Former soap opera producer Colleen Bell stepped into the role of California film commissioner a little more than a year ago, not having any idea that COVID-19 would grind production to a halt in March. The three-time Daytime Emmy nominee, who has four children with The Bold and the Beautiful executive producer and head writer Brad Bell, quickly found herself drawing on her crisis management training from her time as US ambassador to Hungary under former President Obama, telling the Hollywood Reporter, "As soon as the COVID crisis hit, I just hunkered down and really focused."
She's spent most of the quarantine working with local officials and industry leaders to map out Hollywood's safe return to production as well as ensuring California remains a top filming destination as production resumes. Considering her position, it's natural to wonder if it was a coincidence that B&B -- her husband's show -- was the first major US television series to return to production.
"It's a complete coincidence," she reveals. "With soap operas, they're pretty nimble, and he is someone who has been producing and writing 250 episodes of TV every year with his extremely talented team for more than 30 years. So he really believed that they could be quick out of the gate and get rolling."
She continues, "But it's funny -- as the California film commissioner, I would say I have up-to-the-minute -- or to-the-second -- information on when production would be allowed to resume in the state of California, and yet I could hear him on the phone in the other room, and he's like, 'I think we'll be back to work next week.' And I just have to go in there and say, 'Brad, that's not happening! It's not happening. Feel free to knock on my office door and I'll let you know when it might be happening.' [Laughs]"
As Soap Central previously reported, B&B resumed production in mid-June, but the soap was forced to push pause on its production plans just one day into filming in order to facilitate better COVID testing methods. B&B resumed production again on Wednesday, June 24.
Says Bell of B&B's stops and starts and the show being the industry's guinea pig, "I did say to Brad, 'Go into this with a lot of humility because there are a lot of variables!'"
As for Brad Bell's take on the situation, he tells Soap Central that getting back to work as soon as possible was a no-brainer.
"When we left on March 19, the sets were set, the scripts were blocked, it felt like the football was on the tee, and all we had to do was kick it, so we've been anxious to kick that ball forward, and we've been ready to go," he reveals. "Because [the soap industry produces] more content than just about anyone else, our brains are wired to go, go, go, go, go. So, once we got the green light, we took off."
However, he assures fans that he and everyone connected to B&B are taking every measure to make sure that all cast members, crew members, and anyone connected to production of the show is safe.
"It's exciting to be the first show back," he says. "We know that with that comes added responsibility, but our work environment is incredibly safe, and we're doing everything to make sure that this is a success."
Health and safety are also important Colleen Bell, who says, "COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while, so we need to make sure the economy can open up and people can get back to work but still maintain a focus on safety. People are committed to that. The governor has been working hand in glove with state and county health officials, and everybody is looking at statistical benchmarks. None of this will be easy."
For more from Bell on her work as California film commissioner and the pandemic hurdles she and all productions face, read her full interview with the Hollywood Reporter here.
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