Role Jill, Y&R
BIRTHDATE: February 18
BIRTHPLACE: Grand Rapids, MI, though she was raised in Toronto, Canada
MARITAL STATUS: Married to grief recovery authority John W. James since 1980.
CHILDREN: Has one adult son, Cole with James; Walton is also stepmother to James's daughter, Allison.
Born in Grand Rapids, MI, and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Jess Walton got her start in showbiz when she was only 17 and joined the Toronto Workshop Productions’ Repertory Theater. In 1969, she moved to Hollywood.
While in California, Walton dated a music manager, which gave her the opportunity to spend time with legendary artists Neil Young, Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell.
Meanwhile, her own career was taking off. Throughout the ’70s, Walton landed many prime-time guest spots on shows such as THE YOUNG LAWYERS, MEDICAL CENTER, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, STARSKY AND HUTCH, RETURN OF THE MOD SQUAD and BARNABY JONES. During that time her social life also heated up and she was briefly wed to actor Bruce Davison from 1972-3, though their marriage was annulled within the year. However, the actress’s life began to spiral out of control when she turned to alcohol and drugs. In 1980, she battled her addiction and completed rehab. Soon after, she met her current husband, grief counselor John W. James. The next year, she gave birth to their son, Cole.
After Cole was born, Walton took three years off to be a full-time mother. She then returned to TV on CAPITOL, playing Kelly/Shelley until 1987. When CAPITOL ended its five-year run in 1987, Walton joined Y&R as Jill, taking over for the popular Brenda Dickson. Walton’s rapport with on-screen rival Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) also made her a fan favorite.
In the 10/18/88 issue of Soap Opera Digest, former addicts and real-life pals Walton and Cooper both spoke candidly of their troubled pasts. Walton got to use her knowledge of this topic to turn out memorable performances when Jill’s son Phillip III died in a drunk-driving accident in 1989, and again when her character’s other son, Billy (played then by David Tom), was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning in 1999.
Though their characters were rivals for decades, Y&R fans got a shock in 2003 when Kay and Jill learned that they are mother and daughter, with Jill being the child Kay once gave up for adoption. In 2007, history repeated itself when Kay revealed that she’d also given away Phillip III when he was born and switched him with another child. Then in 2008, Billy (now played by Billy Miller) returned home. Meanwhile, viewers learned that the fashionista Chloe is really Esther’s daughter, Kate. After Chloe became pregnant, she claimed Cane as the father and wed him; however, it’s recently been established that she and Billy also share a romantic history and that he is the probable pop. Either way, this means that Jill and Esther will be sharing a grandchild together, which has resulted in some hilarious scenes between Walton and Kate Linder (Esther), and an intriguing storyline for the Chancellor clan.
- One of the illustrated houses featured on Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon album cover was based on one that belonged to Walton at the time.
- Was introduced to her husband John W. James at a party by TV Guide writer Mary Murphy.
- Starred with Clint Ritchie (ex-Clint, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) in The Peace Killers.
- In 2003, she and her real-life son, Cole, played mother and son in the play Raw Comedy, Nothing Half-Baked.
- Her other jobs have included being a "dime-a-dance" girl, cocktail waitress and a claims adjuster.