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35 June 30th, 2011 Y&R’s Maria Arena Bell discusses Genie Francis, Daniel Goddard, Soaps future & more!

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Maria Arena Bell, the executive producer and head writer of the top daytime drama, The Young and the Restless at different times during Emmy week. We had the opportunity to pose some burning questions that fans and soap pundits have pondered.

Since soap icon, Genie Francis had appeared on Y&R as her new character of Genevieve, many have loved her every moment, and others give a mixed reviews saying she may be channeling her inner Helena Cassadine.  Daniel Goddard, got a fantastic opportunity to come back from the dead playing two roles, or so we thought as Caleb and Cane, and meanwhile Tristan Rogers and Jess Walton are taking off as the soaps veteran “it” couple. So how does the mastermind behind Genoa City see it all? And, after her great Emmy victory for head writing along with her team, during the most difficult times the soap world has ever faced, what does she have to say about the relevancy of the genre? Find out as we talk to the busiest executive and creative force in daytime, Maria Arena Bell!

Let’s talk first about your brainchild to bring Genie Francis (Genevieve) on to the canvas and to Y&R.  Now that you have and seen her on the airshows, is what you had envisioned or imagined with her becoming a reality?

MARIA: Genie is amazing and a real pro.  I put pen to paper and she ran with it.  She is really a brave, courageous actress.  She will go there, and I think it speaks to her frustration in playing one role for so long that she felt limited in it.  It was a beloved soap character, and I loved Laura of GH, too.  I mean, who doesn’t love Laura!  But I think Genie was itching to play a smart, aggressive person who makes things happen.  I think she is stupendous and really sold the story, as has everyone in that storyline.  It really has been fantastic to watch, and I think she is terrific.

People always said, “How are they going to get out of the Daniel Goddard situation?”  And then, “How was Maria going to do it?”  Was there ever hesitancy in you to do another evil twin twist?

MARIA: It was a situation where we needed to make a turn in the storyline, and obviously it’s a storyline as old as the hills.  But in this case, I thought we could mine it, and I wanted to give Daniel the opportunity to play a darker character.  I like seeing him go to that darker place and it’s also a challenge for him.  And in a way, when we talk about acting challenges, most of the time Daniel played Cane as a super nice guy, but every once in awhile Daniel brought an edge to Cane.  I was super impressed with him.  So I was like, this is great to give him this tour de force opportunity.  I think it worked out for him as an actor.

I think Tristan Rogers (Colin) and Jess Walton (Jill) really work well.  Did you know instinctively going in, that they would have such on-screen chemistry?

MARIA: When we brought Tristan on to the show, Jess Walton was the person I wanted to pair him with.  Jess is the most amazing actress, and so I knew if you put her with someone that can work at her level, then she can be phenomenal in a love story, especially one with a twist.  I think she is fantastic, and the two of them are fun to watch.  I think Genie enjoys working with them, too.  It’s a great group of people.

We hear you just got back from your first trip in forever, something that is terribly hard to plan when you are both the executive producer and head writer of a soap! Where did you go?

MARIA: I went to Africa!  I am the oldest of five girls and my dad thought it would be great to take a bunch of teenage girls on safari.  I loved that trip so much and it stuck with all of us all these years.  So I always had said to my husband, and after we had been together for 25 years that I have this idea of going to Africa with him sometime, but he never really wanted to go.  So I convinced him to go.  We even got all the shots to prepare to go and then I said, “I am so busy at Y&R, I don’t know if I can go!”  And he said, “Are you kidding me?  I just got all those shots!  We’re going!”  And in the end, we went and it was incredible.  And since I started back writing for the show several years ago, I never took anytime off, and this was my first week off.  I was worried how the communications would be…. so much that it could be troubling.  But, you could be in the Serengeti and get cell reception!

How do you feel about the state of the daytime soap landscape in the U.S. and internationally, especially with the cancellations of AMC and OLTL?

MARIA: I started out as an All My Children fan in college.  This is a very funny year, where we all felt a lot of heartbreak, in all honesty.  I am thrilled that Y&R won the Emmy for Writing and Directing, but it was great to just be at the Emmys and show the world that there are fans for this genre. There are millions of people in the world that watch Y&R.  When I landed in Tanzania, I go through passport control and this woman says, “Are you Maria Bell from The Young and the Restless?”  And I said, “Yes”, and she said, “I watch the show on the Internet.  I am from a small village and we manage to get the show.”  And she goes, “Is Tucker going to die?”  This was the most profound thing.  These things are valuable assets about the soaps and people need to appreciate it.  I am schmaltzy, but we cannot let the soap operas go away!  Certainly on Y&R, there are people watching here in the U.S. and all over the world.  There is a reason for it to still exist, but this was a rough year.

Tell me how it was to win your first Daytime Emmy for Writing?  And also, if you were to tell fans what is it like on a daily basis to be a head writer of a number one soap with 30 plus characters to navigate what would you tell them?

MARIA: First, it is a huge honor to win an Emmy and my first for writing.  I am first a writer, and this was just so special.  And being a head writer is a lot, because you feel like you are carrying the weight of the show on your shoulders and driving the storytelling.  I make those ultimate big decisions for the larger picture.  So it is challenging, tiring, sometimes difficult… and the most fun to be able to tell the stories you want to tell.  It really is the biggest honor, and I love it!

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  1. PJ says:

    What a load….GF/Gen is an epic fail….and she’s fired a two-time emmy winner in Maura West because they can’t figure out how to utillize her besides throwing her in bed with a man and having them treat Diane like dirt.

    Nice softball questions. Goddard has “edge”? *eyeroll*

    Reply

    Coffeeriser replied

    What love story? People are thrown together instantly without no proper build up, as Jill and Colin were. As a result , as a viewer, you have no feeling for this coupling. Why wasn’t Maura West/Diane used as a rival for Phyllis and she would have been a worthy and a better rival/enemy? Diane Slept with Nick and time and again, and Phyllis should have found out and a cat fight should have ensued between these two witches. Why does Phyllis run all over people, ruined lives, break up other couples, and she gets a free pass time and time again. She gets away with everything, and yet she is allowed to blog about other people, specifically Sharon. She calls Sharon names but she is the one who or cause of Nick and Sharon’s marriage to end in the first place. Y&R is more about villains now and favored to win all the time (mainly Adam, Phylllis).

    Reply

    abcd replied

    I love Jill and Colin together. They had instant chemistry from the start. We just don’t get to see them enough.

  2. kay killgore says:

    Thanks for the interview Michael I agree on Genie I just think she needs to tone it down a bit she is trying too hard. She is a great actress and will always be identified with Laura just take a deep breath and don’t try so hard. As for Goddard next time think before you kill someone off it always comes back to bite you!

    Reply

  3. Sherry says:

    Loved that person in Tanzanina asked about Tucker. I wish she’d give Stephen Nichols and Tucker a more substantial role on the show. He’s a fantastic actor and this storyline he’s in now has such potential. I think Tucker and Ashley are the soap veteran “IT “couple of the show!

    I am sorry Diane and Maura are leaving the show. She’s become an interesting character lately.

    Reply

    liza replied

    I love Ashley, but hate her with Tucker, he’s such a drag. I can never figure out why his life is always such a bummer. He was the worst idea for a new character. GF is annoying but at least she’s not boring.

    Reply

  4. Ruby says:

    Y&R has a gold mine in Daniel Goddard who has been so underused to date. His new s/l is great!! Has really given him a chance to shine. The only problem is they had the big build up to the reveal, that Caleb was killed and Cane was still alive and Colin and Genevieve were his parents then they just dropped the s/l. You can’t keep interest up when you go weeks between scenes in a a s/l. This is a great disservice to Tristan, Genie and Daniel. They need to get back to that s/l and tell all the back story and get on with their lives in Genoa City. The fans are going to get restless again and start another revolt . Yes, we got Daniel back on the show but now we want to see him!!!!!! The writers did a masterful job of meshing the old & new s/ls as far as they have gone but now they need to pick up the pace and tell us more before the ratings begin to drop again.

    Reply

    Suzane replied

    ITA

    Reply

    Val replied

    Disservice is right! The Aussie s/l was great from the beginning, and then MAB just leaves us hanging, not as in a nice cliffhanger that leads to something else, but hanging… wondering… getting frustrated. Poor Colin is left there for days and days, standing on Katherine’s porch waiting to ring the doorbell.

    PLEASE, mab, PLEASE quit writing such “feast of famine” s/l, only shoving the Newmans at us. Give us the Atkinsons/Ashbys more consistantly!

    Reply

  5. Rob says:

    I have to agree, I liked the idea of Genie Frnacis but she spent too much time devouring the scenery.
    The fact that they wasted one of my favorite actresses, Maura West, is just mindblowing. They just made Diane an unredeemable whore that noone could root for.
    They are trying to save face with the whole Godard situation, they fired him. Period. The fans expressed their outrage and they hired him back.

    Reply

  6. harlee says:

    PLEASE I been a viewer of Y&R since it debuted in ’73 and this story with Genie is HORRIBLE and way over the top in the acting department. The Ashbys are swallowing up screen time when we could be watching the other stories that are going strong. We the fans had to go through last year and the bad, bad story telling on canvas and Y&R didn’t deserve the Emmy for best writing it was the worst year I seen on Y&R, including LML time with the soap. MAB is trying to make Y&R into GH and that isn’t what Y&R is all about and what Bill and Lee created. It isn’t like Y&R is burning up the ratings, they are healthier then the other soaps yes, but that doesn’t mean a thing in this atmosphere today.

    Reply

  7. Iakovos says:

    Y&R is not the compelling drama it once was. I accept evolution but I am not sure what we have today is ideal. Too many twins, over-the-top stories that strain credulity even in the soap world, convoluted family ties, and worst of all… too many instances of launching stories and stars then shifting course or dropping the people (Scott? West?). The joy of continuing drama is building the relationships and attention to detail with history. Not sure Y&R is doing that but it is doing something right as it retains is top ratings.

    Reply

  8. Tasneem says:

    Why the writers let Daniel Goddard go in the first place is beyond me . I am just glad he is BACK and he is a magnificent actor . Its about time the writers learned their mistake and see what a talented individual he is now can Marua plz put Cane and Lilly back 2 gatherwhere they belong in each other’s arms and with their babies

    Reply

  9. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the interview Michael! I enjoyed reading every minute of it. Daniel Goddard’s performace as Caleb was FANTASTIC. I smell an EMMY next year for himself and Chistel.
    Thank you to Maria Arena Bell for bringing Daniel Goddard back to Y&R and listening to the fans who watch Y&R. The Young and the Restless is the BEST SOAP on TV. I am enjoying all the storylines at the moment. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer.

    Reply

  10. Martin says:

    I agree with Ruby 100 % !!! Yes, Y&R has a gold mine in Daniel Goddard!! When will TPTB finally realize what a fabulous, amazing and talented actor Daniel Goddard is??
    Daniel Goddard is just the BEST!!!

    Reply

  11. Kelly says:

    I’ve been watching Y&R for a long time and I get a feel for these things. This Gen chick will not last. I think she’ll be back on GH in a year, at best. Bye. They should have kept Maura because she had potential to be a really good thing for this show.

    Reply

  12. Judy says:

    I’m with those that think Genevieve is an epic fail and GF is chewing up the scenery. Contrast that to the nuanced performance that Maura West is giving and I know which why I would much rather be watching and yet we will soon be without Maura. Crazy decision. Perhaps had Genevieve been a smart and aggressive woman it might have worked but instead she is a cartoon like nutcase.

    Quite honestly I think this whole Cane/Caleb story just further damaged the character of Cane. Don’t see it as a huge success.

    Reply

  13. Patricia says:

    Maria A. Bell has totally destroyed LANE, I dont have any idea how she can ever fix this. Daniel Goddard is so amazing to his fans, on facebook and Twitter. She needs to fix this storyline. I love Genie Francis but she really needs to tone it down, its over acting. There is potential here just dont believe MAB is up to the task.

    Reply

  14. liza says:

    I would really like to see Jill and Colin together in something involving business , the other side of Jill’s family, or Katherine. Every time they are on it’s all about Cane. I don’t hate Cane but I’m anxious to see the couple without all this over the top drama. and craziness around them.

    Reply

  15. B says:

    GF hasn’t done much for me so far but I’m still really open to see where it goes once she settles into the role.

    Much like the woman in Tanzania I’d love to see more Tucker time.

    Reply

  16. ario says:

    I’m a GH fan so when i heard GENIE was joining Y&R i was dissappointed, but tune in out of loyalty to genie, especially because frons and guza did her wrong. I thought i would be jelous seeing all those gh actors like tristan, and stephen nichols and even kin shriner, but instead i felt sorry for them,SORRY guys buy Y&R is a bored, genie’s character is over the top melodramatic bore, tristan is boring and well stephen is sleeping on the show, or in a coma, my bad, and kin no matter what character he plays he acts sound and has all the manerism of scotty, so he’s basically playing scotty on the Y&R. I don’t even follow the show and yet their opening credits needs to be updated, isn’t judith chapman like on recurring status, oh wait so is ephiphany and monica on GH, who am i to talk,yet still love you Genie but this new character has no soul, you over act , playing a villian is not your strong suit, and so far this character comes across as to cartonish for my taste, so i’m tuning out, and i’ll wait for you to get tired of playing this character and hopefully u will return to GH. don’t know if you heard but they got rid of that waste of writing talent robert guza, and looks like the new guy will hopefully give GH back its rich history. so for now, i’ll deal with you and tristan working at y and r but pray you return to gh, you two playing psycho villians isn’t cuttin it, sorry…

    Reply

  17. lefty says:

    Colin and Jill are the only reason I am watching Y&R.

    Reply

  18. SouthAfrican says:

    I am still waiting for the buildup of the Ashby/Atkinson story, one minute I see Cane being shot, the next minute he is resurrected as an identical twin Caleb. I still need to see Cane explain to his young wife Lily why he did the things he did to hear *face palm*. Secondly I would like to ask MAB “what happened to Blake, why was he suddenly taken out of the story line”, he seemed to be the only one that irked Cane, if I ever saw Cane on edge so to speak was when Blake was around Lily. Off topic, when will I start seeing a story line on Neil Winters, since I started watching Y&R years ago, I knew of four families the Newmans, Jabots, Chancellors and Winters???? Why do you start storylines without completing them??? Last but not least give me Jill anytime over Genie, I could not get myself to gel with Genie’s storyline.

    Reply

  19. Nia says:

    I’m so sick of all the Y&R hate. I love the show. It’s the BEST soap on the air, and has been for quite some time. MAB is a good writer, and the show is back to its character-driven roots. I’m actually surprised MAB did an interview with the way this guy completely dogs out Y&R on other websites and podcasts…while praising GH, which is totally unwatchable. I grew up watching GH and tuned out a couple of years ago. Y&R I picked up a couple of years ago, and it’s incredible. Even with bad stories, the show as a whole still manages to entertain me. And right now, Y&R is on a creative upswing, and anyone who can’t see that needs a new prescription.

    Reply

    Kalamaty replied

    Amen, Nia! VERY well said! I’m loving our favorite show, and always have. Haters can suck it! :)

    Reply

  20. JT says:

    Stephen Nichols Tucker is a great character. But Ms Bell has abused him and his audience by using him MERELY to BOLSTER the excessively over pampered and over rated. He is the first man on Y&R who made me believe Ashley could be hot. He is hot. What is NOT hot at all is that fact that Ms Bell is under using Mr Nichols and over promoting Victor ad nauseum as well as Jack. Tucker deserved a chance and he has not been given a fair one on the Newman hour. That the Newmans have taken over Y&R has been the decline of this program. The nausiating theme that Victor must win and be inserted everywhere has worn thin. His bellowing and his judgements are excessive and done several times weekly now making this character and this program a farce. Ms Bell can Not pretend she writes character driven stories when characters are not allowed development and only the plot driven drivel of Victor prevails 5 days a week.

    Stephen Nichols deserves better and so do I

    Reply

  21. Julie says:

    I think Genie is GREAT as Gen and I am enjoying every scene she is in. You can clearly see there is more to her character than what she lets the outside world see. Her pain over the loss of her daughter is palpable. I think she is a refreshing character and I hope to see her more and more…especially with Jack!

    Reply

  22. Cori says:

    I love, love Colin and Jill together. They are the reason I watch Y&R. I just wish they would get more air-time. Tristan and Jess have wonderful chemistry. I love how they can do comedy one minute, then turn around and do a drama the next. They are both amazing actors. I would love for them to interact with more of the other characters as well. It would be great to see Jill and Colin take on Victor in some kind of business situation. Tristan also does the ‘buddy’ thing very well (ie. Robert and Luke GH). Colin needs a ‘buddy’! Tucker? Jack? Jeffery?

    Reply

    lefty replied

    ditto!

    Reply

  23. heidi says:

    While I loved hearing about Maria’s excellent African adventure, there are some questions that needed to be asked and answered. Why did she feel the need to kill Cane in the first place? Daniel Goddard and Christel Khalil are so popular and have many fans. Was she shocked at the ratings dive? Is she willing to admit that she was wrong? These are all questions that many want answered.

    I’d also like to know why there is no balance on the show. Why we have days of Newman centered story and not see some other characters for weeks? Why can’t more stories be told during each episode? If I tune in and see it’s gonna be a Newmancentric show AGAIN, I tune out and feel resentment because a week ago Sophia drops a bomb and instead of any follow up, I get day 100 of drunk Billy or more Victor.

    Reply

  24. Ann Curry says:

    Wish you had asked about the mishandling of Maura West.

    Reply

  25. Tanya says:

    Well all I have to say is thank you for Billy & Victoria, Maria they are a great pairing. What she needs to do is balance out her Characters & Stories more, keep the momentum going. No more Dopple Ganger stories though no more please Maria and cut down on the Law & Order stuff and who had done it Stories. She needs to make her stories more realistic and give us a little more humor and romance, it’s always so dark & gloomy. The Cane story still didn’t make some sense to me especially since they say that it’s his Twin who had died on those steps that Day so why did he tell Lily that he loves her huh?

    Reply

  26. BETTYEJ says:

    I think that M. Bell is just like her Brother in-law,Brad Bell. Neither of them have a clue on how to write anything. They both mostly just pick the old scripts off the floor and reuse them over and over.

    Reply

  27. Antoinette says:

    My expectations of the interview were not met as I was waiting for the probing questions around why MAB dropped a popular actor like Daniel Goddard, only to retract after the fans outrage reached mammoth proportions? She was handled with kid gloves and allowed to blather on about her pilgrimage to Africa (all very interesting no doubt) which has nothing whatsoever to do with her appalling record on this show! How this so-called ‘author’ received an Emmy for writing skills is beyond me. She needs to get her head around the fact that viewers have an emotional investment in characters to varying degrees and want to see development through their life experiences. Starting a s/line and then leaving it to flounder is not the way to go. Perhaps she should set more store by the stuff she reads on fan blogs/forums to give her some clue of where to take characters next as she doesn’t seem to be able to do it by drawing on her own experiences. Oh wait, perhaps in the near future we’ll see the Newman family all go on safari to talk out their collective problems?!!

    Reply

  28. sue says:

    I love the story line of Cane and Lily. Y & R needs to be careful – the writers are treading thin waters right about now with soaps being cancelled. The storylines are cookie cutter and starting to have limited substance. Some story lines are being dragged on and on….and for what?

    Reply

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