Lawyer Christine Williams committed a hit-and-run in the courtroom last week by exposing Al Fenton, young Cassie's pseudo-stepdad, as a child molester. This Saturday, Chris's portrayer, Lauralee Bell, gets behind the wheel as a participant in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach/Celebrity Pro Race. Bell's competition will include Olympic athlete Carl Lewis, supermodel Kim Alexis, Melissa Joan Hart and previous winner Donny Osmond. In this Q&A, Bell dishes the dirt about driving a stick shift, her race strategy and whether she's revving up her engine to hightail it out of Genoa City. — Michael J. Maloney
How did your participation in the Toyota Grand Prix come about?
Eric and Kate [Braeden and Linder, who play Victor and Esther] had done it in the past, and this year I got an invitation from the organization. It's this little tire, and you open it up and it goes vroom. So I decided to do it. I'm not a stick-shift driver, but I am very competitive. If I do something, I want to do it well. I've been on the training course and I've done pretty well. But I didn't realize how competitive it was going to be. I thought that the celebrities would be more worried about possibly hurting their faces, or that they're as green as I am. But they're daredevils! I had no idea that I'd have to worry about Donny Osmond trying to get ahead of me.
How have practices been going?
It has been great. It was like going to a four-day camp. Kim Alexis and Melissa Joan Hart and I have been checking up on each other. The practices can be mentally draining. It can be terrifying and loud when you're on the racetrack. In a couple of years, when I'm a mom, there's no way that I'd do this.
How were you with using a stick shift?
I hadn't done it before, but the thought had always crossed my mind... "What if there was an emergency, and I had to?" So I went to a driving school and a guy took me out for a few hours, and it went great. He said that I was the quickest student he ever had. Then, I went out with [my husband] Scott and it was sort of a mess. It's easier when you don't know the person teaching you.
Is Scott worried about you doing this race? There are safer charity events out there. (A contribution of $5000 will be made in Bell's name to children's hospitals for her participation.)
Well, the other racers and I have never crashed into one another during training. We all wear fire suits, helmets and five seat belts. I heard that the only person who ever got hurt was Woody Harrelson (Cheers), who broke two bones during training. I think if I were going in with a daredevil attitude, then there'd be reason for some fear or concern. My goal is to finish. I could never win with this group, but I'd rather have something to say later when the other racers ask me, "What was your finish time? Oh, that's right — You don't have a finish time."
Not everyone finishes?
No. Last year, five guys crashed on the first turn. If they hit hard enough, then that's it.
How did you juggle practice for the race with your taping schedule?
I had to take two days off of work to go to a four-day practice session out in Lancaster [CA]. I think the only way it would have affected work greatly would have been if I had gone out and practiced a lot after that, but I really haven't. I've got the shifting down. Now it's just being comfortable with the track. You can't really practice that.
You've gone on the record as saying that court cases aren't your favorite storylines because they can be so grueling to tape.
[Laughs] I'm really not a fun person to be around when we're [doing a] trial. Talk about something monopolizing your life! But when I found out that this most recent one [Sharon vs. Alice] was just a few days, I relaxed. When I saw it on the air, I thought, "This actually could have gone on for a week."
Like Danny and Phyllis's divorce case/custody battle. That was great, but it ran almost as long as their marriage did!
It's such a relief when you finish them. In the meantime, you go home and you start memorizing the next 40 pages. Christian [Le Blanc, Michael] and I really love them in some ways, though — it's when Chris and Michael really get to play the game with each other.
How's Scott's photography going?
We're in the process of redoing a house, so he's on that site every day. He squeezed in a photo session recently, and he really hasn't lost his touch. My dad [Y&R honcho William J. Bell] saw some of it and he said he really liked it. Someday, we're going to have to frame his black and white shots and have a gallery showing. His stuff is really cool.
Will you two be at the Emmys this year to cheer on all the Y&R nominees?
Yes. We skipped last year, and I'm thinking that it would be nice to attend the Emmys every other year. Doug [Davidson, who plays Paul] and I are presenting. I don't think he's ever been to them, so it should be fun for him, too. I wish everyone could win.
Literally, that can't be the case, because several Y&R actors are competing against each other in the same category.
I know. I hope that they don't cancel each other out, but I don't think that that will happen. So much of it depends on the blue-ribbon panel.
What's up with this break from Y&R you've been talking about taking?
Well, I'd like to call it the "Victoria Rowell (Drucilla) break," meaning that I'll definitely be coming back... I just don't know when. I love the show so much, but I'm really kind of tired — not of the people or the storylines — but of the memorizing. I feel like I'm still in school, with homework every night. There was talk about my coming in just one or two days a week, but that hasn't happened. I think by the end of May we'll really talk about it. Maybe there will be a brief hiatus [for me] in September or October.
Maybe right before a big court case starts?
[Laughs] That's my joke! Just as the next trial starts, the announcer will say, "The part of Christine Williams will be played today by... " Although I'd never wish having to give an opening statement on anyone. Recently, Chris had to go over to Nick and Sharon's and recite all these legal terms. Joshua Morrow (Nicholas) turned to me and said, "I could never do your part."
Will you continue to act if and when you take a break from Y&R?
Yes. This has been a really slow pilot season. But one of the great things about Y&R is that it really accommodates its actors to go do guest spots. I just did a brief thing on Pacific Blue [that aired last weekend]. It was cool because I'd never been killed off before.
When you go into audition, do you find that there's a bias against daytime actors?
Not against the actor, but producers and casting directors are more concerned [than usual] about your availability. To ask both shows to work around your schedule isn't impossible, but it can be difficult.
You're working a lot because of the courtroom stuff, but what's up with Chris's personal life? The marriage is pretty secure. Mary's got her hands full with Carl/Jim, so she hasn't been squawkin' about grandkids. In that respect, has that made things for you kind of....
I love when Doug and I are playing a romantic scene on the couch and there's the potential for a real "fun couple scene" — but then the scene switches to talking about Cassie, Sharon and Millie, or Jim and Ruth. I suppose that's real-life to a point, but I'd love Chris and Paul to have a "no talk about work" rule at home. I'd love their marriage to be a little more racy, and for Chris to dip into the lingerie drawer more often. [Laughs] I'd love to wear garter belts at least once a month. Now, that could keep me on the show a little longer.