This year's Daytime Emmy Awards were history-making in that the current coronavirus pandemic forced the powers that be to get creative and plan a virtual ceremony, which not only ended up being televised on a major network for the first time in almost a decade, but also managed to draw in an impressive 3.1 million viewers. But the pandemic didn't just influence some major changes in the Emmy ceremony; it has also recently influenced the executive producer and head writer of The Bold and the Beautiful, Brad Bell, who, together with the show's writing team, took home this year's Emmy award in the Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series category.
The very talented exec gives Soap Central the scoop on how he feels to be recognized in the writing category, how current events like COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter have affected future scripts for the show, and how it's been to resume filming with actors' real-life spouses and dolls standing in during scenes that call for close proximity.
Soap Central: Congratulations on all four of your show's Emmy wins!
Brad Bell: Thank you! It's a very exciting year.
Soap Central: For the Outstanding Writing Team win specifically, how much does it mean to you to receive that honor?
Bell: Well, spending my whole life at my computer, writing scripts, the writing Emmy has particularly special meaning to me. It's basically what I do. I consider myself a writer first, so to be acknowledged in this way is very special.
Soap Central: I know that you wear a lot of hats at B&B, and all of the roles are important, but they say that good TV starts with the writing. Do you agree?
Bell: I agree. They say it all begins with the words on the page, and when they're working, it's a wonderful thing. We had a great year with the Baby Beth story and it was exciting to keep a secret, to work it for many, many months, and then to have the payoff and to see the viewers' response. We had such great ratings and demos during that period, it was a real success.
Soap Central: During this pandemic, it seems so many writers have had all this time to focus on their writing. Have you also been able to take the opportunity to delve deep into future B&B storylines?
Bell: We've been writing nonstop, actually. Right now, I'm looking at a stack of 50-odd scripts in front of me that are ready to be produced. But the greatest thing about it was that we were able to take more time and really plot out the different storylines carefully, so not only do we have a stack of scripts ready to go, we have some great plans with some incredible twists and new characters. And we have clarity like we rarely do, because we have had this extra time.
Soap Central: We've all been through a very tumultuous past couple of months with the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Have either of those things influenced your writing for the show?
Bell: Absolutely. Both Black Lives Matter and the coronavirus have had a strong impact on how we're thinking and how we're moving forward. Soaps have always been a reflection of the times, so we're diving into some stories that will hopefully reflect how our society is evolving and continues to evolve and mature and improve with these life situations that present themselves to us.
Fans have been clamoring for the Avant family specifically to come back to the canvas. Is that perhaps maybe in your thoughts for the future?
Bell: Absolutely. I love all of the actors in the Avant family -- Anna Maria Horsford (Vivienne Avant), Obba Babatundé (Julius Avant), and Karla Mosley (Maya Avant), all of them. And I also really enjoyed having the Buckingham family front and center last year. It was great to have Kiara Barnes join the cast [as Zoe] and to have Wayne Brady playing her father [Reese]. He has another job, so he can't be on the show as much as we'd like, but together, they were instrumental in pulling off the story [that won the Emmy].
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SNEAK PEEK at Next Week: @mrbradybaby begins his role as Dr. Reese Buckingham on Friday, November 30th. Stunned that Taylor confronted him, Bill lets Steffy know that her mother is testing his patience. Liam takes Taylor to task after walking in on her berating a pregnant Hope. Taylor accuses Brooke of bullying Steffy and promises to not let history repeat itself with Steffy and Hope. #BoldandBeautiful
Soap Central: The fans have positively responded to all of the throwback episodes that have been airing in the last couple of months, especially some of the very classic episodes. Everyone always harks back to this "Golden Age of soap operas," but do you think the writing or other elements on B&B are really all that different today than they were back then, or is more just nostalgia that people love?
Bell: Well, it's great to see. It was a wonderful exercise for me first, to choose the episodes that would air, along with the team and the team at CBS. And it was fun to see, "Wow, 20 years ago, that was really a great story!" Or, "What a location shoot we did! It's amazing looking back, how we pulled that off, as just one of the 250 episodes we aired that year." So, it felt good, and I was nostalgic myself, watching those. But I feel that soaps now are healthy and vibrant; these are great years to be writing and producing a soap opera, and I feel like we're going to have some of our best years ahead of us.
Soap Central: B&B was, to my knowledge, the very first U.S. scripted series to return to production. What drove you to work so hard and be so quick about resuming production? Because you're not just days ahead, you're WEEKS ahead of the crowd!
Bell: Yeah! [Laughs] I've really been, and our whole team, and our team at Hackman and Margot Wain and everyone at CBS, have been keeping up to date on all of the latest precautions and safety measures that we'd have to put in place to get the show up and running again. We've hired this group called Reel Health, and they're on stage with us, really watching every aspect of production and making sure that it's an incredibly safe work environment. When we left on March 19, the sets were set, the scripts were blocked, it felt like the football was on the T, 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. So, we're back in production, and it feels very good.
Soap Central: It's your baby, so I can see why you'd be so passionate about getting it back up and going!
Bell: I think people in the soap world, the attitude, because we produce 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.
Soap Central: I have to ask, because it made so many headlines, have you filmed any scenes with the actors' spouses or dolls yet?
Bell: Yes! We used Katrina Bowden's [Flo Fulton] husband, Ben [Jorgensen], last week as a stunt kisser and toucher, and it came out very well! We're using stand-ins, which are body doubles usually, that stand in for actors basically when they're in there doing scenes alone, but [scenes that need to look like they are in close proximity with another actor]. So, they can be very close to one another, and then we shoot one actor at a time and then edit it together, and it looks like they're in very close proximity.
Soap Central: Is there anything else you'd like to add before I have to let you get to your next interview?
Bell: Well, just that it's been a pleasure talking with you, and it's exciting to be the first show back. 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.
What do you think about our interview with B&B's Brad Bell? How do you feel about the show winning this year's Emmy for Outstanding Writing Team? Do you hope to see the COVID-19 pandemic and/or the Black Lives Matter movement reflected in future B&B storylines? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.