‘Bold and the Beautiful’s Matthew Atkinson on That Hope Doll & Mental Illness

Matthew Atkinson
Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Late-night talk show hosts are having a field day poking fun at TheBold and the Beautiful for its use of mannequins in kissing scenes to keep actors safe from COVID-19. One doll in particular, though, is being used not for safety reasons, but an intense new storyline. Her name is Hope, and Thomas’ (Matthew Atkinson) obsession for the inanimate object is no laughing matter.

The Forrester heir had taken home the mannequin, made in the likeness of Hope (Annika Noelle), from Forrester Creations, the design house he works at, as a way to help him cope with his feelings of loss — a clear indication that he has some mental health issues. In the Friday, October 30 episode, the story escalated when the doll, for the first time in their “conversations,” took the upper hand. Troubling? More than a little bit. TV Insider chats with Atkinson about this challenging psychological storyline.

We thought Thomas was doing so much better!

Matthew Atkinson: [Chuckles] We did?

Some might classify the Hope doll storyline as Thomas having a fetish, but he’s clearly dealing with some serious stuff.

Yes. We have a guy who’s suffering from severe mental illness. He doesn’t understand that this is happening; he’s living in a reality that’s very different from the one most people live in. A lot of people are suffering from mental illness and maybe we should talk about these things a little more?

It’s not like Thomas had the mannequin made; as he said, it was used for promotions for Hope for the Future charity event.

Correct. This isn’t a fetish story. As it goes along, we’ll understand why this has and is happening to him. I had a conversation with a psychologist about what people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia experience. I’m trying to tell the story from this character and give it as much credence as possible.

Do you think this story came about in part because the show is using mannequins for love scenes?

That likely put a nugget [of an idea] into the writers’ brains. And it was brilliant that the writers said, “Let’s have someone talk to a doll.’

This story is shining a light on mental illness, a difficult topic to address.

Yes. So many people this year are struggling with things they may never have thought they’d be dealing with. It’s certainly not an easy conversation, and opening the discussion up is a good thing. Thomas is and always has been this tortured artist — even more so in the last couple of years. He’s gone down some horrible paths. You’re getting to see a different side to Thomas. You can’t “blame” Thomas for hearing voices. You ask, “Why is he hearing them?”

Do you hear Annika voicing the Hope mannequin on set, or is it looped in later?

Annika is pretty much there, feeding the lines from about 20- to 30-feet away. It’s both good and bad. The voice is coming from over there, but I play to the mannequin [that’s much closer to me]. But it’s great to have her there and have her do that.

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The Hope mannequin bears an eerie resemblance to Hope, the person. What’s your take on that?

Yes, at certain angles, you could be tricked into thinking that they look alike. It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It looks like the right person, but it’s not. It makes it easier for me to shoot those scenes.

The camerawork can get purposely jerky, which effectively shows Thomas’ internal struggle.

I remember Annika being able to see the monitor while we were shooting and she told me it was really working. I’ve seen it on air, too. It is very effective, showing how erratic the situation really is.

This story is begging for Thomas’ psychiatrist mother, Taylor to return. Thoughts?

When I first came onto the show, Taylor (Hunter Tylo) was there. I 100% agree that now would be the perfect time for Taylor to come back into her son’s life. He’s fallen off a cliff and fallen into what could have been a vat of acid. There are times she could have come back [before], but there are logistics in making that happen. You have to find a way to make it work.

The Bold and the Beautiful, Weekdays, Check Local Listings, CBS