The Bell family has a lot to celebrate over the next few weeks as this week The Bold and the Beautiful turns 23 and next week The Young and the Restless turns 39.
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with the executive producer and head writer of Y&R, Maria Arena Bell, on the silver carpet of B&B’s anniversary shindig to get some quick thoughts on the some of the series latest casting coups, how her art world and soap world have collided, and a preview of what is to come in Genoa City.
Performance artist, Kalup Linzy recently did an interview with you for The Huffington Post. The two of you and James Franco seem to all be intertwined now. First from the art world, and now the soap opera world … or vice versa!
MARIA: That was the most amazing thing. When I met James Franco I kind of thought, I was one of the few people involved in the contemporary art world and soap operas, until I met James. In fact, the big major sequence that was part of his storyline on General Hospital was shot at MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art). I was there that night wearing my MOCA hat and seeing what General Hospital was producing. It was sort of an ironic situation. I met Kalup before they ever went on GH, when they were sort of thinking about how they might do a project within soap opera. I think Kalup is a very talented artist. James Franco is also a very serious artist and in fact, MOCA is really excited. We are doing another project with James Franco, and it’s called the Rebel Project and that will be opening very soon here in Los Angeles. It’s based on the movie, Rebel Without a Cause.
James enlisted the help of other major contemporary artists to collaborate with him on this. It’s almost like a performance art meets installation art, and it should be really brilliant. What I like about what James and Kalup did, was that they were actually very respectful of the soap genre. I was afraid that they would mock it, but it was not mocking at all. Especially, not Kalup, because he is the biggest soap fan. He is a huge Y&R fan, and he is adorable. The whole experience was fun.
Do you think you would bring MOCA into The Young and the Restless with a big location remote as General Hospital did?
MARIA: It’s interesting, not necessarily MOCA, but we have had contemporary art stories on the show. We had Victor with Sabrina, and she was his art consultant. Then we had Devon collect a piece by Shepard Fairey. Shepard is someone I know though MOCA because we did the Art in the Streets show. We like using a little touch of art on Y&R, as it sort of rounds out our world in Genoa City.
How is it having all these very popular and well-respected and beloved All My Children actors now over at Y&R? I am referring to Darnell Williams (Sarge) and Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) and Debbi Morgan (Harmony). Look at the talented array of people you have added to the cast.
MARIA: It’s incredible and it’s a total, total dream team, and to add to the incredible actors we have as our core characters. We have always had the greatest cast. Then you bring in a few of these people to add to the cast and add new dynamic stories, it’s amazing. Darnell is just fantastic. I really wanted to play him in a very different way than Jesse Hubbard from AMC. I think that is the same thing we have experienced with Debbi. Debbi’s character is very different, than who she was as Angie on AMC. I think Debbi was very anxious to do that, and to play someone who was not always the “nice gal”. She wanted a breath of fresh air and that is also what Genie Francis (Genevieve) wanted. She wanted to bring something new other than Laura from General Hospital. These are actors I have watched and admired for years. I am a soap fan. I watch all these shows!
Will we see Darnell’s character evolve and have legs? Is there a plan in place for him?
MARIA: Yes, you will. What I really love is that viewers are going to see him really bond with Jack Abbott. One of the things on a soap you don’t get to play as much is friendship. You don’t usually get to play the deep bonding between two guys. I think it’s so important for the audience to see that. I think this is going to be an important friendship for the both of them. I feel that Darnell will be with us for a long-long time, and so not to have him right off the bat with a romance, but to instead really have him in a bromance! (Laughs) I really liked that idea. Sarge is really tough on Jack, and he is going to help him make some progress.
Let’s talk a minute about Catherine Bach. Now that really caught me by surprise. Where did the casting idea come from to make Daisy Duke, Chelsea’s mom?
MARIA: I love Catherine Bach. I know her because our children went together when they were in pre-school. I also know her personal story. I was at her husband’s funeral when he passed away. I knew the fun side of Catherine. I knew that Catherine was this very dynamic and fiery person, and that she is a talented actress. So when we were looking for a mother for Chelsea, I was: A) always struck by the idea to bring Catherine to daytime, and B) That Catherine and Melissa Claire Egan have this very striking resemblance and that they really do seem like mother and daughter. I don’t know if you have noticed, but she and Melissa are very connected. When I met with Catherine about the role, I said to her, “Wait till you meet Melissa Claire Egan. You are going to see that she is going to remind you of yourself!” And Catherine said, “Oh my Gosh. She really does!”
What can you preview for spring on The Young and the Restless?
MARIA: We are going to see the struggle that Jack Abbott is facing, and the obstacles he has and his fight to overcome them. There is going to be a lot of unexpected romance. There is going to be some interesting movement in the boardroom as well as the bedroom. A very Y&R move! (Laughs)
Finally, look at the accomplishments of the Bell legacy that we are celebrating. Y&R is turning 39 and B&B turns 25!
MARIA: Everyone at Y&R just celebrated our 39th Anniversary the other week, and we are thrilled to be 39 officially on March 26th. Our 10,000 episode is going to air this summer. That is a huge milestone and next year will be 40 years. And 25 years of The Bold and the Beautiful is amazing. I went to work there in 1989. It’s really exciting to see and I think it’s fantastic.