The Young and The Restless alum Lauralee Bell (Christine "Cricket" Blair) has transitioned from her days portraying one of soap opera's most angsty characters, to building her own webisodic TV empire with husband Scott Martin. With comedies Family Dinner and Just Off Rodeo—the latter of which just returned with a hilarious, smart, sassy third installment—Bell is doing her family name proud.
I recently caught up with the former soap starlet to dish the actress making the move to writing, directing and producing her own content. Does she hope to one day see Just Off Rodeo on TV, or does she prefer the web model? I also found out what the beautiful and talented Hollywood royal thinks her father, the late William Bell (creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful with her mother Lee Phillip Bell), would have to say about the current state of the daytime soap opera and TV on the World Wide Web.
Daytime Confidential: Just Off Rodeo is back with its third episode. Will the series be airing more new installments in the future?
Lauralee Bell: It's certainly our intention to air more episodes of Just Off Rodeo. We are already discussing bringing on another character that was in my initial concept 10 plus years ago and of course, continue with the surprises of what will be our next few chosen items for purchase.
DC: The show is really funny, hip and well shot. It looks like a primetime series. How did you circumvent the sound and camera issues that tend to plague so many web series?
LB: Scott and I have a great crew around us who are always on top of the new technology. David Gil brought to our attention these fabulous cameras that are the size of a camera you'd use at your child's graduation. It's amazing to me, after the years on Y&R with our massive ones. The clarity is remarkable and I can't get over, with each episode, how clear and primetime TV these [webisodes] look. Having our episode filled with the color of Cat's wig and our merchandise really made this episode pop.
DC: In addition to being the executive producer and co-writer of the series, you also serve as the director. Did you pick up a lot from the many years you spent on the set of The Young and the Restless? Which of the soap's directors inspired you the most?
LB: There is no doubt the years on Y&R have helped me with this whole process. I'd always been fascinated, learning from the cameramen and the directors about every aspect of the making of the show. At Y&R, sometimes a cameraman would just say "Lauralee," and I'd know to just take a step to frame up the shot and they'd love that I not only got it, but respected all that they do. I learned from each director, it would be hard to pick one but the most important thing was being able to adjust your shots at the last minute if something worked better once you were on the set with the cast. I even called upon my Lifetime movie's director, David Winning, about a question with www.FamilyDinnerOnline.com. I was concerned with the round table and "crossing the camera line" with the actors looking side to side at each other. I like directing and I love editing.
DC: On your website it says you first came up with the idea for a series where fans could buy clothes worn by the actors in 1999. Are Cat (Zoe Taylor), Rodrigo (Mike Rose) and Danielle (Ciara Hanna) from your original story bible? How did you come up with them?
LB: I came up with this idea in 1999 and the characters of Cat and Danielle were in the original show concept. Rodrigo was the addition I made for the web since, as a trial, I wanted to keep it in one set and I realized how fascinated people are with makeovers and reinventing, so I felt it was a natural fit for a full-service boutique and gave us a realistic opportunity to transform our actors each episode.
DC: The clothes and accessories are very 80's and 90's retro, with all the fun colors and patterns. Who designs them ? Are you seeking out other designers to work into story arcs?
LB: Nadine Zanotti, who helped me run my former store, On Sunset, and now helps Scott and I run MartinBell Productions, has helped me find and design the scarves, t-shirts and bandanas, but it was very exciting this episode to team up with jewelry designer Jessica Elliot to do bracelets and headbands. We were able to show how an existing company can manufacture some items exclusively for www.JustOffRodeo.com and be a part of the episode and receive some great exposure. In a day when advertisers are looking for new avenues, we offer them a way to invest in a new approach to advertising and promotion.
DC: Just Off Rodeo's three episodes seem more like a ready-to-shop pilot than just about any other web series we've covered since Imaginary Bitches. Are you still hoping to see it on TV?
LB: Before I was only interested in seeing Just Off Rodeo on TV, now I like how you can watch the episodes and simultaneously see the actor wearing it and the item for purchase in the same frame and only the online experience offers that. However, I do believe that with the characters I have in mind, Just Off Rodeo could be on primetime television and that our audience could run to their computers after the show and still create a race to buy the accessories they just saw. Plus, the internet also affords them a chance to watch the episode again and to look back on past episodes and trends.
DC: Daytime soaps are going through a transitional phase right now, with the ABC soaps moving online. Has there been any interest in Just Off Rodeo airing on a Hulu-esque platform or one like the planned Internet TV channel Prospect Park is planning?
LB: We have been in talks with a few companies to find a potential home for www.JustOffRodeo.com and guarantee them a series of consecutive episodes. It's imperative that the fit is right. Stay tuned.
DC: If your father, the late William Bell, was alive. What do you think he would say about the current state of daytime soap operas? Do you think he would be preparing for the web and other platforms?
LB:If my dad were alive he'd be doing what he did best, not concentrating on anything negative, but writing great stories and giving the fans what they want. I don't think he'd know much about the web but if you showed him something and he felt the characters were believable, he'd be fascinated and for sure have an productive opinion.
DC: In partnering with your husband Scott Martin on your web TV ventures, you're following in your parents footsteps, in being a couple who create together. Did you learn a lot from them about how to balance business with family?
LB: It's been so exciting teaming up with Scott on this for many reasons. First, to see each other on a set in a work mode instead of in our kitchen discussing when homework is going to be done, is very exciting and we feed off each other's energy. Scott is a photographer and looks at things differently, in great detail and that has been very important to our company, webisodes and our life in general. Our situation does remind me of my parents however, I will always remain in awe of how they did it with three shows (my mom's daily talk show was live!), three kids and lots of laughter. Scott has a studio space and I have acting so for us, I think we are happy to work together and separately. Our lives together with our kids and dogs is what I consider to be our greatest success.
DC: While you cut your teeth on daytime dramas, both of your web series, Family Dinner and Just Off Rodeo, have been comedies. What made you go the humorous route after all those years portraying the melodrama of Christine "Cricket" Blair on Y&R?
LB: I believe I've done two comedic shows because I like to be light and silly with my kids and see smiles. With www.FamilyDinnerOnline.com, it is harder and more challenging since we are dealing with different ages and different needs and let's face it, raising kids is quite a challenge in itself. Everyone can relate to the frustrations of parenting and we all feel like screaming once in a while. I wanted to create something that made people think that yes, their family is crazy but not as crazy as this web family. Everyone wants to feel superior to someone else and who wouldn't feel better after watching these nutbars? Still, I'm always happy to go back to Y&R and revisit Cricket and hope to get my drama fix satisfied there soon.
DC: Could you ever see yourself producing a web drama?
LB: I could see myself producing a web drama, I already have one ready to go but I have to get my kids back in school first [Laughs].
DC: A lot of daytime actors have shown trepidation about the web, because of the different financials and uncertainties. What advice would you give your peers, or anyone who is considering embarking on a career in webisodic TV?
LB: My advice on any form of entertainment right now is to be open to any and everything because change is happening.
Watch the latest episode of Just of Rodeo now by clicking here!