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47 May 14th, 2013 Y&R’s Jess Walton Interview: The Passing of Jeanne Cooper, Their Final Scenes & The Loss of a Friend!

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

The death last week of The Young and the Restless’ Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor) shook the daytime landscape in numerous ways: from cast mates losing a beloved friend and scene-partner, to the enormity of what Jeanne meant to the CBS soap’s legacy, and to the millions of fans she touched worldwide with her performances on-screen, and her humor and compassion off-camera.  Many of Jeanne’s triumphs and personal struggles were recently detailed in her memoir, Not Young Still Restless, which came out in 2012.

However, when you think of Jeanne and Katherine Chancellor on Y&R, you cannot help but stop and recall her epic battles with her long time, beloved scene-partner and dear friend, Jess Walton (Jill Foster Abbott). As Katherine and Jill, they were the number-one daytime drama’s true super couple; always bickering, but often times finding a way to love each other through all that they had put each other through.

On-Air On-Soaps spoke to Jess Walton yesterday in an emotional, impactful, and at times difficult interview, where she shared her thoughts on the loss of the soap opera icon, and scene partner.  Jess does provide insight into the final scenes between the two of them, which aired on May 3rd, and what she will hold dear in her heart about what made Jeanne so unique, and one hell of a dame!  Here is Jess on the passing of Mrs. C.

Jess, everyone has been re-watching what are now Jeanne’s final Y&R scenes, and they were fittingly with you.  Jeanne clearly was not well at the time the episode was shot.  How was it that day to film those scenes?  What can you share with us?

Courtesy/CBS

JESS:  She was not well.  She was in a lot pain, and we had been in the dressing room all day hanging out and talking.  I had a virus so I wasn’t well either, and Jeanne would give me her oxygen in that cannula thing, and we would take turns with it. We would do lines with Michael Fairman (Murphy) who was in there, and Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe) and Greg Rikaart (Kevin) came in.  It was like it always was in Jeanne’s dressing room.   It was like a party atmosphere.  It was like making work fun.  And even with her not feeling so well, never did her sense of humor flag for a second.  She was always, always, fun and joyous.

Looking back now, those scenes carry so much weight in the ongoing relationship of Katherine and Jill, and more importantly, Jeanne and Jess.

JESS:  Doing those scenes on the soundstage, it was very much about Jeanne and Jess, rather than Katherine and Jill, in a way.  We are so blended with our characters after all these years.  I was so grateful that they had written a scene where it let me express how I was feeling, instead of being the Jill that was always stirring up things.  They let me sit down and say to her, “This is why I am so hurt by what you have done.”  And then when I saw nothing was going to change, Jess/Jill got concerned that Kay was getting tired and that is when we decided for her to go upstairs.  And every step Jeanne played on that stairway was just pure genius.  I am so grateful that, that happened.  It wasn’t planned.  It all came together, so, so well.  She played it for all its worth.

Did Jeanne add the line “Goodnight” to Jill, as has been reported, as her final Y&R piece of dialogue?

Courtesy/CBS

JESS:  I can’t remember, but I know my line was “Do you want my help? Are you alright?”  And she said, “No.”   That was something, wasn’t it?  And that was the last time I saw Jeanne, too.  She came down the stairs when we were done taping, and she had her wheelchair there.  That was the last time I saw her, because I had a virus and I could not take it to her while she was sick in the hospital.  In a way, I am kind of glad.  You don’t want to see somebody you love suffering.

And we all now have our memories with Jeanne…whether we saw her at the end, or we didn’t.

JESS:   There is much more than just the physical.  The physical is just the body.  I believe she knows what’s going on.  I believe we are as close as ever.

That final moment when you look up the stairs as Katherine goes up to bed was amazing.  Did you watch the final scene between you and Jeanne?

JESS:   I did see it, and I saw it when she was still alive.  I have not seen it since she passed away.  But it would probably kill me, if I did see it.

And we have heard now from Y&R powers-that-be, that this was not to be Jeanne’s final episodes, is that true?

Courtesy/JessWaltonFacebook

JESS:  Absolutely, it wasn’t.  It wasn’t written that way.  It just worked out that way, which is amazing, I know.

You and Jeanne are, if not number one, one of the true all-time soap supercouples!  It must be amazing to know that you will always have that recognition, and heartbreaking now all at the same time.

JESS: (in tears) It was amazing that we were, and now there is no couple.  I really think it’s hitting me slowly and gradually.  Most of the time I am so celebratory of how incredible she was, and is, and I don’t know if I even believe in death.  I don’t really go to the sad place, and it’s even surprised me that I have been so aware of the glory of her, rather than going to the sad place that she is gone.  The partnership is over, and it hadn’t hit me till now.

Do you remember when you first came on to Y&R and replaced Brenda Dickson in the role of Jill?  How was Jeanne to you when you first arrived on set? 

JESS:  She was fantastic!  Jeanne was always great, and she taught me that. When somebody comes on to Y&R it’s not easy.  It’s hard to walk into that family and everyone being so tight.  And most people are so good about opening their arms and welcoming people, and considering how she loved Brenda Dickson, I really think it’s to Jeanne’s credit that she was so good to me.  She did her very best to bring me up to speed on the relationship between Katherine and Jill.  She was fabulous!

There is so much now being said about Jeanne … that she was one of the most giving people, and she could also be very cantankerous and feisty, which are just a few adjectives to describe her.

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

JESS:  She was very feisty and she could be very cantankerous, of course!  We can all be judgmental.  She could be all those things.  She was nothing, if not human.  Jeanne had all those sides to her.  She could be kind as could be.  She could be bitchy, as we all can, and we are actors, too!  We have got all these emotions sort of swirling around that are at our fingertips and very accessible to us.  Jeanne ran the gamut of all of them!  But Jeanne really was somebody with a huge, huge heart, and huge sense of humor.  She had a huge sense of humanity.  It was always really hard for me to cry, and it was always really easy for me to fight as an actress.  But one day, when I told Jeanne it was hard for me to cry, she said, “Here’s an exercise: when you want to cry, pretend you are anything.  Pretend you are that doorknob there!”  She went to this whole thing about, “Here I am. Sitting on this door all day and people come up and grab me.”   And she became the doorknob and started to cry! (Laugh)  But it was amazing!  But what I mean by all this is, she was able to put herself in somebody else’s place.  I think that is incredibly important for an actor.

The partnership you shared with Jeanne, as Katherine and Jill, spanned decades. They went from mortal enemies to becoming biological mother/daughter, which Jeanne disliked, and then they unraveled that.  What did you think of the twist and turns in the journey of these two strong women of Genoa City?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

JESS:  That story went on for so long, and at the beginning it was so antagonistic.  And then the love would kind of creep in for a while, and then when the mother/daughter thing happened, there was a lot of love, and then it got really complicated.  It just had its own little arc, that story, and then at the end the love kept coming through more and more, at least with Jill.  In the last scenes there was a lot love there.  It was a good culmination of the whole thing.

What is your greatest takeaway of your time with Jeanne?

JESS:   Well, my greatest acting partner of my life is now gone.  She is just irreplaceable.  I love her, she was my friend, and she meant so many things to me.

Did you read Jeanne’s memoir, Not Young, Still Restless?  If so, what did you think of it?

JESS:  I loved her book.  It was very much in her own voice, because Lindsay Harrison (co-writer) knew her so well.  I think what is so weird for both of us, Michael, is in my own spiritual belief I believe there is a thin line between life and death.  It’s so very hard for me to grieve her right now, because she is still very much with me.

What do you think Jeanne’s legacy is on The Young and the Restless?

Courtesy: JessWaltonFacebook

JESS: Her work stands for itself.  That is her legacy, and the love she gave to her fans means she will be forever in so many people’s hearts.  She shaped Y&R, for God sakes! Her stamp is all over this show.

And those catfights that they would often time force you to do! (Laughs) I felt so bad for you and Jeanne, because as much as we all loved to see Katherine and Jill and another catfight break out, you never knew whether they would make the two sling wedding cake at each other, or God knows what! (Laughs)

JESS:  I know! Two grown women are going to go at it again?  Oh, my God! And then we would try to figure out how to make it different every time.  (Laughs)

I often thought, “What if Jess hurts Jeanne during one of those classic Katherine and Jill catfights?”

Photo Credit: Hutchins Photo

JESS:  I always tell this story, how I always try to be so careful with and around Jeanne, and she is clobbering me! (Laughs)  Oh, she was the best, and it’s devastating.  I have nothing but love for her.

So Y&R fans, what do you think about the heartfelt sentiments shared by Jess Walton on Jeanne Cooper? Was there ever a couple more dynamic than Jess and Jeanne on-screen? What do you think about Jess’s comments on Jeanne and her final scenes?  Share your comments below with us.

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  1. Mo says:

    Wonderful remembrances. Jeanne could say so much by saying nothing at all.

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  2. Wendelyn Sullivan says:

    I thought that they could be mortal enemies at times, and then have each other’s backs at others. They were there for one another, if they needed the person . They were dramatic, they were heartbreaking at times, they were funny as well. They were loving. They had a special bond,a friendship. They were like no other.. I will miss Jeanne/Katherine. She is irreplacable.She touched everyone’s hearts. She was loved..

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  3. tasneem says:

    Excellent interview Michael love Jess and Jeanne gonna miss the dynamic duo. RIP Jeanne miss u girl

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  4. Dinah says:

    Great interview Michael

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  5. LisaJ says:

    Great interview. I really feel for her (and the rest of the cast) but especially for Jess. She’s lost her “partner in crime”. Her grief just leaps off the page. I mean screen.

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  6. kalamaty says:

    It’s incredibly sad that Jeanne is gone, but wonderful to know that Jess is coping and doing well. Thank you for the interview. Dear God in Heaven; I’m going to miss the two of them on screen together. :( So looking forward to the tribute show on the 28th and what Kay’s death will mean for the GC canvas. God speed, Jeanne, and thank you.

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  7. DakotaCelt says:

    Beautiful remembrances… They were pure gold to watch onscreen..

    Their appreciation for one another as friend and actor could be seen on screen, it showed. Jeanne will be missed…

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  8. heidi says:

    Fantastic interview Michael… as always! Love the Katherine and Jill relationship and will miss Jeanne very much. Y&R lost a great talent and yet we have so many memories.

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  9. Mary Anne Lawless says:

    I loved these women together and I am so sorry for Jess’s loss. The story line with Kay turning out to be Jill’s mother was so amazing to me because at the same time I was making contact with my own birth mother. I, along with millions of fans will miss Jeanne so much. Her personality shone through and we loved her.

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  10. Jamie cook says:

    what a beautiful interview. I have watched for years because of the Jill and Katherine relationship. I loved when they were mother/daughter. I feel there is a fine line btwn love/hate and these 2 ladies played it to the hilt! Jess, i feel your hurt, i feel your love, admiration and gratefulness to God for having your paths cross with such a force of nature. She touched your life and you’ll never forget it.

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  11. Penny says:

    The love between Jeanne and Jess is so evident in this interview. One thing that stands out to me, is how sick Jeanne must have been there taping, is she was on oxygen and in a wheelchair while still working. What a ultimate trooper she was. I will miss her alot.

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  12. Jorpa says:

    I’m in tears. Again. The best supercouple of all.

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  13. Lamont says:

    This was a wonderful interview! It was so good so good so wonderful to hear Jess Walton do this interview about the late Jeanne Cooper! I know this was not easy for her! May God give you strength Ms. Jess Walton and the whole entire cast of Y&R!

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  14. juliet says:

    Jeanne will be truly missed .I had the honour of meeting her a few years ago and what a down to earth woman she was .Miss you and the show will never be the same with out you

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  15. Khanh says:

    That was beautiful! Their relationship was one of a kind! I was in tears reading this! Jeanne will be missed!!

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  16. Loddie says:

    This interview was so beautiful. When I watched that last episode, it was as thought Jeanne knew that she was not coming back and was saying “Goodbye” and not “Goodnight” to Jill and Jess and the same time. The looks on both their faces was so sad , emotional and final. It will be a long time before I will be able to get over the devastation that I feel right now. Can’t help the tears right now as I am writing this. I hurt so much for all of us, who lost Jeanne ,the family and cast members, but especially Jess. I hope the writers will bring a loving closure to Katherine and Jill’s relationship, and not have Jill still feeling any animosity towards Katherine, even in death, for the decisions that Katherine made against Jill. That would really be shameful. Rest in Peace Ms.C. Will never forget you!

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  17. Debra Salamone says:

    My heart goes out to Jess they were like soul mates, I feel as tho I lost my best friend as well. Jess your interview made me cry all over again, as I did on that Friday when Mrs. C said GOODBUY to you on the stairway something came over me I had a bad feeling that would be her last scene for Y&R…But she will never be forgotten…… Thank you for sharing Jess….<3

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    LINDA WHARTON replied

    WHAT A GREAT INTERVIEW..YOU WERE THE BEST BOTH OF YOU..I.. THANK U FOR ALL THE MEMORIES..TAKE CARE…

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  18. margaret gunning says:

    I think Jill s comment to Catherine was heart warming offering Catherine help to climb the steps, I love that sceen, so amazing where the 2 actresses! I love you so much rest in peace Jeanne cooper!

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  19. jon says:

    Yes, there was a more dynamic pairing: Brenda and Jeanne.

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  20. Simi says:

    Wow! That was a good interview. I agree with another poster, I hope they focus on the true love Jill had for Katherine when it comes time for them to write in the death. I want Jill to properly grieve and not act out and be angry over something Katherine did. I do not want the predictable will-reading where she angers Jill over not leaving her anything significant. In a way, I would not mind having Nina back full-time to have her and Jill form a similar relationship as the Katherine/Jill dynamic.

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  21. MJ says:

    How wonderful that Jess had such a friend and work mate. She has been very lucky to work with such a force of nature. Thank you Jess for sharing your thoughts on your friend.

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  22. Susie Mielke says:

    My heart breaks for Jess. I loved watching them on screen. They were so real and endlessly
    entertaining. I was devastated to learn of her passing so I can’t imagine what Jess is going
    through. My husband caught her last scenes on Y&R and asked how old she was. A couple
    of days later she was gone. He saw the news on the internet and said weren’t wwe just talking
    about her. Thank you for all your kind words and may God Bless you.

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  23. Beacon says:

    When Jeanne died, my mind automatically went to the Jills – Brenda Dickson & Jess Walton. These are the three who gave Y&R it’s strongest and most enduring storyline to date. In that sense, they effectively are responsible for the show’s success in turn.

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  24. jon says:

    Oops, we seem to be constantly forgetting Deborah Adair.

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  25. Susan says:

    I think the interview was fantastic Several years ago Jill and Kathrine had a fight and Katherine said ( not worded exactly right) “How can you be so sure that you are right?” and Jill said (This is a quote) ” It is as plain as the wrinkles on your face” My friend have said that line to each other many, many times over the years and we still think it is one of most outstanding lines in daytime !!

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  26. Kristen says:

    Such a wonderful interview. It’s sad to know Jeanne was struggling so much right up to that last scene- the wheelchair and oxygen. :( I love that the “Goodnight” was ad-libbed, and I love that her final scene was with Jess, just as it should have been.

    Michael, I’d love to heard from Stephen Nichols about Jeanne. He loved and respected her so much and vice versa. I’m so happy Y&R included him in the tribute to her. Would it be possible for you to reach out to Stephen for an interview?

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  27. Doe says:

    Michael, this is one of your most poignant and loving interviews. You were very fortunate to have been a close friend of Jeanne. I know you miss her, too. But, great memories can be very healing. Jeanne will be so missed. She had the world whirl around her on Y&R. She was the kingpin or Queenpin of that show. There will always be a space in the script for her. Lovely interview, Michael……

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  28. alesha o l says:

    I knew my throat will swell, my eyes would well, when we heard from Jess..watching those 2 together was heaven & hell* that they gave each other..sheer delight for us fans!! Love & prayers to Jess,& the rest of the cast, crew,..they are hurting, missing loving Miss Jeanne even more than we, the fans..

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  29. Teri says:

    Beautiful and heartwarming interview Michael. So many times we see the drama play out on twitter between actors. It’s no secret there are egos at YR. It’s so refreshing to know these two ladies loved and respected each other. JC was more than a daytime legend, she was pure hollywood and it’s obvious her core values and work ethic stood for something on that set. Pity there aren’t more like her. I adore Jess Walton and it’s my fervent wish that she will be moved front and center to carry on JC’s legacy in front of and behind the camera. RIP sweet Jeanne..and thank you for all that you gave to daytime and to YR.

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  30. peggy woodare says:

    loved the interview and love jess and the great miss C… RIP… our love goes with you…

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  31. Blake says:

    Wonderful interview!

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  32. Stephanie says:

    Michael, that interview was flawless! Y&R cast will be a long time recovering from the loss of the beloved “Mrs. C”. Jeanne was the consummate actor, being able to walk up those stairs while at the same time requiring oxygen and a wheelchair! There has never been a more beautifully coifed, perfectly manicured, dazzlingly bejeweled and impeccably tailored divain all of daytime—and there never will be. RIP Jeanne Cooper. You will be missed forever by your faithful Y&R fans.

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  33. carolyn blanchard says:

    Many years ago, when I was working for Eastern Airlines reservations, I got a call from Jeanne Cooper. She was calling to make her airline reservation to go back to LAX from SAT. I immediately recognized her voice and told her how big a fan I was. She was so gracious to me and took the time to talk to me about what she was doing in SAT and was so down to earth. I never forgot that conversation and how interesting it was. She was truly an amazing person. I really loved her on YR and will truly miss her.

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  34. Kevin says:

    I watched the tribute today .. I really wish they would have showed more classic Mrs Chancellor.. I really felt for her castmates. I hope Y and R do the right thing when it comes time to deal with Mrs Chancellor’s death, and bury her on the estate next to her beloved Phillip.. then fade to black and let it be the end of Y and R.. I don’t know how it can go on without Jeanne Cooper. I will forever love the scenes between her and the original Jill.

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    Mary replied

    It would not be a bad thing if Y&R was ended after Katherine’s burial. I still watch Y&R, but it is no longer the same, and I doubt that I would miss it. I loved the character of Katherine Chancellor. She carried the show. So feisty and spirited she was, and such a good friend to the other characters. She could be gruff and tough, but she had a heart of gold.

    Reply

    k/kay replied

    Mary the soul of the show is gone that is for sure I watched the lovely well done tribute then pulled the show off my DVR. The feel of the show is gone I had a glimmer of hope knowing JC was still with us but when she took so very ill I prepared myself. What upsets me most is if JFP could get away with it she would have Steve Burton’s character take over the mansion. I really felt sorry for Jess and Eric Braden at the tribute you could really tell her death took it’s toll on them.

    k/kay replied

    I think I spelled EB”s last name wrong sorry!

    Mary replied

    I almost hope as well that Y&R ends after the burial of Katherine. To me, the show is no longer the same. I loved the character of Katherine Chancellor. She was such a major part of the show. So feisty and spirited she was, and a grandmother figure for the other characters. Like the loyal friend she was, she would tell it like it is, whether or not you wanted to hear it, but in a caring and loving way. She could be gruff and hard at times, but she had a heart of gold.

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  35. RonJess says:

    you can fell Jess waltons love for her…i can tell she will miss her as we all will…there will never be another “couple” like these 2….miss u MS Cooper…

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  36. Harlee says:

    This was an AWESOME interview…Thank You! Love Jess and she is most important to the show right now to carry on Jeanne’ legacy story of “Katherine Chancellor”…. is no other but Jill Foster…..

    Reply

  37. Sandie Schwarz says:

    Wonderful interview! I’ve followed the Young and the Restless since it began…with Jeanne’s passing, I feel, as everyone does, a great loss…

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  38. Anthony Piazza says:

    Great interview Michael. If anyone was more fitting to interview about Jeanne, it would be Jess. I think, they as well as the fans, kind of had a sense that the last scene between Jeanne and Jess would be the last one. That’s why Jeanne gave her “good night” to Jill; sort of felt like a good bye to us all. Jess’s goodbye at the end of the tribute spoke not only for her, but for all of us.

    Reply

    Mary replied

    I honestly did not pick up on that vibe that so many other viewers did that it was her last scene when she turned to say “good night” to Jill. I thought that Jill was merely concerned about Katherine climbing upstairs on her own after coming home after her surgery. Also, she had said that she felt ten years younger, and that she was back in full force. I thought at the time how wonderful it was that she was coming back to her vibrant self. Little did I suspect the sad news of her death a week later.

    Reply

  39. Chris says:

    Nice interview,I have always liked Jess Walton’s portrayal of Jill,no matter how mad she made you.The same goes for Jeanne Cooper. She is leaving a lot of heavy hearts at Y&R.I saw the tribute to her ,and thought it was nice. Also the last scene she did with Jess was beatiful and sad at the same time. Good night Katherine ,Rest in Peace Jeanne. We well all miss you.

    Reply

  40. Connie says:

    What a very heart-felt and truly toughing interview Jess Walton’s words about Jeanne Copper was amazing you could tell how very much she enjoyed working with Jeanne she was a fantastic actress and to the very end always seemed so cheerful Jeanne may now Rest In Eternal Peace with our Lord God Bless the entire cast and crew of the Y&R during this most difficult time and God Bless Jeanne’s family May God give them comfort and peace

    Reply

  41. Sally says:

    Thank you for this interview. In just a few short weeks May 8, 2014 will be here, one whole year without Jeanne Cooper. I miss her a lot. I have said many times to Jess Walton that both her and Jeanne Cooper have always been my favorite actresses on Y&R. The awesome friendship they both shared is very special. To have that closeness is a gift to cherish. As a fan of Y&R I hold dearly the memories of Jeanne Cooper delivering great performances continually on a daily basis. Jess Walton and Jeanne Cooper will always be linked in character and life as Jess & Jeanne. Thank you for the memories ladies; yesterdays happenings on Y&R shaped the beginnings of many new days of great story lines.

    Reply

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