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Y&R's Maria Arena Bell Interview: Her thoughts on Franco, Darnell, Bach & Spring in Genoa City!

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

The Bell family has a lot to celebrate over the next few weeks as this week The Bold and the Beautiful turns 23 and next week The Young and the Restless turns 39. 

On-Air On-Soaps caught up with the executive producer and head writer of Y&R, Maria Arena Bell, on the silver carpet of B&B’s anniversary shindig to get some quick thoughts on the some of the series latest casting coups, how her art world and soap world have collided, and a preview of what is to come in Genoa City.

Performance artist, Kalup Linzy recently did an interview with you for The Huffington Post.  The two of you and James Franco seem to all be intertwined now.  First from the art world, and now the soap opera world … or vice versa!

MARIA:  That was the most amazing thing.  When I met James Franco I kind of thought, I was one of the few people involved in the contemporary art world and soap operas, until I met James.  In fact, the big major sequence that was part of his storyline on General Hospital was shot at MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art).  I was there that night wearing my MOCA hat and seeing what General Hospital was producing.  It was sort of an ironic situation.  I met Kalup before they ever went on GH, when they were sort of thinking about how they might do a project within soap opera.  I think Kalup is a very talented artist.  James Franco is also a very serious artist and in fact, MOCA is really excited. We are doing another project with James Franco, and it’s called the Rebel Project and that will be opening very soon here in Los Angeles.  It’s based on the movie, Rebel Without a Cause.  

Courtesy/HuffingtonPost

James enlisted the help of other major contemporary artists to collaborate with him on this.  It’s almost like a performance art meets installation art, and it should be really brilliant.  What I like about what James and Kalup did, was that they were actually very respectful of the soap genre. I was afraid that they would mock it, but it was not mocking at all.  Especially, not Kalup, because he is the biggest soap fan.  He is a huge Y&R fan, and he is adorable. The whole experience was fun.

Do you think you would bring MOCA into The Young and the Restless with a big location remote as General Hospital did?

MARIA:  It’s interesting, not necessarily MOCA, but we have had contemporary art stories on the show.  We had Victor with Sabrina, and she was his art consultant.  Then we had Devon collect a piece by Shepard Fairey.  Shepard is someone I know though MOCA because we did the Art in the Streets show.  We like using a little touch of art on Y&R, as it sort of rounds out our world in Genoa City.

How is it having all these very popular and well-respected and beloved All My Children actors now over at Y&R?  I am referring to Darnell Williams (Sarge) and Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) and Debbi Morgan (Harmony).  Look at the talented array of people you have added to the cast.

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

MARIA:  It’s incredible and it’s a total, total dream team, and to add to the incredible actors we have as our core characters.  We have always had the greatest cast.  Then you bring in a few of these people to add to the cast and add new dynamic stories, it’s amazing.  Darnell is just fantastic.  I really wanted to play him in a very different way than Jesse Hubbard from AMC.  I think that is the same thing we have experienced with Debbi.  Debbi’s character is very different, than who she was as Angie on AMC.  I think Debbi was very anxious to do that, and to play someone who was not always the “nice gal”.   She wanted a breath of fresh air and that is also what Genie Francis (Genevieve) wanted.  She wanted to bring something new other than Laura from General Hospital.  These are actors I have watched and admired for years.  I am a soap fan.  I watch all these shows!

Will we see Darnell’s character evolve and have legs?  Is there a plan in place for him?

MARIA:  Yes, you will. What I really love is that viewers are going to see him really bond with Jack Abbott.  One of the things on a soap you don’t get to play as much is friendship.  You don’t usually get to play the deep bonding between two guys.  I think it’s so important for the audience to see that.  I think this is going to be an important friendship for the both of them.  I feel that Darnell will be with us for a long-long time, and so not to have him right off the bat with a romance, but to instead really have him in a bromance! (Laughs)   I really liked that idea.  Sarge is really tough on Jack, and he is going to help him make some progress.

Let’s talk a minute about Catherine Bach.  Now that really caught me by surprise. Where did the casting idea come from to make Daisy Duke, Chelsea’s mom?

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

MARIA:  I love Catherine Bach.  I know her because our children went together when they were in pre-school.  I also know her personal story.  I was at her husband’s funeral when he passed away.  I knew the fun side of Catherine. I knew that Catherine was this very dynamic and fiery person, and that she is a talented actress.  So when we were looking for a mother for Chelsea, I was: A) always struck by the idea to bring Catherine to daytime, and B) That Catherine and Melissa Claire Egan have this very striking resemblance and that they really do seem like mother and daughter.  I don’t know if you have noticed, but she and Melissa are very connected.  When I met with Catherine about the role, I said to her, “Wait till you meet Melissa Claire Egan.  You are going to see that she is going to remind you of yourself!”  And Catherine said, “Oh my Gosh. She really does!”

What can you preview for spring on The Young and the Restless?

MARIA:  We are going to see the struggle that Jack Abbott is facing, and the obstacles he has and his fight to overcome them.  There is going to be a lot of unexpected romance.  There is going to be some interesting movement in the boardroom as well as the bedroom.  A very Y&R move! (Laughs)

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

Finally, look at the accomplishments of the Bell legacy that we are celebrating.  Y&R is turning 39 and B&B turns 25!

MARIA:  Everyone at Y&R just celebrated our 39th Anniversary the other week, and we are thrilled to be 39 officially on March 26th.  Our 10,000 episode is going to air this summer. That is a huge milestone and next year will be 40 years.  And 25 years of The Bold and the Beautiful is amazing.  I went to work there in 1989.  It’s really exciting to see and I think it’s fantastic.

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My question is why does everyone that interview MAB give us viewers such softball interviews? Why not push her on the disastrous decisions she has made about the direction of Y&R? There have been plenty questionable decisions and I think in your heart you realize the horrible state Y&R is in at the moment. Why not ask her about the ratings slide especially during the Feb. sweeps? Y&R didn’t post any increases what so ever? So does this mean advertising will take a hit for revenue and which could mean long time vets will be out or pushed aside for the boring “Kevin & Angelina” story! Why bring on “Daisy” again? Fans don’t like the character at all! The balance of show is sorely lacking and fans are being pushed down our throats with the same characters! It is so sad to see our beloved characters being written so out of character and then fans are turning against these long time characters…example Phyllis or Sharon. Then you have some vets twirling in the wind with no story, bunch of psychos constantly running around and that gets old to watch. Where’s the romance? None in sight but GC-SVU? I’m a long time viewer of CBS and quit watching Y&R for an year until (not your site) but another site (you are familiar) with does nothing but BASH Y&R & B&B (which I”m loving right now GO BRAD keep traditional) pushing their own agenda and actually stating wanting Y&R cancelled! I retreated back to my home of CBS regardless of state trying to find something positive. I would never wish any soap death, I seen enough but when push comes to shove I will go home and won’t watch GH (not a fan of RC & FV) and stopped watching DOOL all together because like it or not CBS soaps are stilling very viable in ratings and wanting to keep my last soaps on the air. I for one was so upset with Y&R the last year and screamed very loud about it, I watched since the debut and feel I had a right to be upset because it’s not Bill Bell’s mighty soap. He knew how balance and when you have heinous characters pay for their deeds and knew when a story was working he changed direction. NOT MAB & cronies they just keep shoving it on fans. I want fresh new blood in the writing department for Y&R such as Lorraine B., Jill Lorie Hurst, Pam Long or better yet BRING BACK Kay Alden to name a few that know how to write traditional style writing with romance, mystery and social issues as my beloved Mr. Bell knew how to write.

Hello Micheal:

I just want to be the first to wish you a Happy FIRST Day of Spring…! Enjoy.

Why is everything about the new additions to the cast? It’s consumes her interviews and consumes the show. Can’t they write a story without a new character? I don’t remember every story having to have a someone new in it.

The onslaught of new characters has smothered the show and prevented the viewers seeing their classic families and favorite relationships they watch the Y&R for. Jill & Katherine haven’t had a story in years and pass like ships in the night. New viewers must wonder why those 2 old ladies live together, if they even notice they live together. Not much happens at the Chancellor estate any more. Everything Chancellor that built since 1973 has been abandoned for Tucker. Which isn’t interesting in the least unless you are a super fan of that actor.

Michael, I hope you do get a chance to discuss fan concerns with MAB. I want to put something out there because Y&R was my favorite show for decades, long before I discovered RC/FV’s OLTL. Bill Bell wrote smart, beautiful soap. I didn’t always like what he did, but I trusted him, because I knew that 4 out of 5 times, there’d be a satisfying payoff, which is darn good for a soap opera, given the amount of episodes that have to be produced. Y&R today is a plot-driven, overpopulated shell of its former self, and that makes me sad. It seems that MAB has “vision”, and she has decided to stick to that “vision”, but I think the numbers speak volumes. Stalwart viewers like me are abandoning MAB’s vision of Y&R, and they don’t seem to be able to replace us, as seen by the shockingly declining ratings. I think she needs to face facts and steer this show back on course, or I am sorry to say, she should step aside, along with Sheffer and Hamner. There are so many talented, creative people out there who could make this right, and it’s so frustrating to see this gem of daytime in the wrong hands.

Too many new characters (although I do think Catherine and Melissa are doing a good job), too many storylines. She needs to take a machete to the cast and trim it down and maybe that will help with the writing. I would like to see more Gloria–she is who got me hooked on the show in the first place. Would also like to see Sharon and Adam together. I get recycling is in, but not with storylines. How many times are Sharon and Nick going to be pushed together before they realize it’s not working? I don’t feel the heat I do with Sharon and Adam. Besides, Nick is a serial cheater. He and Phyllis deserve each other.

MAB and her co-hacks Hogan Sheffer and Scott “My name’s NOT Earl” Hamner have ruined my beloved show!! SORAS-ing the character of Kyle will be another move certain to put another nail in this show’s coffin!

NEW WRITERS PLEASE AND STAT!!

Will we see Michael E. Knight on Y&R? I would love to see him as a friend on Paul Williams that takes over and covers his detective operation. And later becomes a partner, ad a condition of getting freedom for killing his son, even though he never meant to. And there he .can have his long time reunion with Darnell and Debbi from AMC. days. He could become to new PI of Genoa City

General Hospital

Nicholas Chavez Speaks Out on the Death of Friend and Former GH Castmate Johnny Wactor: “I’m Beside Myself with Sadness”

It has been another rough go for the General Hospital family following the news surrounding the shooting that killed beloved former cast member, Johnny Wactor (ex-Brando Corbin) over the weekend.

Since that time, there has been an outpouring of grief, shock and sadness, and remembrances for the actor who died at 37-years-old.  Many of Johnny’s castmates have spoken out about the loss and shared heartbreaking tributes.

Now, Nicholas Chavez (ex-Spencer Cassadine) who is soon-to-be-seen in Ryan Murphy’s limited series on Netflix, Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story, has also shared his sentiments. With heartfelt words, along with a photo of himself and Johnny, and another former GH co-star, Marcus Coloma (ex-Nikolas), Chavez explained the difficulty he is having processing Johnny’s death and the unbreakable bond they shared.

Photo: Facebook

Nick began, “Johnny — I’m beside myself with sadness. The last time I saw you, we ran into each other by accident in Los Angeles. When we recognized each other your face lit up and you ran essentially across the room to give me a big and tight hug. You were a strong and kind person”

He went on to say, these heartfelt words to Johnny, “You were a phenomenal friend and you always made me feel welcomed and loved. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been a part of your life and I’m praying for you and your family. I will miss you very much.”

Johnny Wactor run on GH lasted from 2020-2022, while Nicholas Chavez appeared from 2021 till early in 2024.

Share your thoughts on Nicholas’ remembrances of Johnny Wactor via the comment section below.

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Breaking News

New Details Emerge in Fatal Shooting of General Hospital’s Johnny Wactor; Was Protecting Female Co-Worker From Armed Car Thieves

The brother of Johnny Wactor (ex-Brando Corbin) has come forward with some new information on the act of violence that took the life of the General Hospital favorite on Saturday May 25th in the wee hours of the morning in downtown Los Angeles.

As valiant as man as Johnny was to all those who know and loved him, he was through and through that man till the very end. According to Grant Wactor, Johnny actually shielded a female co-worker at the time of the crime before he was fatally shot.  Three men were trying to steal Wactor’s catalytic converter from his vehicle, one of which fired the shot that killed the former GH star.

According to a new report from the Daily Mail, Wactor was leaving his side job as a bartender at a downtown LA rooftop bar with a female colleague at around 3:25am when he saw the three men near his vehicle at West Pico Boulevard and South Hope Street.

Photo: ABC

Believing he was being towed, he approached the men to try to discuss it. One of the men then looked up and pointed a gun at Wactor, who put his body in front of his female co-worker as he was shot. Police say, the three men were all wearing masks, and then fled the scene in another car.  The suspects currently remain at-large.

Grant commented on his brother’s last act of bravery, “We’re Southern, born and raised, and we would never let a female walk to their car by herself.” He added that Johnny, “Thought his truck was being towed. So he said something to the guys, like, ‘Hey, are you towing?’ And then once he turned around, he saw what was happening and he put his coworker behind him. And that’s when they shot him.

Photo: JPI

Sadly, Grant revealed, Johnny was shot in the chest, and that Johnny and his co-worker had to park about two blocks from the restaurant, so they were walking to their cars after they finished their shift when the incident unfolded.

Grant shared that he hopes justice will be served and the men are caught, “I hope they are able to track the people who did this. I am glad in a way that this is getting the publicity so that it could shed some light that things need to change, or find ways so that no one else has to experience this – whether it be a murder or being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In what has already been horrific that we lost Johnny to a senseless act of gun violence over an attempted theft, learning that the actor died right after protecting somebody else, only reinforces the kind of man Wactor was to all those who knew and loved him. Share your thoughts on the latest details on Johnny’s death via the comment section below.

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General Hospital

General Hospital Co-Stars Share Their Grief and Mourn the Loss of Johnny Wactor

There has been an outpouring of grief, sadness and remembrances for former General Hospital actor, Johnny Wactor (ex-Brando Corbin 2020-2022), who the world learned was shot and killed on Saturday in a senseless theft and act of gun violence.

As previously reported, Wactor was only 37-years-old. The incident, as told by Wactor’s mother to TMZ, which ultimately took his life, occurred when three individuals attempted to steal the catalytic converter from Johnny’s car. Once alerted to the situation. Wactor did not try to stop or interfere in the theft but the unidentified suspects shot him anyway and then got a way.

Wactor’s talent agent, David Shaul, made this statement on his passing to Variety, “Johnny Wactor was a spectacular human being. Not just a talented actor who was committed to his craft but a real moral example to everyone who knew him. Standing for hard work, tenacity and a never give up attitude. In the highs and lows of a challenging profession he always kept his chin up and kept striving for the best he could be. Our time with Johnny was a privilege we would wish on everyone. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. After over a decade together, he will leave a hole in our hearts forever.”

Photo: ABC

Many of Johnny’s former GH castmates took to social media in the last several hours with heartbreaking and touching words on the loss of Wactor. Here are just some below, and Michael Fairman TV will continue to update these remembrances as they are posted.

Sofia Mattsson (Sasha) – My heart is so utterly broken… Johnny was the absolute best. So genuine. So caring. Incredibly hard working and humble. With a huge heart that spread so much kindness and joy. He always made sure everyone around him felt seen, heard and loved. I admire the man he was so much and I’m a better person for having known him. We shared so many special moments, both on and off screen, and I will forever cherish them deeply in my heart. You will be so incredibly missed Johnny… I’m sure you’re already busy taking care of everyone up there.”

Maurice Benard (Sonny): “What can I say about something so senseless? Johnny was the sweetest guy coolest dude and just a great soul. This is beyond words you will be missed my friend.”

Chad Duell (Michael): “Some POS scum taking the life of someone who’s making something of themselves, and an amazing person. So disgusting and infuriating. Don’t know what else to say.. just so wrong.”

Photo: ABC

Jon Lindstrom (Kevin): “When the tears slow down, I am literally sick to my stomach at this news. Johnny was one of those rare young men in this business who was kind, unassuming, humble, and always thought about other people. A talented young guy who just wanted to share that talent with the world. I wish I had enough love to fill the hole that his loved ones must feel right now, but I know that’s impossible. Johnny will be missed on this plane. For a long time to come. R.I.P.”

Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis): “An absolutely inconceivable, enraging & senseless tragedy. Johnny was a lovely man. Condolences to his family & friends. May they find eventual peace & may his memory be a blessing.”

Finola Hughes (Anna): “Gutted…. 🕊️ sending my deepest condolences to his family 🤍 I feel I must add to this post. The shock is so terrible, for such a genuine young man to be taken so violently. I am incredibly sad for his family. He was a very hardworking person, kind and extremely respectful to his fellow cast members. I am so sorry for his loss 🤍 Johnny Wactor xxx”

Photo: ABC

Kirsten Storms (Maxie): “I’m in a state of disbelief and complete sadness. I don’t typically do posts like this, but Johnny was such a special person and it feels important (for me) to put these words out there. To Johnny’s mother and family, I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Johnny was one of those rare “real individuals” that you almost never come across. I was fortunate enough to have some really good conversations with him where we discussed things I don’t typically open up about. For some reason, we talked about the deep stuff. He was a safe space for those conversations and, in turn, he would talk about his life. He genuinely cared about people and their journeys in life. During his time on GH I witnessed him work hard and truly have respect for every single person in our building. I just cannot believe that his life was stolen from him the way it was. My heart hurts. RIP Johnny”

Bonnie Burroughs (ex-Gladys): “I am heartbroken and sickened by this terrible loss. Johnny I love you. My heart breaks for your real mom and your whole family. The world is darker now.”

Photo: ABC

Ashton Arbab (ex-Dev): “Absolutely heartbroken while typing this. Johnny Wactor was not only my tv dad for more than 25 episodes on General Hospital but he was a great human, a kind soul, an inspiration and a one of a kind actor. May your soul rest in peace. Heaven gained an Angel.”

Perry Chen (Brad): Johnny Wactor was a beautiful, beautiful soul. So talented. As you can see from the promo clip, always up for anything. Funny as all heck. Fit as all hell but also loved ice cream and ate all the junk I did as well. We all were cheated of many years with him.

Kelly Thiebaud (ex-Britt):  “Johnny Wactor, you were one of the good ones. I’m so sorry this happened to you. RIP”

Photo: ABC

William deVry (ex-Julian): “Honestly, words can’t begin 2 express the sadness with which 2 convey my feelings towards losing another GH Alum. The senselessness of this lose is beyond description. Johnny was such a good guy. Really horrible. RIP Johnny Wactor & much love & comfort to those who loved him.”

Laura Wright (Carly): “In shock. My heart breaks for Johnny’s family. You were an incredible man.”

Kathleen Gati (Obrecht): Another talented, kind and generous General Hospital colleague gone too soon. Deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and fans of Johnny Wactor.”

Cynthia Watros (Nina): “What a kind soul. We lost an amazing man.”

Briana Lane (ex-Brook Lynn): “The world lost a wonderful person yesterday and a true gentleman to everyone he met. I feel lucky to have known him and to have experienced the warmth he exuded so effortlessly. RIP Johnny Wactor”

Lydia Look (Selina): “Johnny, I’m crying and will be for a bit. I knew you were talented when you simply just took your shirt off when the rest of us were trying to outdo each other with our skits. I also knew there & then that you were fine as wine 😻 I also saw how you’d let others take the spotlight whilst confident & loving in your own space. Most of all, I learnt what a magnificent human you were in our long car rides between fan events. I will cherish our chats. Thank you.”

The official General Hospital social media accounts on X and Instagram shared: “The entire General Hospital family is heartbroken to hear of Johnny Wactor’s untimely passing. He was truly one of a kind and a pleasure to work with each and every day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones during this difficult time.”

What do you think about some of the remembrances of Johnny Wactor as shared by his former GH co-stars and friends af learning he was shot and killed? Comment below.

 

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