On Tuesday, I attended the 23rd Anniversary on-set celebration for The Bold and the Beautiful. From soundstage 31 at CBS Television City, long running members of the cast and newbie’s gathered around the cake with one-half of B&B’s original creative visionaries, Lee Phillip Bell, and head honcho Brad Bell, her son. Taking a break from their insane shooting schedule, which in this day of economic downsizing for these thespians, equates to 8 shows in 4 days, they came to this set with smiles on their faces for a job well done. It is that team that is still going as strong as ever showing some staying power in a medium that has seen its darkest days in the past year. Present and accounted for were the show’s original four members, Susan Flannery, John McCook, Katherine Kelly Lang, and Ronn Moss. Adding to the mix were; Jack Wagner, Sarah Brown, Ashley Jones, Brandon Beemer, Lesley-Anne Down, Don Diamont, Rick Hearst, Jacqueline Macinnes Wood, Zack Conroy, Jennifer Gareis, Alley Mills and Winsor Harmon.
First stop, my buddy Ashley Jones, (Bridget) who forgot today was a press day, since she has been juggling a burgeoning primetime television career with her soap opera life. But we did have a few minutes to chitchat about Bridget’s halo coming down after sleeping with Owen, played by Brandon Beemer. She told me the on-air tryst was a surprise to her. “I think I was shocked and it was not what I was originally expecting to happen. I am glad they are giving Bridget an edge, and she was knocked off of her pedestal. She is more human and relatable with a sense of humility she did not have before because it’s eye opening and humbling when you are severely mistaken about something and you do something heinous like that, always.” (In reference to Bridget sleeping behind her hubby Nick’s back). Many women in America would love to get half-naked with Brandon Beemer, so I had to ask, how was it doing the sex scene? “I think we thought this is just crazy and we were both a little concerned about what people would think. Sometimes you get painted into a corner or work yourself into a corner and it does not go right and the audience does not accept it. We trust Brad and so we went with it.” Bridget now has a real thorn in her side, Aggie, played by three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Sarah Brown, and Ashley tantalized me with this statement: “Sarah is such a powerful actress and a stunning performer, and she adds so much to the cast. You can expect a really amazing twist that I did not see coming. Bridget is going to form a pact with someone against her will.” And for Bridget and Nick fans, Ashley says to not give up hope. “There is hope with her and Nick, and marriages do have problems, and there is infidelity and a slew of other things, and people sleep together. But instead of swapping beds all the time, I believe Bridget and Nick will be trying really hard to make their relationship happen.”
Sarah Brown and I got the chance to give each other a hug, since we had not seen each other since our B&B Podcast taping a few months back. I commented to her that Aggie really wants to “stick it” to Bridget, and we are seeing a side emerge in her role familiar to daytime fans who have watched her other soap roles, particularly on GH. “Oh yeah, Aggie wants to stick it to Bridget really bad. I like that. I needed something different and that is what I got. My backbone will come up a little bit and you will get to see who Aggie really is. I think you get to see who people really are in extraordinary circumstances, and because on a daytime drama there are constantly page-turners. You see what the characters are really made of more than you do in real life, where you have to wait for an earthquake to see what your best friend is made of. You can see that with soap characters quickly, but you have to establish that basic human connection to the other characters and relationships and family. I wanted to keep her more neutral and not make her a specific personality type. She is very vindictive and she is needy. I wanted to give her bits of everything and sort of filter it and let Brad decide where he wants to go with it.” And in terms of a romantic pairing with Nick, Sarah says Aggie has her sights set high. But is she a bit delusional? “She wants Nick. She is like, ‘I am having that man.’ She wants Nick but not in a way that is destructive. She wants Nick in a very pure way which is very beautiful to her situation. When she thinks Bridget is betraying her husband, absolutely it’s not about wanting to be with him, it’s loving him and wanting him to know the truth. It’s disgusting to her. At the end of the day Aggie wants Nick to be happy, whatever that equals is okay for her. It’s a really sweet relationship. She loves him regardless of him not loving her back in the same way, and that is like true love. It’s the first time she has ever been able to love somebody in five or six years, and it will get more complicated and it will get more interesting when you see that.”
Recently, the rape storyline and material finally came to an end for Sarah, and to many it seemed wrapped up quite quickly after a long build up to the conclusion. Sarah shared her thoughts on those big scenes. “It was really tough to shoot the night where we run up on the roof with Jack (Wagner). It was discombobulated to shoot it. I was concerned my work was not going to be good. The way we shot it was one or two lines at a time, and that is odd for me. So I didn’t think it would come out well and with that being said, I think it came out extraordinarily well, considering we got only two lines of dialog. I would have liked to see it play out a bit longer, but I really trust Brad Bell and what he is doing and watching his cues.” Sarah has earned a pre-nomination for this year’s Daytime Emmys as Lead Actress but not for B&B but for her dynamic portrayal of Claudia Zacchara on General Hospital. From what she submitted watch out, she could be in the top five when the final nominations are announced in May. “I submitted the material in the hospital before the baby passes away, and she is told that it is not a viable pregnancy anymore. Maurice Benard (Sonny) comes to the room and she explains it to him. So there are scenes with Becky Herbst (Liz), and one scene that ties in very nicely. I chose it because I work with four or five people in that show and the relationships are very different and they stand out a lot… between her husband and her, her brother and her, a stranger and her, and an almost stranger. I like that progression and when I see other actor’s work I like to see them interact differently. It’s a crap shoot, but I asked the fans of GH and they overwhelmingly said that episode!”
I then moved across the room to TV Guide Canada’s pick for “Sexiest Man Alive 2010” Brandon Beemer, and he wanted to clarify his statement that kind of got turned backward on him on the internet about demanding a gym at the set of CBS “I would like a gym here. I did ask for a gym, but I just said it would be less stressful. I am not demanding a gym, but it would be nice if it were in the studio, because we move so quickly. I can’t leave the lot because sometimes we jump from Scene or Item 13 to 34, and so if I leave to go work out, I am going to get a call, “Where the hell are you? And why aren’t you ready?” You have to be here now, because we only get one take. For Brandon, he is coming up on celebrating his second year with the show and he says this experience has differed from his days at Days of our Lives! “I love being part of the show and I did not understand it, because it was such a peaceful place. There were no dramatic scenarios unlike DAYS. I thought, “Wow. This is quiet, and usually when its quiet and boring you think, ‘Ok, there is no excitement,’ but as I was here longer I learned to appreciate it. There are not many egos here, and a lot of people worked so hard and 23 years is quite a feat.” Turning back to Brandon’s recent on-air romp when Owen slept with Bridget, was it all in a days work for the almost always shirtless Beemer? “It was interesting. Ashley and I were trying to figure out how to do it, not to the orgasm (laughs), but the sex part. It happened to our characters and it was a good bombshell, and there are a lot more bombshells to come in the next few weeks, and then some. Owen still loves Jackie way too much to let that go!”
A very preggars, Jennifer Gareis (Donna) and I caught up on her surprise nuptials and honeymoon getaway that for many was a bit of a shock. Apparently, even Jenn! “The honeymoon was impromptu. We knew we wanted to go to the justice of the peace before the baby was born and then my dad said, “If you are going to do the ceremony, why don’t you do it when we are in LA?” I called my husband Bobby, and we decided it would be this small backyard thing at Bobby’s house, but because we thought it was going to rain, we had to find another venue. So we found the roof of the Montage Hotel which was gorgeous, and I decided to do it up. I had twelve people, but I had the cake, photographer, flowers, and it was really nice, and then we went to Hawaii and that was pretty impromptu. I am kind of an impromptu gal because then we did not stress.”
Jennifer tells me that there was originally some gender confusion with her little bundle of joy to be. “I am having a boy, but this was really weird, because the first ultrasound I did the lady said, “I think it’s a girl”. And I was like, “That’s cool. I am having a girl. I always thought I was having a girl.” And then, I went back a month later and they said it’s a boy. It just floored me. I turned to my now husband, and he was grinning from ear to ear, and then I thought, “OK, if he is happy then I am happy.” So what is the oddest thing the prop master is using to cover Donna’s belly on-air? “It’s very odd… things like plants and coffee containers, but they are not quite big enough. I said to props, ‘Ah, guys you really think this is going to cover this? ‘ And then one day they had a vase and the vase needed to be five times bigger. But all in all they have done a good job with hiding me behind fabrics, because we are in a design center in the storyline!”(Laughs).
The man of the hour, Brad Bell, and I hung out and reflected on 23 years and where the show is headed in 2010, but before we got to the big questions, I had to digress and tell him that nothing made me laugh harder than his performance in the show’s anniversary spoof video of the reality series, “Undercover Boss”. “I was in my office in a story conference and Casey, our Associate Producer came in and said, “I need you for about 25 minutes,” and I said, “I told you I would do this, so OK.” So, I put the writers meeting on hold. I had no idea what I was walking into. So he came in with the pants and the wig, and it was all on the fly.” But who was Brad imitating in front of the show’s casting director? Was it one of the current cast members? “In the acting scene, I was channeling Jon Lovitz for some reason. (Laughs). Jon and I used to play tennis together!” Who knew?? Brad then went on to tell me his plans for 2010, the next generation of Forresters and Logans, as you have probably guessed by now. “I am excited about the younger generation. We have it right this year with Jackie Wood (Steffy) and Kim Matula (Hope) as arch rivals, and young rivals.” Now that Steffy is the baddest girl in Los Angeles, and seems to be stirring the pot with anything that walks, I had to find out from Brad, what was the impetus for the switch? “When I got to know Jackie a little better, honestly. (Laughs) I originally wanted to make her into a wide -eyed innocent girl, and as Taylor’s daughter she would be everything good and sweet in the world and it didn’t work. Jackie wanted to play the vixen and the bad girl, and then I realized I had to cast against that. This is what makes daytime so unique and wonderful. The audience analyzes these characters so closely that they know when it’s false for the characters, and in daytime the characters end up merging with the actors because it’s such an organic experience. So I had no choice to write to what Jackie strengths are. It was that strength that emerged when I would watch her between takes, and it works. She is a naughty girl, and that is why I believe in our current youthful group, because it’s hard to find a troublemaker. She does have a heart and soul but she is a problem, and I love telling stories with characters like that.” According to Bell, there is going to be quite the shake-up that will throw many of the longtime stalwarts and other characters in a romantic upheaval, “We have so many unexpected pairings coming up towards the summer of people you would never think would find their way to one another. Fans should look for that in June and July.” Oh, no! Could this mean the cougar storyline between Owen and Jackie could end? “Jackie and Owen are a beloved solid couple in certain ways and they are a little demented, but they love each other. (Laughs) And he appreciates her and worships her, and her life had changed so much because of Owen, and that is something we want to preserve.”
As Brad looks back at these 23 years with the show, you might be surprised to find out what he is most proud of. “I like to think I have taken over some real jewels when I took over as head writer, and it’s nice to think you have been a good caretaker…. like when we went into Stephanie’s childhood and learned she was abused by her father and the complexity of the relationship with her mother. We all knew Stephanie had issues, but now we knew what they were and that made sense. And this was the year of growth for Eric Forrester, he is slow to mature, but he’s a big boy. So I am proud as to how I can maintain and enhance the characters and the relationships on the show.”
Perhaps the most jet-lagged award goes to B&B’s longtime star, Ronn Moss (Ridge). The man literally has been flying back and forth to Rome, Italy for the last ten weeks performing and competing in Dancing with the Stars, Italy. Last Saturday in the season finale, Ronn ended up in second place with partner, Sara Di Vaira. “I was the oldest guy in the competition, and I was ultimately up against a young girl. And the big thing that we realized very quickly is; girls can be led around by their dance partner and the guys have to learn to lead, and my partner can help me to a certain extent degree. But it’s a different way of dancing and that is the big difference on how men and women dance, right? So, I would tape B&B here in LA, and then I would arrive in Rome on Friday morning. When I would arrive, I would learn my two dances for the next night and then do them live on TV for four hours. It’s a four-hour live show and it was more intense than DWTS here. In the US, it’s only an hour, but for me, it’s four hours of surprises…and they were always throwing stuff in!” I asked Ronn, didn’t you just want to walk out and forget it? “In my own mind I probably said to myself over 100 times I wanted to stop. The stress was unbelievable but at a certain point what kicked in was a determination to actually win. It did not start out like that; I thought I just wanted to get through it. And I thought I would be booted out in a certain number of shows, and that would have been fine. But I wanted to do it because it was a hell of a challenge. Towards the end I got this feeling come over me of, ‘Damn, I really want to win this now.’ I am the underdog and I am the one who has the most things against him, other than just public support.”
So of all the dances which was his favorite? “The most appealing dance to me, and the one I gravitated to the most was the Rumba. It was the slow sensual dance, and that is the one that emotionally broke Sara and I down. When we finished the dance we both felt strong emotions. We both realized the show was coming to an end, and I was going to be leaving and we both sort of broke down and lost it. This was the final night and it all culminated there when we finished our dance. I think I may have said something to Sara like, “We did our absolute best. You dance amazingly, and I will never forget this. And all I could do is thank her for the experience.”
With 23 years as now one of the elder statesmen of B&B, Ronn has conflicted feelings on his beloved soap opera. “I have mixed feelings about it because our abilities to do this show have changed so much. We have had to change the way we do things so much. The pace to me has been horrendous… the pace is no longer a fun pace, its 8 shows in 4 days. It’s made it not as much fun at all to do. I am really feeling we are churning them out. Honestly, I don’t know if people can really notice that on-air, and that has to be a testament to the actors and the crew, and everybody working to make this still look like we are doing it as we used to and it still looks good! But, we are all fighting it all the time and it’s something that has to be done for the economic reasons; otherwise, we would not be on the air. 23 years later it’s not the show I started out doing, and it’s a job. It’s a job I will continue doing, but I wish it felt different. We all feel similar things and bear the brunt of it in different ways. Literally, Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke), and I don’t have time to talk. We literally see each other every day on-camera. We barely have enough time to run our lines with each other and we usually don’t. We usually get on camera and run it through once and do it, having not run it through yet. We just don’t have time to have a real social aspect to the show anymore, which is something else I miss. I did not think the show was going to be on this long after we were on for two years! I thought I would go a couple years, and everybody asked me, “Does it feel like it has gone by fast?” No, it doesn’t. Feels like it’s been forever.” (Laughs) But for Ridge/Brooke fans, they have suffered the trials and tribulations with the star-crossed pair for more than two decades, and the couple continues to endure. Ronn tells me it’s all really coming down to the next generation to keep the show current and moving forward. “Katherine and I are basically the more elder parents now, and Stephanie and Eric are more the grandparents, and we are watching the younger kids come up and do similar things that we did. It’s like all of our roles have taken a leap up a step in age. But that is time.”
After quickly woofing down cake (I didn’t) the cast dispersed back to their dressing rooms and sets to perform another episode of the number two soap in the US and the number one hit overall internationally. No matter what, this series continues to find ways through romance, outlandish plot devices, and heavy dramatic tension, to keep its audience somehow coming back for more whether it is in Italy, Australia or Detroit, Michigan!
Till next time, Michael