Interview with Bill Bell by David Church
Is He Giving Up THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS?
Did BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL Dump CAPITOL?
Daytime's Head Honcho Pleads Not Guilty!
The executive producer, head writer and co-creator of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS is duplicating those chores on CBSs new daytime drama, THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Bill Bell took a break from the thousand-and-one details that are involved in launching a new show to respond to the rumors (pro and con) about his two soaps.
Background: Bell got his start in show business at a Chicago radio station. In 1957 he hooked up with Irna Phillips and started writing the then-fifteen-minute-long GUIDING LIGHT. After a year of GL, he moved to AS THE WORLD TURNS, where he stayed for ten years. Then came the chance to serve as a head writer, for the then-ailing DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
D.C.: What made you break away to become head writer for DAYS OF OUR LIVES?
B.B.: It was a challenge, I think. When DAYS started, it wasn't doing very well at all. It was hard to leave Irna and ATWT, not just because of the camaraderie, but because those were the days when we'd have a 64 share and DAYS was just languishing. I was so nervous, I lost 10 pounds in the first week.
D.C.: Why so nervous?
B.B.: It's one thing to collaborate and another thing to be out on your own suddenly. It's scary and you second-guess yourself. Not that I've ever stopped second-guessing myself. I don't think it's something you outgrow. In any event, within two-and-a-half years, DAYS was the number one show in all of daytime. We replaced three producers along the way, did some recasting, and brought in some new, excellent actors like Susan Flannery, who's now a part of THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.
D.C.: She's a wonderful actress . . . an underrated actress.
B.B.: She's fabulous. When I met Susan for drinks recently to talk about the character of Stephanie Forrester, I tried to remember when I'd last seen her. I realized it was when that picture was taken. (He points to a picture above his credenza. a shot of some of the mid-seventies DAYS cast framed by the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center.) It was at the Emmy Awards in 1975. The awards were held on this enormous ship that sailed around Manhattan. Susan had just won the Best Actress award and she asked me if she could have a few days off to do a part in The Towering Inferno. She went right around and won a Golden Globe for that. She was part of the magic of those early days on DAYS. Bill and Susan Hayes,Ed Mallory - a tremendous character - those were wonderful days. And then Y&R came along and I've enjoyed fourteen equally terrific years on this show.
D.C.: Will you be transferring from Y&R to THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL?
B.B.: I'll do everything I've been doing on Y&R. I'll just assume additional duties on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.
D.C.: How can you do that, Bill? I'd imagine the tension, the sheer amount of work is extraordinary.
B.B.: I've got a terrific team, a core of people who've worked together for many years now. We're a well-oiled machine. Granted, I don't do much of the actual writing on Y&R. I'll occasionally dictate a few key lines for a scene and I'm always very involved with the story. It'll be somewhat different on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. I'm doing detailed outlines for each episode and the writers take it from there.
D.C.: How did THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL come about?
B.B.: It started about ten years ago when Y&R took off. CBS wanted another show and I wasn't ready to do another show then. About five years ago I intimated that I might be ready but then pulled back, and that ultimately led to CBS putting CAPITOL on the air. May I digress for a moment?
B.B.: I don't want people ever to think that we're replacing CAPITOL. I know that feeling is out there, but the point is we had a commitment for a show a year ago. We were going to go on and, some show - who knew which one? - would go off. It could have been any show, it wasn't predetermined. It just happened to be CAPITOL. And we were committed a year before CAPITOL went off, we just kept pushing back the day. I was supposed to be on the air a year ago September, but we wouldn't have been ready then, so we went to January and, for a number of reasons, the network preferred to go with a March debut. What's important is that now we're on and I don't want to inspire a negative attitude as the guy who dumped CAPITOL. Not guilty. No connection. A lot of people liked CAPITOL and, I might add, it was a very good show. But it's no secret that the biggest problem John had with that show was the writing. Ultimately, I guess that was the thing that hurt the show to the extent that it had to be removed.
D.C.: Tell me about the cast of THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.
B.B.: I was going to go for all new faces, and we've got some exciting new actors. Clayton Norcross, Ron Moss. . .both very handsome guys. Katherine Kelly Lang. . .Carrie Mitchum. . .but I discovered that I couldn't find the right new people to play all of the roles. Then I started to look back. Jim Storm - he was on Y&R for a while, he'd be perfect for William Spencer. The same with Lauren Koslow, she'd been on Y&R and now she'd be just right for Margo Lynley. Of course, the central character, the one the other characters revolve around, is the most important because the balance of the show leads from the center. I called John McCook. I asked him to come to the office, no so much out of nostalgia but because I wanted to see what he looked like. He looked terrific. I told him I was coming up with a new show and I'd like him to think about it. He said he'd do just that and we agreed to get together after the first of the year. Frankly, John was a little younger than what I was thinking of for the role of Eric Forrester, but he's such strong support, such a good leader among actors that by Christmas I knew I wanted him for the role.
D.C.: Carrie Mitchum, who's the granddaughter of Robert Mitchum, and John Wayne's son, Ethan Wayne, are on the show. This begs the question, were they hired for sheer acting ability or for a sort of second-generation glamour/publicity angle?
B.B.: I asked myself the same question. When we read these young people, I backed up and said, Whoa, are we casting them because of their name or their talent? If you go with the name, in the long run it hurts you and it hurts the show. When you're starting a new show, you've got to go with what works, not with what looks good. I'll admit, there's probably more media attention around these kids than would be normal because of their background, but they have real talent. You'll see it for yourself.
D.C.: Is there anyone in the cast, anyone that your practiced eye tells you is going to break away and really fly with this show?
B.B.: (a diplomatic pause) Hard to say. There are a few that might do it, but frankly it wouldn't be too gentlemanly for me to make a guess. Let's just say that I hope they are all successful.
D.C.: Will you be using known designers for the show, which is centered in the fashion industry?
B.B.: We have a fashion consultant who will determine what's used. It will be a mix, it will be exciting and, yes, we will be using known designers. I'm hoping that THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL will have a different look for the show. (a secretive chuckle) And we've got some surprises of our own.
D.C.: In the mood to share any?
B.B.: (shaking his head) That's one thing I've learned in daytime. The only good surprise is the one worth keeping.