The grande dame of Genoa City, Katherine Chancellor, got an oh-so-grand send-off when she was believed to be dead after a car accident. Even though she’s actually alive and kicking — Kay thinks she’s Marge, and is slinging hash at a diner — Y&R brought back a slew of past cast members to pay tribute at her funeral. Below, the returnees and actress Jess Walton (Jill) share their thoughts on taping this monumental episode, plus some of their fondest and funniest memories of Jeanne Cooper.
Jess Walton (Jill)
“I hadn’t heard a word about [anyone returning for Kay’s funeral]. Then someone came up to me and said, ‘They’re coming back.’ And they’re coming back! It’s been great. Unbelievable. There’s a shot over the casket and everybody is lined up in the aisle. You just see person after person coming by; all of these faces from the past and faces from the present. It’s just fantastic. It’s going to be the most outstanding of shows. A classic of classics.
“The weeks leading up to it have been very emotional, and crying is very difficult for me. I just don’t like to go there. It’s really hard for me and takes a lot of work. [The day we taped the eulogies], we had been going since 8 a.m. It was about 10:30 p.m. by the time we got to eulogies. Everybody, I’m sure, was feeling the same way: ‘Oh, my God! Do I have anything left?’ But everybody rose to the occasion. It was absolutely fantastic. After my eulogy was delivered, I felt like this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. That was my tension, because I wanted to honor this storyline with Katherine supposedly dead. What would Jill’s feelings be about Katherine dead after 30 years? I didn’t want to not do it justice, and I was afraid I was completely devoid of emotion. But it came. Luckily, I had Beau Kazer (Brock) standing right by the podium, because Brock had kind of been officiating. Right before I did it, I just held both of his hands, and I opened up like a flower. After that, I was just fine.”
Beau Kazer (Brock)
“Being back on-set for this, it’s like I never left. There’s a time warp. It’s like a family reunion, seeing my brothers and my sisters. Doug Davidson (Paul) came over. He had tears in his eyes. He hugged me [after Brock’s eulogy]; Peter Bergman (Jack) said, ‘Oh, you make us so proud.’ Julianna McCarthy (ex-Liz) came over to me. It just goes on and on…. In all my career in acting, I’ve never received more accolades — it just kept coming and coming.”
“[When I saw Jeanne again], it was like we were never apart. I got so lucky. When I got out of drama school, this was my first acting job. To go opposite Jeanne — to go up against this woman out of acting school — the bar is raised. You’re going to cut it in two weeks, or you’re out. I became a good actor, a competent actor. Within two years, I was holding my own because of Jeanne. I love her. We have the same sense of humor. The same values. She was my mentor. I don’t think I’d be the actor I am today without her. She set the standard. She set the guidelines for me. I tear up when I think of Jeanne.”
Michael Damian (Danny)
“Kay was Danny’s stepmother, which is why he’s at the funeral and devastated. Danny doesn’t sing at the service. I think that would have been overkill. Of course, everybody gave me a hard time about that: “When are you getting up there, Danny?” Eric‘s (Braeden, Victor) been doing this thing forever…. He walked by me during this emotional moment — thank God the mic wasn’t on — and said, ‘Rock on, Danny. Rock on!’ I was like, ‘Why did he do that right before I had to go up to the casket?!’
“I remember Jeanne and I were in South Carolina for a charity event years ago. It was 98 degrees with 110 percent humidity. We were staying at this mansion, a private home. There was a big black-tie dinner downstairs. I get a knock on my door, and it’s Jeanne. She has her bathrobe on and she says, ‘My hair! What do I do with my hair?’ Back then, my hair was very tall. I won awards for it. I said, ‘Come in, Jeanne.’ I got out my blow-dryer and my hair spray, and I did her hair. She had a full-on ’80s sort of a mullet. She said, ‘It looks good.’ Then we put our outfits on and I escorted her downstairs. The crowd reacted to our huge hair. We looked like twins.”
Patty Weaver (Gina)
“I have to preface this by saying we’d been on the set [taping the funeral] since 6 a.m., and it was like 11:15 p.m. when someone yelled out — and I don’t know who it was — ‘Will you just bury the old stiff?! Come on, give us a break!’
“I’ve known Jeanne since I first started working 38 years ago. We connected right away. I love her because she’s off-the-wall. When I heard Jeanne was going to be doing the famous Marge character again, I was so excited. People want to see what the show was, the older characters coming back in, because the audience is an older audience. The younger [viewers] are in school. I love anything Jeanne does. She is a true Hollywood character, [like] Norma Desmond. She’s like Cleopatra. There isn’t a box you could put her in. If you did, she’d get out. She’d use those nails. I love her dearly. It’s amazing that she’s 80 and still has so much passion.”
Tricia Cast (Nina)
“Every moment of working with Jeanne over the years was so great. Some of my favorite memories were when we were fighting like cats and dogs. I remember fondly when Nina was pregnant [with Philip’s son] and being held up in the attic of the Chancellor estate. Jill, Kay and Nina had so many fights. That’s the fun stuff…the stuff I remember most.”
Beth Maitland (Traci)
“There are people [on-set for this funeral] that I’m sure I haven’t seen in over 10 years. Michael Damian and I were talking. I’m back. Then, he’s back, but we’re never back together. We were in trouble right away. [The director was] telling Michael, Doug Davidson (Paul) and me, ‘Shhhh!’ We were just so happy to see each other.
“The historic aspect of this funeral is the cool thing and, according to Jeanne, who knows everything, this has never been done. Nothing like this of this size and to this magnitude. I know on One Life to Live not too long ago, Erika Slezak (Viki) had all of her husbands back [for a near-death experience]. I was so excited yesterday, sitting in the pew in the funeral parlor, and there were at least eight rows divided by an aisle. In every row there were principal actors. There were like 60 principal actors and only 10 extras, atmosphere people, filling in the seats. Every row was filled with people that are pivotal to the show. It was remarkable. But then, Jeanne’s the queen.”
“[Did you] get to see Marla? We’re bunking up together. We’re sharing a room. We requested it. She’s so much fun and feisty and fierce. She’s wonderful, and everybody thinks she’s a hoot. So much fun to be around. She has so much energy. She’s been on Secret Storm and Generations. She was on Broadway. She has wonderful stories. In two days sharing a dressing room, there’s not enough time to revisit.”
Marla Adams (Dina)
“Being back is wonderful. It’s like déjà vu. I miss Bill (Bell) very much, but I saw Lee (Phillip Bell) today and we had a good hug. It feels so fabulous to come back and see the family again. I’m rooming with Beth (Maitland), and we haven’t shut our mouths. I have lockjaw already. We’re just having a ball together. It’s a great love affair here with everybody.”