It's always fun talking with someone when it feels like you've known them for years.
Of course, I don't know Lauralee Bell. She's soap opera royalty, having played Christine Blair since the tender age of 13 on the soap her father, William Bell created, The Young and the Restless.
Friday night she'll be appearing in a movie on Lifetime Movie Network in a movie titled Mistress Hunter. She's not the mistress nor is she the hunter, but she's the star of the show.
Like many movies on Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network, Mistress Hunter is about a woman who has been wronged.
That's where Bell comes into play. Her character, Jackie, discovers her husband is having an affair and after hiring a mistress hunter to track down his indiscretions both Jackie's husband and his mistress turn up dead leaving Jackie as the sole suspect.
How does it end? I'm not telling, and you're not going to hear it from Bell either. It doesn't mean people haven't tried to pry it out of her. "I love that nobody knows," she says. "And last night, I was explaining it to someone, and they were like, 'So who did it?' I was like, 'No.' My dad wrote soaps his whole life, and my answer is to you, 'You're gonna have to watch. I'm not gonna tell you.'"
Mistress Hunter isn't like all the other Lifetime movies, either. Your detective skills will be put to excellent use trying to figure this one out.
It reminds Bell of her youth and watching Sunday Night Movies on the broadcast networks. "Growing up, and I grew up in Chicago, and truly, I would call my girlfriend every Sunday night and be like, 'That was such a great Sunday night movie of the week. Did you see the preview for next week?'
"And that's what this reminds me of. One of those where you can just sort of chill out and have your glass of wine. And I would love if people would sit with their spouses to be like, 'This is what happens when you do that.' But I'm just happy for anyone to watch.
Playing Jackie was also a refreshing change of pace for Bell, who is used to playing Christine on The Young and the Restless. Christine has legal jargon she uses that can make learning her lines a challenge.
On the other hand, Mistress Hunter was super fun to make. "It was super easy. Just all the dialogue made great logical sense to me, so I learned it super quick. ... So doing something completely ... Where it was just about life, that was really fun."
Bell has nothing but praise for shooting Mistress Hunter, which finished in 13 days. Even though it was a fast shoot and she felt a lot of pressure being in every shot, she was impressed with what they got done in a day.
"It was great. I mean, it was super fun and everyone that they hired, sometimes you're worried that because we're moving so fast if someone's not really great in their part, you're going to have to slow down because you're going to have to do it again and again. Everyone was so spot on. Casting was perfect. "
It wasn't only the time on set that spoke to Bell. "It was good for my personal life because my kids had to completely count on my husband for basically two and a half weeks of any issue. I'm home every night to sleep, and I'm checking in and if you're asking, 'What's for dinner' I'm hopefully going to answer. But the reality is dad's in charge. And I think he loved it."
Bell enjoyed working with the production company and hopes if Mistress Hunter does well, she'll be asked back for more.
While Bell obviously has experience and is a strong actress, she's also an accomplished (and Emmy Winning) writer. With three web series to her credit, one in particular needs to be seen.
MI Promise won a 2014 Daytime Emmy Award, and its subject matter is close to Bell's heart. It's about teens texting and driving. The message? It kills.
"So I purposefully did that. Our kids were just getting close, and neither of them is driving yet, but our son could be. But he's choosing to just wait. And our daughter's about to be in driver's ed," she says.
Bell hears kids promising not to look at their phones, but their habits when not driving are worrisome enough. "They never look up, and they're always wishing they were somewhere else because of Instagram, and I was just like, 'I can't stop thinking about this for some reason.'"
Bell had a great production company ready to go, but her brother was concerned. He told her, "'You know dad's number one rule is you can't kill a kid.'"
Bell had a retort. "'Okay, well two things. She's a teenager, number one, which I still don't like doing. But if she survives, then it's telling them it's okay. It has to be a back fall. It has to be she lost out on everything because of that choice, and she would give anything to take that moment over again.' So I tried to do it in a way as having her sit up out of the bed and being so present that she was still alive in our hearts..."
"I'm around these teenagers sending the message that there's a chance you'll be okay. You have to just say you just can't ... When my phone goes off in the car, our kids will just see that they know I hear it, but I will never pick it up just because you can't. You can't tell them don't ever do it and then you do it yourself."
The series is in six three-minute segments and perfect for schools to teach teens the perils of texting and driving, yet it's not being used in that way. Bell has had some parents approach her about using the series in their children's schools, and I would urge you to do the same if you know a school who could use it.
"Yeah, I would love that. I mean, truly that's why I did it. Getting the Emmy was a definite perk. That was not the reason why I did it, but that is my thing. Every once in a while, I'm like, 'Maybe I just need to re-push this' because it's more now with Snapchat, all of that, it's so important and kids hate being preached to. So this is a perfect way for them to get a little tidbit without feeling like they're preached."
It's also exciting that Bell is considering taking her writing skills to the next level -- Primetime. She has beautiful memories of soaking in all of her father's knowledge about working in the business.
"I would purposefully stay home from school. I would pretend to be sick, so I could sit on the bed and listen to my dad do his conference calls to Los Angeles to say what he liked and didn't like about each episode of Young and Restless. To listen to those calls was so cool to me. So I would keep pretending to be sick.
"So they thought I had some horrific disease because I was planting thermometers all around the house at 101 degrees. So they'd be like, 'How is she still 101?' But I wanted to stay home and listen to those conference calls."
Bell knows what she learned from her father is difficult to teach and is grateful she was able to gain so much from just listening to him. "It was effortless for him," she says.
Bell still works part-time on the soap opera that she's called home for decades. The cast and crew are her family. Doug Davidson who plays her husband Paul Williams on the show is one of her best friends.
"I mean, I am happy to come in whenever they write me in. Is it like, why do I not want to be a regular anymore? Because if I was, I couldn't have done something like this Lifetime movie, which was really good for me in terms of just to switch it up.
"A lot of people on our show do just the opposite. They audition and did a lot of guest spots when they were younger and are happy to be in a consistent show and film. I am not saying that but I now love doing guest spots, and I love having time for other projects, and I'm still first a mom."
Bell's kids are older and don't need their mom and dad around as much, so she has more free time to spread her wings. She keeps her options open in the event the show shows her the door but has no intention of making that decision on her end.
It's an exciting time at Y&R since Mal Young, a former British showrunner, took over the reins. She loves it. "Mel definitely, when he first started was like, 'Why do we have to shoot his runway airport scene in a studio when we have a driveway out the back?' I loved the fact that whenever it was easy to make it more realistic, he took that route and it definitely done some great things."
Bell doesn't envy anyone being in that position now, though. When her father was at the helm, the show had a 10 ratings share, and Friday cliffhangers -- even for those starring on the show who knew the story -- were noteworthy and newsworthy.
"And so do I miss things like that? Yeah. I mean, do we have them? Sure. It's just different." Friends wonder if she has ever thought about taking the reins, but she has too much respect for those who do to consider it. And Bell loves the fans who remember everything. It may be hard to please them sometimes, "but they're still watching," and she appreciates that.
"But, what is the same is that you'll still see Victor Newman and Nikki Newman and you'll see the people that you want to see. So that's fantastic. I mean, that's really what Y&R's all about.
"The days when if you turn it on and it's some characters that nobody is really aware of or knows that well, that's sometimes harder for the audience to digest. But that's also part of evolving. So there have to be new people coming in and out.
"It's just about balancing the time with the core, main characters -- the Abbott's, who everyone loves watching, The Abbott's and the Newman's -- and then filtering in the new people sporadically until our audience knows those characters like they know the others because that's what I used to love."
Bell loves the history of the show, and how a couple of well-known characters can walk into a room together and viewers can guess what they're thinking without the need for words.
She also appreciates how Young took advantage of the 45th anniversary to bring back some characters from the days of yore, hoping he'll continue it throughout the year so she can reunite with "my sweet Nina, Tricia Cast."
But remember why we're here. When you're finished checking out the web series or watching The Young and the Restless this Friday, you need to tune into Mistress Hunter.
Bell says, "I mean, it just has a little bit of everything. It has girliness but a good message for your relationship, your significant other. It has suspense, it has ... I love what you said. It's not easy to find a movie where you really are surprised by who did it.
"I mean, it's just a Friday night chill movie. It was initially supposed to rain here in L.A., and I was like, 'Perfect. It'll set the tone. People won't go out. It's a great time slot. ... I just think it has a little bit of something for everyone. So you can put it on and whoever is in your house will find something to relate to, I hope, or just find complete escapism. That's what should happen on a Friday night. You unwind from a crazy week.
Put the popcorn on, pull out the cork on a bottle of wine and snuggle up on the couch. Turn on Lifetime Movie Network Friday, March 16 at 8/7c and watch Mistress Hunter!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.