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The Brad Bell Interview – The Bold and the Beautiful – Soapmaker Of The Year 2015

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

Inspiring bold choices, adding in long overdue diversity, garnering critical acclaim and mainstream coverage for being on the forefront of the national conversation of the plight of the transgender community, while continuing in the daytime tradition of classic soap opera storytelling, and sprinkling in a few shock and awe moments and major surprises, these were all major factors in deciding On-Air On-Soaps highest honor of Soapmaker of the Year 2015.  Without question this year that achievement and accolade goes to the executive producer and head writer of The Bold and the Beautiful, Brad Bell.

It’s been quite some time that a daytime drama has broken ground in such a comprehensive and compelling way with the story of Maya Avant (Karla Mosley), who viewers learned earlier in the year was born as “Myron”.   Maya’s story became one of the most compassionate tales told in soap opera history with new wrinkles and twists, while expanding the Avant family by bringing in Maya’s parents and sister to the canvas.  The soap was right on target with its story choices, as this was the year that also saw everyone in America and across the world watching the real-life story of Caitlyn Jenner unfold.  But Brad Bell and his fearless team continued to push the envelope in 2015, with the sudden death of Aly Forrester (Ashlyn Pearce) in virtually the same place her mother met her maker years before.  Then there was the inspirational story of actress Linsey Godfrey (Caroline) who returned to the show after a harrowing real-life accident, and Bell was able to utilize her and give her story through the classic, “Who’s the daddy?” tale with a twist.  Caroline’s pregnancy is fraught with drama for potentially years to come.

On-Air On-Soaps spoke with Brad about his honor, and took him through the year of storylines on the screen to get his comments, during a 2015 that was also somewhat transitional for him.  No longer did he spend all of his time in Los Angeles at the B&B offices at CBS.  Brad found himself writing in Hungary, while accompanying his wife, the ambassador to that nation, Colleen Bell.  And, why not?  B&B continues to be the number one show worldwide, while firmly remaining in the #2 position of the daytime dramas in the U.S.  It was a good year to be bold and beautiful in so many ways for our culture, and that goes for this soap, too.  Here’s our Soapmaker of the Year, Brad Bell!

MICHAEL:

2015 in the world of soaps will be remembered as a very impressive year for The Bold and the Beautiful.   As you have seen, I am not alone in my thought-process, as other critics/pundits have been extolling year-end accolades for your show.

BRAD:

Courtesy/CBS

It’s a year I will look back on and be very proud of, and one that was very unique in the history of B&B.

MICHAEL:

Let’s touch on the year on B&B, and discuss what you have done with the show that has you as our choice for Soapmaker of the Year.   Obviously, first and foremost, the transgender storyline involving the character of Maya has been front and center, and told so beautifully.  You touched upon several of the issues facing the transgender community.  What can you say about what you’ve told within that story as you reflect on 2015?

BRAD:

I think we really tried to analyze progressive thinking vs. traditional thinking.  Creating the character of Maya as this transgender character has opened our minds up as writers.  It hopefully had the same effect around the country and around the world, as we see what a beautiful person she is, and how she is being treated by the Forrester family.  But also, there were many obstacles and many ahead.  It’s not just a fairy tale for her, but something that hopefully mirrors reality in the good, the bad, and the ugly.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

The writing of the wedding of Maya and Rick (Jacob Young) was such a poignant episode, and the showdown scenes between Maya and her father Julius (Obba Babatundé) were riveting.  It was also a great decision to bring Maya’s parents on to the canvas: Julius and Vivienne (Anna Maria Horsford).  Take me through how you and your writing team made the decision to craft the scenes, and the confrontation during the nuptials?

BRAD:

I thought that things were going so well for Maya that we needed to bring someone in who didn’t agree with her choices, and who had issues with who she has become.  The father was that character.  We created a character that was traditional, stubborn, stuck in his ways, close-minded, and charming all at the same time.  As soon as I saw Obba Babatundé’s tape, I knew he was the man for this role.  He is just an incredible actor. What he has found together with Karla Mosley has just been gold for us.  Patrick Mulcahey wrote the dialog for that episode, and he just killed it as he always does.  Those scenes really came together, beautifully.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Through this journey of telling Maya’s story, was there anything as the executive producer and head writer of the show that you were surprised to learn about the transgender community, or what they are facing?

BRAD:

Yes.  I definitely have a greater understanding of what they are facing.  Getting to know more transgender people and to be able to be part of the community now, you find out we are all much more similar than we are different.  We have the same basic needs, wants and desires.  Everyone should have the right to express themselves, and to reach their goals, and to be who they want to be.  The people in the trans community are brave, and they are original.  It is great to live in a country where this is possible.  I think there are many challenges, but yet there are many successes to be where we are far, and ahead of most countries in the world.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Pop

You took the transgender story one step further with the surrogate arc, where Rick and Maya want to have a child, but enlist Maya’s sister Nicole (Reign Edwards) to assist them in the most major way.  Was the decision to tell that story, basically about a “where do we go from here” with their relationship, because now Rick and Maya were a happy couple, or was it about exploring what would happen to a couple in this situation?

BRAD:

I just thought getting to know these characters, and what Karla and Jacob put into them also, and the natural outgrowth of who they are would be the desire to have a family.  So, how do we get that done?   It did line up beautifully for Nicole to come to talk to them, and for them to make this request.  You can see how on one side it makes complete sense – it’s a younger daughter’s gift to her sister – but you also see how other people might find it to be outrageous.  It’s a great arena for drama.  This story is not going to be a bed of roses for any of them; it’s going to be difficult.  Everybody’s going to weigh-in.  Now to have Rome Flynn with us playing Zende, and Felisha Cooper playing Sasha in the story mix, plus there is much more we will hear from the Avant parents that will make the next chapter, I think, as exciting as the first.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

You continued to integrate the transgender community into your stories.  You had transgender models in a fashion show, and you had Scott Turner Schofield (Nick), the first trans male actor in a role on a soap making daytime history.  It was commendable that you did not take a sensationalistic approach to Maya’s story, but carried this initiative and weaved it within the show.  What has been the response from the trans community?  Have people reached out to you with emails, letters, or in person?

BRAD:

Yes, it’s been great.  The letters of gratitude has been very special.  People are actually using some of our episodes in classrooms.  To hear stories like that where they are looking at scenes and discussing them is so exciting for me.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ESPN

Soap operas always used to tackle, and were ahead of the curve and on top of it, on telling social issues.  I don’t feel the genre has been on top of it for a while now.  I feel you and your team brought that back with the transgender storyline.  As it turned out, it was kind of the perfect storm with Caitlyn Jenner’s real-life story happening at the same time.

BRAD:

That is what I am most proud about for 2015 in story.  This is something we need to be doing.  It is something that historically when soaps are good, that is why they are good, because they are mirroring and analyzing the sociology of our time, and what we are confronting within communities.  It’s great to be on the forefront of this, and to be writing this story and to be well into it.  And then, to have Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) making her announcement of transitioning, the timing could not have been better on this one.

MICHAEL:

You recently received a WGA nomination from the Writers Guild, and are up against General Hospital for the Daytime Drama series writing award that will be announced and handed out in February.  What episodes did you submit for contention?  Additionally, can you share with the fans of the show the collaborative process of your writing team?

Courtesy/CBS

BRAD:

We submitted episodes involving Maya’s story.   As the head writer I come up with the plots, and work very closely with Michael Minnis.  Then Patrick Mulcahey joins us on story conversations frequently.  Then I have a great team of dialog writers including; Michele Val Jean and Tracey Kelly, but we are all in it together.  This team has been together a long time now.  We have had very little changes.  One year you are on to something, and the next year you take a turn.  People drop out of the show, which allows you to highlight other people.  Looking at Jacob Young and Karla Mosley, who were a bit back-burnered, to have them come up and embrace these roles the way they have has been outstanding.  Karla has been such a great spokesperson for the story.  I have the same writing team, but the transgender story has totally reinvigorated us.  We are looking for the next socially relevant story.  We are not done with this story by a long shot.  We are going to follow these people in the next stage of their lives, which will be very exciting.

MICHAEL:

There were other major storylines on B&B, and performances as well.  Chief among them is Linsey Godfrey (Caroline), who after being in a terrible accident early in 2015, returned to the series and delivered dramatic performances in the Caroline/Thomas/Ridge story.  What can you say about the decision to create this story, where a kind of ‘out of it Caroline’ would have sex with Thomas (Pierson Fode) and we would find out Ridge (Thorsten Kaye) can’t father a child?   And oh-oh, voila’ she is pregnant?

Courtesy/CBS

BRAD:

First, Linsey is a very raw, and authentic actress.  This story falls into the category of classic storytelling, not just for soap opera, but from the beginning of time.  It involves a powerful man in Ridge Forrester, and the secret he is keeping from his wife, and from his son!  The architecture of this one is strong, and the actors are committed to the material, and this will roll out beautifully in 2016.  I am so happy to be working with Thorsten Kaye (Ridge), Pierson (Thomas), and Linsey.  This will be a tight one, but the drama that will unfold should be pretty potent.

MICHAEL:

So, were you sitting there one day and you went, “Ah!  I’m going to have her pregnant by her husband’s young son!”  How does Brad Bell’s mind work to come with these classic soap stories?

BRAD:

Courtesy/CBS

The thing is before the “Ah-ha” moment, there are usually months of grinding your teeth and pulling your hair out with me going, “What do I do?”  (Laughs)   I always say it’s like being in a dark room feeling around and trying to find a way out.  It’s been a very different for me this year.  I have been in Budapest for most of it.  So that has been a new dynamic.  I have had a lot of alone time, and a lot of quiet time.  I go to my apartment there in the fifth district. Colleen says to me, “Don’t complain.  I have heard you for 25 years complaining that you wanted this solitude.”  So, now I have it and it’s a bit painful! (Laughs)  However on the flipside, it’s also really great for a writer to be alone with their characters for hours at a time.

MICHAEL:

Did any of your stories exceed your expectations in 2015?  Were you shocked to see a certain story come out so well?

BRAD:

Yes.  There is always disappointment, and great, great surprises.  This story with Caroline, Thomas and Ridge, far exceeded my expectations.  The performances, the writing, and the production all fell together so well here.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Now you have “accidental serial killer” Steffy (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) running around on the loose causing “accidental” havoc.  (Laughs)  She knocked Aly (Ashlyn Pearce) to her death, and then pushed Ivy into electrical wires on her way to being electrocuted!  Aly’s death was a surprise twist that was kept under wraps so well, that nobody saw coming.  It made for one of the most surprising moments in soaps in 2015.

BRAD:

It’s interesting when the pieces fit.  It’s wonderful, and when they don’t fit you have to kind of shock yourself, and shock your characters into making them fit.  Ashleigh Brewer (Ivy) has taken all of these tumbles, and been “electrocuted”, and been through so much from day one since she joined the show.  From the beginning she was falling into the Seine River in France (Laughs).  But, it is evolving into a new chapter of the story which is very exciting for Scott Clifton (Liam) and Steffy, and for the Spencer brothers, and also Quinn.  Rena Sofer (Quinn) has been awesome on the show, and she has been patient.  Now the spotlight will turn to Rena in 2016.

MICHAEL:

What can you say about having Jacqueline MacInnes Wood back in 2015 as a major component of B&B?  Steffy is such a polarizing, and popular character around the world.

BRAD:

Courtesy/CBS

Jacqui is a beautiful spirit on camera and off, really high energy, but a super sharp actress.  I am so glad to be working with her.

MICHAEL:

It must have been hard for you as well to have Ashlyn Pearce leave the show, who was finally getting a chance to shine in the material you were giving her, and then to have to sacrifice her in terms of story.  We understand that these are decisions that head writers and executive producers have to make along the way.  What can you share about killing Aly?

BRAD:

Ashlyn is a great actress, and she has a great career ahead of her.  I think the actors understand this going in that this is something we have to do as writers.  We have to surprise people.  We have to kill people, and do the unexpected.  They are players on the show until they can’t be.  Ashlyn just killed the material, especially at the end of her run.  She is phenomenal!

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

At the beginning of 2015, lest we forget, “Drunk Brooke”!  Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) got to deliver some memorable performances, especially when she was getting sloshed at Bill (Don Diamont) and Katie’s (Heather Tom) wedding!

BRAD:

I think Katherine did such a great job, and it’s great to see her character unhinged.  I mean, Brooke without a man, she would have to turn to something! (Laughs)  Brooke is one of two remaining run-of-show characters, and at an interesting point in her life.  She is empty nesting, which comes with a whole array of issues and challenges.  We are starting a whole new chapter with Brooke, and Bill and Katie in 2016.

MICHAEL:

Earlier in the year, you had a soundstage at CBS dedicated to you in honor of B&B’s milestone of producing an incredible 7,000 episodes.  Your plaque is right across the hall from the soundstage dedicated to your father, the legendary Bill Bell Sr. (Co-Creator, Y&R and B&B).  This has truly been special for you.  What do you think now when you sit back and take in what that dedication ceremony meant?

BRAD:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

It is an incredible honor, and we have had such a great working relationship with CBS. They are great network to be on.  They are very helpful, and they really care. They care about their fans, and their viewers, and their employees.  I am thankful to CBS for the honor. It’s an honor for everyone who works on that stage every day, and around the world dubbing us into different languages, and everyone in the office.  It was a great moment.

MICHAEL:

When you are at CBS, do you ever walk by the plague with your name on it, and smile?

BRAD:

Yes! (Laughs)  My son Oliver was here visiting with a friend from Budapest, and he showed him the plaque, and then his friend said, “Where’s the commissary?” (Laughs)  But yes, it’s very special that it is up there.  I am grateful to everyone who spoke at the dedication, especially my wife.  Now that I am the spouse of the Ambassador to Hungary, I am realizing, and fully appreciating, perhaps for the first time, what that role is about, and how challenging it could be. Colleen has been so wonderful as my partner all of these years.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

The production, marketing, and publicity team at B&B, under your guidance also needs to be commended for their accomplishments this year: you had the first Pop-Up fan event in New York in the series history, and launched a B&B You Tube channel in the UK.  No other daytime drama has done this type of creative outreach in so many different aspects, as well as consistently planning taking the show on remotes worldwide, and integrating story within it.  Tell me about the BOLD team.

BRAD:

These producers including: Rhonda Friedman, who has been with us from the beginning but left us just before Christmas; and the consistency and the enthusiasm of Casey Kasprzyk and Mark Pinciotti who are the creative younger producers; and veterans such as Cynthia Popp and Ed Scott, we have the perfect blend of creativity, and continuity.  We love being with each other.  So, if we say let’s go to Australia, or let’s go to Israel to do a location shoot, we are thinking first and foremost: “That’s going to be fun time and a party!” (Laughs)  And then we think that we have to get the work done, which we know we will do. (Laughs)  But honestly, we all just like to hang out together.  I think our enthusiasm comes through, and it shows in our events with the fans in the U.S and around the world.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Now that we walked down memory lane, let’s look to the future!  In a broad stroke, what can you tease fans of B&B to look forward to in 2016?

BRAD:

I think we are going to have a great balance of issues, of villains, and some new villains appearing, and some romance.  I mean balanced in the most unbalanced way possible. (Laughs)   It will be an incredibly dramatic year.  The characters are all in a great spot.  It’s not a year of building or transitioning, but it’s a year of payoffs.  The New Year is going to explode.  I fully expect 2016 to be the best, if not the best ever, certainly over recent years, and the one to watch.  

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Callie
Guest
Callie

Great interview, Michael!

I’ve been glued to my screen watching Ridge and Caroline’s romance this year. I’m really hoping it continues for a long, long time and the baby turns out to be his.

Scoma60
Guest
Scoma60

B&B was so good a few months ago but it’s now awful. The storyline of Liam/Steffy/Wyatt/Ivy is vapid and the ping ponging of emotions makes no sense. B&B needs to ship Thomas back to Europe. No matter how they gloss it over he violated Caroline. He’s creepy as hell. He doesn’t respect women at all. He’s pushy with Ivy, making a bet to bed her, screwing underlings,etc…
Ridge/Caroline have disappeared. An 18 yr old being pushed to be a surrogate.

Aj
Guest
Aj

Time for the Return of Phoebe Forrester!!

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

The Maya story, and family are the utmost in poor storytelling, poor acting, and read the boards, UNLOPULAR. Maya is a bully, a liar and a greedy deceitful skank. The tranny story was offensive I every way possible. The show basically wrote it , that it’s all ok that Maya is a creep…a bigot…cause it’s a tranny. So it’s ok. And Nick?? That blow hard ass. He actually came across as another intolerant, judgemental bigot. Showed how hypocritical and pathetic the ten my community is. Who can forget that ass thinking that Brooke should be more concerned for the lying… Read more »

Maryann V.
Guest
Maryann V.

I couldn’t agree more.

denisefan
Guest
denisefan

Yep…….

Gigi
Guest
Gigi

Could not agree more. The worst story yet on B&B. Nobody was thrilled or liked it. The boards are overrun with disgruntled fans. Maya and Rick have never paid for the horrible things they did to others. Can’t stand Nicole and the parents. They are not good actors, boring and add zilch to the show. And now the Steffy show. Sorry, she does zilch for me as well. The mop of overkill extendions is pathetic. I certainly do not see this show as an award show. What planet is Fairman on that he thinks Bradley Bell is such a terrific… Read more »

Marc Lormand
Guest
Marc Lormand

I’d recommend you take out a mirror and look at it. Starting back at you will be the definition of a ‘bigot’.

The transgender story is outstanding! Very well written, acted, and produced. Kudos to Brad and his entire ensemble.

Shrly pab
Guest
Shrly pab

Bring Taylor back ,do not break up Liam and Steffy I read Ivy and Steffy will be at the top of the stairs and some one will fall just as Liam open the door and walked in the house it better be Steffy falling down those stairs and not Ivy so Liam can realize how much he Love Steffy and don’t ever want to lose her you better not let Ivy fall that is a bit too much we don’t want to see any thing happen to Ivy any more for Liam to feel sorry for her we are sick… Read more »

wendy
Guest
wendy

This crap of making Steffy the bad guy really stinks!! And now Ivy crawling back to Liam and begging him to come back is also stinkareo!!!!!! Brad Bell! COME UP WITH SOMETHING BETTER!! KEEP LIAM AND STEFFY TOGATHER!!!!!!

Mary
Guest
Mary

Keep Katie and Bill together. I really love them

Beth
Guest
Beth

Thanks for the interview. Giving credit where it’s due, the transgender story was not only groundbreaking, but the best kept secret in Daytime, second only to Aly’s death, which was the second best kept secret in Daytime. The ability to stun the audience, mostly in a good way, is as rare today as the telling of a groundbreaking storyline like Maya’s. For those reasons, kudos to Brad Bell for a job well done in 2015. However, so many of the other stories on B&B this year were repetitive, dull and often infuriating, and I’d include the Thomas/Caroline/Ridge storyline in those… Read more »

Geena
Guest
Geena

With the Ridge/Thomas storyline, we need Taylor!! If HT cannot come back, I am open to recasting. Taylor doesn’t have to be on permanently but I definitely think she is needed for this particular storyline.

Monica.
Guest
Monica.

The best of B&B? I Think not. Maya and Rick bullying everyone and getting a slap on the wrist for it because Maya is a transgender don´t fly with fans. So transgendrs can´t do anything wrong due to fact that they switched their gender? I agree on the crap pulled on Ridge, Steffy and Thomas. Why all the hate on the real Forresters of the show? Yes, real Forresters. Eric is Ridges father in the Eyes of the law. He should be with a woman his own age, not running around with a Little girl . Steffy Forrester is the… Read more »

Sharon
Guest
Sharon

What? The transgender story was popular and well-received? If you read the soap boards and polls, it was one of the worse story. And now it’s supposedly being shown at schools? That’s pathetic. So you’re telling students you can be a bully, feel entitled to everything, lie about having a child and signing those rights away when the child isn’t even your’s and once you become transgender, all is forgiven and no one can say anything because they’ll be called prejudice. Brad has never written a good social issue. They were all a joke, and I certainly would question the… Read more »

kevin
Guest
kevin

I wrote and asked Brad Bell to hire Jaime Lyn Bauer and have her play opposite of John McCook, wouldn’t that be wonderful to have John and Jaime together again. Do you all remember them as Lance and Laurie on Y&R? I never did get a reply back…Brad, please offer Jaime Lyn Bauer a job and bring her to the B&B.

Patty
Guest
Patty

Here is hoping that Liam and Ivy will be left in 2015 !!! They couldn’t find a more BORING pair. Send them both back to Australia !!!! This whole accident routine with Steffy is beyond ridiculous !!!!!!! Bring a man with some back bone onto the canvas for Steffy — no more boys — please !!!!

Ramona
Guest
Ramona

I’m loving the new storylines…love the way finally Steffy is feeling the hurt and pain from all her plots, scheme’s, and undermined, bully ways, its time for Steffy be hold responsible for her out of control bully ways…Y&R, GH,DOOL, has defective and police stations, hospital, rescues squares, along with love compassion storyline’s, which has brought them as #1, I think B&B Bradley Bell and writers need to reviews the storyline’s that draw attention and boost the rates up…..reviewing a lot soap websites and polls is requesting the re-cast of Hope Logan or bring back Kim Katual for Liam …his characters… Read more »

Linda
Guest
Linda

I agree on recasting Hope, we the fans has been asking for over a year for them to bring Hope back, I think it will bring a nice twist bringing her back, I’d like to see Hope and Liam back together, married and have a family with no interference from anyone else, Bil or Steffy. I don’t like Maya, I don’ t like what Maya and Rick did to Caroline and others and then everyone looks the other way. Now Maya is the wonderful model? Really. And all the crap Rick pulled is all forgiven. I think bring Mr. Avant’s… Read more »

Lisa Ann Nesbitt
Guest
Lisa Ann Nesbitt

Bradley Bells could you put in the show is because they need my help and also bring Hope Logan back so she can go back to liam and give something that know body can and also can you fine a man for Brooke and Sasha because theyonly go after other people man like Katie own and also Nicole make sure sash and Brooke fine they own man and leave them married men alone please Bradley Bells .

Mary
Guest
Mary

Love Katie and bill. Please brad have them stay together . Brooke should be with ridge

Keriannb
Guest
Keriannb

Brooke made me laugh today saying Bill the love for her life!!!! WTH!! Yes her and Bill sizzle but Brooke sole mate and destiny as she said 5 million times is Ridge. Obviously not Tk version of Ridge but Come on those words rang hollow! Get Carter a SL stat and please don’t let Nicole keep this up I find it bizarre! Maya and Caroline personlalties been rewritten some many times I can’t keep up!!! Wyatt and Stepahie are fabulous. lIam turned into a border my dufus!! he way better as computer geek! Wake up Liam can’t possibly be so… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

Really why Katie and Bill again… can’t we have ONE Stable couple on the show??? Quinn is a big waste of time … Steffy belongs with Liam and Wyatt belongs with ???? The new Avant daughter has Biotch written all over her face ugh!

Dianna
Guest
Dianna

Watch the show today been watching for 20 +years 2016 has got to be more not so predictable Wiatt & steffy come on Wiatt has to quit getting sloppy seconds or 3rds hope the writer has better story lines this year for Katie , Bill, & Logan -brook were is Caroline& ridge?

Peggy
Guest
Peggy

I think it would be extremely interesting to see Hope return to Liam while Steffy is with Wyatt and see all four of them all in love with each other and start acting like interchangeable couples. I also think the Quinn and Liam “Adam and Eve” thing is hilarious. However, Quinn having sex with Liam is shocking; almost seems like incest and I can’t see this ending any other way than Quinn getting fired by Steffy and disowned by Wyatt.

Days Of Our Lives

Kevin Spirtas Talks ‘After Forever’s’ Digital Special ‘Riley’s Unforgettable School Project’, The Loss of Michael Slade, and a Chance to Reprise DAYS Craig Wesley

The coronavirus pandemic has put to the test many content creators on just how they would keep their projects moving forward in ways they never dreamed of. However, out of that situation has come some of the most compelling, unique series, specials, and features currently streaming for viewers. One of which is Riley’s Unforgettable School Project, brought to you by the team from the six-time Daytime Emmy Award-winning series, After Forever.

Former Days of our Lives star, Kevin Spirtas (Ex-Craig Wesley) has starred in and created the first two seasons of what has become the most honored Emmy-awarded LGBTQ-themed drama series on any platform.  Along with his ‘After Forever’ writing/producing partner, the late Michael Slade (DAYS, OLTL, Passions, Another World), the two also conceptualized and delivered this latest documentary-style offering now on Amazon Prime Video.

What makes Riley’s Unforgettable School Project so noteworthy is not just how they were able to execute the series based on fictional 11-year-old Riley’s virtual school project and utilize its cast, which includes: Spirtas, Cady Huffman, Jamison Stern, Lenny Wolpe, Erin Cherry, Anita Gillette, Christopher J. Hanke, and Finn Douglas, but that it was made while Slade was succumbing to his battle with cancer, and that this special marks the final script from this talented writer.

 

Michael Fairman TV spoke with Spirtas about making the special during Covid-19, how the death of Michael Slade has made a lasting impact on his life, what After Forever has personally meant to him, and how an official third season is still in the works, and … if he would consider a return to Salem and Days of our Lives, should they come a-calling.  Here’s what Kevin had to say about it all.

Photo: AfterForever

I think the entire story of this digital special has become even more meaningful with Michael Slade’s passing. What was the genesis of the concept? You wanted to continue the telling of the story of After Forever … but we are all in the middle of a pandemic?

KEVIN:  Yes and… when we filmed season 2, we had the scripts for season 3 already completed. It was our hope and desire to film them at the same time, back-to-back, so that we would have had all of our cast and crew together, and we could have gotten through it because we’ve always imagined this story being told in a trilogy so to speak – a beginning, middle, and end to Brian (Spirtas) and Jason, (Mitchell Anderson) and Brian’s healing or his steps towards healing through grief.  Schedules turned out that they couldn’t really work out for us to hold all the people and hold all of the sets for that amount of time.  So, we thought, “We’ve got the scripts for season 3 ready.  We’ll come back to it in the following year,” and that was always the intention, and then the pandemic hit.  So, it was shut down immediately that we weren’t going to do anything, but we wanted to stay current, and instead of going back in and telling the third installment of After Forever as a Covid-19 story as well, Michael and I sat down and looked at a way of staying relevant and current with a story within COVID, and there was born the idea to do this documentary style story/special about the characters of After Forever told through the lens of the character of Riley, the 11-year-old boy, who is now being homeschooled during the pandemic. He gets an assignment to do a project about the most unforgettable person he has ever met, and he, of course, chooses his best friend, the late Jason Adams, and he enlists all of Jason’s friends and family to join in.  Michael actually said, “What if we tell a story about Riley being homeschooled?” And, not only is Riley a technical genius at 11-years-old in the story, but Finn Douglas, who plays Riley, is a technical genius.

And didn’t Finn perform and write the song “Forever There” contained within the special?

KEVIN. Yes. He is this incredible musician.  Michael thought, “What would it be like if we asked to have the character of Finn sing a song for Jason?”  I said, “Well, what kind of song would we have him sing?”  Finn could play anything, I’m sure, because he’s self-taught, he plays by ear – guitar, piano, and drums.  Michael said, “What if we ask him to see if he could write a song?” and when we heard this song, we all called each other and we all got on Zoom and went, “Can you believe this song?  Can you believe this came out of this 11-year-old?”  It’s pretty incredible.  Michael did a gorgeous job of weaving the stories in and out and how they just sort of dove-tailed into each other, and then it was framed by Riley opening the project and ending the project.  During the Zoom reading we wanted to hear the song out loud.  We said to Finn, “Would you want to sing the song?”  We all just watched everybody on that Zoom call just fall apart.  It was just so beautiful. He’s an amazing talent.

Where is your character within this?

KEVIN:  I still stand in the center of the story of Jason because my character, Brian, was married to Jason, and it sort of connects us all, and through Riley’s understanding of how we all connect to Jason, is how we are all sort of spread out throughout the story.  Michael jokingly said, “You know, you’re not going to be the star of this special,” and I said, “I don’t think it’s about being the star.  It’s really about the storytelling.”  The beauty of Riley’s Unforgettable School Project is that we get to see moments of each person’s relationship with Jason, which Riley sets out to say, “Answer these three questions: What did you like most about Jason?  What did you like least about Jason? And what’s your favorite memory?”  Those three things, cut back and forth is where we all kind of fit in.  Nobody has more of a story than the next person, and it’s all telling honest portrayals of how they’re dealing with their loss of their good friend, or their child, or partner.

It’s a very inventive idea during Covid-19 to continue it in a way where you weren’t having to go shoot a full season of episodes.

KEVIN:  Well, we couldn’t. I have to say, Allison Vanore, who not only produced this special, but she also stepped up saying, “I’d love to direct this,” and I said, “Yes, please!”  She knows the characters.  She understands the story because she’s been a part of it for the last two seasons.  Allison also has this extraordinary amount of knowledge and expertise with the camera and what was needed for a remote shoot, and to also be able to organize filming 13 people in 2 different countries and 5 different cities… that’s just the technical side of it, but having that in our back pocket, knowing that it was a remote shoot, we had to send the camera, the computer, the ring light, and the microphone to each person’s house.  We had to location scout over Zoom.  We had to do wardrobe over Zoom.  It was all this big puzzle putting it together, and once you look at that board of storytelling and how we were going to do it, it kind of fell into place.  I feel blessed that a) we still had Michael with us, at that point, and b) Allison had the know-how to do this.  We all feel that at least this pandemic didn’t keep us from doing what we love.

Photo: AfterForever

In terms of the contribution of Michael Slade in this special, was it the construction of the story, and how was he able to work and write this during his illness?

KEVIN:  Michael’s contribution to the special was no less than the contribution to season 1 and season 2, and the future of season 3, because the scripts are written.  We did everything on Zoom, and we worked around his schedule of treatment.  We scheduled 2 people per day, and we spread them out over two weeks.  He was very present, and when there would be a day where he would say, “I’m going to be an hour late, let’s just push that call time,” I would ask, “Is this too much right now?  We can shelve it; we can stop it.” He’d then say, “Absolutely not, otherwise cancer will win.”  He was determined to stay focused and to stay active because it took his mind off of what was happening to him.

Photo: AfterForever

It would be lovely moment if you both were to win a Daytime Emmy for this project. 

KEVIN:  It’s our last collaboration together as a team, as I said, season 3 has been scripted, and it is on the calendar to get made.  We are just waiting for the COVID restrictions to lift a little bit and everyone to get vaccinated.  Michael was really hit hard with cancer – to stay healthy was so challenging for him.  Sadly, he didn’t make it to see the final edit of the special, and he died four days before we launched, but he had seen the cuts before that and was very approving of it, and had made some decisions, and offered some suggestions, and if God gives him an Emmy for this, it’s not because he died.  It’s because it’s great work.  It just happens to be that the work that was involved in this particular special was very tricky.  It brought up everything, like life itself to have to deal with.  Here we are dealing with the loss of a colleague, the loss of a friend, someone’s brother, someone’s son, this is life imitating art, imitating art imitating life. I can’t tell you the darkness that I went through just experiencing the need to stay focused on getting everything edited, and everything ready, and everything aligned for a release of this project that we had put into motion.  On top of it, our editor lost his mother just before Michael passed, and Allison’s mom was sick at the time, as well.  It took a lot of heavy deep breaths with Michael’s death, and the pandemic, and the loss has, for me, on a personal level, sent me back to really questioning my spiritual muscle and to help remind me that we have to come out of this better than we went into this.  I had many dark nights of the soul this last year, and December was probably the darkest.  I feel like I’m just kind of coming out of it now with the spring revealing itself.

Photo: AfterForever

It must have been extraordinarily difficult for you to also go to New York during a pandemic and also knowing Michael did not have much time left.

KEVIN:  I will say this: I am grateful that I was able to stay in touch with my heart and my instinct and go out to New York to let that be my remote location.  Yes, maybe there was some risk involved.  I wore my mask; I was Covid-19 negative, and I was determined to be fine.  Once I got to New York, I would visit him very protectively with our masks and our gloves, and I’d sit across the room, and then I’d go back to the house I was at.  It was a gift that I was able to see him at that time.  We had some good talks then about how he was feeling, and I think he was still being optimistic, and then once we got the project in the can there was maybe this psychic letting go. That’s when everything really started to reveal itself as this could be the end.  I did go back to see him when he was in hospice.  I think I was there the last two days that he really was able to really stay coherent.  He would close his eyes and be at peace and quiet for a minute, and he would finish a conversation and sort of close his eyes, not to sleep and not to go away, but I remember watching him going, “Look how peaceful he is,” and then he’d open his eyes and he’d remember that he is in this body that has been given a time limit of life, and he’s on his way out.  I’d watch the fear go back in his eyes.  At one point, he did say, “I’m so scared,” and I just held his hand, and I said, “I’m scared too.  Let’s be scared through this together.”  I don’t know how to navigate grief like that.  We are all going to be in a position at some point where we are going to be on the other side of the hand holding.  The wonderful thing is that we were able to have honest communication about our feelings.  I thanked him for everything that he has done for me and how he believed in my talent and creativity and our partnership.  I will always take that with me.  I waved my finger at him, and I said, “Listen.  Now, we wrote a series about a man talking to his deceased husband.  You’d better talk to me!”  So, we laughed about that.

Photo: AfterForever

You’ve done a lot of things in your career from Broadway to television, and of course, daytime fans know you best as Dr. Craig Wesley on DAYS.  How does the entire After Forever project stack up to you within all that you have done?

KEVIN:  Former DAYS casting director Fran Bascom, sought me out and offered me this 2-day role on Days of Our Lives, and those 2 days turned into 8 years, and unbeknownst to me at the time, the final 3 months of that contract of those 8 years, Michael Slade was brought in to write.  We didn’t cross paths at that point, but years later, when we did cross paths in New York, and then After Forever was born, that was that universal crossing point.  I am most proud of the fact that we were able create something fresh, and real, and personal to ourselves that we didn’t have to cater to any “powers that be” that had their vision and their tinkering, that they thought that it could be better in this way or that way.  Then for After Forever to gain such recognition, within the film festivals, and the Emmys, and then, just after Michael died, we won the GLAAD award for Special Recognition this year.  We don’t even fit into one of their categories!  They found a way to acknowledge this project.  If another Emmy happens again, that might be another one to put up on the shelf for After Forever that would be beautiful, and I couldn’t have done it without Michael.

For the Daytime Emmys this year, what category have you entered Riley’s Unforgettable School Project?

KEVIN:  We are not a series this year, we are a daytime fiction special, and the “Daytime Fiction Special” category is a special class.  It’s anything that’s digital in the construct of less than 40 minutes.  NATAS (National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences) is being bombarded with so much content, they’re trying to find ways to put categories together.

Photo: JPI

So, now, when we last saw Days of Lives’ Dr. Craig Wesley, where was he? (Laughs)

KEVIN: (Laughs) He was in a flash from the past or something in the DOOL app’s Last Blast Reunion series. I had a fun time working with Patrika Darbo (Nancy) and Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe), once again.

So, if they were to want Craig to come back to DAYS, would you be all for it?

KEVIN:  Hell yes!

Photo: JPI

Now, what story would you want to be told involving Craig? 

KEVIN:  When Craig was first on the canvas in Salem, there was a lot of mustache twirling and a lot of hand wringing.  He was always plotting; most of the time with Nancy.  It was kind of this high drama, evil villain storyline being told, but when the writers created an opportunity for us to be on after those first three months by bringing on Chloe without a father, there was something real about it.  It may have been told under the construct of soap opera storytelling, but there was a reality-based story about, “You have a daughter, and we are just now finding out about it?”  Then, finding a cure to her health was another realistic story, and finding out that Craig was her real father.  Anything that’s reality based is what I’m getting to.  I would welcome any job that brings me back and gives me an opportunity to dive into something real.

Photo: JPI

Would you welcome the opportunity to play a gay character on daytime; in a medium where there are very few represented in storylines?

KEVIN:  I’d have no problem with that.  Do you know anybody who is starting that?  Let’s do it!  (Laughs) First of all, there’s nothing to hide anymore.  There’s nothing to pretend you’re not anymore.  I would think that bringing in a storyline that deals with anything outside the norm that we are used to seeing would be interesting.  How many times can you retell a story?  How many times can you set the same story up with another couple?  So, why not be diverse and have a stylized story being told through the lens of a gay person.

Photo: AfterForever

In closing, so many go through life without acknowledging people who had an impact them.  We don’t give pats on the back, often enough, and especially in Hollywood, where people can be very self-involved.  You have already paid tribute to Michael Slade in our discussion, but what gift from him is your personal takeaway?

KEVIN:  The gift that Michael really gave to me is to remember to be kind to myself and to others, and to acknowledge and salute the person who is in front of us, because we don’t know when we will have, or if we will have, another moment to do that.

Now below, check out the trailer for Riley’s Unforgettable School Project.  Then let us know, what do you think of its concept? Kevin’s thoughts on the passing of his collaborator on the project, Michael Slade? And, do you hope DAYS brings back Dr. Craig Wesley? Share your thoughts via the comment section.

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General Hospital

GH’s Kin Shriner Talks on Franco’s Demise, Scott’s Budding Romance with Obrecht, and His Enduring On-Screen Partnership with Genie Francis

One of the most beloved actors in the history of General Hospital, Kin Shriner, currently finds his alter-ego, Scott Baldwin, in a new budding on-screen romance with none other than Liesl Obrecht (Kathleen Gati).

This comes on the heels of Scott learning the devastating news that his son, Franco Baldwin was shot and killed, thus writing-off the ABC daytime drama series, for now, popular actor, Roger Howarth.

Photo: JPI

Throughout his now almost 44-year-run on the ABC daytime drama series, Kin Shriner has brought his unique acting chops that helped mold the character of legal eagle Scott Baldwin into the humorous, at times cutthroat, endearing and many times heartbreaking character we have all come to love.’

 

In a brand new exclusive virtual sit-down interview with Michael Fairman on You Tube’s The Michael Fairman Channel, Shriner opens up about his history with GH and the times he stepped away to take on roles on Texas and As the World Turns, and then back again to the town of Port Charles and GH.

Photo: ABC

As well, Kin reveals his reaction to learning the news that Roger Howarth would be exiting the show as his TV son and how he shot the key emotional scene where Laura (Genie Francis) tells Scott that Franco had died.  Shriner shares that he does not see how when Howarth returns to the show in as a yet-to-be-revealed character, that it would be a stretch if the two were some how related, but that he will miss working with the talented Howarth as a scene-partner.

Photo: JPI

As to the women in Scott’s life, Kin addresses each of them from: Lucy (Lynn Herring), Bobbie (Jackie Zeman), Dominque (Shell Danielson), Laura (Francis), Ava (Maura West) – to which the character could never get that close to – and now Liesl (Gati), and working opposite all the powerhouse actresses who portray them.

Photo: ABC

For fans of General Hospital who have watched the series for decades, Kin also shares memories of working with his late TV parents, Peter Hansen (Lee), Susan Brown (Gail) and his friend and former GH castmate John Reilly (Sean), plus backstage stories with his longtime scene partner, Genie Francis.

Watch the entire conversation with Kin below.

Now let us know, are you all for the Scott and Liesl romance? Will you miss scenes between Scott and Franco?  Would you ever want to see Scott and Laura reunite romantically? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Newman Kids Talk 48th Anniversary, Storylines, Camaraderie, and Take the Trivia Challenge

On Friday, to celebrate the 48th anniversary of The Young and the Restless (which premiered back on March 26th,1973) Michael Fairman chatted virtually with the actors who comprise the adult Newman family children; Joshua Morrow (Nick), Amelia Heinle (Victoria), Mark Grossman (Adam), Hunter King (Summer) and Melissa Ordway (Abby).

During the conversation, on You Tube’s the Michael Fairman Channel, the actors discussed what it was like coming into the iconic Newman clan when they first debuted, behind-the-scenes moments and laughs they share working with each other, and what it has been like for them to share scenes with their iconic TV father, Eric Braeden (Victor) and for some of the kids, their on-screen mother, Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki).

In addition, each touch upon their current Y&R storyline where:Nick is involved with Phyllis again, Adam is on to Chelsea, Victoria is trying to be in the woman in charge of the company and she finds herself boyfriend-less, Summer has her hands full with the arrival of Tara Locke and Sally Spectra who may all destroy her relationship with Kyle, and Abby wanting to have a baby via surrogacy with the sperm donor being Devon.

Later, Michael plays a round of “Stump the Newman” trivia where the actors are put to the test to see just who knows the history of the Newman clan best. Watch what happens when the mention of the notorious and ill-fated reliquary storyline is brought up!

Joshua, Amelia, Mark, Hunter, and Melissa also express what it has meant to them to be a part of the legacy of The Young and the Restless, and still later Joshua’s daughter, Charlie, even makes a special guest appearance.

Now watch the conversation in full with the Newman kids below. 

Then let us know, what was your favorite moment of the interview? How do you hope their current storylines resolve? What was your favorite and least favorite storyline of all-time for Nick, Victoria, Adam, Abby, and Summer? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Y&R’s Joshua Morrow, Amelie Heinle, Mark Grossman, Hunter King and Melissa Ordway chat with Michael Fairman about being a part of and portraying the Newman Children as the show celebrates its 48th anniversary.Leave A Comment

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