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Soap opera’s kisses outwit virus with tests, spouses, dolls
Hollywood’s technical expertise can awe us with monsters and imaginary worlds. But is it capable of delivering a simple screen kiss during a pandemic marked by masks and social distancing?
Yes, according to the soap opera producer who is making that happen with a strategic approach to romance. “The Bold and the Beautiful,” in the vanguard of TV series that have resumed taping after an industry-wide shutdown in March, is relying on health advisers and coronavirus safeguards to bring cast and crew together.
There’s also ingenuity involved, which includes employing actors’ real-life partners as smooching stand-ins and, for more limited purposes, using a mannequin to eliminate the risk of breaching a co-star’s infection safety zone.
“We feel almost like television pioneers all these years later because we’re the first ones out, blazing new ways of producing the shows with the current safety standards, and we’re getting the job done. It’s very exciting,” said Bradley Bell, executive producer of CBS’ “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which debuted in 1987 and is at roughly 8,300 episodes and counting.
Denise Richards, who plays Shauna Fulton, said she was excited to be back at work and pleased with the protective measures in place for the soap opera that, true to form, includes “a lot of love scenes.”
When “The Bold and the Beautiful” scripts written pre-coronavirus were reviewed in preparation for the new normal of production, the clinches initially were dropped. That was the cue for Hollywood creativity.
The solution: A carefully remote actor recites lines as their on-camera scene partner responds in a “low, intimate voice” and engages in “beautiful, yearning eye contact” with an off-camera doll, Bell said.
“But the fact is they’re all alone on the stage, making television magic,” he said, with dramatic flair. One of the stand-ins is a mannequin relegated to the prop room some 15 years ago after starring in a cemetery scene about the faked death of character Taylor Hayes (Hunter Tylo). The other is a life-sized doll with no known TV credits.
But what about the payoff, the embrace and heart-stopping lip-lock? That’s where actors’ partners come in, which recently included cast member Katrina Bowden’s husband, musician Ben Jorgensen.
When Bowden’s Flo Fulton (daughter to Richard’s Shauna) is kidnapped and chained to a radiator, it’s co-star Darin Brooks, as Wyatt Spencer, who comes to the rescue. “It really called for a big embrace and a kiss,” Bell said. “So once she was freed, we stopped tape, Katrina’s husband came in and they finished the scene. We see the back of his head, and I think it’s very convincing it’s really Darin.”
Richards was looking forward to taping a love scene with her husband, Aaron Phypers, standing in for co-star Thorsten Kaye’s character, Ridge Forrester.
- by Associated Press