Susan Flannery Susan Flannery

The Bold and the Beautiful is famous for its gutsy storylines, and this one's a jaw-dropper. In the cliffhanger of the September 24 episode, control-freak matriarch Stephanie Forrester — played by four-time Emmy winner Susan Flannery — will find out that she has stage 4 lung cancer. Stephanie will stubbornly refuse treatment and decide to keep the dire news from her family, choosing instead to spend her final months checking off items on her bucket list: She'll throw herself a birthday party complete with a Silly Slide, ride the rollicking roller coaster at the Santa Monica pier... that sort of thing. Only Stephanie's archenemy Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang) will be privy to the diagnosis — and that's by accident. TV Guide Magazine talked with B&B exec producer-head writer Brad Bell about this startling twist. And of course we hit him with the billion-dollar question — is Susan Flannery exiting the show?

TV Guide Magazine: This is as horrible a prognosis as a writer could slap on a character. And for Stephanie to refuse treatment makes it even harsher and scarier. What's your thinking here? 
Bell: I wanted to create the biggest mountain possible for Stephanie to overcome. It's the weightiest, most intimate and difficult thing she has ever had to wrestle with and to have to share it with Brooke is torture. This is a story about a highly functioning woman that will delve deeply into issues of self-worth and denial. But it's not going to be morbid or depressing. Stephanie is determined to party right into her grave. It'll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

TV Guide Magazine: How is it that Brooke, of all people, is the only one in the loop?
Bell: Stephanie collapses during a confrontation with Brooke and is rushed to the hospital, so Brooke is there when the diagnosis is given — and that leaves Stephanie feeling like she can't even have cancer in peace. This will send these characters to a place they've never been before. Stephanie feels Brooke should be rejoicing that her nemesis and archrival may be out for the count. Instead, this will shine new light on their relationship. Brooke becomes a confidant and a motivator to Stephanie.

TV Guide Magazine: Why won't Stephanie agree to be treated? It's so extreme.
Bell: This news comes at a time when her children and grandchildren no longer need her, when she is no longer critical at the company, and she's asking herself, "How valuable am I anymore? Am I an asset or a detriment? And if someone up there is calling my number, maybe it's time for me to go — it's not like I'm 50 or 60 anymore. How many years am I really fighting for?" She's asking a lot of hard questions as she contemplates her future, and you have to wonder if it's her pride or her stubbornness that's keeping her from telling her family. Don't forget, this is the same woman who kept Angela [her microcephalic daughter] a secret from Eric so he could do his work and not be troubled. She really believes that her role in life is to not distract from what's really important — the family business and the welfare of the children and grandchildren. She'd rather die than be the center of attention.

TV Guide Magazine: Stephanie's never been a madcap kinda gal so what's with the goofy bucket list?
Bell: It's all about denial. In creating her bucket list, Stephanie is really hiding from what should be done and needs to be done. She wants to fill her time and not think about the cancer. This is too heavy of a thing to deal with, even for the formidable Stephanie Forrester. As she and Brooke become partners in crime, we'll be going on a lot of wild locations shoots.

TV Guide Magazine: How does the situation affect Brooke? How does she not tell the family?
Bell: Brooke keeping this secret will be something to watch unto itself. She's vowed to tell Ridge everything, yet that would go against a dying woman's wish. She's in a real pickle and doesn't know whom to honor or what to do. She urges Stephanie to go public with this. But Stephanie needs time to do that, so she demands that Brooke keep her trap shut. Despite their animosity, this has always been a symbiotic relationship. After 23 years of fighting and bickering, they've become one of daytime's all-time supercouples and finding new, fertile ground for them to explore is exciting.

TV Guide Magazine: How long does this story play out?
Bell: There will be no quick fixes. Slowly more characters will be brought into the situation and it will eventually become a Forrester family story. This will be front and center and the heart and soul of the show, certainly through to the end of the year and beyond.

TV Guide Magazine: I'm told there''s a second level to this story — one that somehow involves the homeless.
Bell: We've hired a new actress named Kristolyn Lloyd, who will play a homeless character named Dayzee in a story that is a continuation of one of our great stories from 1991 when Stephanie had her stroke and was living on the streets. It's a story my father [the late B&B creator Bill Bell] was extremely proud of, and we're going to be weaving it into this cancer plot.

TV Guide Magazine: You know this news will create mass panic among the Susan Flannery groupies. She even hinted at retirement in an interview a couple of years.  Is she leaving the show? [Flannery declined to be interviewed about the new storyline.]
Bell: Susan is as unpredictable as her performances. One never knows. We like to think that things are going to last forever but nothing does. She's done very well on The Bold and the Beautiful and before that on Days of Our Lives, and has had a long and successful career in Hollywood. We certainly hope it continues and we're all hoping Stephanie survives this...

TV Guide Magazine: Are you suggesting there's a possibility she won't?
Bell: There is a possibility that she won't.

TV Guide Magazine: This is all pretty ballsy, sir.
Bell: I know. [Laughs] Just trying to keep things interesting! We're trying to break new ground here, touching on several social and medical issues that'll have us taking the camera where we never have before. Susan, herself, is a cancer survivor. I've been meeting with her and drawing upon what she went through.  Deveney Kelly, one of our directors, is also a cancer survivor, and she's been invaluable, too. Both of them are cancer-free now. It's a hell of a journey and we're using ladies who have first-hand knowledge to help make it as authentic as possible. We're either going to sink or swim with this one. And if you don't like it, forgive us. Because we tried.

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