Y&R fans best know Lauralee Bell as sweet and sensible lawyer Christine, the role she played from 1983-2006 (she also crossed over on B&B in 2007). She shows off her writing, directing and comedic chops with FAMILY DINNER (www.familydinneronline.com), which she created and produced with husband Scott Martin, and also stars Aaron Lustig (ex-Tim, Y&R), Phyllis Diller (ex-Gladys, B&B) and Dan Cortese (ex-Jess, MELROSE PLACE). Digest caught up with the busy actress.Soap Opera Digest: FAMILY DINNER is hilarious!
Lauralee Bell: Thanks! It’s been so much fun. It was on the front page of FUNNY OR DIE [www.funnyordie.com], and I was like, “Wow!” So many people are watching it, which is great. To call upon friends and have Aaron and Dan say yes, and then to have Phyllis come on, was a dream come true. She and my mom [Y&R Co-Creator Lee Phillip Bell] have been inseparable since we started shooting, and I think Phyllis is willing to do more. Actors have come up to me now and are like, “If you ever need the crazy neighbor or a peeping Tom, call me,” and I’m like, “Okay!” We’re putting it out there and seeing where it takes us. I want to keep pushing it, too. I want viewers to write in a great FAMILY DINNER concept and then put their name at the end [in a credit]. I want it to be as interactive as it can be — include the viewers, get product placements. We can talk about or have any food at the table, so we have many opportunities for sponsors.
Digest: Viewers will also be able to get extras on the Web site?
Bell: Yes. For instance, the character Jeremy, who doesn’t talk in it, will only talk to viewers. In time, we’ll find out why he doesn’t talk. I hope to keep making it zanier.
Digest: The three kids who star in it are amazing.
Bell: I know, they’re fabulous! The older boy is Zach Cumer. The little boy is Maxim Knight. The girl is Michaela Johnson. I kept having the camera cut to them because first of all, family is all about kids, and they were brilliant. Michaela has never acted before and Max with his cute, little bowtie was hilarious. I had to tell him, “Please sit on a toilet and we’re going to put oatmeal on your legs.” As I heard myself saying it, I was like, “Oh, my God.” His mom, thankfully, was a huge Y&R fan and her name is Lauralee, so I felt we were just destined to be together. He is just a heartbreaker. Everyone was great. We all came together in this house in Toluca Lake, [CA] not knowing what we were doing, but it was so much fun. The second webisode is crazy and I’ve written three and four. We’re counting on the great daytime viewers to help us out and watch.Digest: You, Aaron and Phyllis obviously share a daytime connection, but how do you know Dan?
Bell: Scott and I went to high school together and we have a friend named Kristy who introduced me to Dan’s wife, Dee Dee. We became instant friends because we were pregnant at the same time. Then Scott and Dan met and we’ve been best friends for eight years. It kills me to ask friends for favors, but I was like, “Do you think you can do this?” He thought it would be fun and knew he could hang out with Scott, and then he became great friends with Aaron. It was a dream. It was such a great group.
Digest: I think Y&R fans will be surprised to see you do comedy.
Bell: I was more nervous about directing than doing the comedy. Being funny is closer to how I am in real life.
Digest: I was surprised by how much content you were able to squeeze in in a three minute webisode.
Bell: The first one I was nervous about because we had to explain the whole story. I’ve only recently started watching more things on the Web. If I hadn’t worked in this business, I wouldn’t have even attempted to go to this extreme. It’s just one set, but my parents [Phillip Bell and the late Y&R Co-Creator William J. Bell] have taught me that if you have good characters and people feel something for them, they will come back.
Digest: So much is going on with the characters, anyway, that you don’t need a fancy set or special effects.
Bell: Maybe in the future there will be a special guest, but other than that, everyone has their spot at the table. That’s where you’ll find us.
Digest: Is this based at all on your own family and kids (Christian, 8 and Samantha, 6)?
Bell: No, not really. I’m in a family dinner situation every day of my life in terms of just the insanity and running to auditions when kids are screaming in the background and I’m trying to remember a line [laughs]. I live a little bit of the chaos of it all, and I think everyone does. I just think that when you say the word “family,” everyone can relate to it. And usually after a family dinner, people will roll their eyes. They don’t often say, “Oh, that was a nice family dinner.” It’s more like, “Oh, that person drove me crazy!”
Digest: What did your kids think of the concept?
Bell: After we got the first cut without music, we showed it to the kids and they were walking around for the next couple of days quoting from it, which was cute. But it’s not just for kids. I figure that if we keep pushing with adult humor — for instance, in the second one, there’s a gesture that I do that only adults will get — and when we were shooting it, one of the kids was laughing. The other was like, “You don’t even know why you’re laughing.” This is what I’m hoping for; that it’s entertaining for the kids, but the parents go, “Oh, they’re pushing it.”
Digest: Some of the language was rather adult — like when the little girl talks about “cow ass.”
Bell: I was a little nervous about that, as well as the guns that appear in the shot, but I was like, “Let’s put them in a case with a club over the lock so that people really see it’s out of danger and no one will get offended.” Just the visual of the gun behind me is dorky. I originally wrote the line, “cow butt,” and Scott was like, “You have to say ‘ass.’ ” People were saying, “You’ve got to push it more.” But I still want it to be family friendly.
Digest: It reminds me of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
Bell: We heard that from other people, too, but we’d never seen the series, so we ran out and bought the whole first season and watched 10 episodes in a row. We realized how brilliant it was and how it definitely has that quirkiness.
Digest: We’re looking forward to the next webisode.
Bell: So are we! We have so many opportunities with this show. We’re all looking forward to shooting more.