June 23rd, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The Jess Walton Interview – The Young and the Restless

© JPI Studios

“Hello, Restless Style, Jill Fenmore speaking?”  What???  Yes.  As viewers learned late last week, and at the beginning of this week’s episodes of The Young and the Restless, the previously known Jill Foster Abbott apparently is part Fenmore… as in… Lauren Fenmore.  The truth of what we all hope will finally be the end to Jill’s long and exhausting plight and search for her biological birth mother, (for her sake, not necessarily the viewers), took a drastic turn when Jill’s adopted mom, Liz Foster, made a death bed confession to her son, Dr Snapper Foster. (The guest starring David Hasselhoff)  Loaded with the info, and following the powerhouse scenes by two-time Daytime Emmy winner Jess Walton (Jill), (when she has to cope with the grief and feelings of abandonment after losing the one mother that loved her unconditionally), Snapper tells Jill what Liz explained to him about her birthright.

On-Air On-Soaps chatted with the amazing Jess Walton to revisit the latest developments in the ongoing saga of one of daytime’s most unique and enduring characters.  In addition, Jess discusses her on-screen relationship that has endured and withstood countless relationship rewrites, that between her and soap legend, Jeanne Cooper (Katherine).  From the catfights, to the cake-fights, to the DNA results, to the doppelgangers, these two have gone through it all.  Walton also reveals she was sad the return of Y&R 80’s Foster brothers, (David Hasselhoff and Wings Hauser) was so brief, but yet it propelled great story. 
And, what of her current on-screen sons, Daniel Goddard (Cane), and Billy Miller (Billy)?  Find out what this savvy soap veteran has to say about these two popular soap studs.

And, with the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards just around the corner on Sunday night June 27th from Las Vegas live on CBS, Jess and I take a trip down memory lane through her two Emmy wins – one for Supporting Actress in 1991, and the other for Lead Actress in 1997.  An irreverent, funny, tell- it-like-it-is phenomenal actress, and a pure joy to watch on-screen, here’s what Jess had to say about all her mommas!

MICHAEL:

Your performances last week when Liz was dying were phenomenal.  Now we learn, Jill is apparently part Fenmore.  How did you feel when your character gets thrown around so many times, in so many directions, with mothers, jobs, men, etc?  I think she is one of the soap characters who has changed course so many times, it’s hard to keep up with her!

JESS:

It is, isn’t it?  I agree with you, and it used to bother me.  I would try and keep a steady course with it, and now I can’t.  Now I just roll with the punches.  It’s impossible!  For awhile there you just kind of say things like, “My character wouldn’t do this, and who is this?”  But now, I just kind of go, “Oh, my God.  This is going to be fun”, because it’s something new, and it’s something different.

MICHAEL:

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The episodes that just aired were very well written.  It really made the audience aware of Jill’s emptiness and issue of abandonment, and where it all stems from.  Therefore, the viewers felt really bad for her.

JESS:

They were well written, and that is what you have to do, because when Jill goes off on her crazy tangents, I have got to balance it with some sympathy.  Because, if the audience can a see a bit inside of her and understand her, and not just hate her, then it affects them. I thought the scenes with her brothers, Snapper and Greg, were just so good!

MICHAEL:

It was sad to say goodbye to Julianna McCarthy as Liz, and then at the Friday tag you end up at Lauren’s door.  And this past Monday you explain to Lauren what you were told by Snapper via Liz, of Jill’s biological background.  What do you think of the Fenmore twist, it sort of came out of nowhere?  However, the big question as to who is Jill’s real mother is still a mystery.

JESS:

It all happened so fast. We had David Hasselhoff for a week, and Julianna as Liz, dies within a week and all of a sudden it’s, “I am a Fenmore”.  And we really didn’t have a chance to explore it much, but in real life that happens.  My first thought as Jill is, “I actually know who my blood is, and I have a sister.” And, Jill was very moved and touched and shocked from the death of Liz, but full of love for her sister.  Lauren would actually be Jill’s half-sister.

MICHAEL:

Do Lauren and Jill have a bad past?

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JESS:

Most people don’t like Jill, and she hasn’t particularly loved Lauren. I have never had that much to do with Lauren, really.

MICHAEL:

So now, the canvas is wide open again, as to who could be Jill’s mother! Speaking of past mothers… how did you feel about the reversal of plot point that unconnected Katherine and Jill as mother and daughter?  Jeanne Cooper made no bones that she did not like it from the beginning and was glad it has been dropped. With everything that has transpired on-screen, how do you feel about Jill not being related to Katherine?

JESS:

As Jess, I originally loved the idea and it seemed a natural progression to me. I thought it would make it more interesting, because we had already been playing our relationship for 20 years on one note.  I thought it would deepen, but it never did what I thought it could have done.  But, Katherine and Jill have an incredible relationship on-screen in spite of all this.  The love and the hate is so mixed, and there is never any telling when it will bubble out now.  It used to be, “This month I like her… this month I hate her.”  Now, it’s more from moment to moment.

MICHAEL:

How was it to play those huge emotional scenes, and watch Julianna die on-screen?

JESS:

They were easy, easy, easy.  I knew we only had David Hasselhoff for one week, and it was all going to happen.  There was going to be a lot of pain, and a lot of crying, and I was dreading it.  But I have got to tell you, those tears flowed so easily.  Julianna, first of all, is a consummate actress.  She and I have a lot of history together, and we are friends. I adore her, and when I lock into those blue eyes of hers, I just become Jill.  And the strange thing is, Wings Hauser, who I never met before, because as you said, the scenes were so well written, that as soon as we started playing them, the story all made sense.  It was great, and pretty effortless.  I really felt Wings and David were my brothers.  I have to say there was a lot of distraction on the set while David was filming his reality show and that was different.  But I was kind of excited about it, because it was fun.  In the end, I think the scenes came out really well.

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MICHAEL:

How was David to work with?

JESS:

He was wonderful and a friendly guy and upbeat.  David was proud to be back on The Young and the Restless, and like all parents, proud of his kid.  And that was all he could talk about… his daughter, Taylor-Ann, who played the nurse in some scenes who mixed up Liz’s medications.

MICHAEL:

Jess, you have won two Daytime Emmys, and I was watching this year nominated writing episode from Y&R where yet again, there you were with your mother issue. Jill found out at Billy and Chloe’s wedding definitively that Katherine was not an imposter and your DNA did not match.  Then comes the cake-throwing scene, which set back the Katherine and Jill feud to its rightful place!  What did you think about those scenes?  Jill was a raving bitch!

JESS:

Always, the scenes that turn out the best are the ones I am most worried about, because I know they have the potential to come out great.  I thought they were fabulous.  I had no idea how I was going to be playing all that craziness.  You remember how crazy Jill was acting?  She was all over the place and flip-flopping.  I said to Sally MacDonald, who was directing the episode, “Um, you have to give me a drink in my hand at the very beginning of this wedding because I have to have a little aid, and you have to assume Jill is a little tipsy.  It gives the excuse for why she is so all over the place.”  So, Sally started me out with a Mimosa right at the beginning of the show and it kind of explained it.  And what did I say to poor Murphy?  I know, “You dig up worms for a living!”  (Laughs) She was awful!  Then I threw the cake in Nikki’s face, too!  I said to Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki), “You better watch out Melody.  I am going to get you, too.”  It was great!

MICHAEL:

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What did Jeanne think of this cake fight extraordinaire?

JESS:

Jeanne was like, “bring it on” with the cake fight.  Here was the problem. The problem was that the frosting was butter cream and it got on the floor on the tiles.  And whoever was holding me up, was really holding me up…and it was Beau Kayzer. (Brock) That was because Jeanne was trying to get her arms around the entire cake!  I am telling you, that is what she was trying to do!  She is so funny! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So to make this extraordinary pairing work on-screen at this point, after so many years, do you and Jeanne sit down and have a process where you run lines, or is it all just hit your mark, say your lines, and we will make it remarkable?  With daytime production moving so fast these days, has it at all impacted you and Jeanne?

JESS:

There is very little time to run lines if we are first up to tape in the day.  Other than that, there is usually time to rehearse.  We use to have a drama coach on set who was great.  His name was Judd Lawrence.  He was great for group scenes, and he had a little room near hair and make-up.  When we had those group scenes with a lot of people, as we passed by his area, all of us would sit down in a room and get those really fast cues that you have in party scenes.  So that was cool.  But for Jeanne and I when it comes to one and one scenes, we find each other and we put in the work.

MICHAEL:

Jeanne is a remarkable lady!  And the two of you still “bring it” to the viewers!

JESS:

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I thank God every day for that woman.  She feeds me. She is like a shot in the arm when you see her in the morning.  She is funny and sharp and I love her.

MICHAEL:

What are you playing as Jill now?  Inner-struggle? Is she going to have a metamorphosis?

JESS:

She is feeling all of her emotions right now to the hilt and thinking, “Whatever I am feeling, it’s like what the hell!  Life had always brought me a lot of dirty blows,” but she always tries new things.  She has really deep feelings for people like Cane and Billy.  She adores them, even though Billy is such a little brat.  He has a lot of Jill in him, but when she gets mad, she really gets mad, but I don’t think she is any longer trying to make much sense of it.  Jill went out of trying to fit in and be part of society.  She is now like, “What is going on?” (Laughs) Michael, I can tell you, there is really good stuff coming up.

MICHAEL:

Jill is such a shrew sometimes!

JESS:

She can be such a shrew!  Did you know that a Shrew is really an animal that has a horrible personality! (Laughs)  Jill gets her happiness where she can, and she certainly is not going to contain her anger.  She lets it out, so it does not fester in there.  She is on a roller coaster though, I will say that much.

MICHAEL:

So she is going to be in a continual search for her biological mother, coming up?

JILL:

I suppose.  I can’t tell you anything. (Laughs)

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MICHAEL:

Another thing, Jess, is that Jill has had a lot of job changes. (Laughs) Where is she working now, officially?

JESS:

She is still with Billy. He fired her once (laughs), but I am working at Restless Style.

MICHAEL:

How is working with Daytime Emmy nominee Billy Miller (Billy)?

JESS:
Oh, it’s fantastic.  He is the best actor. Yesterday, Billy walked on the set after we had just rehearsed these scenes, and during the performance I looked at him and I saw so much!  I think back to when he met Cane, and the character had just come back.  Billy was jealous of him and happy to be home with Jill, and it was all playing across his face. He is very, very good.

MICHAEL:

Your other on-screen son, Phillip Chancellor III played by Thom Bierdz, came back for sort of a reverse coming out story to his family, but the story fizzled.

JESS:

When I worked with Thom recently, I have to tell you, he hasn’t changed a bit.  He is still the same sweet guy that he was.

MICHAEL:

And how is working with Daniel Goddard (Cane)?

JESS:

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Oh my God, it’s like butter.  It is, it’s like butter, and we have this connection.  He reminds me of my real life son.  His energy is like my son.  And I feel like he is my real son, and he is just amazing.  Daniel’s sense of humor is so terrific.  I love his wife and his kids.  I am always thrilled when I work with him.

MICHAEL:

On Sunday, the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards will be handed out on CBS.  So as a past recipient, where are your two Emmys?

JESS:

They are on each side of the TV.

MICHAEL:

When you look at them, do you look back and go, “Wow, I won these!  How cool.”

JESS:

They are always there so I don’t always notice them, but as I am sitting here talking to you, I am looking at them.  Sometimes when I have new people come into the house that don’t really know me well or know what I do, I think “Oh, what are they going to think when they see those?” (Laughs)  They are very impressive, but most of the time I forget.

MICHAEL:

When you won them, do you remember what went through your mind at the time, close to when your name was called or shortly after?

JESS:

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The first one was at the Marriott and it was a lunchtime deal. I remember when I won them I was very angry that I had to do anything, because all I wanted to do was feel.  I remember it distinctly.  First of all, I sure as hell did not want to get up and give the damn speech. (Laughs)  It was just horrible!  Then I wanted to go hug my husband and I had to do the press, but I did not want to do the press.  Not because it’s difficult, or that I don’t like doing it, it’s just that I wanted to feel that feeling, and I wanted to feel it purely and not have to work.  Then the second one was killer and the icing on the cake.  It was for Lead Actress and it was really, really great.  And, at that time it had been many, many years since The Young and the Restless was on, and no one had ever won in the Lead Actress category.  I think it had been on 20 years maybe at that point.

MICHAEL:

What would you say to the actresses this year who are in the final five, as we countdown to Emmy night?

JESS:

I would say, enjoy the nomination process, because everyone is a winner until that night and it’s a glorious, glorious time.  And for the winner, it goes on, and for the ones who don’t win, it sort of stops right there.

MICHAEL:

Well, after seeing this last week of air shows, I think you have some very strong material, that if you so choose to throw your name in the mix next year, you could just get a nod!

JESS:

If I decide to do it, we shall see.  But the great thing about the Emmys is: once I won one, and then won a second, it did not matter to me anymore.  It’s over and done and I did that.   I did not have that yearning that I had before.

MICHAEL:

OK Jess, of all the numerous twists and turns in Jill’s storylines, there had to be some that you were like, “You have got to be kidding me? How I am going to make this work?”

JESS:

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Oh, my God, Michael.   I had those moments a lot when you think of the twists and turns. And the very first one I remember was when Billy was small.  I was fighting for custody with John Abbott.  Jack went and hired a guy who sweeps me off my feet who lets me know he is not interested in a child.  And…I give up custody from that one day of scenes. That was a “How am I going to make this work?”  And every time I have scenes with the whole town (Laughs), and I announce to the whole town that I was going to take over Katherine’s house, knowing they all loved her and hated me (Laughs)…. I am always having to do stuff like that.  I mean, when I had to tell poor Murphy that he digs worms for a living…you know, it was like, “How am I going to do this?”  My whole soap opera life is filled with, “How am I going to make this work?”  Sometimes, my solution is going to the director and saying, “Please give Jill a Mimosa the first thing in the morning so I can make this work.” (Laughs)  The other story that was the hardest, “How am I going to make this work,” was Brittany’s baby.  I fell in love with the baby, and I was going to go into the Witness Protection Program to be the nurse maid for the baby. (Laughs) And then, Michael Nouri was on the show for a while.  He was a dishonest CEO for Katherine, and I was trying to get the goods on him and fall in love with him.  But then, Jill runs off with him knowing he was an embezzler and never to see her family again. Well, please! (Laughs) You know what I mean?   It’s so much fun, and it’s been such a
challenge to try to make it some sort of cohesive tapestry of a human being.

MICHAEL:

But you had to speak to the writers at times to clarify or find out where your story is headed sometimes when things were perhaps, murky?

JESS:

I have gone on the phone with the writers before to shape an idea, or to go over the forward thrust of a story, but mostly it’s self-explanatory.  I don’t know how to answer that except there have been times I have needed to talk to them.  Particularly, if I saw in the direction it was going that there were going to be problems.  But of course, they are great that way and glad to talk about it with us.

MICHAEL:

Who do you think is the dream mother for Jill?

JESS:

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I think Julianna was!  Liz was the dream mother for Jill.  She always could handle Jill.  That is the trouble on soap, you can never be happy. You always have to be unhappy because that is where the drama lies.  I had many mothers now haven’t I?  Remember Elizabeth Harrower, played by Charlotte, and Jill was crazy about her! (Laughs) Oh, my God.  She had so many mothers! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

But Jill’s deep rooted insecurity and issues stem from that and from when she was poor.

JESS:

There is a basic insecurity that came from her being the housekeeper’s daughter. She was around Katherine with her rich society country club friends, and she had this deep feeing of inadequacy, and that is where I think it all stems up.  But, she is very much a bossy little lady, and domineering.  Jill is attracted to powerful men, but yet she is not going to buckle under to them.

MICHAEL:

Have you ever been bored with playing Jill?

JESS:

No, it’s never boring now.  When it was boring, was the time I won Best Actress because all I was doing at that time was supporting Sonny Von Deusen who played Keith Dennison, and his two girls, Megan and Tricia. That is all I did for two years and it was really boring, and nothing ever has been that boring, and no period of time on the show has ever been as boring as that one.  Sonny was a wonderful actor and I loved him, but I wasn’t doing hardly anything.

MICHAEL:

When you heard all these people were coming back for one week, David Hasselhoff, Julianna McCarthy and Wings Hauser, were you shocked when they told you?

JESS:

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I have a really good friend whose is David’s agent, so I was not completely unaware of what was going on.  But, I was very sad that it was so quick though, and no, I am not in David’s reality show!

MICHAEL:

What would you say about working with Jeanne Cooper after all these years?

JESS:

It’s like rolling off a log at this point and so easy.  Working with Jeanne is stimulating and we laugh constantly.  We are so in the same boat.  We know each other so well, and we know the looks on each others faces, and we know if we have gone up on each other’s lines, and we know if this isn’t working right or it doesn’t feel right.  It’s just wonderful.

MICHAEL:

So what happened when Jeanne’s prediction that the mother/daughter storyline was not going to work came true?

JESS:

What are you going to do?  I hate that Jeanne was proved right that it didn’t work, because I think it should have.  But, I thought it would deepen it in theory, and make it more interesting, in theory.  C’mon, we got years of story out of it, and there was no wrong to that.  I don’t care what she says.  It’s been 25 years that I have been on the show, and there has been a Jill in her life for way longer than that. You have got to throw it some curves.

MICHAEL:

OK, after all the mothers, men, children, boardrooms, and manicures that Jill has come in contact with or had in her life, what is something you would still love to see your character get to do?

JILL:

I would love to see a lot more fantasizing scenes, where apparently I put Katherine under the hair dryer and electrocute her! (Laughs)  And one time, I know I did hide the toilet paper in the Colonnade Room when she went into the stall.  And, I loved it when I rented the Doberman, because I knew she was afraid of dogs.  And I loved it when I hired my own maid, so we could have dueling maids, with her Ester being her maid.  I remember, Beverly Archer from Momma’s Family, who played the neighbor on that sitcom, played Jill’s maid.  She was hilarious, and her sense of comedy timing was out of this world.

MICHAEL:

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Would you like to see Jill have a new romance?

JESS:

No.  I would like to see her become a master spy.  (Laughs) Look, I am up for anything new and different at this point.

MICHAEL:

Well Jess, I know and the fans know, that there is some big stuff coming down the pike for Jill, from discovering more about who she is, to God knows what else, in the coming weeks!

JESS:

It will be an emotional roller coaster, and it’s never smooth.  It’s all about going for broke with her coming up, and its going to get very interesting.

  1. waldo doe says:

    Thanks for the great JW interview. I don’t think I have ever read an interview with her. She seems pretty cool, so unlike her neurotic alter ego!

    I’m not so crazy about this Fenmore storyline, but I will keep watching to see where it goes.

    Reply

  2. KELLEY MIES says:

    Jess is the BEST actress on daytime tv!!! She makes Y&R the show that it is #1!!!

    Reply

  3. Nora says:

    Great interview! I love Jess and I’m looking forward to this new development!

    Reply

  4. Diane says:

    Absolutely one fabulous intereview with the great Jess Walton whom I love and adore and have since I saw her ‘ions’ ago when she was a young gal on the now defunct soap SOMERSET! Awesome ballsy broad and I love her character and what she brings to it. Thanks Michael.

    Reply

  5. Mandel says:

    Good interview Michael. When people say that they don’t like Jill, that shows that Jess is a good actress.

    Reply

  6. cburdsall says:

    found interesting and helpful. Jill is such a difficult person to like; but now, separating the actor from the character, makes it easier to watch the prerformance.

    Reply

  7. Trish says:

    I like Jess but my favorite of all time was the original Jill, Brenda Dickson.

    Reply

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