November 26th, 2012  |  Leave a comment

The John McCook Interview – The Bold and the Beautiful

Photo Credit: Getty Images

For the past 25 years fans of The Bold and the Beautiful have witnessed the ups and down of the show’s patriarch and matriarch, Eric and Stephanie Forrester.  And now with the departure of series star and multiple Daytime Emmy winner, Susan Flannery (Stephanie) a new chapter will begin, but not before viewers, the characters and the actors themselves are put though the emotional ringer of having to say goodbye to this soap icon, and central figure to B&B’s ongoing drama.

And while Susan Flannery, and rightfully so, is receiving all the accolades for her bravura final performances, it is her on-screen partner John McCook (Eric) who has been doing some of his most subtle and heartbreaking work of his career.  So what does John think the on-screen death of Stephanie will mean for Eric?  A new lease on life?  A deep grieving process?  You will find out as On-Air On-Soaps sat down with John in his dressing room to get him to share his thoughts on the end of a 25-year plus on-screen relationship.

From Stephanie’s goodbye party to Susan and John’s final scenes, one thing is for certain; John feels a tremendous amount of respect for what Susan Flannery has meant to B&B and to the genre.  However, as one door closes another one opens.  Hopefully, this will give John the opportunity to explore new story arcs… and as he expresses, after the dust has settled… with the stunning departures and losses of both Ronn Moss (Ridge), his on-screen son, and Susan, his on-screen wife.  The series is turning the page, but not before we all have a very good cry.

MICHAEL:

John, what did you think when you found out that there was going to be an on-screen party celebrating Stephanie’s life, which for all intent and purposes was going to be the vehicle for Stephanie, and for Susan Flannery, to say goodbye on-air to all the characters?

JOHN:

Courtesy/CBS

The premise of the party was Eric wanted to throw her a celebration of her life.  Stephanie originally told Eric, “I don’t want to have a party.  Everyone will just sit around and cry.”  And he said, “No.  Not like that… a real celebration of your life while you are still here to enjoy it.”  So she decides to go for it, and then Stephanie comes up with the idea to handwrite invitations to people that she loves and that she wants to be there.  So, she hand-delivers them personally to people, which was a wonderful device for our show, that as she delivers them to different people we see flashbacks of her with whatever character Stephanie is delivering the invite to.

MICHAEL:

Have you gotten to see any of those episodes?  The one where she delivers the invite to Brooke, and the performances of Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) and Susan was fantastic.

JOHN:

Yes I have.  It was a great opportunity to indulge in these flashbacks, instead of just sticking them in when she is dead.  So instead of having a party where we go back and look at all of that, we do that beforehand.  Eric is kind of the host and is the ringmaster of the party.  He says to the guests, “No long faces!  No crying.  I want everyone to enjoy themselves.  I know this is a difficult thing.”  But then he sits down and serenades Stephanie at the piano with When Irish Eyes are Smiling, and then starts to cry himself.  He does a short little rendition of it, but quietly, and it’s sad.  And then Eric hired Celtic Woman, who came from far and wide to be at the celebration, and he brings them in from outside and they come in to the party and sing.

MICHAEL:

Did you know before this arc of the story that Stephanie was even Irish?

JOHN:

Courtesy/CBS

Well, I could tell from time to time with her temper! (Laughs) And, she can drink like an Irishmen! (Laughs)  Brad Bell, our executive producer and head writer, said to me one day up in his office, “You’re Irish, right?”  And I said, “Yeah. some, but I am Scottish mostly.”   Brad replies, “Good, because we are going to do this party…”   It wasn’t exactly out of nowhere, but it was. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Is Eric breaking inside?  This has got to be so deeply painful for him dealing with the impending death of his beloved, Stephanie.

JOHN:

He and Stephanie decided to commiserate a lot before the party.  We see them in the doctor’s office.  They heard the news that her cancer had returned.  They are mourning together.  And as a couple and a team, they decide they are not going to do that anymore.   They decide, “Let’s show everybody that we can rise above this.  Let’s be matter-of-fact about this, and try to get everybody to be as joyful as humanly possible.”  Is he dying inside?   Of course, but only very little.  It’s very important for him to have this whole thing be a celebratory thing for her and for everyone.  They want to leave the party at the height of it, and they do.  So Eric and Stephanie say goodbye, and everyone realizes it’s the last time they are going to see Stephanie, and she says, “When Eric comes back, he is going to be by himself.  You are going to need to help him.”  And, oh my goodness, we leave and we go away and she doesn’t return, and there you are.  I am very pleased by the way that Brad and the show was able to handle this, and that Susan Flannery was gracious enough to be selfish as an actress in a good way, and that is to say, she said, “I want to play this!  I don’t want you to sweep her death under the rug.  I want you to kill Stephanie Forrester.  I want to stay here and play it out, so that we have really wonderful drama.”  Brad then rolled up his sleeves and created a really terrific way to salute her character, and salute Susan.

MICHAEL:

How was it for you and the rest of the cast to step on set and film those heart-wrenching and emotional goodbye party episodes? 

JOHN:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

This was real and those feelings were real, when we look at one another in the scenes and indulge in the reality of losing our friend.  It wasn’t just the characters losing Stephanie; it was also all of these actors losing Susan as an actor and everything else she brings to work.  Susan brings a great deal to work.  She takes up a lot of room, and she makes choices and she forces you to believe what you need to believe in a scene, and you argue with her if you think you are right.  If you are right, then Susan will let you do it in a scene.  But Susan is probably one of three of four most knowledgeable actresses on daytime television for this genre.  What she knows about this type of material is more than all of us combined.  I really give her that credit.

MICHAEL:

How was the taping of your final scenes with Susan?

JOHN:

It was wonderful.  And as the two old war horses that we are, we love it when it is real.  We have years and years of manufacturing, in our way, big emotions and big love, and being actors together.

MICHAEL:

Will Eric go through a deep grieving process?

JOHN:

So far, yes.  When you lose a character like Ridge and you sweep it under the rug until you decide what to do, it’s not very fulfilling and it’s unsatisfactory.  The audience is going to mourn the loss of this Stephanie character like crazy.  You don’t sweep that under the rug.  You mourn with them, and show how Eric mourns the loss, and how Brooke mourns her loss, and how Pam mourns her loss.  These characters all of had relationships with Stephanie.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

There have been some recent scenes between you and Alley Mills (Pam) that have been very sweet.  There was one in particular where Eric held her when she started to cry at work after Stephanie delivered more invitations to the party.  Could it be that Pam and Eric could eventually develop a romantic relationship coming out of their grief and loss for Stephanie?

JOHN:

I think Eric and Pam will continue to enrich the relationship that they have, whatever that is.  We wanted to indulge in that at the beginning when Pam first came on the canvas.  At that point, they started to write a competition between the sisters for Eric.  But then we got away from that.  Pam is very sad about losing Stephanie.  She says to Eric shortly before Stephanie passes, “Are you going to send me back to Chicago?”  And he says, “What?”  And she goes, “Well, I am not family here.  I don’t have anybody here.”  She then says, “Wait, and remember when I was in love with you?”  And Pam just does not know what to say or do at the moment.  She is like ten years old in those scenes.  She is alone in the world now having lost both her mother and her sister.  Eric says to her, “This is your family now.”  There is sweetness between them that both Alley and I want to mine. I don’t know what is going to happen down the road, but certainly they can mourn together.  My opinion is that Pam and Eric depended on Stephanie in a way that nobody else did.  They can grieve in a way that is private, and in a way that nobody else sees or knows about.  I would love for Eric to see Pam weeping on the floor at Forrester Creations, and for him to comfort her, and for her to comfort him through the loss of Stephanie.

MICHAEL:

We heard from many of your co-stars when Ronn Moss (Ridge) decided to exit the series so abruptly.  Were you shocked by his decision to leave, and then Susan’s?

JOHN:

Susan has been talking about leaving for ten years and she never left.  Of course not, she has been snarking about it for years!  But when this negotiation began, Ronn, Susan, Katherine and I went out to dinner one night after taping the show.  Ronn said at that meeting, “I am not going to stay.”  And then Susan said, “I don’t know if I am either.” But in fact in the next coming weeks when Ronn’s deal did not happen, Ronn was willing to go.  He was very excited about leaving.  That is because he had the music thing going on and was looking forward to it.  Ronn was not bitter, or angry, or anything like that.  He felt that he had really given the show a lot and he loved doing it, and that it was time to turn the page and move on.  We all said, “We respect that.”  The fact that Ronn was being so honest with us, and did not hide it from us was really cool.  Katherine was going, “Oh, my God!”  And then Susan said, “I am going to leave! But I am going to go talk to Brad and tell him to kill my character.  I will stay the weeks it will take to give my character a proper send-off.”  She did not want to just go up to the toilet and not come back down for the next three months! (Laughs)  I am very happy for what the show had done for her, and for the fans.

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

MICHAEL:

Now as B&B move into the future, there are only two of the “core four” original cast members and characters … played by yourself and Katherine Kelly Lang!

JOHN:

And then there was two … Katherine and myself.   On-screen, she and I cross paths in the night.  She and I have not had scenes together about anything, about the kids, let alone our past relationship.  Things have changed around here, though.   Katherine is in Susan’s old dressing room now.  It’s refreshing for her to have a new environment.  And, it is not about “getting” Susan’s room; it’s about having a new beginning for all of us.  My dressing room has been cleaned up a bit.  I have a parking space now, and I never had one before.  Katherine has one now that is hers, too.  This is not the beginning of the end for this show; it is the end of the beginning.  We have turned the page … Katherine and me, and Hunter Tylo (Taylor) and the young couples, and the Spencer family.  That is good.  That has plugged in here very well.  Don Diamont relishes the part of Bill Spencer.  He has brought to the show a different flavor and spice that we didn’t have before.  I salute that.  And, to put Heather Tom (Katie) with Don is a brilliant move.  I am glad that Rick (Jacob Young) is back, also!

MICHAEL:

With the current battle over the top spot of Forrester Creations raging on since Ridge is now off the canvas, don’t you think Eric should step in there and take the reins over Thomas and Rick?

JOHN:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

I hope I get to be a mentor in there and a referee, and get to step in there.  We shall see. That is a very key part of losing Ronn Moss as Ridge.   Now it’s about who is going to run the business?  It’s an international fashion house.  I get that Thomas and Rick want to run the family business, but I think Eric needs to step back in.

MICHAEL:

What is your takeaway from working with Susan Flannery for these 25 plus years? Good, and or bad?

JOHN:

When I got here 25 years ago to do this show, I was armed and educated for what I needed to know to work with Susan Flannery, or anybody else.  What I learned from Susan was how wonderful it is to trust another performer and another performer’s opinion, and what it is like for years and years to be dependent on each other’s talent, preparation, and commitment.  Susan has stolen scenes from me over the years.  I have been able to do that to her, too.  When it happens, she goes, “O.K.”  When she would do it to me, I would go home and yell at my wife, Laurette! (Laughs)  I have had times when I wanted to play a scene a certain way and Susan absolutely refused.  You pick your battles.  Stephanie has been wearing the pants in the family for a long time.  I have used the expression that Eric has been in Stephanie’s shadow quite a lot over the last few years on the show.  So as an actor, I look at this as an opportunity to be, “all about me” for a minute, because that is what actor’s do.  I relish the opportunity to be out in the light, and be part of the future here for a while.

MICHAEL:

We know viewers hope to see Eric really going through the appropriate stages of grief, and the isolation of that.  Will we see that play out on-air?

JOHN:

Courtesy/CBS

We are just beginning to do that now.  We have so many viewers that are more than 70 years old, and a lot of grown up viewers.  Some of them have experienced this.  So we can’t be cavalier about, “Oh, he is going to drink too much now and start having sex with younger girls.”  I think that is kind of cliché, folks.  That is soap opera cliché.  We could do it and do it well, but let’s have Eric mourn in a real way, and be alone and feel what it is like to be left behind.  I don’t think he feels he was ready to be left behind.  Yes, your family is there for you.  However, when you are alone in your house, it doesn’t matter how much your family loves you.  At the end of the day she is not there anymore.

MICHAEL:

Clearly, you would tell fans to have their boxes of Kleenex ready as the final moments of Stephanie approach … and even past that?

JOHN:

No question about it.  People have cried all ready just at the idea of losing Stephanie.  I am going to even say, I think that would be true of any of your favorite beloved characters on any soap opera.  When one of those dies, the show needs to honor that, and go there and indulge in that loss, and show the audience that, “Yes, we know how hard it is going to be, as in this case, for Stephanie not to be there.”

MICHAEL:

So when all is said and done, John, what direction do you hope B&B takes with Eric once Stephanie is no longer on the canvas?

JOHN:

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

What are they going to do with Eric?  I am not sure.  I know I will be rattling around that house for a while.  Will Pam be there?  Sure.  But everybody else is going to be there too, trying to help Eric.  Is he going to have a new relationship and get laid?  Who cares!  That is not what the story is about.  What we need to do is show Eric being by himself for a while, and coming back into his work life for a while.  Just about him trying to get through the day where he is thinking to himself, “Where is my coffee?  Where is she? Where is my Martini?”  These are sad things.  It would be so funny for Pam to try to make a Martini for him, and for him to say, “I am never going to have a Martini ever again in my life.”  And for her to say, “O.K.” and then she walks away, but then all of a sudden for Eric to say, “Do you know how to make a Manhattan?”  (Laughs)

  1. k/kay says:

    I hope they have the character of Eric and Brooke have some growth after all this I do not care to see either one jump into relationships. The one thing I would disagree with is Winsor Harmon has played Thorne the longest he should have a meatier role but maybe it is because I disdain the actor who plays Rick. The show will go on but I fear we will get back to the horrid teenybopper triangle. Mr. McCook has done some good work this last month.

    Reply

    CINDY MORRISON SCOTT replied

    I love the show and have been watching it since the beginning. I’m ready to carry on with the young people and see what will happen with Liam, Steffy,and Hope. I’m already seeing Katie and new baby Will back together and Dollar Bill will follow. As for Brook, don’t know maybe she will be laid back and alone for a while like Taylor. Bring back Jackie and her gang. The next few weeks or months will be something to see. Like always I will be glued to the T.V. everyday at 12:30 on CBS. Great Show!!!!!

    Reply

  2. AJ says:

    It appears that Eric will not be supporting Thomas. He sides with his snake-of-a-son Rick over Thomas every time, which is funny because Rick can’t design a dish cloth!

    Many viewers would like to see the Logans – Brooke, Donna and Hope — gone from Forrester Creations and have the Douglas/Forester clan can pull together. Thomas is the star designer and Rick is supposed to have business savvy, too bad their bad blood will not allow them to work together.

    Reply

  3. GreatFlannery says:

    I just watched the last episode of the great Flannery. KKL and SF both made incredible performances. For me this was really the end of The Bold and The Beautiful. The show lost a lot when the late great Darlene Conley passed away, but with SF in the key role, B&B stayed alive though show’s golden years were gone (90′s). It’s extremely sad to see Flannery retiring (she absolutely deserves it!!). In the last 10 years, she has been the only reason to watch this show that has become only a shadow of what it once was! Thank God we will always have the clips from the golden days :) KKL is a wonderful actress but no one can replace SF!!! Thank YOU SUSAN from the bottom of my heart for the unforgettable years. You are my true acting idol! The greatest actress of daytime!!! <3 Take care!!!

    Reply

    normadavis replied

    Iagree susan was and is a great actress,. she was in another soap years ago but i cant rember which one and she wa great in that one to . SoSUSAN COME BACK TO SEE USin spirit on occasion,like john does on y&r. thank you for such great acting it was so beliveable

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  4. Robin says:

    GR8 interview, Michael. I just watched the final Stephanie scene and am still sniffling. It’s hard to imagine the show without her. Still miss Ronn Moss. I hope that John McCook is right and the writers give us something different than expected soap mourning. I’d love to really see Brooke and Eric mourn before jumping in bed with new relationships, and more focus put on their characters not the teeny boppers (which has gotten old fast). I find myself missing Nick, Jackie and Bridget too. Enough of preachy Taylor and her “entitled” kids. BORING.
    But excellent writing here, Michael. You painted a wonderful inside portrait of what’s going on!!!!!!!
    I loved Susan Flannery’s work. She was a major part of B & B. She will be so missed.

    Reply

  5. Julie Manning says:

    I have watched this show from day 1 and I love Susan and Katherine. The writers did a wonderful job with the hate love relationship between these 2 women. I cried my eyes out today to see Stephanie go but I think it was wonderful that Brooke was with her. I hope to see more exciting things for this show so that I can watch for another 25 years.

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  6. Patrick Mulcahey says:

    Nice interview, Michael. And I am one of McCook’s biggest fans.

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  7. Julie Manning says:

    I have watched this show from day 1 and I love Susan and Katherine. The writers did a wonderful job with the hate love relationship between these 2 women. I cried my eyes out today to see Stephanie go but I think it was wonderful that Brooke was with her. I hope to see more exciting things for this show so that I can watch for another 25 years. John is the back bone of this show I hope he is not planning on leaving any time soon.

    Reply

  8. Terri says:

    SUSAN I HAVE ENJOYED WATCHING YOU ON B & B, I HAVE WATCHED THE SHOW SINCE THE VERY FIRST SHOW IN 1987, SF WILL BE MISSED, I ALSO MISS RONN MOSS, HOPEFULLY YOU BOTH WILL HAVE A GREAT TIME IN WHEREVER LIFE TAKES YOU BOTH. I WILL MISS YOU BOTH BUT THE SHOW WILL GO ON & BE GREAT AS EVER, SO MANY NEW YOUNG CHARACTERS BUT THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER SF.

    Reply

  9. Earlene Cutter says:

    I just want to say the very best to Susan for alll the years on t.v. You are one amazing lady B&B will not be the same without you May our LORD be with you and Bless you in whatever you intend to do love you Susan and will miss you

    Reply

  10. Kimberly Reid says:

    Stephanie Forrester it was a pleasure watchin you on th B&B..
    I wish you didnt have to leave the show, you really made my day
    When i watch you on the show, you were a woman not to mess with..
    Well all must come to an end.. I wish you luck in everthing you do…
    You will be missed!! <3

    Reply

  11. Sharon Drame says:

    I am so sad to see Susan leave I am glad though her and Brooke had quit feuding that was getting tiring I still dont understand why they gotr
    id of Nick and Jackie they just quit showing them I wish they would bring them back. i was hoping they would do more with Deacon and Ambers characters it doesntlook like they will though,I wish I could write for them.

    Reply

  12. CINDY MORRISON SCOTT says:

    Today was a great day for B&B. I cried and am still upset even through I knew it was coming that Stephanie would die on the show. I think Brook did a great job and I wonder if those tears were real because they sure looked real and always do when she cries. Great ending for a new beginning. Looking forward to all future shows with all the young and old . Thank you B&B . At one time I watched 2 soaps everyday but sometime way back I only tune in for the B&B and if I miss an episode I’ll turn on the computer and kick back and watch,

    Reply

  13. Syreeta says:

    These last couple of weeks have been hard I have road with BB for the entire 25 years ever since they took ove the Capital spot,even though the selfish side of me wants things to stay the same,with the oringinal characters, I understand that people must move on and make room for the next generation the next chapter,but it is still sad, we the viewers forget that these actors work as we do and there comes a time when wanting to retire kicks in, be it acting ,bus driving, people want to retire,people want to experience new horrizons,I wish Susan and Ronn well on their journey and thank them both for the dedication that they have given,God Bless to you both. Afaithful fan Syreeta

    Reply

  14. ethel says:

    excellent interview michael!

    Reply

  15. Stephanie says:

    WOW!!! What can I say. I have been there the whole 25 years of the show also. I think it is wonderful that they let Stephanie & Brooke end with a good relationship. Susan will be missed so much. She was one of those characters that you had a love/hate moment with. I like watching the new actors on the show but the old ones are the best. It is hard to replace those. I would love for NBC to make B&B a hour long Soap Opera. There seems to be a down fall on the Soaps now. I am beginning to think that they are trying to do away with all of them now. My generation and the older ones were the die hard fans who never misses a episode. The generation now just don’t watch them as we have. I hope that B&B will keep Katherine & John for a long while. I know he is getting on up in age and his time will come when he is ready to retire also. I know Leslie Downs had to fight with cancer for a while and I think that is why she did not sign another contract. Also Jack Wagner and Brandon Beemer contract ran out also. There has been a lot of soap stars lately who are not signing new contracts. It seems that they are getting out of it I guess. I hope that this is not the end of my favorite soaps. There is only a few of them left on daytime TV now. So if you are a devoted fan to the soaps that are left on NBC, please keep on viewing them because if there ratings go down they will take them off like they did the other shows. God Bless Susan, may your retirement be very fulfilling. Ron I hope your next journey is very fulfilling also. I never knew that you were in that group until I read your interview. I miss seeing your face on there. If they decide to replace you on the show, I hope it is someone who favors you because it will seem so strange looking at a different person. Good luck to all the cast & crew in the future episodes.

    Reply

    normadavis replied

    bold and beautiful is on CBS notNBC

    Reply

  16. Kristina says:

    I really enjoyed this interview. I hope JM will get the chances to shine in the spot light again. When I watched the flashbacks and saw how beautiful his hair was I almost swooned. I remember those days so well. (He is still a handsome man but when he was salt-and-pepper he was so debonair.) The actors who have recently left will be missed, but I know that JM and the rest of the cast will make the show so interesting that we will all continue to wait impatiently for it to begin every week day! I am an Irish girl, btw, and the party scenes, and those leading up to it, were some of the most enjoyable on television during the past few years — in any time slot.

    Reply

  17. STEPHANIE says:

    I have not seen the passing of Stephanie yet .here in Cyprus we are behind……….have watched entranced since 1987.in South Africa now here in Cyprus……………..I salute you Susan and thank you for the many many years of great entertainment i have enjoyed in my living room…will miss Ron too………Blessings and thanks to all at B AND B

    Reply

    normadavis replied

    SUSAN SPASSING WAS A WONDERFUL SEND OFF DONE WITH PASSION WARMTH AND SO VERY WELL DONE WITH GRACE AND DIGNITY. THANK YOU WRITERS.

    Reply

  18. normadavis says:

    MICHAEL. THANK YOU FOR THE WONDERFUL INTERVEIW YOU DID ON THE bold&beautiful.

    Reply

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