Soap fans who watched Monday’s and Tuesday’s episode of The Bold and the Beautiful were in for heart-wrenching drama at its best, times ten! That is because as Stephanie Forrester’s goodbye party played out, it just got sadder, and sadder, and sadder, with each little beat and moment played to perfection by the entire ensemble cast and caught on tape brilliantly by the production crew. Of course, the standouts that broke our hearts were Susan Flannery (Stephanie), Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) and John McCook (Eric) who rose to the occasion and did not disappoint in what needed to be a powerful moment in the soap’s history.
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with series executive producer and head writer, Brad Bell, the mastermind behind giving daytime legend Susan Flannery, and her long running character of Stephanie Forrester, a proper exit storyline befitting her and what she has meant to the series and fans worldwide. We wanted to know if Brad felt he delivered what he promised to the audience, if he was deeply affected by the episodes, why the decision to make the party Irish-themed, if there was more to this story to come, and to get his thoughts on the on-screen moment when we saw the passing of the torch from Susan Flannery to Katherine Kelly Lang on yesterday’s episode. Here is what Brad had to say about it all!
Brad, you delivered what you said you were going to do with these very special party episodes where Stephanie says goodbye to her family and loved ones. I needed boxes of Kleenex for the past two days. Did you cry when you watched the episodes back?
BRAD: I did cry. I was just talking to my wife Colleen about this. It really choked me up in many places and I hope that it affected the audience in the same way. She said, “Look, you know these people. You work with them behind the illusions and you see through the illusions, and yet you are getting choked up. The people that are invested in the characters and that don’t have the interaction that you do will be choked up as well and maybe even more so!” But, I do feel like I shot my mouth off and said that we would deliver a great send-off for a great actress and a great matriarch, but I feel like we delivered, and I am so happy to be able to say that.
Were you present on the set during the taping of the party episodes that we saw air Monday and Tuesday? I hear, even the taping of the episodes was an extremely emotional time for the cast and crew.
BRAD: No, I was not on set that day. Sometimes I have to just give it over to the actors and give it over to the directors, which is what I mainly do all the time. And sometimes, it’s best for me to just look at the script three times or so, and then pass it on and let them do with it what they will, and in these episodes they did beautiful things with it.
I noticed in the episode yesterday, there was key scene outside of the Forrester mansion between Stephanie and Brooke. It really felt like the passing of the torch from Susan to Katherine Kelly Lang in the way the dialog had been written. Was that the intent?
BRAD: Yes. It was passing the baton to the most unlikely of people and the lesson in that, if there is one, is that sometimes people you think are your worst enemies can be your closest friends in the end. If you just open your heart and open your mind, and reach across the aisle, you can make wonderful things happen. So in a political year, and a year of turmoil in so many places, we are just preaching that you can find love in the most unlikely places.
During the last few days, everyone was waiting for Ridge to show up! Yesterday, before Stephanie said her goodbyes, he did not. Does this get addressed?
BRAD: Well, it does get addressed. And in this next episode, you will see how it does get addressed. Ridge’s absence continues to play a role in the evolution of the other characters on the canvas.
Many in the viewing audiences thought perhaps yesterday’s air show was the second to last episode of seeing Susan Flannery as Stephanie, before her just announced final airdate of November 26th. Is there more of Stephanie’s story to come before then?
BRAD: There are quite a few episodes left. She and Eric take off and she wants to do things on her terms, and she does until the end and it’s a lovely ending.
One of the moments that just had me moved to tears instantly was when John McCook as Eric took to the piano and sang to Stephanie. What did you think of that moment?
BRAD: It got me and moved me tears. I have seen it now three or four times and every time I see it, it gets me. I know John, and there was just so much genuine emotion there.
So I was speaking to your wife Colleen, and she said that the inspiration of bringing on the musical group, Celtic Woman happened when the two of you were watching the Oscar-winning film, Titanic! However, I never knew Stephanie Forrester was Irish! How come you decided to go that way as the backdrop or theme of her goodbye party?
BRAD: I thought, “What I am going to do that is going to strike a chord in John McCook and Susan Flannery?” I started thinking about it and I thought, “McCook, well that is Irish, and Flannery, she is Irish!” So I thought, why not go to the roots of who Susan is and it will resonate out through Stephanie. Susan has never been that in touch with her Irish roots, but I think she became closer to her roots through this storyline. I think this has been a wonderful way to see an accomplished wonderful actress finish her career on a 25 year run of a daytime television show. It is so special.
Susan’s performance over the last two days of air shows takes your breath away as does Katherine’s. They were terrific. It was almost like the most heartbreaking embarrassment of riches, if there is such a thing.
BRAD: Everybody was spot on and great … from Lesli Kay (Felicia) and Winsor Harmon (Thorne), and on and on. Everyone was so present, because Susan demands that because of who she is.
You originally had been quoted as saying; Susan told you when you write her exit story that she did not want to know what was coming. So in the end, did it end up being a written collaboration between the two of you?
BRAD: No. I would say to her, “Susan, I am thinking about doing…” And she would say, “Ah, ah, ah, Braddy. You’re the writer. Give it to me and I will play it.” And that was it … Susan does not want to be involved in the writing process as much as I don’t want to be involved in the acting side. I can’t do it. Over the years, Susan has earned her respect. She makes the words in the scripts her own, but she takes my ideas and plays them to the hilt.
Do you think these three party episodes were everything and more that you wanted them to be? I know it must be very difficult being the executive producer and head writer, and hoping that your vision comes to its fruition each and every time in the pace of daytime storytelling.
BRAD: Yes. Doing 250 shows a year as we all do in this genre, I am more often left thinking, “What could have been had we had more time?” And with these party episodes, I am just feeling we did what we wanted to do. I am grateful and I loved them just the way they are.
Would you submit Monday and Tuesday’s episodes for your Emmy submission this year for Outstanding Drama Series? In my opinion, you should. It is highly emotional, and it tells a complete story, even though for the viewers there are still plenty of hankie-filled moments to come!
BRAD: I don’t know. (Laughs) I have not thought about it yet! But, that might be a good idea.
So soapers, what did you think of the Stephanie’s goodbye party? Did you reach for the hankies and the Kleenex boxes? What was your favorite moment? Do you feel that Brad delivered what he promised to fans of the show? And if that was not enough, check out the new promo from CBS marking the end of the road for Stephanie Forrester!