From the creative mind of The Young and the Restless’ Lauralee Bell (Christine) comes another intriguing and fun web series, Just Off Rodeo. (She previously launched the hilarious Family Dinner). The actress, now wearing three other hats, and might we say quite well, of executive producer, co-writer, and director, has brought to the Internet a new concept she had brewing for over a decade. The idea centers on a clothing store (something Bell has firsthand knowledge of) with interesting and quirky characters that interact, while at the same time, fans and site visitors viewing the webisodes can buy merchandise built into the content of the show! Just Off Rodeo premiered its second installment this past Sunday. You can view the first installment here. The series features a stellar cast comprised of Jennifer Birmingham, Zoe Taylor and Mike Rose. On-Air On-Soaps caught with Bell to get the low down on the new series.
And later in our interview, we catch up with Lauralee on what’s next for Genoa City’s Christine now that Ronan has disappeared, and Nina and Paul continuing to get cozy! Here’s our “quickie” chat with Lauralee, the entrepreneur!
Lauralee, what inspired you to do this concept?
LAURALEE: When I would pitch the concept, I would have people from weird walks of life tell me on a business level, it’s a great idea. I have had it in my head for twelve years that these girls in the series would look different in every episode. They will start looking kind of “plain Jane” and go to extremes. I put in all the things I would want to see. I love watching the red carpet on award shows because of how people reinvent themselves. So I thought, why can’t we do this with every episode? And especially, for Middle America, who just has Target as their option. You have to train your audience to get online to get the merchandise, and make them excited to check it out, as you never know what we are going to sell next week. I would love to have a clothing designer come in and say, “I will design just one item and it is specifically for Just Off Rodeo.” Then they make a cameo appearance in the series. I think there are so many things we could do.
Explain how someone purchases the items they see on the webisodes, and the retail aspect that gives the series a wider marketing appeal?
LAURALEE: In the first episode, we have two scarves available for purchase, and made it simple to explain the concept. In the second episode, it’s all about a white t-shirt and a black t-shirt with our Just Off Rodeo logos, and it’s just a cool t-shirt to wear under a suit. I have to say I have worn it under a business suit and it’s a cool t-shirt. You can see it can fit a skinny Jennifer Birmingham (Danielle) or a size 18 woman. You can see below the episode player two choices for buying the items. You can click on the item and purchase it and it’s in your home within four days. What makes this show so different is the marketing element. It’s very simple… it’s product placement built into the storyline. But, I don’t want the clothing to take away from the story. I just know if you could have bought a simple item worn by the Sex and the City girls and had it at your door in four days, it would have done very well. Plus, we have free shipping in the United States!
You said you were co-writer. Who also helped you write the series?
LAURALEE: My husband Scott’s brother, Matt Martin who lives in Chicago. He has been in comedy classes and writing skits and working with Second City. I had been reading his material before this and thought he was really good. I thought I am going to give him a crack at this. So he sent me the script, and I gave him a little bit of a re-direction, and added a few lines. He sent it back to me, and he got it completely!
One of the standouts in the cast is the hilarious Mike Rose, who plays the hairdresser Rodrigo. His timing is so unbelievable. How did you find him?
LAURALEE: So it’s getting down to the wire and everyone is trying to send me these beautiful Rodrigo’s. But I knew the character of Rodrigo, and they were sending me just these pretty boys. If they don’t have the personality to go with the looks it would not work. My Rodrigo is such an important character now. So Jason Wood was helping me cast this. He told me about this guy, Mike. I worked that day on Y&R and Mike was saying to Jason, “I know I am your guy. I know I am your guy.” So I ran to The Grove shopping center which is right near CBS, and was sitting there at the Coffee Bean looking like an anxious dater! (Laughs) I met Mike and I did most of the talking going, “I don’t know where this is going, but you just need to understand I came up with this in 1999. I have been passionate about the concept. It has moved forward and then stopped. I just need to put this out there. We talked for ten minutes or so, and I said, “Will you do this?” He said, “Yes.” This was the first thing I hadn’t been in as a performer, so I was going to be in complete director mode. I was wearing so many hats in this… creator, executive producer, co-writer, and director!
Are you ever going to appear in Just Off Rodeo?
LAURALEE: I do what I call the Alfred Hitchcock walk by. It’s like if you blink, you might miss it. I wear a mask in the second webisode. You will see it’s sort of a fantasy and I don’t say a word. And, I won’t be in this series moving forward. But, when I created this 12 years ago, I saw myself in it as Danielle, but now I am too old to play the role. Family Dinner I created as well, and I play a main role in it. So I didn’t want it to come off as I am creating another web series so that I can play another role. These two projects are my two concepts and I am done. I hopefully will be able to move forward with one of them or both. But, I am not becoming the webisode girl! (Laughs)
Your clothing store On Sunset is no longer in existence, but from the looks of it and having been at your store before, it looks like the set for Just Off Rodeo. Why the decision to close?
LAURALEE: Regarding On Sunset, I feel it was not a sad thing for me when I closed the store. I feel I had to close it so another door opened. I really desperately needed to do Just Off Rodeo. Because the store has not been leased out yet, I was able to shoot there! Now I can finally explain the whole reason I signed on to opening up a store; because in my mind I was going to get this show off the ground and have the real life store, and the fake store from the web series, and somehow we would incorporate it all.
On to some Y&R questions: What is the status of Christine? Are you done taping episodes or are you still there?
LAURALEE: Yes. I was taping last Friday and was there yesterday, and after that I do not know. And so that is about a month out from airdates when fans will see it. You know, I walked in after having two and half weeks off, into the Nina storyline and no one said, “You’re back!” That was good, as I thought the time I am away was not looking so obvious anymore.
What is Christine thinking about Ronan, who now looks as if he turned his back on every one and vanished after his brother gave him a new lease on life with a life-saving transplant?
LAURALEE: I think, even though Christine is a tough girl and she is prepared for anything, I think she did trust Ronan. I think when her life was here, there, and all over the place, Christine thought she could count on Ronan to be her eyes and ears if she is away, and be that person she could trust. For him to just take off after the major surgery, I am sure she feels shocked, betrayed, and won’t be giving him any second chances. At least I am hoping.
Looks like Christine got everyone’s hopes up again! Have Nina and Chris really made up?
LAURALEE: Nina is her best friend, and Christine keeps getting blamed, even though we had kind of a makeup scene. Nina kind of went back and forth. So I would say it was a mini makeup, until Ronan was gone. (Laughs)
There was a scene where Christine was looking on as Paul and Nina comforted each other in the hospital scenes, waiting for Ronan and Chance to come out of surgery. She looked a little pissed off!
LAURALEE: Does she really wish them well? I mean, I think it’s always weird when people get divorced and are with their new spouses. I think you always feel, in some way, you have that claim on that person. People have a kind of territory thing. I try to leave it as I had played it with Ronan, and how I play it with Paul, which is very neutral. God forbid she should act on one! You just know there is such a deep connection between Paul and Chris. It is funny for me to see Paul and Nina together.
So you are kind of being able to still go in and out of Y&R. What would you say to your fans about what your decision is to keep coming back or not, to do more story on the soap?
LAURALEE: I am really appreciative of Maria Arena Bell and the fans, for being kind of forgiving of me and allowing me leeway. I just can’t do it all. I love being busy doing Y&R, my webisodes, and my other projects.
Now that you have sort of got your feet wet at Y&R again, is there something you would love to do or play as Christine, that you have never done?
LAURALEE: I would love her to do off the wall things. It would be a little out of character, but have Christine be just quirky and outrageous.
In closing, if you were trying to encapsulate for fans what they will get when they watch Just Off Rodeo, what would you tell them?
LAURALEE: I am trying to say, that while my first project, Family Dinner, is very raw, and is something we can all relate to, Just Off Rodeo is a total fantasy about hair and make-up and fun. I really want the audience to get to know the characters. Here are three people who are in this boutique for whatever reason. The one girl is there because her father put it in her lap. The other girl, Kat, has gone to art school and wants to make this work. And Rodrigo wants to be the next Paul Mitchell or Vidal Sassoon. They are going to get a taste of this business they have been given. All of a sudden, it’s going to become a hot place to go to in Beverly Hills. They realize that the three of them together, with all their quirky talents, is what is making this a stopping place for a Lindsay Lohan or whomever, and that is a fun place to shop and be around. I want to show how their success came together. They realize how they need each other and what they have to offer as a team makes it a success. They get charged up and disappointed by the hype and glamour of Los Angeles and the whole scene.
Make sure to log onto www.justoffodeo.com for more series information and to watch the webisodes!