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Y&R's Maria Arena Bell discusses Genie Francis, Daniel Goddard, Soaps future & more!

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Maria Arena Bell, the executive producer and head writer of the top daytime drama, The Young and the Restless at different times during Emmy week. We had the opportunity to pose some burning questions that fans and soap pundits have pondered.

Since soap icon, Genie Francis had appeared on Y&R as her new character of Genevieve, many have loved her every moment, and others give a mixed reviews saying she may be channeling her inner Helena Cassadine.  Daniel Goddard, got a fantastic opportunity to come back from the dead playing two roles, or so we thought as Caleb and Cane, and meanwhile Tristan Rogers and Jess Walton are taking off as the soaps veteran “it” couple. So how does the mastermind behind Genoa City see it all? And, after her great Emmy victory for head writing along with her team, during the most difficult times the soap world has ever faced, what does she have to say about the relevancy of the genre? Find out as we talk to the busiest executive and creative force in daytime, Maria Arena Bell!

Let’s talk first about your brainchild to bring Genie Francis (Genevieve) on to the canvas and to Y&R.  Now that you have and seen her on the airshows, is what you had envisioned or imagined with her becoming a reality?

MARIA: Genie is amazing and a real pro.  I put pen to paper and she ran with it.  She is really a brave, courageous actress.  She will go there, and I think it speaks to her frustration in playing one role for so long that she felt limited in it.  It was a beloved soap character, and I loved Laura of GH, too.  I mean, who doesn’t love Laura!  But I think Genie was itching to play a smart, aggressive person who makes things happen.  I think she is stupendous and really sold the story, as has everyone in that storyline.  It really has been fantastic to watch, and I think she is terrific.

People always said, “How are they going to get out of the Daniel Goddard situation?”  And then, “How was Maria going to do it?”  Was there ever hesitancy in you to do another evil twin twist?

MARIA: It was a situation where we needed to make a turn in the storyline, and obviously it’s a storyline as old as the hills.  But in this case, I thought we could mine it, and I wanted to give Daniel the opportunity to play a darker character.  I like seeing him go to that darker place and it’s also a challenge for him.  And in a way, when we talk about acting challenges, most of the time Daniel played Cane as a super nice guy, but every once in awhile Daniel brought an edge to Cane.  I was super impressed with him.  So I was like, this is great to give him this tour de force opportunity.  I think it worked out for him as an actor.

I think Tristan Rogers (Colin) and Jess Walton (Jill) really work well.  Did you know instinctively going in, that they would have such on-screen chemistry?

MARIA: When we brought Tristan on to the show, Jess Walton was the person I wanted to pair him with.  Jess is the most amazing actress, and so I knew if you put her with someone that can work at her level, then she can be phenomenal in a love story, especially one with a twist.  I think she is fantastic, and the two of them are fun to watch.  I think Genie enjoys working with them, too.  It’s a great group of people.

We hear you just got back from your first trip in forever, something that is terribly hard to plan when you are both the executive producer and head writer of a soap! Where did you go?

MARIA: I went to Africa!  I am the oldest of five girls and my dad thought it would be great to take a bunch of teenage girls on safari.  I loved that trip so much and it stuck with all of us all these years.  So I always had said to my husband, and after we had been together for 25 years that I have this idea of going to Africa with him sometime, but he never really wanted to go.  So I convinced him to go.  We even got all the shots to prepare to go and then I said, “I am so busy at Y&R, I don’t know if I can go!”  And he said, “Are you kidding me?  I just got all those shots!  We’re going!”  And in the end, we went and it was incredible.  And since I started back writing for the show several years ago, I never took anytime off, and this was my first week off.  I was worried how the communications would be…. so much that it could be troubling.  But, you could be in the Serengeti and get cell reception!

How do you feel about the state of the daytime soap landscape in the U.S. and internationally, especially with the cancellations of AMC and OLTL?

MARIA: I started out as an All My Children fan in college.  This is a very funny year, where we all felt a lot of heartbreak, in all honesty.  I am thrilled that Y&R won the Emmy for Writing and Directing, but it was great to just be at the Emmys and show the world that there are fans for this genre. There are millions of people in the world that watch Y&R.  When I landed in Tanzania, I go through passport control and this woman says, “Are you Maria Bell from The Young and the Restless?”  And I said, “Yes”, and she said, “I watch the show on the Internet.  I am from a small village and we manage to get the show.”  And she goes, “Is Tucker going to die?”  This was the most profound thing.  These things are valuable assets about the soaps and people need to appreciate it.  I am schmaltzy, but we cannot let the soap operas go away!  Certainly on Y&R, there are people watching here in the U.S. and all over the world.  There is a reason for it to still exist, but this was a rough year.

Tell me how it was to win your first Daytime Emmy for Writing?  And also, if you were to tell fans what is it like on a daily basis to be a head writer of a number one soap with 30 plus characters to navigate what would you tell them?

MARIA: First, it is a huge honor to win an Emmy and my first for writing.  I am first a writer, and this was just so special.  And being a head writer is a lot, because you feel like you are carrying the weight of the show on your shoulders and driving the storytelling.  I make those ultimate big decisions for the larger picture.  So it is challenging, tiring, sometimes difficult… and the most fun to be able to tell the stories you want to tell.  It really is the biggest honor, and I love it!

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PJ
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PJ

What a load….GF/Gen is an epic fail….and she’s fired a two-time emmy winner in Maura West because they can’t figure out how to utillize her besides throwing her in bed with a man and having them treat Diane like dirt.

Nice softball questions. Goddard has “edge”? *eyeroll*

Coffeeriser
Guest
Coffeeriser

What love story? People are thrown together instantly without no proper build up, as Jill and Colin were. As a result , as a viewer, you have no feeling for this coupling. Why wasn’t Maura West/Diane used as a rival for Phyllis and she would have been a worthy and a better rival/enemy? Diane Slept with Nick and time and again, and Phyllis should have found out and a cat fight should have ensued between these two witches. Why does Phyllis run all over people, ruined lives, break up other couples, and she gets a free pass time and time… Read more »

abcd
Guest
abcd

I love Jill and Colin together. They had instant chemistry from the start. We just don’t get to see them enough.

kay killgore
Guest
kay killgore

Thanks for the interview Michael I agree on Genie I just think she needs to tone it down a bit she is trying too hard. She is a great actress and will always be identified with Laura just take a deep breath and don’t try so hard. As for Goddard next time think before you kill someone off it always comes back to bite you!

Sherry
Guest
Sherry

Loved that person in Tanzanina asked about Tucker. I wish she’d give Stephen Nichols and Tucker a more substantial role on the show. He’s a fantastic actor and this storyline he’s in now has such potential. I think Tucker and Ashley are the soap veteran “IT “couple of the show!

I am sorry Diane and Maura are leaving the show. She’s become an interesting character lately.

liza
Guest
liza

I love Ashley, but hate her with Tucker, he’s such a drag. I can never figure out why his life is always such a bummer. He was the worst idea for a new character. GF is annoying but at least she’s not boring.

Ruby
Guest
Ruby

Y&R has a gold mine in Daniel Goddard who has been so underused to date. His new s/l is great!! Has really given him a chance to shine. The only problem is they had the big build up to the reveal, that Caleb was killed and Cane was still alive and Colin and Genevieve were his parents then they just dropped the s/l. You can’t keep interest up when you go weeks between scenes in a a s/l. This is a great disservice to Tristan, Genie and Daniel. They need to get back to that s/l and tell all the… Read more »

Suzane
Guest
Suzane

ITA

Val
Guest
Val

Disservice is right! The Aussie s/l was great from the beginning, and then MAB just leaves us hanging, not as in a nice cliffhanger that leads to something else, but hanging… wondering… getting frustrated. Poor Colin is left there for days and days, standing on Katherine’s porch waiting to ring the doorbell.

PLEASE, mab, PLEASE quit writing such “feast of famine” s/l, only shoving the Newmans at us. Give us the Atkinsons/Ashbys more consistantly!

Rob
Guest
Rob

I have to agree, I liked the idea of Genie Frnacis but she spent too much time devouring the scenery.
The fact that they wasted one of my favorite actresses, Maura West, is just mindblowing. They just made Diane an unredeemable whore that noone could root for.
They are trying to save face with the whole Godard situation, they fired him. Period. The fans expressed their outrage and they hired him back.

harlee
Guest
harlee

PLEASE I been a viewer of Y&R since it debuted in ’73 and this story with Genie is HORRIBLE and way over the top in the acting department. The Ashbys are swallowing up screen time when we could be watching the other stories that are going strong. We the fans had to go through last year and the bad, bad story telling on canvas and Y&R didn’t deserve the Emmy for best writing it was the worst year I seen on Y&R, including LML time with the soap. MAB is trying to make Y&R into GH and that isn’t what… Read more »

Iakovos
Guest
Iakovos

Y&R is not the compelling drama it once was. I accept evolution but I am not sure what we have today is ideal. Too many twins, over-the-top stories that strain credulity even in the soap world, convoluted family ties, and worst of all… too many instances of launching stories and stars then shifting course or dropping the people (Scott? West?). The joy of continuing drama is building the relationships and attention to detail with history. Not sure Y&R is doing that but it is doing something right as it retains is top ratings.

Tasneem
Guest
Tasneem

Why the writers let Daniel Goddard go in the first place is beyond me . I am just glad he is BACK and he is a magnificent actor . Its about time the writers learned their mistake and see what a talented individual he is now can Marua plz put Cane and Lilly back 2 gatherwhere they belong in each other’s arms and with their babies

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Thanks for the interview Michael! I enjoyed reading every minute of it. Daniel Goddard’s performace as Caleb was FANTASTIC. I smell an EMMY next year for himself and Chistel.
Thank you to Maria Arena Bell for bringing Daniel Goddard back to Y&R and listening to the fans who watch Y&R. The Young and the Restless is the BEST SOAP on TV. I am enjoying all the storylines at the moment. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer.

Martin
Guest
Martin

I agree with Ruby 100 % !!! Yes, Y&R has a gold mine in Daniel Goddard!! When will TPTB finally realize what a fabulous, amazing and talented actor Daniel Goddard is??
Daniel Goddard is just the BEST!!!

Kelly
Guest
Kelly

I’ve been watching Y&R for a long time and I get a feel for these things. This Gen chick will not last. I think she’ll be back on GH in a year, at best. Bye. They should have kept Maura because she had potential to be a really good thing for this show.

Judy
Guest
Judy

I’m with those that think Genevieve is an epic fail and GF is chewing up the scenery. Contrast that to the nuanced performance that Maura West is giving and I know which why I would much rather be watching and yet we will soon be without Maura. Crazy decision. Perhaps had Genevieve been a smart and aggressive woman it might have worked but instead she is a cartoon like nutcase.

Quite honestly I think this whole Cane/Caleb story just further damaged the character of Cane. Don’t see it as a huge success.

Patricia
Guest
Patricia

Maria A. Bell has totally destroyed LANE, I dont have any idea how she can ever fix this. Daniel Goddard is so amazing to his fans, on facebook and Twitter. She needs to fix this storyline. I love Genie Francis but she really needs to tone it down, its over acting. There is potential here just dont believe MAB is up to the task.

liza
Guest
liza

I would really like to see Jill and Colin together in something involving business , the other side of Jill’s family, or Katherine. Every time they are on it’s all about Cane. I don’t hate Cane but I’m anxious to see the couple without all this over the top drama. and craziness around them.

B
Guest
B

GF hasn’t done much for me so far but I’m still really open to see where it goes once she settles into the role.

Much like the woman in Tanzania I’d love to see more Tucker time.

ario
Guest
ario

I’m a GH fan so when i heard GENIE was joining Y&R i was dissappointed, but tune in out of loyalty to genie, especially because frons and guza did her wrong. I thought i would be jelous seeing all those gh actors like tristan, and stephen nichols and even kin shriner, but instead i felt sorry for them,SORRY guys buy Y&R is a bored, genie’s character is over the top melodramatic bore, tristan is boring and well stephen is sleeping on the show, or in a coma, my bad, and kin no matter what character he plays he acts sound… Read more »

lefty
Guest
lefty

Colin and Jill are the only reason I am watching Y&R.

SouthAfrican
Guest
SouthAfrican

I am still waiting for the buildup of the Ashby/Atkinson story, one minute I see Cane being shot, the next minute he is resurrected as an identical twin Caleb. I still need to see Cane explain to his young wife Lily why he did the things he did to hear *face palm*. Secondly I would like to ask MAB “what happened to Blake, why was he suddenly taken out of the story line”, he seemed to be the only one that irked Cane, if I ever saw Cane on edge so to speak was when Blake was around Lily. Off… Read more »

Nia
Guest
Nia

I’m so sick of all the Y&R hate. I love the show. It’s the BEST soap on the air, and has been for quite some time. MAB is a good writer, and the show is back to its character-driven roots. I’m actually surprised MAB did an interview with the way this guy completely dogs out Y&R on other websites and podcasts…while praising GH, which is totally unwatchable. I grew up watching GH and tuned out a couple of years ago. Y&R I picked up a couple of years ago, and it’s incredible. Even with bad stories, the show as a… Read more »

Kalamaty
Guest
Kalamaty

Amen, Nia! VERY well said! I’m loving our favorite show, and always have. Haters can suck it! 🙂

JT
Guest
JT

Stephen Nichols Tucker is a great character. But Ms Bell has abused him and his audience by using him MERELY to BOLSTER the excessively over pampered and over rated. He is the first man on Y&R who made me believe Ashley could be hot. He is hot. What is NOT hot at all is that fact that Ms Bell is under using Mr Nichols and over promoting Victor ad nauseum as well as Jack. Tucker deserved a chance and he has not been given a fair one on the Newman hour. That the Newmans have taken over Y&R has been… Read more »

Julie
Guest
Julie

I think Genie is GREAT as Gen and I am enjoying every scene she is in. You can clearly see there is more to her character than what she lets the outside world see. Her pain over the loss of her daughter is palpable. I think she is a refreshing character and I hope to see her more and more…especially with Jack!

Cori
Guest
Cori

I love, love Colin and Jill together. They are the reason I watch Y&R. I just wish they would get more air-time. Tristan and Jess have wonderful chemistry. I love how they can do comedy one minute, then turn around and do a drama the next. They are both amazing actors. I would love for them to interact with more of the other characters as well. It would be great to see Jill and Colin take on Victor in some kind of business situation. Tristan also does the ‘buddy’ thing very well (ie. Robert and Luke GH). Colin needs a… Read more »

lefty
Guest
lefty

ditto!

heidi
Guest
heidi

While I loved hearing about Maria’s excellent African adventure, there are some questions that needed to be asked and answered. Why did she feel the need to kill Cane in the first place? Daniel Goddard and Christel Khalil are so popular and have many fans. Was she shocked at the ratings dive? Is she willing to admit that she was wrong? These are all questions that many want answered. I’d also like to know why there is no balance on the show. Why we have days of Newman centered story and not see some other characters for weeks? Why can’t… Read more »

Ann Curry
Guest
Ann Curry

Wish you had asked about the mishandling of Maura West.

Tanya
Guest
Tanya

Well all I have to say is thank you for Billy & Victoria, Maria they are a great pairing. What she needs to do is balance out her Characters & Stories more, keep the momentum going. No more Dopple Ganger stories though no more please Maria and cut down on the Law & Order stuff and who had done it Stories. She needs to make her stories more realistic and give us a little more humor and romance, it’s always so dark & gloomy. The Cane story still didn’t make some sense to me especially since they say that it’s… Read more »

BETTYEJ
Guest
BETTYEJ

I think that M. Bell is just like her Brother in-law,Brad Bell. Neither of them have a clue on how to write anything. They both mostly just pick the old scripts off the floor and reuse them over and over.

Antoinette
Guest
Antoinette

My expectations of the interview were not met as I was waiting for the probing questions around why MAB dropped a popular actor like Daniel Goddard, only to retract after the fans outrage reached mammoth proportions? She was handled with kid gloves and allowed to blather on about her pilgrimage to Africa (all very interesting no doubt) which has nothing whatsoever to do with her appalling record on this show! How this so-called ‘author’ received an Emmy for writing skills is beyond me. She needs to get her head around the fact that viewers have an emotional investment in characters… Read more »

sue
Guest
sue

I love the story line of Cane and Lily. Y & R needs to be careful – the writers are treading thin waters right about now with soaps being cancelled. The storylines are cookie cutter and starting to have limited substance. Some story lines are being dragged on and on….and for what?

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Soap Opera Digest broke the bit of casting news.

Chapman was last seen in the role in 2018 and then headed over to Days of our Lives to play Diana for awhile.

Judith took over the role of Gloria in 2005 replacing Knots Landing favorite, Joan Van Atk.

Glad to hear Judith will be back on our daytime screens? Comment below.

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