Digest: Let’s start at the beginning of the year. The story with Hope’s baby kicked off on the 8,000th episode on January 4. At the time, had you planned out that far in advance where it was going?
Bradley Bell: You know, rarely do I ever have things planned out this far, but this story, yes. From the very beginning, I wrote down and mapped out the story arc. A few things have changed along the way, and most of the changes have been due to, really, the performers — who’s working in what role and what twists and turns, who’s available and who’s not. But yes, this is one where the details have been worked out far in advance.
Digest: It’s pretty incredible to see all of the offshoots of that twist, from the casting of Wayne Brady (ex-Reese), to bringing in Flo and Shauna and adding to the Logan family, bringing back Thomas and giving Annika (Noelle, Hope) the strongest material she’s had so far.
Bell: It really started out with Wayne Brady and I running into each other on the first floor in the dressing room. And he said, “You know, I’d be interested in doing the show.” He’s always wanted to do it. I said, “Well, we should put our heads together.” He said he’d like to play a character that was somewhat evil, which got me thinking, and it really started from that conversation. To have Wayne on the show was such a treat and continues to be. And then to bring in Denise Richards [Shauna] and Katrina Bowden [Flo] and Nia Sioux [Emma], who is active in the story coming up, and Kiara Barnes [Zoe] — it’s just been so fun. You have the fan favorites and our core cast, and then you infuse it with new actors and actresses and you see what they bring, and wow, this group has really wowed me from top to bottom. The characters have jumped into the roles and I’m amazed by them. It really motivates you.
Digest: What does that mean to you, to write this kind of emotional material and see the actors respond to it in the way that they have?
Bell: Well, it’s so exciting because you have it on the page and you don’t know how it’ll play on the stage. Everybody is just bringing it, one actor after another, one week after another — they’re just nailing it. It makes us as the writers look good. I’m just amazed, and the casting couldn’t have been more perfect. So when that all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.
Digest: So, the fans are upset and feeling very badly for Hope. What do you say to them in terms of how this story is playing out?
Bell: Well, this is the part of the story where they’re supposed to be upset, and hopefully it’s a good upset. I’ve talked to people and they’re frustrated; they want to know when Hope will know that baby Beth is alive. The day will come and it’s not too far off, so they should definitely not miss an episode this summer because it’s going to be hot and peak during the summer.
Digest: Let’s talk about Thomas. You brought him back and he is really exhibiting these obsessive behaviors. Was that by design? Were you at all worried with how people would accept a new actor playing Thomas if this is how he is out of the gate?
Bell: Well, we brought him in with the funeral. We saw him mourn the loss of the mother of his child, Douglas. We brought him into the fold of the family to begin with and then his obsessive tendencies started to emerge. Hopefully there was a brief period of time where they got to understand and get a little bit used to Thomas being Thomas before all the badness happened. I was eager to get on with the story. It feels like we’re rushing through the story, but then when you read people’s comments, they want resolution now. But I think that Matt [Atkinson, Thomas] has been great in the role. I see him as Thomas and this is his own version of Thomas, which really plays well for the story that we’re in now.
Digest: I feel like when your father [the late William J. Bell] was writing DAYS OF OUR LIVES there was an eight-year gap between people finding out that Mike was really not Mickey’s son. That’s quite a long time. Today there’s a sense of immediacy that fans really want in terms of story resolution. Does that affect how you approach storytelling?
Bell: Well, it does. When I was a boy and I would hear my father really tout the fact that he was able to keep these secrets for so long and he was so proud of it, I thought, “Wow, you know, if I were to write someday, I’d like to keep a secret that long.” But then you get in the throes of writing it. We could keep this secret much longer, but it feels like today’s audience moves pretty quickly. Shows that people are watching are just 12 episodes and they’ve burned through story arcs. If we get a couple hundred episodes of it, I’d say that’s pretty good.
Digest: I’d agree! So, how should we feel about Xander and Zoe at this point?
Bell: Xander is always tortured by this secret. And she has divided loyalties between a young man that she’s loved and putting her father in jail and keeping herself out of jail. She’s been in tremendous conflict all throughout this story. Her father’s a powerful presence and someone who has tremendous influence over her, so she’s scared to betray him. Xander is a good guy who knows that the right thing to do is to tell Hope and Liam immediately. I think that deep down they’re good people who are caught in something that’s just bigger than anything they’ve ever been involved in before and they’re struggling to cope with it.
Digest: What about Thomas and Hope? Should we at all be rooting for them to be together?
Bell: There may be people out there, but I would say no. Our heroine is in the clutches of our villain and as much as we may think Douglas needs a mother, which he does, and Thomas needs someone to love, there is no rooting interest in them. But I think it makes for compelling drama.
Digest: And then you have Liam and Steffy living together again.
Bell: Well, that’s a trickier one because he loves two women and they’re very different characters. He has children with both of them. There are Hope/Liam fans and Steffy/Liam fans. That one is certainly up for grabs still. When this secret comes out, both ladies will go through their own personal tragedy and triumph.
Digest: We talked a little bit about Katrina and Denise. How do you feel they’ve integrated into the canvas?
Bell: Katrina just blows me away one day after the next. And then Denise! To have Denise Richards come in and have such an incredibly heartfelt, fresh and unique delivery … She is a great actress and a great addition to the show. And everyone is enjoying it here. I’m hoping they’re all going to stick around for a long time to come.
Digest: Will we be seeing more of Ridge and Brooke and Eric and Quinn and Bill and Katie, who have been on the back burner through this story?
Bell: Absolutely. As this story starts to peak and get close to the payoff, we begin some scenes that are setting the stage for the next story, and the next story will be theirs. It’s tricky with the half-hour show. I wish there was some time for everyone, but they’re all ready to go for the next one, which is not long off.
Digest: It seems like there is a lot of exciting stuff ahead. Anything you want to say to the audience about tuning in?
Bell: We have an incredible payoff for this story that is one the audience won’t want to miss. It’s a thriller, it’s a love story, there’s all the great dynamics for a compelling edge-of-your-seat drama. Any characters that the audience is missing, they’re not forgotten, and I’m dying to get back to them. But I’m enjoying this and hope that the audience will be along for the ride. It will be worth watching and one for the history books. w