Look, joy comes in unexpected places, and life holds many surprises, and in the midst of our pandemic/revolution/global reckoning, the one sentence I didn’t expect to say was “I might have to start watching The Bold And The Beautiful”.
I’ve never been a soap watcher, and several of the longtime greats have folded in recent years due to decreased viewership, since people now have so many more options for daytime viewing. But TB&TB is still going, and resumed production on Wednesday – an article in The Hollywood Reporter outlined how they’re going to go about it while complying with the state guidelines and protocols for production to restart in LA County.
The conversation with head writer and Executive Producer Bradley Bell (I don’t know this for a fact, but I would assume the term ‘showrunner’ isn’t used because characters and storylines are often decades old on soaps) mostly outlines safety protocols you’d expect – testing a minimum of once a week, plexiglass dividers between stations in the control room (since soaps are recorded live-to-tape) and forced perspective in camera angles to make the performers appear much closer than they’ll actually be when shooting.
But many of the safety protocols on TV and film have mainly, and rightly, focused on cast and crew health behind the scenes – and a lot of the new guidelines won’t affect, say, an action movie (at least, those with enough budget to add crowds and background performers digitally).
Soaps, on the other hand, are all about intimacy. To wit:
"Daytime drama is built on intimate and close-contact scenes. How do you plan to handle that?”
“We'll really rely on our directors to employ all techniques. [Actors will] shoot eight feet apart, following all the safety standards, but use the tricks of the business. We'll shoot one side of the couple in a romantic scene alone in the room, but looking at a spot very close to them, and then shoot the other side alone. When we edit it together, it will look like they're nose to nose.”
Okay, sure. But the kicker for me – the real delight, is as follows:
“We're also bringing in, in some cases, the husbands and wives of the actors as stand-ins for their [characters'] significant others. So if you see hands touching faces in close proximity from a wide shot, instead of a stunt double we'll have a love-scene double, where it will be the husband or the wife doing the actual touching. Then when we edit it together, it will look like our couple on screen.”
I AM SCREAMING!
For several reasons. First of all, intimacy, and how to write it, has been my number one concern since the production restrictions came into play. There have been other suggestions, like sequestering performers together for the duration of filming – not unlike the ‘NBA Bubble’ that will happen at Disney World.
But while that process is conceivable for a movie shoot, especially one that was on location anyway, TV shooting schedules, and especially soap operas, have always worked more within a ‘day job’ construct – this is one way to make that work.
A BANANAS way, but a way nonetheless. I’ve been talking for weeks about a certain formerly mainstream but now very, very Christian actor who used to star in Growing Pains, whose convictions about not kissing anyone other than his wife are so strong that she has long been his ‘kiss double’ – basically, they’ll shoot what looks like a lean-in for a kiss, then cut, have the wife (in a wig? Idk) perform the actual kiss with him, and then cut it all together seamlessly in the editing room. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of saying we might have to take a page out of his book…
…but I didn’t expect it to actually happen!
Does this mean spouses will only be employed if their physicality – skin tone, body shape, and etc – matches that of the character their hand is supposedly playing? That is, I’m sure there are CGI techniques to make Prince Charles’ fingers look like, say, Noah Centineo’s, but this is The Bold And The Beautiful, and I guarantee there’s no time or money for that. Or are lots of soap characters suddenly going to become involved with people who bear a more-than-passing relationship with their real-life partners, including those of different races, genders, or ages?
The mind boggles.
And ….and! There are very strict rules about who can appear on camera in union productions – even stand-ins, whose work on set is to help with lighting and positioning, and is by definition never actually broadcast, have to be part of the actors’ union – so will this mean a whole new category of ‘actors’? Is there an enterprising agent at CAA or somewhere starting up an ‘Intimate Partner Division’, and if not, can I please be the one to do so?
Also, are they going to make it worth these partners’ while, financially speaking, to put aside jobs in accounting or teaching or whatever to go and pretend to make out with their real-life spouses under hot lights for a couple of hours?
After THR reporter Alex Weprin tweeted about this, people pointed out there’s going to be enough material for another whole soap behind the scenes – imagine your partner suddenly being at your workplace, for a legitimate reason? Seeing your interactions with all your coworkers!? And, let’s be honest – while actors love to tell us that make-outs and love scenes are mostly awkward, there must be some cases where it’s a bit of a job perk. Is that gone forever?
I never thought I would write this sentence, but I am putting the (currently TBA) return of TB&TB on my calendar. I want to see this play out in real time – and the stories of how it will actually turn out are going to be easily as delicious as what happens onscreen.