Born into a television dynasty, Lauralee Bell made her debut on The Young and the Restless in July 1983. In the 40 years since her on-screen debut, fans have watched her character, Christine “Cricket” Blair, transform from ingenue to heroine, to Genoa City’s no-nonsense District Attorney.
In the exclusive interview below, Bell enthuses that our beloved “Cricket” finally gets her smile back as the soap is set to mark her anniversary this upcoming week which has her feeling “super grateful,” and reflects on her long-lasting friendships on the set of the number one daytime drama, and also thinks back to the sweet “marriage beyond the marriage” of her parents William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell as they collaborated to create ground-breaking television.
Congratulations on 40 years!
Thank you! It’s a huge number. [Everyone at the show] was so great because I’m not really big on having the focus put on me, so I was like “It’s okay! It’s okay! We can just write ‘Happy 40th’ [on the screen] and I don’t need to have anything!”
They were like “We understand your wishes,” and were sort of quiet for a minute and they came back and said, “Well, we really have to do something!”
What I love about the episode, which I got to watch last night, is that it literally feels like just another episode. If you’ve seen some of the other anniversary shows, everyone sits around the couch and talks. It’s not like that. I get to move from set to set. It feels like it’s just a normal show, and the flashbacks are weaved in so brilliantly that it makes sense. It’s very smooth.
There’s a lot of happy moments but then there’s a couple of sad moments. We get to see Paul (Doug Davidson) in the flashbacks, which makes me happy.
It was such a fun [episode] to see. You know… You forget how young we were!
I’ve seen flashbacks of myself with the big hair and the big shoulder pads…it’s not fun to watch [myself], but it’s so cute to watch Tricia Cast [who returns as Nina] because she [was also] so young. It’s crazy! I can look at her, but I can’t look at myself. She was just so good from day one.
There’s also a scene with Cricket and Daniel (Michael Graziadei) from years ago, which I have no recollection of ever taping at all! I’m going to have to tell Michael to watch it… It’s brief, but it’s so cute.
And that’s the history of The Young and the Restless. It’s been on for 50 years. What makes it so special is that we can literally go back in time that far and almost all the characters are the same. Not too many shows can do that. We should celebrate that as much as we can. It’s just so unique.
It’s perfect timing too, with Y&R’s 50th celebration earlier this year. The momentum is still there.
Yes, I mean, I try to continue to put out these videos [on social media] for the fans to say, ‘Thank you so much!’ I didn’t want it to stop after the 50th. We’re still on this ride! Let’s try to get to 55, and then try to get to 60! We can only do it if we’re on a team and work together.
It’s great that you mentioned those videos because the running joke online is that you’ve done a much better job at promoting the show on your own account than the network promos. The fans love it.
We all have so much dialogue on most days but on some days when we have less, or we’re trained to really learn our lines and we’ll run it a couple of times and are just waiting to go on camera and my thing is, is that we’re all there and we all love our fans.
I’m coming up with ideas all the time, whether it’s show ideas with my friend Martha Byrne [who played Lily on As the World Turns], or promos… So, if everyone doesn’t mind me coming up to them [to film] then I’m going to keep doing it as much as possible!
But I can tell that there are days where some are like “I’m slammed learning my lines and as soon as I’m done, I have to get to my kids.” But 99% of the time, everyone is like “If it’s for the fans, then of course!”
For the fan club event, I had maybe 5 minutes, so I went around and filmed everyone. We’re actors, so everyone suddenly just perks up a little bit when they see a camera!
Did you and Martha meet when she was playing Lily on As the World Turns? You both started on your shows around the same time.
I was obsessed [with As the World Turns]! I grew up with Craig and Sierra and then Dusty and Lily. I think that’s why I stand up so much for our fans because I get it! Even if they’ll be ragging on something to me, I get it. I’m so appreciative of how passionate they are, even if it may not be what I like to hear.
Martha and what she went through with Lily was sort of what I did. Lily went from Dusty to Holden, and then I went from Danny to Paul. It’s a big thing to try and get the audience to kind of switch [pairings].
When my father (William J. Bell) was around I always wanted to be treated like every other co-worker and I would never say anything [to him about story], and the one time I did said something to him was when we were doing the “It’s Okay to Say No” summer storyline where the message was “Don’t have sex. Don’t do this. Wait. Wait. Wait.” Of course, it was the perfect message to send, but I was watching scenes with Lily and Dusty in bed on As the World Turns, and I said “This is what I want to watch! They’re such a cute and hot couple.” I hadn’t even had my first boyfriend yet, but it was so exciting for me [to watch].
The Danny Romalotti concert that summer was fun, but my character was being such a goody-two-shoes and I said to my dad, “I’m so worried that they’re gonna wanna watch [As the World Turns].” But he said, “You just wait and see!” And he was right. Our ratings were great that summer. Not just for the teen storyline, but for the whole show, of course. But he was right! So, I never said anything after that. [Laughs] I was wrong.
So yeah, I was a huge fan and then [Martha] and I stayed friends. Now we’re writing partners.
You mentioned that we’ll see Paul in flashbacks, but there will be nothing new with Doug Davidson?
There will be a couple of flashbacks with Paul. I talk with Doug every day. I always feel like it’s so hard to explain the situation to everybody. We are best buddies, and we talk all the time. I did tell him that nobody wants him back more than I do. It’s just complicated. There are a lot of factors involved.
Me just wanting [him to come back] is not enough at this point. It was so close, and I still think that it’s going to happen at some point.
But in the meantime, I’ll get to smile again, have fun, and not just be the “stuffy” D.A.! It may not be exactly what the Paul and Chris fans want, but then maybe it totally is, because Danny and Cricket have strong fans.
Just have fun with the show! Maybe this is all going to work out better than we all imagined, and he’ll come back one day. Who knows? I adore him and I feel lucky because we get to talk all the time anyway. He’s still in my life. But I get it, I’m a fan too. It’s heartbreaking that it’s not the whole gang back together.
Tricia Cast will be back as Nina for the anniversary episode!
Yes, and for a little bit longer too! It just makes sense that she’s such a huge part of it because she’s been there on the ride. I texted her last night, “You’re so good in this episode.” She’s always good, but it’s so sweet. Our friendship is 100% super sweet and clear in this episode. I’m thrilled.
She actually stayed with my husband and myself for the two weeks that she was here, and we had so much fun.
Are Cricket and Danny headed back together? Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) is also circling him…stirring the pot.
That’s what’s so fun about the anniversary episode. It’s not just flashbacks. There are scenes between all of us. Something happens that if you didn’t see it, you’d miss out. It’s not a standalone show.
You can check off those boxes… Yes, Phyllis. Yes, Nina. Yes, Danny. It’s a fun one!
Cricket made her debut in July 1983 as Jabot photographer Joe Blair’s (John Denos) niece. You were only 13!
Yeah. We were growing up in Chicago and we didn’t have any access to what the studio was like. My mom (Lee Phillip Bell) had a daily talk show, so I would see her [at her studio]. But I had no concept of what the Y&R set was. It made sense when my dad asked. “We’re doing this Jabot Junior line; do you want to do it?” I don’t even remember [what I said]! After two episodes, we talked about it again for two more.
Back then, people handwrote fan mail and a couple of letters came in and said something like “I’m a grandmother and I watch all the time. It was so cute when there was a young person on because my grandkids that were in the other room suddenly came over and sat next to me.”
So, then it became like another trial where they brought in Cricket and then Phillip III (Thom Bierdz), and it was just going to be for the summers. Back then, if there were young people on other shows, there were older people playing them. It was 25 playing 15. It evolved and then we [the Bell family] had to move [to Los Angeles] because The Bold and the Beautiful was starting, and then I became a regular.
It’s amazing how it happened. If I stop to think about it, my dad and I never sat around and had a talk, “Can you handle this?” Once in a while he’d give a note and say, “Really give it to her!” [of a scene partner]. We really separated the work from home life. I never knew what was going to happen on the show.
I’m super grateful. I love being one of the few characters on TV who has been played by the same person [for 40 years]. I hear from some women who share that they started watching me on the show when they were in college and now their kids are going to college!
I don’t take any of that for granted. I appreciate every comment like that. I then try to imagine who the person is from the stories they share because, in a weird way, we’ve shared our lives together. I always think about the fans.
Christine’s been in so many impactful storylines over the years. Are there any moments that stick out for you?
Definitely the date rape storyline. The scene that we taped was very physical. We talked [beforehand] about how it really had to be because you can’t sort of portray something that’s happened to other people and have it look fake. It has to be as real as can be.
Also, back then, nobody was talking about date rape or sexual harassment yet. I just remember articles coming out and saying, “Here’s what’s happening in the world and don’t be afraid to speak out.” I recall fan mail I received during that time from girls who’d share “I can’t believe your character went through this. This happened to me.” I felt like we had this responsibility where even if we could help one person either talk this through with a therapist or go report it to the authorities, to help them move on with their lives or offer some assistance.
I also loved working with Rebecca Street, who played my mom, Jessica. Jessica had AIDS and no one was really talking about it, especially not with a woman. So, I think they were all important in some sense and ground-breaking in their own ways.
My mom had so many of these social issues on her show in Chicago. It was a sort of sweet “marriage beyond the marriage” [of my parents] working together on these kind of specific storylines because she was so knowledgeable about them.
I feel that sexual harassment has been a thread throughout Christine’s life. From the date rape to what she experienced early on in the workplace from Michael Baldwin (Christian LeBlanc), and then that very controversial consent scene between Paul and Christine. Both had different takes on if it was 100% consensual. It was a huge talking point when it aired.
For us too. Doug and I were like “Woah.” We took ourselves out of it and that’s where the fine line is. How two people can be in the same situation, and the same place, but it’s just misinterpreted. Two brains thinking their own thing, or the woman or the man – whatever scenario – saying something, and the other person not hearing them. Or then taking control and saying, “This is how it is. I’m choosing not to hear you.”
I forget so much of [some of the stories from] back then, because we just retain, retain, and retain. And then we forget. It was a crazy time [looking back now]. We had a lot of discussions before taping those scenes.
I feel that soaps have shied away from those types of storylines that had people talking and debating. Is your hope that soaps can go back to these ground-breaking storylines?
My hope is that we can do more escapism. I really want people, when they watch the show, to kind of drift off into either the romance of it or the fear – I don’t know what’s up with Nikki’s (Melody Thomas Scott) assistant [Claire Grace, played by Hayley Erin]. [Laughs]
I love that if you can watch an episode of our show and afterwards you can be like “Oh, I was a little sad for them, I was rooting for them, and I was a little bit scared about that.”
In a perfect world, having a few emotions after you’ve given your quality time from your life to watch our show, it would just be nice to know that there was a little bit of everything to make you feel. When the show is over, what are you looking forward to seeing tomorrow?
I know that’s what my dad always tried to do. There was nothing more painful, even for me because I didn’t always know what was going to happen, than a Friday cliff-hanger. “Oh my God, I have to wait until Monday? I can’t wait!”
That was such an agonizing feeling on a Friday! But that’s the fun of soaps. I think that in this world right now, when there’s so much craziness going on, and so many choices in television, it’s nice that so many people are coming back. People love the fact that we are a constant and that we’re there. You don’t have to scroll and be like, “What’s on?” We’re there for you! Tune in!
Tune in tomorrow! A classic scene of yours that I’ll never forget is when Christine was in the bathtub and Isabella (Eva Longoria) was coming in with a knife on a Friday. Y&R airs in the late afternoons in Canada on Global and this was in the summer of 2003. It was the moment of the Northeast blackout. The power went out right at the moment of the bathtub attack! We were all concerned about if Christine was going to survive and little did,we know the power was out throughout most of Ontario in Canada and parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States!
So technically you could watch it the next day?
Yes, luckily the power was restored by the time most Y&R fans could watch it on CBS on the Monday.
Back then, no one was really online giving out spoilers. I never heard that before. That’s so incredible. It’s horrible that you guys had the blackout but talk about a cliffhanger!
I loved Eva, but sitting in the bathtub during for that long… Pruney takes on a new meaning! [Laughs]
She was looking all beautiful and I was this little… wet Cricket!
You had the bubble bath going… You can’t forget it! I know your producing something, but do you ever think you’ll crossover and produce or write for the soaps?
Our show is basically a nighttime soap. I feel like all these shows are soaps, right? The deal was done right before COVID and COVID changed things around. We’re getting close again [to starting it up]. It would be my hope to shoot this in Canada. We’ll see. I keep putting that out there and we’ll see what happens.
I filmed the V.C. Andrews miniseries (Ruby and Pearl in the Mist) in Victoria, and I loved being there. And the first Lifetime movie I did was in Vancouver. We shot half of it in Maple Ridge. Whenever I can work there, I’m on the plane!
Do you think you’ll ever shift gears at Y&R and go behind the scenes?
Oh… I don’t know.
I don’t know if I’d be asked. They’re cool. Every once in a while, I’ll interject and let them know what I think the audience wants, but Josh Griffith is doing great. They’re going to do what they’re going to do.
I always say, “Never say never.” Y&R is my heart and my first love. I want the show to be everything that it can be for as long as it can be.
But I’m also so close with everyone, so I don’t know whether that helps or not! I think my phone would be going off the hook.
I really love to act. I would never want to switch so much so that I couldn’t act too. We’d just have to wait and see! In the meantime, I’m very happy to be in the position that I’m at.
Can you tease anything else for the Danny and Cricket fans?
Next week you’ll see a glimpse of if she’s thinking “Is this too son? Or maybe this can’t happen?” You don’t have to wait very long!
What I’m most grateful for and what I didn’t realize until we’ve been seeing all these older clips from an incredible Danny and Cricket fan on Instagram named Brenda. She’s been literally every day posting our old scenes. Before we started [filming again] Michael Damian and I would be like “Oh my God, did you see? Every single day we’re doing something fun, like chasing each other around the apartment and I’m dropping ice cubes on you. We’re so goofy with each other.” So yeah, what I’m super grateful for, whether Danny and Cricket are back together or not, I get to get out of that “Serious D.A.” mode that I’ve been stuck in for a really long time, which is really hard for me personally, just because I’m such a goofball in real life!
So, when people are like “She’s so serious!” I’m like, “I know!” I agree with the fans. I can’t wait to smile again. You’ll definitely see more fun. Whether it’s short-term or long-term, I’m super grateful for that!
Who would you love to work with again?
In the impossible world, I’d love to work with Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) again!
To be working with Michael Damian again is huge. I would love to work with Doug again. It’s going to be a long list, but if I’m going to stay in the legal mode, I’d love to work with Christian more. I think that the Michael and Christine dynamic in the workplace is pretty interesting. And any chance that I get to work with Eric Braeden (Victor), I’m happy!
I’m so glad that Christine’s vendetta against Victor is over. That was so weird to watch as a fan because we saw their relationship in the ‘90s when he was so nurturing towards her. Her going after him made no sense.
Trust me. Trust me. It was really hard to do! I was like, “What are you doing?” But you know, what’s on the page is what I do!
A special episode of The Young and the Restless marking Lauralee Bell’s 40th anniversary airs Wednesday, Nov. 1 in Canada on Global and Thursday, Nov. 2 in the U.S. on CBS.
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadians can catch up with episodes on demand, the Global TV app, STACKTV, and at GlobalTV.com. Stream The Young and the Restless with AppleTV.