For Bell, who has played sweet, caring women for most of her television career, the role of Daphne, the evil, money-hungry stepmother, is a change of pace that is likely to surprise her young, reckless fans as much as it delights VC Andrews’ audience.
The films were shot almost exactly half before and half after the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted production for several months and dispersed the cast and crew. Some stayed in Canada, others returned to the United States, and the two young stars of the series returned to their native Australia, where they were isolated.
Because we were filming on Victoria Island, we had a few extra days, Bell told . When we heard that the shows in Vancouver were closed, we stayed a few days longer, just because we were far enough away as a group and felt safe and uninvolved.
Four months later, she says, they are back at work on Victoria Island, finishing a series of four films that begins tomorrow night.
For Bell, who is best known as a warm and sympathetic character, the experience of not being able to play this aloof and abusive mother-in-law was disheartening. Not so much to find the gig – in fact, she told us she slipped in pretty easily – but to trust that the harm is at the right level.
Of all the other movies I’ve done, I never want there to be a bad moment, said Bell, who noted that she approaches most roles with a natural, realistic approach to her performance. I had to go to the principal with that and just say: It’s so weird for me to be up there. So if it sounds stupid, like you need to tell me. I would be grateful and would not be offended in any way.
Fortunately for them, they understood that too much is rarely enough for Daphne Dumas, the character Bell took on in the show. The hardest part was capturing that particular voice almost a year later when she had to record a few lines in the ADR booth. With no house, no wardrobe, and no fellow actors to bounce around with, she laughingly admitted that she wondered what voice she would use to interpret the character.
We thought there were no boundaries with Daphne, Bell says. She doesn’t care what other people think. She’s all in, so there’s really no mistaking her.
Everything, she said, from the mansion to the wardrobe to the bold, dark lipstick, helped isolate Bell from Daphne (I turned into someone totally unrecognizable, actually). Discovering a new character and building this new relationship is very different from what she does in The Young and the Restless, where she’s been through over 1,000 episodes and is in such a comfortable zone that the audience can feel it.
In fact, it might not just be in their comfort zone. The soap opera has a long history of bringing actors over to superhero shows, with archetypal characters and larger-than-life situations attracting a very specific type of actor… but also a very specific audience.
The crazy thing about soap opera and comic book audiences is that the fans will snap at you when you make mistakes, Bell said. They know your characters as well as you do, or at least have them in mind, like the….. I’m told that what makes The Young and the Restless unique is that so many of us have been playing the same roles for so many years that we have to walk into a room without saying a word. Our audience will be able to understand what is going on.
Essentially, it assumes that the audience knows the characters so well that if you put a duo together, they can guess with some accuracy how they will react to each other in that situation. So your plan is to be exciting and surprising without violating this basic expectation.
They can tell the whole story because they know what these two people are going to think and do together, and it’s nice to have an audience like that, Bell said. They’re so invested. I think if you have Hallmark or Lifetime viewers, they’re on that network for some kind of entertainment.
Working on a soap opera also means she’s done more work than many actors in five times the time since she finished Ruby. Funny enough, she notes that she’s the kind of actress who takes backstage photos with her phone, only to have to scroll through the photos on her phone a year later to figure out where February 2020 went.
For an actor who is more likely to identify with an impeccable character who, by the actress’s own admission, can be a little dull, it must be fun to play a delightfully vile character like Daphne. In her most unsatisfying moments, Bell says, the way Daphne talks to her daughters-in-law is the way she wishes she could go back to her own children….. but that’s not what most real people do, and Bell likes to think that her own maternal instincts are closer to Christina Williams than to Daphne.
W.S. Andrews is a writer whose cachet hasn’t diminished much since he made his name with Flowers in the Attic. It is rare for a novelist to become a full-fledged brand, usually reserved for Stephen King and Michael Chrichton, who have had numerous adaptations of their most famous works in other media. Andrews, on the other hand, had relatively few, which suggests the distinct possibility that fans will still be talking about such a project 20 years from now.
That would be great for Bell. She told us that she had a great love for Andrews, who was a pioneer in ensuring that women could have a voice and be heard, even if she did so primarily through fiction.
My mother ran a talk show in Chicago for 30 years and won several Emmys for talking about rape. She was talking about all these complex social issues. And when I read about W.S. Andrews, it was very similar. There were comments on a topic, and instead of backing down, she went deeper into it and didn’t let herself be intimidated.
I communicate a lot on that level because my role model, my mother, was part of that norm, Bell added paraphrasing: I am a woman and I have a story to tell, and no one will tell me it is wrong to talk about it.
The VC Andrews Ruby series begins Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.