ICYMI: B&B's Scott Clifton and Annika Noelle Interview

B&B’s Scott Clifton (Liam) and Annika Noelle (Hope) look back on their emotional journey to the reveal

Soap Opera Digest: When you were first told about this story, what was your reaction?

Annika Noelle: Once I saw it, it’s one of the few times I’ve ever talked to Brad [Bell, executive producer/head writer] and just kind of was like, “Okay, so what is your vision?” But they really do keep it close to the vest; they don’t give us a lot and they don’t tell us a big arc. We’re kind of finding out as the characters find out. I think there’s a method to that in a way because we were, in some ways, not knowing what was coming next. And then you see it and you go, “Okay, I’ve got to justify this,” or, “She’s making this choice. What kind of headspace is she in to make this kind of decision?” That’s kind of the fun of it and the challenge of it. I didn’t expect it to be this crazy roller-coaster ride that it’s been.

Scott Clifton: I have an anecdote. When we first kind of got scripts for this storyline and we were going to think the baby was dead, but it was actually switched and it was Wayne Brady [ex-Reese] and all of this, that week, Darin [Brooks, Wyatt] and I got to go have drinks with Brad. This is always such a privilege and such a pleasure. He’s just the perfect boss. I said, “Oh, my God. This storyline is crazy. How did you come up with it?” At one point I said, “So how long are you gonna do this? How long before the truth is gonna come out?” And he said, “My father [William J. Bell, B&B’s co-creator] always had a rule about storylines like this.” And I don’t remember the exact number that he gave, but he said something like, “It’s got to be at least eight months.” And my jaw hit the floor. I went, “Oh, my God. You’re not really gonna do that, are you? Is it gonna be eight months of story?” And he kind of said, “I don’t know. I have to see. I have to feel it out as I go and then I’ll know. But stay tuned.” And sure enough, that’s basically what he did, and it paid off perfectly.

Digest: Fans spent the year saying, “Hope deserves to get her baby back.” It’s not like you guys can do anything about that. Was it hard for you to see their reaction?

Noelle: Yeah. Honestly, the ones that were the most touching were women who reached out to me personally and privately messaged me, or shared their story with people on my social media about the loss they’ve experienced and how this storyline has affected them in positive ways. Honestly, I have to thank those women who reached out to me with their personal stories. It meant so much to me that it had that kind of impact and why I do what I do. So, thank you to all the mothers out there.

Digest: Scott, I remember you saying you felt bad at the fan event in June because you couldn’t say anything about it.

Clifton: Yeah, but that was different from the early months of it when people were going, “Oh, my God, this is so painful. Is this gonna end? Please tell me there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” I would just shrug and go, “I don’t know any more than you do, man. Good luck to both of us. I have no idea.” But by the time the fan event rolled around, I had this smug look on my face. They would say the same thing, but this time I kind of got to raise my eyebrows and say, “You just wait and see. You just hang in there. Trust me, it’ll be good.” And I got to say that knowing that I wasn’t b.s.-ing them, so that was nice.

Digest: What stands out about playing the actual moment of the reveal?

Noelle: It was great. I could say my face hurt so much by the end of that day from all the crying. I also remember how much we were smiling once we found out the news. I was smiling but also crying. By the time we were done, I was like, “Scott, my face hurts so much!”

Digest: After playing all of that emotion, do you feel a weight has been lifted off of you? Do you miss it?

Both: I’m good.

Noelle: Like, so much so that when I came back from hiatus, one of the producers was like, “Annika, oh, my God. You’re glowing. You look so amazing. What’s up? What are you doing?” I was like, “I literally just haven’t been crying for a month.”

Clifton: Yeah, that’s all it took.

Digest: Do you have any particularly memorable moments of that story?

Noelle: For me, honestly, especially because he’s not on the canvas anymore, but Wayne Brady during those hospital labor scenes. That was the moment he and I got to know each other. He was so good in those moments of adding levity in between takes because it was such difficult, serious subject matter. So that’s kind of a fun moment to think back on. We’d sit there and talk about comic books and musical theater and improv and all this stuff in between takes. It was this kind of yin and yang of really funny, happy levity and him making me laugh so hard and then having to switch back into heavy, serious scenes. And also I really miss Oscar, the puppy. I loved him so much.

Clifton: Aw, yeah.

Digest: Scott, what about you? 

Clifton: I can kind of go through the highlights. The puppy that Annika just mentioned was really fun. But honestly, I think the most rewarding moments throughout the whole eight months of story or whatever it was, were moments where I would go into work thinking, “God, I just don’t have the emotional fortitude or the interest to do this and really put myself in this space again.” And I had to do a quarter of what Annika had to do, right? So imagine that times whatever, from her point of view. But there were days that we would go in and I would just feel like, “God, I got nothing left.” And then we would sit down and we would do like a really quiet kind of subtle, conversational scene with a husband and wife mourning their baby. And tears would come. There were moments where Annika would surprise me or I would surprise myself. A scene at the beginning of the day that felt like it would be like all of the others that we had done just popped like magic. And then we would go back and start it all over again. But little moments like that were really rewarding and surprising to me throughout the whole process.

Digest: Toward the end, the story started to encompass a lot more characters on the canvas. What was it like to work with other people?

Noelle: I think it was great because there was a catalyst for all this momentum of the story and the movement for this final reveal. It was nice to see how different characters explored finding out the truth, hiding the truth and their reasons for that. I do know I enjoy having a bad guy on the canvas again. I think it’s a lot of fun to have someone like Thomas manipulating people. And Matt [Atkinson] does that. He brings this intensity to the role that kind of enhances the story in so many ways. It’s been fun to play with and he’s been fun to work with. And I’m so curious to see how that relationship between him and Hope is going to be going forward now that the mask has kind of slipped off.

Clifton: Brad casting Matthew saved the story. Or maybe Brad casting Matthew and seeing Matthew in action and going, “Oh, I know what I can do with him,” maybe that’s it. But however you shake it, Thomas has an ingredient in the cocktail. He really freshens it. I mean, I’ve heard from countless fans, coming up to me in person or on social media saying, “I never thought I would be excited about this story again, but having this bad guy is so invigorating. It just makes me really want to root against someone. I’m all in again.” But to the spirit of your question, by the end of it, it did become more inclusive and we did get to work with people that we really weren’t working with much. Katrina [Bowden, Flo] kicked ass. You can look at her and you can feel sympathetic for her, or you can look at her and have the exact opposite reaction. I mean, who is this chick feeling, “Poor me. Poor me,” but yet she’s not saying anything? She just created this sort of petri dish of different fan reactions. And then Adain [Bradley, Xander] was another one. He had some really nice work with both Matthew and Katrina and some of the other characters. He got to stretch a little bit. So did Kiara [Barnes, Zoe]. I didn’t get to work with Kiara that much, but just to be able to watch all of these actors on our cast kind of bring their A game because they were given this nice material was really, really rewarding.

Noelle: And I have to say, with the next chapter going forward, it’s been so fun to watch Thorsten [Kaye, Ridge] and Katherine [Kelly Lang, Brooke] and Don [Diamont, Bill] and Denise [Richards, Shauna] and how the parents are reacting to this news. I’ve been really enjoying it.

Digest: The Beth reveal yielded big ratings for the show. How did that feel for you?

Noelle:  I didn’t expect it. It was a pleasant surprise, for sure, that all of our hard work paid off.

Clifton: I follow Variety and Deadline and a few of those entertainment publications on Twitter, so it just showed up in my Twitter feed. I was like, “Oh, wait, that’s a picture of Annika and me.” And then I read the article. I had to read the article twice because I was positive that I was misunderstanding it. I was like, “Oh, this must be just like one really small demo. There must be some caveat to this that I’m not getting. There’s no way we have the highest ratings that we’ve had.” It took me a long time to understand what that data meant. But yeah, it was incredible. It was so validating and rewarding because we spent so long trying to reassure fans that their suffering wasn’t in vain, to know that they believed us enough to tune in was really nice.

Digest: Are you ready to be happy for a little while on screen? What would you like to see for your characters next?

Clifton: I’m ready to be happy off screen! I hear from fans all the time saying, “Hope and Liam better stay happy. They better live happily ever after.” And I always respond to them like, “You don’t want that. That would be terrible. That’s a death sentence. You want more drama. You want this story to continue. You want more obstacles and conflict.” So yeah, being happy for the moment is nice for us behind the scenes because it’s a break. But soon enough, if we are lucky enough, then Hope and Liam are going to have problems again; that’s how it works.

Noelle: I would like Hope to continue exploring the strength that she found in herself after the reveal and to maybe be more of a force to be reckoned with, to not be so easily manipulated and taken advantage of, but still maintaining that essence of really believing the best in people and being a positive person. I think it would be cool if Hope and Liam took on some challenges together, ’cause Thomas certainly isn’t going to make their lives easy coming up. I would like to see how they together face this new challenge, if you will.