The actress, who will celebrate the tremendous milestone with a special episode airing Thursday, tells PEOPLE of her tenure on the CBS soap: "I have loved every minute of it"
The soap star will celebrate her 40th anniversary on the soap opera with a special episode airing Thursday on CBS.
Bell, 54, tells PEOPLE her character Christine “Cricket” Blair must tackle a difficult decision: split from her ex, police chief Paul Williams (Doug Davidson) or potentially rekindle the flame with another ex-husband Danny Romalotti (Michael Damian).
“My character's at the crossroads of leaving my ex-husband and possibly revisiting my first love, who just happens to be back in town,” she teases, adding, “I go from location to location and I talk to different people. At the end, there is kind of the answer to this question of where I'm at in my life. It sort of gives you a hint of what she might be doing next.”
A reunion between Cricket and Danny is a long-held dream by many loyal viewers, according to Bell.
“We have fans that have been saying in the last couple weeks, I've waited 30 years for Cricket and Danny to get back together. Waited 30 years!” she says.
Four decades on the soap has “gone by in a blink” for the actress.
Her parents, William Bell and Lee Phillip Bell, who created The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, figured she wouldn’t act at all. But after her first appearance at age 9 as an extra with no lines to speak of, seated in on an airplane set behind David Hasselhoff, Bell thought to herself, “Oh, my gosh. That was so easy.”
Bell returned to the show four years later, this time with a few lines, and the reaction from viewers was immediate. Some positive fan mail about her appearance eventually led to becoming a series regular as Cricket.
“A few people had written saying, ‘I have this on in my living room all the time.' … It was kind of cool, because my grandson, my niece, or whoever, turned around when Cricket came on, came over and sat next to me and started watching, because she was someone their age,” she recalls.
As her character grew over the years, from a model to a “sophisticated district attorney,” Bell evolved, too. She married Scott Martin, a Chicago graphic artist and old high school pal, in Santa Barbara in 1997. The two share two children — Christian, 22, and Samantha, 21 — as well as a production company.
Outside of The Young and the Restless, Bell has starred in Lifetime films including 2018’s Mistress Hunter and 2019’s Nightmare Tenant and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2014 for Outstanding Special Class Short Format Daytime for the 2013 web series mI promise, which she wrote, directed and starred in. Bell is also currently developing two series.
“My parents taught us, whether I'm out in the yard with my dogs or whatever, I'm constantly trying to come up with something for Shark Tank, or coming up with a new concept for a series,” she says. “My husband makes this noise of a machine motor, because [my brain] just doesn't stop. But I find that’s fun for me.”
Bell’s mind at the moment, however, is still largely focused on The Young and the Restless and her castmates. After four decades, she and the cast have grown “crazy close.”
Tricia Cast, who portrayed Cricket’s longtime best friend Nina Webster, stayed with Bell and her family at their Los Angeles home to shoot scenes for Bell’s 40th anniversary episode. She also regularly texts castmates like Eric Braeden, who plays Victor Newman.
“When I started, I was a kid to them, and now, to be able to speak with everybody in an adult relationship, knowing their kids and their having watched our kids grow up, it's so special,” she says. “I've spent 40 years with some of these people and have loved every minute of it."
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The Young and the Restless airs weekdays at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
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