Jess Walton joined The Young and the Restless in 1987 as Jill Foster Abbott. During her tenure in Genoa City, the actress has brought to life many powerful storylines, winning two Daytime Emmys along the way. Soap Hub now presents part two of our interview with Walton.
Jess Walton Remembers Jeanne Cooper and Fan Events
Soap Hub: We chatted a bit about Katherine Chancellor [Jeanne Cooper] and Jill in the first part of our interview. Fans loved seeing you and Jeanne at the annual fan event. You’d both fall into character banter, and the crowd would go wild.
Jess Walton: They loved it. Jeanne would start out by saying [to attendees], ‘I had to bring the slut with me.’ I was always nervous. But once the banter started up, I was good. She was more of an extrovert than I am.
One time, we were doing a mall appearance, and we were on a raised stage. A little girl came up to us, reached up to touch my leg, and said, ‘She’s real!’ It was beautiful. She had only seen us on TV, but she was making a connection.
Soap Hub: Do you recall your second Daytime Emmy in 1997? That was the year you won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Jess Walton: I’m thinking back on what I submitted. That was during the year and the story when Jill was living with Keith Dennison, played by [Granville] ‘Sonny’ Van Dusen, and his daughters [Tricia, Sabryn Genet, and Megan, Ashley Jones]. I had some scenes that I really liked. I remember the night I won. Bill Bell came up to me and said, ‘But you didn’t even have a story!’ I said, ‘I know. Can I have one now, please?’ He laughed.
Soap Hub: One of the most memorable stories written after Bill retired as head writer was Katherine and Jill (mistakenly) believing that they were mother and daughter.
Jess Walton: Jack [Smith] wrote that. He called us up to his office after Jeanne and I had done a scene where the love between [our characters] showed. He asked us what we thought of him making us mother and daughter. I thought it was wonderful. I don’t believe Jeanne ever liked it. It turned out not to be great in the end, I suppose.
Soap Hub: After Bill retired, the show has been produced and written by people from his team or people who’d never worked for him. What were the challenges after Bill stepped down?
Jess Walton: I do remember certain producers were better for me than others. Some, it seemed, never worked [out] for me. That’s why I kind of retired. Bringing Colin [Atkinson, Tristan Rogers] was a good shot in the arm for Jill. [Tristan’s] humor is something else. I liked [executive producer] Jill Farren Phelps. She was very good to me. I got along well with her. She convinced me to come back. I felt valued. I felt not valued before that. That’s never a good way to feel. I feel very respected by the show’s current regime.
Soap Hub: You scored your most recent Daytime Emmy nomination in 2017 for Outstanding Lead Actress.
Jess Walton: That’s when Jill told everyone off at the hospital when Billy [Abbott, Jason Thompson] was sick.
Soap Hub: Prior to that, you had that last scene with Jeanne. Kay was going upstairs. Jill offered to help her, but she said no. Then, she added, ‘Goodnight.’
Jess Walton: I think of that so often. I had some kind of inkling — not during that particular scene — but at that time. I thought that one of these days would be the last time. I think that may have crossed my mind that day. She was so frail. But the scene and the moment between us was perfect.
The Young and the Restless (YR) airs weekdays on CBS. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Genoa City, check out all the latest that’s been posted on Y&R spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
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