On Sunday, The Young and the Restless will officially celebrate 50 years on CBS. For star Lauralee Bell, it’s more than just a celebration; it’s a tribute to the work of her dad William J. Bell, who created the No. 1 daytime drama with his wife, Lee, in 1973.
It’s also a heady reminder that Bell — along with her brother Bradley, who’s the head writer on The Bold and the Beautiful — is one of daytime’s most important stewards. “We’re representing dad in such big way,” said Bell of her father, who died in 2005. Her mom passed in 2020. “I was getting ready to do an interview the other day and out of nowhere this huge, overwhelming feeling came over me. I wondered, did dad ever consider that he wouldn’t be here at one point and did it make him feel a little bit better knowing that Brad and I were all in? Did he ever have a moment where he was like, ‘it’s gonna be okay because my kids got me?'”
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Here, Bell — who has played Christine “Cricket” Blair on the soap since 1984 — reflects on those early days watching her dad at work, and the future of the genre.
DEADLINE Can you recall the first time that you really started to appreciate the family business?
LAURALEE BELL We were in Chicago. We stayed in Chicago because my mom had a local talk show. She was the famous one in the family. She would go off and do her show and my dad would just be typing away. [Her father began his writing career on Guiding Light and then moved to As The World Turns before creating Y&R]. But I was very aware, like I would come home from school and I would meet up with my brother possibly. We’d grab little tray tables and we’d sit at the end of my parents’ bed and we would watch the like massive cassette tape from the show that day. I was fascinated by it and would pretend to be sick so I could stay home from school. Dad would go on the phone immediately to Ed Scott or whoever was producing at the time. I thought was the most fascinating thing I had ever heard. He would say, okay, in this scene it was right on. But this scene, gosh, I wish she would’ve given it to him more. I would listen and listen and then I would sometimes go back and put in the tape and watch it again to see what his notes were for. I got almost addicted to that, so I literally pretended to be sick for almost a month. Like, my parents took me to a psychiatrist. I was a little dramatic, I guess. I just found this so fascinating, so much more exciting than recess and science. It was the Thursday ratings that re-energized him every week. When we reached a 40 share, I’ll never forget that day. He was just beaming. Every week to get those ratings was like, ‘okay, here I go again.’ He was a really energetic, happy guy.
DEADLINE Did it get to the point where you felt like you had to ask your dad if you could do this for a living? Or was it always assumed you would?
BELL He came to me. My first job was as an extra, sitting on an airplane with David Hasselhoff [who played Dr. Snapper Foster] while he was doing a scene. I said, ‘oh my gosh, that was so easy.’ And [her dad] was like, ‘okay, you’re too young. You didn’t get the point of what that exercise was.’ So he waited a couple years and then he put me on for two days. Jabot Cosmetics had a junior line that Ashley was starting and I would be the teen model. It was not one of my proudest moments. I mean, I had so much fun, but looking back at those tapes, it was brutal. I was from Chicago, and I couldn’t say model. So I did the best I could. I learned as the summers went on. Thank you, audience, for being very patient. But after a couple episodes I asked if I take some acting and singing lessons, could I do just two more? And my dad said, ‘maybe we can figure out a way to do this for two more.’ Then I just really got lucky because fans were writing in, saying ‘this was so exciting. I always watched with my family with my kids buzzing around and to have a younger character was great because suddenly they stopped playing and turned around.’ So Tricia Cast [Nina Webster] came on and Thom Bierdz [Phillip Chancellor] so it was Nina and Cricket and Phillip.
DEADLINE I have to imagine you’ve been thinking about your dad a lot this month.
BELL My father always had a red pen. He would edit with a red pen. I’d give him a birthday card, and an hour later he’d subtly slide it back to me and say, ‘I’d loved my card.’ And then I’d open it and he’d be like, ‘you’re is not Y-O-U-R’ in red. After the 50th anniversary show, Tricia Cast was staying with me. We got home from the day, I’m emptying my bag and hooked onto one of my scripts is a red pen. I have no idea where this pen came from. I wasn’t like, ‘oh my God, oh my God, there’s a red pen.’ It just felt normal. It just felt like, okay, maybe that was him. I didn’t freak out about it, but that was crazy. And then yesterday I was getting ready to do an interview and out of nowhere this huge, overwhelming feeling came over me. I wondered, did he ever consider that he wouldn’t be here at one point and did it make him feel a little bit better knowing that Brad and I were all in? Did he ever have a moment where he was like, ‘it’s gonna be okay because my kids got me?’ Or did he ever take it to another extreme? Did he subtly push us, knowing that if he pushed too hard, we might rebel? I never thought about that before, but it was super strong the other day when I was getting ready to do another interview about him. Because of his dementia [at the end of his life], he would come in and out. But if we could have given him that moment that it was going to be okay … it just got me super, excited, teary, feeling a lot of pressure.
DEADLINE Did you ever have conversations with him about how long this genre could last?
BELL No. He wouldn’t have seen an end. He always felt like if he established these really strong core characters … specifically two families from totally different backgrounds … he would have endless stories. I think he always felt like he could spin webs and bring in a person here and there to help prolong the show.
DEADLINE Do your kids have any interest in the genre? Do you worry that you may be the end of the line?
BELL Watching my father was the best lesson I could have ever had. There are people who really struggle to try and take over for him. It’s not easy. That was everything to me. I don’t know that I could pass that on to my kids. I could try, but the piece of the puzzle they’re missing out on is observing my father. So that’s tough. So I have to just really eat well and lift weights and try to last.
DEADLINE Are you feeling bullish about the future of The Young and the Restless?
BELL I can’t even let my brain go there. One day it will come to an end. I’m thrilled that we are at 50. That is a huge accomplishment to celebrate. I guess I’m like my dad. I don’t want to even think about the end, although I’m extremely realistic and understand that it may happen. That’s a little bit why I stepped away and started doing other things just because it was fun for me. So I have a pile of show concepts if Y&R ends. It would just be like, okay, what’s next? But I hope that won’t happen soon. I kind of hope we go a little bit back in time where people ask things like, ‘172 options on TV?’ That’s just too much. I just want 10!
To help honor Lauralee Bell and her time on Y&R, the Lifetime Movie Network will air five of her movies this Sunday.
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