May 6th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

THE JEANNE COOPER INTERVIEW – THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS

jean-mainshot.jpgMonday on “The Young and the Restless”, Mrs. “C” took a husband! That’s right; the grand dame of Genoa City married the ever-faithful Murphy in front of friends, families and a schnokered Jill. Just another marvelous moment in the history of one of soaps most valuable treasures… the character of Katherine Chancellor.

For 36 years, Jeanne Cooper has played the “The Duchess” with spunk, spirit and humanity that has made her a daytime legend. And what becomes a legend most? Well, for starters plenty of accolades: A Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 2008, something many of us hope she may repeat in 2009. With the Daytime Emmy Award nominations a week away, and Jeanne in the running
for her spectacular turn in the Katherine/ Marge “doppelganger” story 2.0, fans and soap pundits are keeping their fingers crossed that her name is called in the finals. Jeanne had already been given a Lifetime Achievement Award Daytime Emmy in 2004. In 2009 Jeanne was honored with the AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Award for her contribution to American culture.

Now at 80 years old, and better than ever, Jeanne is at the top of her acting game. With powerhouse performances and carrying a front burner storyline for quite some time, Jeanne could not be happier… and neither can legions of “Y&R” fans. I had the pleasure to chat with Jeanne in this revealing, honest, funny, and heartfelt interview to share with you at “On-Air On-Soaps”. The two of us go back many years, and I have always had a very special place in my heart for Jeanne… which enables us to talk about a myriad of subjects! From her thoughts on Katherine’s new hubby… to flipping the Katherine/Jill mother daughter story on its ear… to working with Jess Walton and Brenda Dickson, as her two “Jill’s”…to the young talent in Genoa City…..to the state of the Daytime Emmys…and to her battle with addiction. As you will learn, Jeanne’s proudest accomplishment is set for May 15th when the Springboard Center opens its doors in Texas. Now to revisit the golden moments of Jeanne’s and Katherine’s life, I give you, “The Divine Mrs. C”!

Listen to the audio:

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MICHAEL:

How has it been working with the other Michael Fairman (Murphy)?

JEANNE:

He is a dear and a good actor. He is very giving, and not a selfish actor at all. He has done a lot of things in his career. He is a pro and comes prepared. The thing of it is, when you work in daytime, and how confusing that is; it has now taken him this long to know that you don’t count on anything for sure. Your 30 lines can be ripped down to two, if we need to for timing. Sometimes, he is so sweet and naïve. It’s hysterical!

wedding.jpgMICHAEL:

Now that Katherine married her new hubby Murphy, do you think it has any staying power or will last?

JEANNE:

With Katherine’s history of husbands, you are bound to die or go somewhere. (She laughs) We just got married and she finds that Murphy makes her happy. Katherine is a person who basically, since her first husband and her original happiness, has never really been a content woman. She has tried to be fair in her power. Looking for happiness at this age and this stage of the game, she finds somebody who is a great deal like Rex, but he is a simpler soul than Rex. She is just grateful that he took care of her and helped her find her identity, and that he believed in her. And if she was Marge, it was OK. If she was Katherine, it was OK. He did things that made her happy. Going to the diner, being a waitress, these things from the other side of the track… Katherine was aware of this side of life. She had empathy for it, for people with middle class economic values. She always cared but she never lived there, but she survived through the kindness of this man. It didn’t matter if he was 22 or 120, and vice versa.

MICHAEL:

Are you glad you have a love interest? Or, did you not envision a simpler man pairing for the grand dame of Genoa City? To me, I never saw Katherine with this type of a guy.

JEANNE:

I agree with what you’re saying. This is like saying, “Your hand can reach across the track”, but it can’t. I don’t think someone who is bait and tackle and fish is what Katherine envisioned for herself. Katherine married him in a sense, to appease him.

MICHAEL:

You are portraying an older citizen having a romance at 80 years old. I think it’s important to tell. How do you feel about the telling of their story, and how are you playing it?

JEANNE:

I feel their differences will make problems. Murphy will realize he just doesn’t fit into that element of life, and that’s all right and it doesn’t hurt him. I think he realizes Katherine can’t do bait and tackle. She has a worldwide industry to run. It’s like Jill said, “Welcome to the world, Murphy. You’re running with the sharks now and you are a fish out of water.” He has got to know that, and he can’t come in with his country bumpkin mentality and settle every argument. Also, don’t forget I am not playing madly in love Katherine; that I found love at this late date in life. I want the audience to say, “She’s not a 100 percent,” but it’s a sweet thing to do. Katherine is not about to become part of a ‘darling’ little couple. She is too powerful for that. I have talked to Maria Arena Bell (Head writer, “Y&R”) about that. Katherine cannot be just satisfied with bait and tackle. I do not think Doris Duke in any way would be happy with someone who drove a cab.

MICHAEL:

You have had such amazing material! For instance, when the show decided it was going to revisit the ‘doppelganger’ storyline, how far ahead did you know about it? And, how did you carry such a heavy workload?

JEANNE:

I knew a month ahead of time. Now I have a week off for the first time in six months. I have been working four weeks in a row, 12 to 14 hour days. I was in the dental chair for five hours getting stuff done that I should have done three months ago!

MICHAEL:

The Katherine/Marge “doppelganger” story was so great! Did you know it was going to turn out this good?

michaelGregoryGang.jpgJEANNE:

Oh, I knew. I felt good about it, and they were recreating something that happened 20 years ago, and out of all of this, and the ‘funeral’ alone, take a look at all the people you had returning to the show. Michael Gregory (Ex-Clint), who has been absent from the show for 20 years, he has been a friend of mine. We have talked two to three times a month for the past 20 years. I would go to New York, and he would go to the Daytime Emmys with me as my escort a lot of times. He comes out here, and we laugh, and we are going to be meeting in Las Vegas next time.

MICHAEL:

Tricia Cast is back as Nina, and this time she is sticking around for awhile!

JEANNE:

Tricia has been flying back and forth from Tennessee, and next time she comes out to tape she is staying with me. She is such a pro. TV Guide’s Michael Logan said years ago, and we did not know how to interpret it back then, but he said, “Of all the actors who can never be identified as daytime divas, but are among the finest ever, are Jeanne Cooper and Tricia Cast.” But, we were not your typical actresses. He said, “How novel of “Y&R” to bring these people forward.”

MICHAEL:

Recently, you were the centerpiece of “Y&R’s” 36th Anniversary episode when Marge was front and center!

JEANNE:

We had Maria Arena Bell (Co-executive producer and head writer, “Y&R”) do the “Our Town” version of Genoa City; having Marge being exhumed and sitting on the couch that was our 36th Anniversary episode. They had so many calls from that.

MICHAEL:

It was an homage!

JEANNE:

Basically, Katherine is the center of the show and she is the color wheel and off of her anything can spin! I can go into anybody’s storyline and be accepted. They can come into mine, but they can’t go into each other’s and be accepted. Maria brought the audience in by saying, “This is Genoa City. This is what the people do and who they are, and it’s this specific group of people in the city.” Where Lynn Latham (ex-executive producer and head writer, “Y&R”) was trying to show breaking news on people you never heard or cared about. Lynn saved us. I don’t care what anyone says, she got us to the top, and then started to make the show it never was meant to be. The ship sailed out of the harbor, and it was a different show, and then made it into something that it wasn’t, and it went down the tube.

mariabell_jeanne.jpgMICHAEL:

How do you like Maria’s writing?

JEANNE:

You are talking about Maria! She trained under Bill Bell Sr. before she married Billy Bell. She has been a highly respected writer in magazines, and what have you. She is the best!

MICHAEL:

What is coming up that fans can look forward to
with Katherine?

JEANNE:

Katherine will be involved with a character coming back to Genoa City who has not been on the show. And, through that character all hell will break loose; business wise, relationship wise… you name it, it will happen. It will affect everybody, and it’s not John Abbott! It’s a real human being. (She laughs) It will shock the shoes off of you on how the person comes back, and why!

MICHAEL:

Jess Walton (Jill) and you…are you glad they split up Katherine and Jill as mother/daughter?

JEANNE:

I did not like it and Maria either. Maria never wanted them to be mother and daughter. I had explained that I never had been happy with it, because it happened in such a ludicrous way. It happened to accommodate others. First, there was Elizabeth Harrower (Ex- Charlotte). She started out as an actress and she was a writer for Bill, until they had a falling out. I wanted Elizabeth to have a last shot at being an actress. She was a brilliant writer. She wrote all the good material for Katherine that every happened. I said, “Isn’t there something?” to Jack Smith (Ex-head writer, “Y&R”), at the time. He said to Elizabeth, who was undergoing chemo at that time, “Do you want to do this?” He put his thinking cap on and this is what he came up with. It was feasible if Katherine was young and crazy and drunk, and had the affair when she was separated from her first husband.

jess_jeanne_knife.jpgMICHAEL:

But you were very vocal about not wanting Katherine to be Jill’s biological mother?

JEANNE:

I never wanted to be her mother, because I thought it would take some of the fire away from their arguments. It was amazing in the soap magazines. They would say, “Jess and Jeanne were televisions super-couple,” and we were. We go back and forth with this off- set in our dressing rooms, and it’s so marvelous to have that kind of fire again. It’s great to be able to create an attitude towards a scene, and that sort of thing.

MICHAEL:

What did you think about the recent cake fight during Billy and Chloe’s wedding, which signaled the reigniting of the Katherine and Jill’s feud?

JEANNE:

We had a fun time between the two of us, and the cake worked for us. It was the turning point and every one was emailing the studio going, “Thank God. Thank God, they are at it again, and they are on the right track!” People absolutely ate it up!

MICHAEL:

Many people want to know if you and Jess Walton are close?

JEANNE:

Jess and I are very close friends. I protect her back, and she protects mine. We are always there for one another, and there is no two ways about it.

MICHAEL:

What about your first Jill, Brenda Dickson, who has seemed to land herself in hot water with the law in Hawaii?

brenda.jpgJEANNE:

Look, I love Brenda and she loves my family. She has known my family for 35 years, and I adore her, but she has a penchant for bad mates. The thing of it is, when we are dealing with Hawaii and the good ole boys, they can gang up on you and you don’t have a chance. I mean, what a dumb thing to do over the house? In Hawaii, law is a whole different thing, and forget the court system. Brenda never did anything to me, but to love me and be a friend. I loved her and I was her friend. When any one had problems with her; there was always more than one side to anyone and any story. Of course, she was erratic, but that was Brenda and that made her Jill.  Bill saw that, and John Conboy (Ex-executive producer, “Y&R”) to this day will tell you, “That’s Jill!” However, Jess Walton has done a hell of a job of doing the part her way.

MICHAEL:

You turned 80 years old this past October, won a Daytime Emmy last June, was honored with an AFTRA award at the beginning of 2009, and the head storyline of your career on soaps. Quite a thrilling time for you! What do you want people to know about turning 80?

80thblowout.jpgJEANNE:

I wanted people to know that age is just a number. It cannot stop you and you certainly can’t do a sprint like when you were younger, but that’s not what you are all about when you are 80, either. If you are productive, breathing, talking, and have something exciting to look forward to every day of your life, or try to, that is a good way to live. But, if you think you were 39 one day, and now you are 80 and life is passing you by, that is not a good way to think of it. It is the date you were born. It’s not to celebrate how long ago you were born, but that you were born. That’s all a birthday means to me.

MICHAEL:

How did you celebrate your 80th birthday?

JEANNE:

Lee Bell (co-creator, “Y&R” and “B&B”) set something up and it smacked of Lauralee Bell (Ex-Christine, “Y&R), too. What they did was have a birthday party for me. It was business and loveable people that I like in the business. No one was invited for the sake of “they better be invited.”

MICHAEL:

The guys on the show… you have a special connection it seems with many of them!

JEANNE:

Don Diamont (Ex- Brad, now Bill, “B&B”) is my sweet baby, and Doug Davidson (Paul). They are like my other two sons! Michael Graziadei (Daniel), Greg Rikaart (Kevin), who is a dreamboat, and Billy Miller (Billy), are so reminiscent of our guys when they were younger. We have that mature younger group now. I love doing scenes with the kids.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of the younger set, you and Adrienne Frantz (Amber) sparkle together!

AdrienneJeane.jpgJEANNE:

Adrienne is probably one of the finest talents I have worked with. She has been a dedicated professional. She is prepared, and she knows what she is going to do and she does not change it, because it’s well thought out before she performs. She is typically of that group that is wild and woolly, and has a great time. I have to keep saying to her, “Make sure you get some rest.”

MICHAEL:

Do you think Amber is really related to Katherine?

JEANNE:

I have often wondered if Amber is my grandchild because of my affinity for her. I just fell in love with this kid and her work. She is so damn talented, and she is a redeemable character. They won out, because we had such good chemistry working together. Maria saw that and now totally writes for it. She has Katherine have her favorites… like little Kevin. Katherine likes slightly demented people, because that is the kind of person she was.

MICHAEL:

You know, Katherine Chancellor is more popular than any of the younger kids on the soaps!

JEANNE:

I will tell you, Maria Bell by integrating and putting an older person out there in a major role, delivered ratings more so than other great ideas that went south.

MICHAEL:

What have you thought of Greg Rikaart’ flawless performances during his storyline with “Stockholm Syndrome”?

greg_jeanne.jpgJEANNE:

Greg is consummate. He has the material to play and did an unbelievable job

MICHAEL:

What is it about Michael Graziadei that you think pops off the screen?

JEANNE:

Michael Graziadei reminds me of movie stars in the heyday, like a young Paul Newman… that’s where he would fall. Graziadei is poised and focused. He could have a small part in a scene, but he will have a beginning and middle and an end to it. I love to watch him grow on our show. He is a light-hearted, and a dirty kid. (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

Have you always wanted to be a successful actress?

JEANNE:

I never wanted to be a star! I wanted to be an actress. “Star” is so temporary, and an actress is a way of life. When you think of Glenn Close or Shirley MacClaine you don’t say, “Movie star”… you say, “actress”. A movie star has a hell of a chore to make sure she is botoxed, and stitched together right, and is terribly glamorous, and has “T&A”. After her time is gone, if they keep attempting it, they get laughed at. So, she better know how to act. An actress is a way of life. Being a star is a selfish and acheivabable way of life, temporarily

MICHAEL:

Who are Jeanne’s acting idols?

JEANNE:

Ava Gardner was a good actress. She was a very down to earth human being, it was no b**s with her. You would watch Ingrid Bergman. You saw how she knew what she was doing, and she just happened to be beautiful. She never, ever met the criteria of movie star, but that is what she was. I think that Simone Signoret was wonderful, and Olivia De Havilland was great, too.

MICHAEL:

You were honored by AFTRA! How cool is that?

JEANNE:

I am as old as AFTRA, and its true! They are 80, too! As an actress, you have to be protected by a union, fighting for the rights and upholding it. It’s important for pensions and things later in life, and a fair shake with all the new media that is emerging right now.

emmy.jpgMICHAEL:

You are up for a pre-nomination at the Daytime Emmys for Lead Actress, and we will find out if you made the final cut on May 14th. What did you submit?

JEANNE:

It was a combination of Katherine and Marge. It was a ‘dive’ scene. Marge was drunk. You know, they changed the rules and you are only allowed one show now.

MICHAEL:

What do you think about the fact that the Emmys were not going to
be broadcast at all, by any major network that carry soaps, before
the CW stepped in?

JEANNE:

I think it’s degrading. I think it’s unacceptable, and I am humiliated and offended. I will tell you why. Daytime kept the three big fat networks alive for so many years while they jerked around so many pilots a year that were never sold. They used up the tremendous revenue of the 70’s and 80s that we brought them, so that they could afford to jerk around. And that’s how I feel about it.

MICHAEL:

CBS did not want to air them and it was their turn this year, and they currently have four soaps on the air!

JEANNE:

How about that? It was CBS’s time and they did not do it. I can see why NBC would pass, and I understand that. I would much rather have a luncheon and let the Academy handle it, and it’s not televised, and the press and the nominees, and the presenters are there. I never approved of them of going nighttime, ever! They did it because it made them a fortune, and when it stopped, they did not want anything to do with it.

MICHAEL:

“Y&R” is doing better right now than it has in awhile. Why do you think?

JEANNE:

At a time when unemployment is like it is, usually entertainment prospers. We picked up some new viewers, and that is Maria’s hard work. We have picked up some new viewers and proved a point.

mf_queenfaces.jpgMICHAEL:

What was the point of Katherine’s Restless Style photo shoot?

JEANNE:

I don’t know and I don’t ask questions. It was about Katherine being the Queen of Many Faces, and that is because of her life, and her storyline. She is the Queen of Genoa City and The Queen of Many Faces.

MICHAEL:

Of the 36 years you have been on “Y&R”, do you have a favorite storyline?

JEANNE:

I loved it when Katherine got drunk and threw herself over the ship, and got picked up by Felipe and hauled off into the jungle, where she was very, very, happy. I thought that is whom they would find for me now, Felipe, but 20 years older and extremely rich. He came to Genoa City because when he took me to be picked up by the consulate, he was hiding from the Cuban people who wanted his skin! What a great thing that would have been for Katherine! And Katherine could have felt a little more intimidated by him rather than Murphy being intimidated by Katherine.

MICHAEL:

How much of Jeanne is Katherine?

JEANNE:

Katherine is a control freak, but I have taken a lot of her strength in my later years. Basically, I am very empathetic to situations and people. I feel for my country right now and pathos I have never felt. I am a product of the depression in many ways, and so is any one who is 75 years old and over.

facelift.jpgMICHAEL:

You broke new ground on daytime with the first cosmetic facelift. Looking back, what did you think of that decision to let the cameras see you so raw in real-life?

JEANNE:
It was probably one of the best things I ever did for people! So many people did not have the courage; not only to get their facial stuff done, but to have reconstructive surgery. I was doing it because gravity was yelling, and I said, “I’m coming. I’m coming,” and by doing so, it achieved so much good from it. It took the stigma away from saying you have to look like you are falling apart because you are getting older. I broke down barriers .

MICHAEL:

What are you most proud of?

JEANNE:

I think my proudest moment will be coming up in Midland, Texas, in the middle of May, where not even two years ago there was bare ground, and now there is a three million dollar structure called the Springboard Center, which is a center for addiction. I am the spokesperson for the center. To see a structure that has patients in it, and to try and restore human beings and give their souls back to them and become productive people, is so fulfilling for me. Hopefully, it will become a franchise. It’s important that you stay there to find out why you do what you do. Their website is www.springboardcenter.com. You know, I played the alcoholic and then they sobered up Katherine, and I started drinking!

MICHAEL:

It was life imitating art?

JEANNE:

I started drinking after I decided I was not meant to be married to the man I was with. I would have panic attacks and my guts tied up… and then brandy hit it, and it relaxed the muscle. Pretty soon the stomach started calling for the brandy, and it was not difficult to fall into it all. However, it was “Y&R’s” creator Bill Bell Sr, and my son who said, “You have to stop this.” Thank God, somebody knew I needed help.

MICHAEL:

Katherine’s granddaughter is back on air in the form of Clementine Ford. How do you think she is doing as the “new” Mac?

JEANNE:

She almost has it coming around, and it takes time to walk into a new role or a recast. She has a slight saltiness, which is good for Mackenzie. Clementine is delightful. I am enjoying watching her.

MICHAEL:

How is working with Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki), who on-air is Katherine’s best friend?

JEANNE:

It’s like a soft glove, and a comfortable house, and deep respect… and vice-versa.

JeanneCooperFace.jpgMICHAEL:

What would you still love to do as Katherine?

JEANNE:

I would really like to see her open an orphanage stateside; rescuing the nine and the ten year olds, and for her to do something good with her money, and take in the boys and girls who are going to be in foster homes.

MICHAEL:

Katherine wrote a book. Would you, Jeanne Cooper write your memoirs?

JEANNE:

Yeah. I might. Telling on people is not my way of dealing with things, but some of the interesting stories might be good, so
there is a possibility. We will see!

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