In Loving Memory

As AMC prepares to say good-bye to James Mitchell (today, April 20, is the designated memorial episode for Palmer), his close friend and former Pine Valley love interest, Jill Larson (Opal), shares some special memories.Soap Opera Digest: How did you feel about the memorial show when you read the script?

Jill Larson: Oh, I was very pleased. I knew [AMC writer] Lorraine [Broderick] would do a beautiful job and she truly did. I think the show manages somehow even to acknowledge the audience’s own personal relationships with James. I got letters, condolence letters, from fans saying that they knew how close we were and that James had corresponded with them for 25 years. He had built real personal relationships with many fans as well as all of us in the business. James made all of us feel like we were the only one, which is a gift that some people have, the gift of making you feel like you are the special one [laughs]. Every Thanksgiving I made him this special cranberry and apple Grand Marnier compote that he loved and then at Christmas, [my daughter] Anni-Ming and I would get him chocolate truffles and go to great lengths to ship them to him wherever he was. And as people started to gather around James’s departure, there were so many stories of, “Oh, yes, James loved my lemon rolls, so I would make him lemon rolls and express mail them across the country!” and “Oh, he loved my German cookies, and I would bake them for him every year!” In Los Angeles, Gillian [Spencer, ex-Daisy] and Taylor Miller [ex-Nina] and I went to James’s house to have dinner with [Mitchell’s partner] Albert, and of course, Taylor brought her gingerbread because that was James’s favorite! It was just so great to discover all the different people who had their own very personal relationships with him. Isn’t that cute?

Digest: I’m just so glad that Taylor and Gillian were brought in for the memorial show. It just wouldn’t have been right without them!

Larson: I know. I agree whole-heartedly. I had only met Taylor briefly; I was never on-air when Nina was around. So that was really lovely for me, to meet her and to spend a little time with her and sort of fill in a gap in my own personal Pine Valley history, if you will. And of course, she was so dear to James.

Digest: And you’ve been friends with Gillian for many years now.

Larson: Yes. I sort of came into James’s life when Gillian was living out West and was a writer for the show. She communicated with me and we got to know each other a little bit that way until she came back and did a stint on the show, the stint where she sort of manipulated the coming together of Palmer and Opal. I’ve always loved her and we had an immediate personal connection and we traveled to Ireland together and all sorts of stuff. But I was always very aware that James and Gillian had a very specific kind of relationship that was theirs alone. I felt like Lorraine even somehow got that personal dynamic between the three of us when she wrote the scenes that you’ll see take place between Opal and Daisy. It’s just sort of another example of how the story seemed to really follow the actual events.