From Jabot Junior teen model to distinguished District Attorney, we’ve watched resilient Christine “Cricket” Blair (Lauralee Bell) grow up on CBS‘s The Young and the Restless (which just so happened to be created by her parents Bill and Lee Phillip Bell). And on Thursday’s episode, we somehow have reached an unimaginable milestone — it’s been nearly four decades since her first 1984 appearance. “I thought I was going to be on for just two days, and that’s all it was initially!” Bell recalls.
Bell says her anniversary episode is “a bit different” from other recent anniversary episodes when we gladly grabbed some time with her to walk down memory lane with her real feelings about the nickname “Cricket,” the on-screen rivalry between her character and Phyllis (Michelle Stafford), and which cast member she texts with when sees any of those 1980s big hair/shoulder pads photos and/or clips.
Do you remember your first scene/day on the show and who you were working with? Were you nervous?
Lauralee Bell: I’m sure I was both nervous and excited. It was so far removed from my world as a middle school student in Chicago! I definitely remember a taping day much later when I had to do a montage photo session of myself posing over and over again, and I had zero modeling experience, so I ran out of poses quickly. I definitely wasn’t comfortable hamming it up during my awkward teen years for all the world to see. But I tried! Because I was on so rarely in the beginning, it took me a couple years (at least) to feel comfortable enough to break out of playing scenes “safe.” Getting to the point where I had no inhibitions on stage and in front of the camera was a very freeing feeling, but that took a while longer.
I know the character name transitioned to Christine eventually but what did you personally think of the nickname Cricket in the early years?
I loved, and still love, the name Cricket. I feel very fortunate to have had our audience watch Cricket’s life parallel their own lives. So many fans have told me, “I grew up with you,” so it’s an extra layer of connection with our viewers. I also am grateful that my character has really only had two true loves on-camera — I feel that makes her more relatable. She has values and her relationships were/are deep. Whenever Tricia Cast [Nina] or Michael Damian [Danny] return, it feels super sweet and nostalgic when they call me Cricket. This further demonstrates fans’ history with our show is so evident during our 50th year!
You’ve had some big romances on the show — Danny and Paul (Doug Davidson) stand out the most — but what’s it like when she sees either of them today (since they’re both around on occasion)?
When I look back on my character’s relationships, it’s very clear how they reflected the age I was at when I played them. With Cricket and Danny, it was a first love! Young love is so innocent, and it’s so amazing to look back and see how playful that relationship was. Seeing these clips again makes me so proud of my dad for his ability to constantly create daily small moments with inside jokes between the characters and touching romantic scenes. He was so insightful to come up with endlessly creative ways to keep the relationship fresh and allow the audience to be drawn in and escape into our romance. Once Paul came into the picture, Cricket had a truly adult relationship — still equally fun and romantic — but with the deeper elements, you feel when you realize this may be your life partner. In my anniversary show, you’ll see a bit of what I’m trying to convey.
The rivalries, also, were legendary. Which memories come up from some of those delicious scenes between Christine and Phyllis?
I love that Michelle and I feel the same way about our deep and intense rivalry. Phyllis has had beef with lots of women on the show, but Cricket, whom she derogatorily calls THE BUG, gets under her skin in such a way that neither of them can ever completely let go of that competition. I feel so grateful to play any storyline opposite Michelle. It’s fun to have a character where Chris can be bitchy and petty for a change, she can fight with Phyllis on a level that she wouldn’t do so freely with anyone else. The scenes where we are staring each other down are some of my favorites. It’s been nice to reignite this flaming rivalry, and I hope it continues for a long time.
One of my favorite storylines was Michael Baldwin (Christian LeBlanc) back in his evil days and being obsessed with Christine. Compared to the dramatic storylines you’ve done on the show, where does this one fall for you?
I loved that storyline with Christian. Back in the day, we were doing a lot of social issue stories, and sexual harassment was just starting to be discussed at the time, so to do a story to highlight it and keep the conversation going was important to us. We were ahead of our time. My character wanted to be taken seriously at work and move up in the firm based on her hard-won legal skills, not for sexual favors. It was an important story filled with danger, fear and long-lasting consequences. Definitely one of my favorites over the years.
What do you think when you see older footage with the bigger hair and shoulder pads?
I cringe a bit when I think of the big hair/shoulder pads days. I wish I could’ve told my younger self, JUST PICK ONE! If big hair, no shoulder pads, but I know … it was the style. I guess I’d be good with it if the clips and photos didn’t still surface. And I know with this question, there will be one floating somewhere in this article even if I ask you please to not add to my humiliation! Every time there is a doozy photo, Tracey Bregman [Lauren] and I text each other with a laughing emoji, but hands down, Tracey and Beth [Maitland, Traci] wore it better than me in any photo!
Y&R has done anniversary shows before, but I’m excited for mine because it will be a bit different. As a closing note, don’t miss the show on November 2nd!!!
The Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS