Lauralee Bell: TV’s `Restless’ daughter – Teen actress works for dad on CBS serial

Lauralee Bell

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 1, 1988

Being the young, blond, beautiful daughter of the executive producer for “The Young and the Restless” isn’t enough when an actress wants a job on the CBS soap opera.

It pays to beg, said former Chicagoan Lauralee Bell.

The 19-year-old TV star portrays high-fashion model Cricket Blair on the daytime drama, which airs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday on WBBM-Channel 2.

“My parents didn’t love the idea in the beginning of me even appearing on `The Young and the Restless,’ ” said Bell, daughter of writer-producer Bill Bell and former talk-show host Lee Phillip. “I begged and begged, so they allowed me to be on for two days. I loved it and was hooked.”

When she made her debut on the show, which is shot in Los Angeles, Bell was a 13-year-old student living in Chicago.

“I don’t think my parents realized how intently I watched the show on TV,” Bell said, laughing. “They thought I was just watching dad’s program, which I was, but I was also studying the actors’ techniques. I didn’t think I’d be on the show again, to be honest. But I wanted to.”

So when she wasn’t studying for classes at the Latin School, 1531 N. Dearborn, Bell honed her performing talents by taking acting, singing and tap-dancing lessons.

When her parents realized she was serious about pursuing an acting career, they let her appear on a few episodes during vacation breaks. Then a funny thing happened: Their youngest child began getting fan mail from kids who loved her character.

Two years ago, Bell became a regular on the serial.

“I started out as a smiley-faced little teenage girl who would bop on and make everyone laugh,” Bell said. “Up to a year ago, I would’ve said that Cricket and I were very much alike. She’s still the show’s `nice’ girl, but now Cricket’s a famous model and is having romantic problems and hates her mom. I’m not like that at all.”

Though she had done some print modeling in Chicago, Bell said she felt uncomfortable when Cricket became a model.

“I felt really stiff and awkward spinning around and posing,” she said, laughing. “I really prefer acting to modeling.”

Though the other cast members know she is the boss’s daughter, Bell said they know she’s more likely to side with them than with her folks in artistic disputes.

“They saw that I didn’t just walk in and get a plum role,” Bell said. “I’d work a couple days here and there and then disappear for months on end. It was difficult for me at the time because I was so eager to act, but I think it was a good proving point for me because I was learning. . . .

“I’m really good friends with the crew, which means a lot to me. They know if there’s any problem going on in the room, I’m not going to go tattle to my dad. I’m on their side. I’m one of them.

“It’s great when new characters come on and they don’t know my name or my `connection’ to the show. I’m always like, `Please don’t tell who I am’ to the other people in the cast.”

As a child, Bell had plans to become a flight attendant, get married and become an artist. She even painted pictures and had her own showings every Tuesday night at her family’s East Lake Shore Drive apartment.

“I think I made between 1 to 10 cents per painting,” Bell said. “That’s not too bad for a 7-year-old. I thought that was just it!”

Bell said it was a real treat for her when she was allowed to go shopping with her famous mom at Water Tower Place. They were constantly stopped by fans seeking Phillip’s autograph and a chance to chat with a local celebrity.

“I realize now how important those people were to my mom, but when you’re a little kid who just wants to be with your mom, it’s really annoying,” Bell said. “I understand it more now, ’cause it happens sometimes here in Los Angeles, only kids recognize me from the show.”

Before she moved to Los Angeles, Bell said, she had heard all the rumors about drug and alcohol abuse by actors. But she said her colleagues actually helped her lifestyle.

A typical teen, Bell never gave much thought to nutrition until she started mingling with health-conscious Los Angelinos. Today, she chooses her food carefully, relying on fish, salad and water to keep her 5-foot-6 frame svelte.

“Luckily, I come from a family of tennis enthusiasts, so I don’t have to worry too much about exercise,” Bell said. “A couple hours on the court can whip anyone into shape.”

But even her athletic prowess doesn’t help her much when glamorous Cricket has to hit the dance floor. Because the audio track has to pick up the actors’ conversations, the actors must dance without music, which is overdubbed later during editing.

“People are probably wondering why we’re dancing so off-beat,” Bell said with a laugh. “Sometimes they’ll tell us, `OK, you’re dancing to the new Michael Jackson song,’ and I just hope I’ve heard it and can remember the beat.

“If I can even pretend to look cool doing that, I guess I’m a fair actress.”

© 1988 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

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