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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.  


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.


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!


Wayne Anderson
Wayne Anderson

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

Breaking News

GH’s Billy Miller Lands Role In Apple’s Upcoming Thriller Series, ARE YOU SLEEPING

Exciting casting news for mutli-Daytime Emmy winner, Billy Miller (Drew, General Hospital).  Miller has been cast in the upcoming drama series thriller, Are you Sleeping to be on Apple’s streaming platform.

Are you Sleeping stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer along with Lizzy Caplan, and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) with another Oscar winner, Reese Witherspoon serving as one of the series executive producers with the project through her production company, Hello Sunshine.

According to Deadline: Are You Sleeping, is based on the true-crime novel by Kathleen Barber,and provides a unique glimpse into America’s obsession with true-crime podcasts and challenges its viewers to consider the consequences when the pursuit of justice is placed on a public stage.

Code Black’s Moon Bloodgood is also set as a series regular. Brett Cullen (Devious Maids) and Hunter Doohan, will recur along with Miller.

In story, Octavia Spencer stars as Poppy Parnell, a relentless investigative reporter who looks to uncover the truth behind a decades-old questionable murder verdict through her new podcast. Caplan plays twin sisters Josie and Lanie, whose father’s murder decades ago is examined on the podcast. Paul plays convicted murderer Warren Cave, whose guilt or innocence has remained a question in many people’s minds for the past 20 years.

Miller will play the role of Lanie’s husband, Alex Dunn.

Elizabeth Perkins, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Beach, Tracie Thoms, Haneefah Wood and Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us) also co-star in the series.

So, looks like Billy will be a part of a star-studded cast! Excited to see him in this role? Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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DYNASTY’s Brianna Brown Is A New Mom!

It’s a boy for Brianna Brown and her husband Richie Keen!

The CW’s Dynasty star, were she plays Claudia Blaisdel, gave birth to her son Charlie Zane on July 18th in Los Angeles.

The new little bundle of joy weighed in 7 lbs., 11 oz.

In a statement to PEOPLE the proud new parents expressed: “We are overjoyed to welcome Charlie into our family and are grateful to everyone who helped guide us through our birth experience. We are looking forward to all the adventures we will have in the next chapter of our lives.”

General Hospital fans remember Brianna for her portrayal of Dr. Lisa Niles who had an obsession with Dr. Patrick Drake (played by now Y&R’s Jason Thompson).

Share your congratulations for the happy couple and baby Charlie via the comment section below!

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Breaking News

Jordi Vilasuso Joins The Cast Of The Young and the Restless

Soap vet, Jordi Vilasuso is heading to Genoa City!

Casting news out of Soap Opera Digest is that the Daytime Emmy-winning actor, will play the role of Ray who is said to be a mysterious stranger who finds himself immersed in the drama in town.

Look for Jordi to make his Y&R debut on the Friday, August 17th episode.

Daytime fans last saw Jordi as Dario on Days of our Lives.  He exited when the character was written-off and into the Witness Protection Program.

Jordi won is Daytime Emmy for his role as Tony Santos on Guiding Light.

So, do you think Jordi will play a good guy, or a bad guy this time out on Y&R? Comment below.

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Video du Jour

This week on Y&R, Nick reveals himself to Victor as the one who has been masquerading at J.T.! Meanwhile, Lily and Hilary are involved in a terrible car crash, and Mariah and Tessa reconnect. What did you think of Nick’s revenge plot on Victor? Watch the latest promo from CBS below, then let us know. Leave A Comment

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