Last August, Allociné went to the set of “Plus belle la vie” to meet the teams one last time before the end clap, which took place last Thursday.
The ax fell on May 5. After long months of rumors that left little doubt as to the fate of the series, France 3 officially announced the end of Plus belle la vie. A real shock for viewers of the channel who have followed for more than 18 years the adventures of the inhabitants of Mistral, a small fictional district of Marseille.
Despite a difficult start, Plus belle la vie having struggled to find its audience at first, the soap opera quickly became a staple of the French audiovisual landscape. Every evening, from Monday to Friday, nearly 5 million viewers gathered in front of their television screens to find out what was going to happen to Thomas, Roland, Blanche and the others.
But the evolution that television has experienced in recent years, with the arrival of the various streaming platforms, but also the emergence of competition, with the launch of Tomorrow belongs to us, Un si grand soleil and Here everything begins, got the better of the series, which saw its audiences drop little by little. The acquisition by TF1 of Newen, the production company of Plus belle la vie, has of course not played in favor of the series…
Faced with these many parameters, France 3 therefore announced in May that Plus belle la vie would bow out on November 18 with an exceptional bonus which will see the return of many key characters who have marked the series over the years, and who will also provide a worthy end to this now cult series.
As filming wrapped up last Thursday, Allociné traveled to Marseille at the end of August to the studios of La belle de Mai to meet the actors one last time, but also the technical teams who made Plus belle la vie possible. to come to life.
A big family
Over the years, and through the many interviews given by the actors, there is a word that has not stopped coming back, it is the word “family”. Like the characters of Fast and Furious, Plus belle la vie prides itself on being a big family, its members, whether actors, extras or intermittent workers, helping and supporting each other.
It is certain that with 18 years on the clock, very strong links have been created between the different members of the team. A cohesion that is undeniably felt as soon as you set foot on the set. Everyone calls each other by their first name, makes jokes and tells their latest adventures to their colleagues.
And newcomers are not left out. Meryl Bie, who made her debut on the show this summer, has been welcomed with open arms by her new playmates. “Everyone is very patient with me, because I have no acting experience.” she told us before adding “the whole team was cool.”
There is no distinction between actors and technical teams. There is only respect, everyone treating each other as equals. During meals, actors, cameramen and sound engineers mingle to talk about the rain and the good weather, make jokes or even organize the next evening.
Of course, under these carefree airs, the stop of Plus belle la vie is on everyone’s lips. Each day of filming ends with a new farewell party. It is probably Rebecca Hampton, the interpreter of Céline Frémont, who best explained the feeling that reigns in the studios.
“We are going through a moment that is fundamentally sad because every day someone leaves. It is all the more difficult as it is a stretching stop. We can’t say goodbye once and for all. No, it’s like a daisy where every day we remove a petal.”
As time passes, actors and technical teams gradually leave the studio, never to return. A palpable melancholy that everyone seems to want to put aside to make the most of the last moments.
A formative school
Plus belle la vie has revolutionized the genre of television series in France. If in the United States, daily soap operas were (and still are) legion, in France this genre did not really exist. Plus belle la vie is also the first series in the history of television to pass the thousandth episode mark on July 11, 2008.
Who says daily rhythm, of course says well-established organization. Where an average French series requires a few months of filming to release around ten episodes, the filming of Plus belle la vie was spread out from Monday to Friday, or even Saturday if necessary, every week, 52 weeks a year. . A well-established production chain was therefore necessary in order to be able to offer viewers no less than 260 episodes per year.
When for a film, a day of shooting is equivalent to approximately 2 useful minutes, for a daily soap opera, a day is equivalent to 25 useful minutes. A frantic pace that leaves no room for error, and which offers unparalleled training to newcomers.
“It was an amazing school“, had thus confided Aurélie Vaneck during an interview in which she returned to her experience in the series.I shot for ten years in the series, and I made more than two thousand episodes. I had to quickly assimilate the vocabulary of the trade in order to know what we were talking about, I had to learn to be extremely efficient because, on the set of a daily newspaper, time is very important. It was incredible training for a young actress.”
The technical teams are not left out either. Plus belle la vie had become a real audiovisual school for people in the business. Young graduates cut their teeth on the series before taking off on their own for new projects.
“There are people who arrived as trainees and who came out of there as directors, cinematographers or even producers.” explains Serge Dupire (Vincent Chaumette), who witnessed the start of the series in 2004.
“Plus belle la vie is probably the best audiovisual school that France has had…“The end of the soap opera is therefore a real blow, not only in terms of employment, but also in terms of training.
What about afterwards?
It’s kind of the subject of all the conversations. What will happen once the series ends? At the coffee break, everyone discusses the future, with more or less concern. To help with the transition, Newen and France Télévisions have set up a support unit to provide them with the best possible support.
But by talking with the people present on the set, we quickly understand that some will probably have more difficulty bouncing back than others. The intermittent workers, who are used to going from shoot to shoot, know that they can very easily find another series to work on.
They are used to it, it is their daily life. Some will most likely join Here it all begins and Tomorrow belongs to us, Newen’s two other soap operas. Others will remain in Marseille, France Télévisions having undertaken to continue producing in the region.
As for the actors, the task looks more complicated. If they are open to playing on other programs, daily or not, the Plus belle la vie image risks sticking to their skin. Their face is directly attached to the soap opera of France 3…
And the intense filming schedule did not necessarily make it easy for them to prepare for the aftermath. If some actors have chosen to have parallel projects, such as the young Marie Mallia (Lola) who is currently in the cast of Les Combattantes or Simon Ehrlacher (Romain Vidal) who will be starring in the Amazon Escort Boys series alongside Guillaume Labbé, others preferred to devote themselves 100% to Plus belle la vie.
This is the case of Caroline Riou, who arrived at the Mistral in 2014 in the role of Laetitia Belesta. “When you’re 20 and life is ahead of you, you know you’re going to bounce back. On the other hand when you have a little more than 40, you will have to fight to advance” she explained. How to bounce back after 5.10 or even 15 years in the same series? Who will be ready to hire an actor so identified by viewers? Answer in the next few months…
If many still hope that the series is saved, the more the fateful date of the broadcast of the last episode approaches, the more the chances dwindle. On September 29, the lights went out for the last time on the Belle de Mai sets, a moment dreaded by all.
And if everyone realizes how lucky they were to work on a series as important as this one, it is nonetheless a melancholy to have to say goodbye. In the meantime, Plus belle la vie continues every evening from Monday to Friday at 8:20 p.m. on France 3, until Friday November 18.