus turned towards Paul's career as a private investigator, as well as his relationship and eventual marriage to Lauren Fenmore (Tracey Bregman), which also ended. Paul's string of unsuccessful romances with women—including his ill-fated bride Cindy Lake (DeAnna Robbins) and client's wife Cassandra Rawlins (Nina Arvesen)—continued. Over the years, Paul continued to become heavily involved in various storylines as a private investigator.
The character's most prominent love story occurred when he married attorney Christine Blair (Lauralee Bell). The couple faced various challenges together, with their first marriage ending as a result of his affair with the psychotic Isabella Braña (Eva Longoria). The affair produced Paul's son Ricky Williams (Pete Porte); Isabella was admitted to a mental institution and Ricky grew up away from his father. Years later, Paul established a relationship with his daughter Heather, who returned to Genoa City (now an adult) as a lawyer. The character faced confronting storylines when a troubled Patty returned to town and began wreaking havoc, before ultimately escaping from a mental hospital. After years away, Paul's adult son Ricky returned to town and it was revealed that he, like his mother, was mentally unstable. In a controversial storyline, Paul was forced to shoot and kill Ricky to prevent him from killing Eden Baldwin (Jessica Heap). Paul has since assumed the role of police chief for the GCPD and remarried Christine.
Paul is characterized as "luckless in love" by the Sun-Sentinel, with Global Regina noting that he is always striving for justice. Davidson's performance of Paul has garnered him acclaim from both critics and audiences, having emerged as one of the soap opera genre's most popular actors. Davidson's high Q Score has allowed him to be recognized as daytime's most desirable performer; although TV Guide has labelled him "underrated". Similarly, Canyon News described his performance as "understated", yet "overpowering" and "strong". TVSource magazine stated that the actor has maintained "raw honesty and conviction" in his portrayal. The storyline in which Paul was forced to kill his son earned Davidson a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, having previously been nominated for this award twice. Additionally, Davidson has claimed three Soap Opera Digest Awards from six nominations. Currently, he is the longest-tenured actor present on The Young and the Restless.