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The Jeanne Cooper Interview – The Young and the Restless

Photo Credit: Charles Bush

On The Young and the Restless she has been called the Grand Dame of Genoa City, The Duchess, and Mrs C.!  In real life, she has been called an icon, a Daytime Emmy Award winning actress, a legend in the world of the soap opera, an accomplished primetime television and feature film actress… and a wonderful mother of three children.  At eighty-three, and after playing the powerful, wealthy, and beloved Katherine Chancellor to the hilt for 39 years, Jeanne Cooper has finally decided to tell her life story!  And what a story it is!  Her new highly anticipated memoir, Not Young, Still Restless (Harper Collins) is due in book stores this coming Tuesday, July 31st!

Not Young Still Restless revisits Jeanne’s childhood; how she followed her dream and moved to Hollywood with the help of some very sneaky good friends, and how she became a working actress in the studio system.  And as she made quite a name for herself along the way, she met some of the most recognizable names in film and television, many of whom she had friendly or romantic relationships with!  The book also details the destruction of her marriage to Harry Bernsen, which ultimately led to her downward spiral into alcoholism, plus the call while she was in Hawaii that would change her life and daytime forever, getting cast on a new CBS soap The Young and the Restless!

On-Air On-Soaps talked with Jeanne Cooper to bring you this very special interview, as we looked into the behind-the-scenes life of this incredible talent.  From her backstage battles with Brenda Dickson (Ex-Jill, Y&R), to her big reveal that she and her on-screen son Beau Kayzer (Ex-Brock, Y&R) were in love and had a relationship, to being the first performer to break the wall between fiction and reality, when she and Katherine had a real-life facelift, to her many health battles.  Jeanne along with co-writer, Lindsay Harrison, brings the reader and any soap fan on one remarkable journey.  Saying that this woman is a treasure is an understatement.  So all we can add to that is … here now is the feisty, funny, irreverent, gem of an actress, Jeanne Cooper, as we take our own journey with the legend from her humble beginnings to Genoa City 2012!

MICHAEL:

Jeanne, I read your memoir, Not Young Still Restless, in a day and half!  It was a real page-turner where I kept thinking, “I can’t believe this happened to one person in their lifetime!”  And then knowing you like I do, it makes it all the more amazing!

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

It reads like a novel, and then you stop and realize, “I know her!  I know her.”  I did the same thing after I got the hardcover version.  I put it on my coffee table and said, “I know her.” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

I know we talked about this years ago, that someday you should really write your tell-all.  Why did you decide to write it and publish it now?

JEANNE:

I am not kidding when I tell you I got so tired of people asking, “When are you going to write a book?”  I can now say, “Shut up! Leave me alone.  It’s done!” (Laughs)  Several people have asked me, “Now what are you going to write in your second book?” 

MICHAEL:

When you decided to write it, was there trepidation on your part to delve into your past, your childhood, your career, and what no one knew went on behind the scenes at Y&R?

JEANNE:

I had tremendous trepidation.  First of all, you stand the chance of people who like you then saying, “I don’t like her anymore.”  You can lose a lot of friends, and they are public friends.  There are many who have been part of my career for 60 years.  Then I thought I was not being offensive about anything, but just honest with an edge.  That is how I think most people accept things much easier.  I just had this feeling of something terrible happening if I wrote my book.  But Lindsay Harrison helped me conquer those fears.  And she said, “I will show you how to make it so simple.  Here is a tape recorder.” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Did you decide before the book was going to be released, to let certain people you work with, know that you wrote about them in your tell-all?

JEANNE:

No, I did not.  I said I would like it to read like they are reading about a character that is made up, and it’s like a novel instead of “This Is Your Life, Jeanne Cooper!”  I wanted it to be truthful, but believable.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

Your childhood certainly had its ups and downs, and some very disturbing moments where you reveal that you were sexually molested.  You also say in the book that one of the pictures with you and your dad was one of the only ones you recall.  I found that very heart-rending.  Your mom died quite early at 46 years old.  What do you think your mom would have said about Mrs. Chancellor?

JEANNE:

She would have said, “Oh! All of the affairs!” (Laughs)  I think my mother would have enjoyed my success.  She loved the fact that I wanted to be an actress.  I think she secretly wanted something other than what she had.  I always enjoyed making grandpa, or my mom and dad laugh, and then we would laugh together.  And that is where the whole thing stems from.  You may not have everything in the world, but if you are happy and you can feel the love that runs throughout, that is wealth without dollars.

MICHAEL:

You also talk in great detail about your start in Hollywood and your ascendance to feature film roles and television series guest star spots.  It is very intriguing how it all happened for you.  You mention two good friends, Barbara Hale and Raymond Burr, with whom if I am correct, you also had an affair.

JEANNE:

Oh yeah!  Barbara just turned 90 and she looks like she is 50.  I could smack her.  She is a very close friend and we have gone through a lot together, including our failed marriages.  We have had laughter and tears together on and off the screen you have never seen the likes of.  I had an affair with Raymond.

MICHAEL:

And your laundry list of men also included David Janssen, and Dennis Weaver …  Good list, Jeannie!

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

I was also with Robert Taylor!  I was working with Barbara Stanwyck and I was late due to a buckle not working in my wardrobe.  I was getting on the set and I apologized and she said, “That’s all right.  I am so proud to have you here, Jeanne.  I have seen all of your work and you are an incredible actress. You belong to this town and you belong to this industry.”  And my jaw dropped down to my knees.  I wanted to say, “Did you know that I went out with your ex-husband?”  In which she told me later on, “How did you find my ex-husband?”  And I said, “The Truth?  He’s boring!”  And she said, “But he’s handsome.”  And I said, “Yeah, you can say that again.”

MICHAEL:

However, the man who would forever change your life was Harry Bernsen.  And your tale and true life story is a very cautionary one that many people still go through today.  How many women have not fallen under the spell of a good-looking, charming, smooth-talking guy, and not seen all the red flags?

JEANNE:

I do let everyone know he was not my favorite person!  Thank you for noticing the point I was trying to get across.   I want to express that no matter who you are, there is likeness in everybody.  Harry was drop dead gorgeous, and he was like two different people all the time, just unreal.

MICHAEL:

When your first son Corbin Bernsen was born, I read you were screaming for the baby and for the nurse to bring you your child.  All the while your husband Harry said, Corbin was deformed.  What happened?  You must have been beside yourself!

JEANNE:

Yes, but then the nurse explained to me what it was.  It was a hematoma that scrapes on the pelvic bone coming out and forms a little blood blister, and it looks terrible. But the point of it is … it absorbs.  It’s like a wound.  When you are born, everything is so close to the skin and everything is so tender and so fragile.  I have forgiven Harry of that, but also, I will never forget.  I thought, “What do you care if the baby was deformed?  What are you going to do?  Show the baby and hide its head?”  It was this man’s actions, and again that was certainly a red flag.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

Were you happy you were pregnant?

JEANNE:

At first I wasn’t, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children … with him.  Then, I had three. (Laughs)  First of all, he said he could never ever have children because of a wound he got in the war.  And I don’t know where the wound was. (Laughs)  I wanted a boy and a girl and I got two boys, and I said I am going to try for a girl.  And, if I have a girl I am blessed and if not, I am going to throw it away! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

You must have been thrilled when you finally had your little girl, Caren?

JEANNE:

I stayed in the hospital for eleven days with her!  I wouldn’t come home.  The doctor, finally said, “Jeanne, we have no reason to keep you here any longer, and look at your boys!”  The boys would come outside my hospital and say, “Mommy, please come home with our sister!” And finally I said, “OK.”  I lived in a world of boys and after a while you want someone to talk to and understand.  I felt like saying, “Why do men think they are better than us?”

MICHAEL:

Then, all of a sudden you get Y&R and the role of Katherine Chancellor.  We won’t spoil how that all went down here, but we will say, a trip to Hawaii was called short!  But, you go to the set at CBS for your first reading, but John Considine is playing the role of Phillip Chancellor, not Donnelly Rhodes.

JEANNE:

Horribly enough, John Considine reported to the studio and someone forget to call his agent and tell them not to come.  So he came in and I went over to him to run lines, and our executive producer at the time John Conboy came over and said, “Don’t do that. He’s not playing Phillip anymore!”  I went, “What?”

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

So what did you think when you met Donnelly Rhodes for the first time?

JEANNE:

He was self-assured, nice and cocky, and a very talented actor.  I spent some time with Donnelly.  I had an affair with him, too. (Laughs)  I always say, don’t do things where you work…

MICHAEL:

Well you seem to have done that quite often, Jeanne!  (Laughs)

JEANNE:

Not in the studio, others have made out in the studio!  Crazy fools!

MICHAEL:

Then I laughed, but could not help love what you said about your first meeting with Brenda Dickson (Ex-Jill, Y&R) … “I do remember a sexy confident little piece of work named Brenda Dickson!”  But it is true you two got off on the wrong foot!

JEANNE:

We got off to a bad start.  But you know, so did Shelley Winters and me!  We were under contract at Universal and she had asked my agent if I could come see her performance in a play because she would like to know what I think.  I went and she said, “Please have her come backstage.”  And she said, “I’m Shelley Winters.”  And I said, “Yes, I bet you are.”  She said, “So what did you think of the play?”  I said, “It’s interesting.”  She said, “Interesting?”  I said, “Well this part has been played by so many different actors, but yours is interesting.”  She goes, “That’s all?”  And I go, “Yeah.”   She said, “You mean you didn’t’ like it?”  I said, “No.”   She goes, “Well I will be damned.”  Fast-forward to five years later; we are doing a thing called Let No Man Write My Epitaph.  I reported to work and we started the picture.  And they said to me, “Jeanne, you know your hair is about the same color as Shelley’s.  So let’s put a little more ash into it.”  So they put ash in it.  And out I went again, and it’s a three-hour process!  So we started a scene where Shelly was going to make her entrance.  And it was stopped again, and they said, “Jeanne, would you mind terribly if we just make your hair darker?”  I said; “Let’s take it back to black!  That is my original color and I have not been that color since I don’t know when.”   Then they dyed my hair again and I was brunette without a great deal of highlights.  By that time it’s 3PM in the afternoon and I have been doing this since 8AM.  They say, “We have got to get a goddam shot.  Sometime today, drag her out here!”  So Shelley comes into my dressing room and says, “Isn’t there anything I can do to make you ugly?”  And I said, “No, or younger!”  And she started to laugh, and we became good friends after that.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

So with you and Brenda Dickson … she did not show up to rehearse with you, and you called her a “tart”?

JEANNE:

I want somebody there so I can settle down and give a performance.  I said, “A professional is on time. You don’t wait around for people.  Being a professional is knowing your craft and knowing your lines!”  And Brenda said, “Oh really?  I have never been talked to like this before!”  And I said, “Well get used to it, because if you can’t, then I am Shelley Winters!”  And so this is how Shelley Winters popped in and out of my life! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

In the end, it seemed like you came to love Brenda.  She has had such a crazy life and had gone through so much.  You seemed to be able to say in the book that there were some very deep emotional issues Brenda dealt with that you did not elaborate on.

JEANNE:

There is much more to her life than people knew.  And a lot of pressure was put on Brenda from within the cast, and they will remain nameless at this point, but it was unfair and unkind.  Anybody with that kind of treatment that one would allow themselves to do to another human being … that is unforgiveable in my book.  I may not like somebody, but I am certainly not going to treat them so horribly.

MICHAEL:

Was Brenda Dickson the butt of jokes on the set?

JEANNE:

Absolutely!  And I want to tell you, Brenda made the part of Jill, and Jess Walton (Jill, Y&R) and I talked about this.  Jess had a completely different spin on Jill, and no more like Brenda Dickson than the man on the moon.  And let’s face it; Brenda Dickson was in life like a Jill Abbott.  That is one of those things that she just captured.  You can portray it and try to imitate it.  So, that is why Jess took a different spin on the character all-together, which was smart. You cannot compare the two and what Brenda Dickson brought to Jill.  And I have to say, she became more of a professional and knew her lines, and what have you.  But even the tricks they played on her on the set were unforgiveable, and these people know who they are!

MICHAEL:

With all the turmoil and trouble Brenda has been in legally in Hawaii, have you ever spoken to her since that time?

JEANNE:

Oh yeah!  In fact, I called her in Hawaii.  I was hoping to get over there when she was in jail.   Let’s face it.  It’s hard to beat anything in Hawaii, with the good ole boys, and Brenda knew that.  She just did not get it up to the proper courts and with the proper publicity it needed.  But the guy did try to take everything from her.  He was smart and Brenda by that time had acquired quite a bit.

MICHAEL:

When I watched Y&R from the beginning of its run, Brenda and you really set the tone – it was Katherine and Jill at each other throats.   She was a gold-digging tart, and I bought it!  I was like, “Ooh, I want to smack that bitch!”

JEANNE:

Yeah right, absolutely!  Listen, I got to tell you, Brenda had as much fun with the Katherine/Jill relationship as Jess and I did.  When there was the “Who Killed Phillip?” storyline and our characters were in court, and being thrown about, a faction of fans lined up at CBS with posters marching, and this group flew in from the east coast.  And they were pro- Brenda.  Then, I in turn said to her, “Well all these people must have gotten pregnant by someone else’s husband.”  (Laughs)  They had to get us out of the studio because we had death threats!  They would say that I or she “deserved to die.”  Oh, the studio was very quiet about that, and they had police stand there.  It was wild!

MICHAEL:

When you first got to the set of Y&R, William Gray Espy was there, too!  And, he was playing Dr Snapper Foster.  But you first met him in one of my favorite films to this day, Kansas City Bomber!  I loved the roller derby, and to see you as the coach/manager of the team was a hoot.  Plus, you worked with Raquel Welch, who had the title role!

JEANNE:

I got trampled to death in that thing!  And these women would say, “Now listen. We promise if you go down on the deck on the rink, and you don’t move, we won’t hurt you. But, if you do move, you will get bruises all over from head to toe.”  I said what the F*** am I doing out here being a captain of a roller skating team?  It was amazing!  When I went down to the deck all these big bodies were are all over the place.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/IMDB

You mentioned in your book, that Raquel Welch was one of the most underrated actresses.  Do you think she was good in KC Bomber?

JEANNE:

For what she did, she was good.  She could play cheapies and she has a great sense of humor.  I remember saying to her, she has a body and a face of a knockout, but she is also someone who is grounded.  Raquel also knows Hollywood, and what it took, and what it thinks.

MICHAEL:

I would have called your book … From Roller Derby to Restless …. The Jeanne Cooper Story! (Laughs)

JEANNE:

(Laughs) Who didn’t love the roller derby back then!  I was the blonde captain of the L.A. Thunderbirds!  I did not get hurt on the film, thank God, but Raquel Welch broke her wrist.  So we had to delay the film for about six weeks.  I got to tell you I met William Gray Espy (Ex-Snapper, Y&R) there.   He was this handsome and gorgeous guy, who was on the men’s side of the roller derby team.  He was very shy, but at the end of a filming day, he needed a massage.  He was battered at the end of the day.  So I talked to the producer and got it arranged for him.  Now, when I went into the first rehearsal at Y&R and everyone was talking to each other and muttering, and I would say my lines out loud, John Conboy would say, “Well, we have somebody we could hear.  Thank you, thank you Ms. Cooper, very much.”  (Laughs) And William Gray Espy at rehearsal said, “I know her.  And I am telling you right now, don’t cross her path because she can get things done that you don’t know!” (Laughs)  And he was referring to me getting him into the steam room when he was not allowed, because he was not a starring role in Kansas City Bomber!

MICHAEL:

Then there is this little ditty in the book, when you and your dear friend Juliana McCarthy (Ex-Liz, Y&R) are in your dressing room listening to Michelle, the other woman in Harry’s life, who called you at the studio letting you in on their affair and asking you for financial help?  And she said that Harry told her you had an “illness”?  Oh, brother!

JEANNIE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Oh sure, and she even knew what time I would be there!  (Laughs)  Oh the fury that I felt. I was beside myself.  Thank God, everybody had retired to their dressing rooms and was getting ready for the days shooting.  I wanted to destroy, and if that coffee pot had been Harry, I would have been in jail now.  The disrespect!  He has children.  Doesn’t he know that?  It doesn’t matter what they say about him or me, but it does matter what they say about our children.  They are the innocent bystanders in all of this.  The fact that this was going on, and the fact that people in the business were knowing that he was seeing her, was so awful.  He was so open about so much of this shit in the advance stages, it became an embarrassment.  It is like me knowing somebody is cheating on their wife, and yet their wife and I are having lunch and I want to say, “Don’t you know you are married to an asshole?”  It is not so much what I feel, but anybody who has been betrayed.  If a man wanted to screw around, I would rather have him come up to me and say, “Listen.  I feel I need to do something and I need to do this.”  And I would say, “Fine. Let’s do a legal separation.  And you go do what you have to do.  And I will make up my mind if I think it’s right or not.”  And, I probably won’t think it’s right!

MICHAEL:

It was that, combined with the fact everybody seems to know but you!

JEANNE:

Patty Weaver (Gina, Y&R) knew!  I have been a big supporter of Patty Weaver and always have been.  There is still nobody who can sing a song like she can and bring you to your knees with it.  It’s just something she does so well.

MICHAEL:

And that is where your drinking began?

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

I think it was the emotional part of my life with Harry.  If it weren’t for that, I would’ve had that stomach spasm.  And the frame of mind I was in was not good, and the friend I was with told me to have an after dinner brandy and said, “Here take this!”  I take a deep swallow because my stomach was so distended and you would think I am pregnant and that I was going to deliver.  It was amazing.  I took two big gulps of that and made the spasms go away.  And the spasms were very scary.  It’s physical, but it was brought on by emotion.  Many truths just kept coming out of what I suspected and things kept coming up in which I had red flags, and I should have known it then.  I thought things would work out.  Being as gorgeous as he was, he had girls falling all over him left and right.  And that was okay, too. But the thing of it is also; you don’t have to return the favor.

MICHAEL:

For many years, I knew you were a self-admitted alcoholic.  But I never knew when the drinking started.  I thought it was digression from the character you play; Kay was a drunk, so you became a drunk. 

JEANNE:

Actually, I got Katherine sobered up and then she would have to sober me up!  Bill Bell (Creator, Y&R) gave me an ultimatum.  He met with my son Collin, and they arranged to put me in St. John’s.  And I came home from work and Collin was already at the house and he said, “Mom, we are all packed and ready to go.”  I said, “Where are we going?”  He said, “St. John’s.”  And I said, “Thank God.”

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

Do you think it affected your work at Y&R?

JEANNE:

Well, I think it would have, but Bill Bell wouldn’t let me go into the heavy storyline with Phillip, where I adopt little Phillip and all of that.  He would not have gone into that story if he thought for a minute that I would continue to drink and not have full control over what I was doing.  I saw a little bit of it in one of my performances, and it just sickened me.  It made me sick to my stomach that I would ever let that happen to myself.  My private life was such hell at the time, and of course, the brandy started calling for stomach spasms after awhile. That is what is so amazing and incredible; that kind of attachment you have that gives you a break from the misery you are going through.  I never felt such relief in my life, because the one thing I did love was my job … and in my job I can express who I am through my acting.  It is in making magic for people to escape to.  I always say, “Thank you God for Bill Bell and Collin saving my life.”

MICHAEL:

You also had several run-ins with Bill Bell where you refused to say certain lines of dialog he wrote.  He retorted back to you, “This isn’t Jeanne Cooper saying these lines, it’s Katherine Chancellor!  I don’t care what Jeanne Cooper would say!”

JEANNE:

I know he and his writers would give me some of these Midwest expressions, and not one script went out that Bill was not completely aware of what was in it.  If there were a grammatical error, he would call the writer and go, “I never want to see anything like that again.”   Look, Bill said he was not writing the soap for the sophisticates in Manhattan, but that he was writing for Middle America and the middle class people of the world.  Of course, he was right about what Katherine should say.

MICHAEL:

Then, there is the Beau Kayzer (Ex-Brock, Y&R) shocker!  You fell in love with your on-screen son in real-life.

JEANNE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Doug Davidson (Paul, Y&R) was the only one who half-way suspected.  He told me that about a year ago.  Beau was one of the most innocent loving people.  Beau can deliver dialog that is so believable that it’s like Meryl Streep’s performances.  I never think Meryl Streep is any other person than who she is playing.  And Beau can take words, and make you listen to them.  I got news!  Beau was getting more fan mail than anybody on the show.

MICHAEL:

Why did Beau disappear off the show?  Did the producer and writers want to get rid of him?

JEANNE:

They didn’t.  If I married him, he probably would have stayed on the show.  I do think Beau was deeply in love with me, and I was deeply in love with him for a great period of time, too.

MICHAEL:

You said you felt the age-difference between you two was a big issue for you, eventually.

JEANNE:

Not at that time, but later down the line.  Look at it.  He would have just turned 50 and I am 83!  But still, even to this day he said, “I don’t see what you are talking about.”  I broke it off and I said, “We can’t see each other.”  He married a woman about ten years older than I was at the time, and that didn’t work out.  He is still one of the sweetest, kindest people that I know.  He is very poetic and the kids loved him.  Beau has never liked younger women as companions.  It is amazing and he never really changed.

MICHAEL:

We both have something in common, Jeannie, other than we have made careers in daytime.  Both of us have had surgery with Dr. Harry Glassman!  You had the first daytime television on-screen face-lift with him, and he reconstructed my nose after it broke in five places in a freak accident I had several decades ago!

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

My God!  It was groundbreaking.  And the first reality show on TV was my facelift!  Dr. Glassman was so funny.  It was so funny having the cameras in the procedure room while they were doing my facelift, but when it was over it was incredible.  Dr. Glassman was offered some brilliant reconstructive surgeries because of my facelift.  He is an artist at reconstruction.

MICHAEL:

Then, there was another big event in your life, or at least it was supposed to be, when you receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys, along with a slew of other honorees on the Emmy telecast.   And when you go to get your Emmy backstage, the boy giving them out goes, “Jeanne Cooper?  Which one are you?”  OY!

JEANNE:

It’s hysterical!  We are all looking at each other going, Lifetime Achievement?  This jerk-off does not who is who!  He is pulling out the names from a cardboard box and reading them.  The worse thing was not showing any of our work for the Lifetime Achievement award.  Big Bird got all the attention that year.  So we all felt we should have had Big Bird costumes on and maybe then we would have gotten more recognition!  They didn’t even show anything, nothing of our work.  It tarnished the whole thing, the award and the academy.  They should be ashamed of themselves!

MICHAEL:

IN 2008, you finally won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  I love the fact that Tyra Banks, who presented the award to you, knew what designer’s dress you were wearing.  Also, the loving words from Crystal Chappell! (Danielle, B&B, Gina, Venice)

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

JEANNE:

Crystal said, “It’s yours, you deserve it.”  Crystal has been a big booster and supportive of my work, and I of hers, because she is such an incredible actress.  She is really taking control of her life with her Internet series, knowing the way the business is and taking nothing for granted.  She is a hard working and also a very fine, fine actress.  So when I turned around and gave her thumbs up when she was sitting at the table next to me, and she was on her feet and clapping her hands like mad.  It meant so much! 

MICHAEL:

I will never forget that night.  You were not in the press room yet, and I am telling you, you have never seen so many people screaming and cheering for you.  I thought, “Is there anyone more beloved in this genre than Jeanne?”  You don’t usually see that kind of heartfelt emotion in a room filled with irritable, cantankerous, and jaded reporters!

JEANNE:

And winning alongside with Tony Geary (Luke, GH)!  I love that man!  I love him, I love him! He read my book and I got 100 tulips, and the most magnificent bouquet you have seen in your life.  It had to weigh 50 lbs.  He read the book to give his thoughts on the back cover, and what he wrote was so heartfelt, I can’t tell you.  I think Tony Geary is one of the finest actors in the business.   He is premiere; there is no two ways about it.

MICHAEL:

You also reveal a surgery and serious medical condition nobody knew about until your memoir!

Courtesy/Harper Collins

JEANNE:

That was seven or eight years ago.  I was gone recently from Y&R because of double pneumonia.  I now have had double pneumonia three times, and I have got to tell you anytime anybody starts to tell me something is going on in my chest, I panic.  I had the SARS flu a few years ago, and I literally melted.

MICHAEL

Now this was something I did not know, you are the legendary Y&R butt pincher to all the young male hotties on the show?  For instance, you seem to reveal you enjoy pinching Greg Rikaart’s (Kevin, Y&R) ass!

JEANNE:

Oh God, you didn’t know that?  Watch the show when you see who jumps! And usually it’s Greg Rikaart (Kevin, Y&R), and I just adore him.  Watch the guy’s expression!  The only one who doesn’t react is Joshua Morrow (Nick, Y&R)   He just moves closer … the little shit!  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Let’s talk a moment about Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) and you.  You say in your book that Eric Braeden will never let you have the last word in any scene between Victor and Katherine?  By the way, I do love the Victor/Katherine relationship.

JEANNE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Oh yeah, he wont have it with anybody!  But, I did it once.  We improvise a lot, and I get along with Eric so well.  Victor and Katherine respect each other, and that is what we try to let everyone know when we play in our scenes.  You can have one relationship in business, but if you have a friend, you are friends through thick and thin.  And that is what we are.  And as much as Katherine wants to protect Nikki, as she is like the daughter she never had, when Nikki starts to like Victor too much, Katherine just turns a deaf ear.  And also, Victor will not let anyone talk badly about Katherine in front of him in a derogatory way.

MICHAEL:

I was surprised to find out that Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) seemed to decide not to speak with you for a while, and had cut you off as a friend with no explanation.  What do you think happened there?

JEANNE:

I have reminded her about that, and she says, “Oh, mother?  Who knows what was going on with me then?”  And I go, “Well I suppose I didn’t.”  I was very hurt by it.  I protected her in so many ways.

MICHAEL:

But you also say, Ed Scott (Ex-EP, Y&R, now producer, B&B) spent hours lighting Melody in scenes that you were in together while completely ignoring you.

JEANNE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Oh yeah.  I don’t know where Ed’s head was.  He said, “Jeanne, please forgive me.  It was a terrible time in my life.”   And I wanted to say, “Is that it, Ed?  But you are not the boy that I supported!”  Bill Bell called me since John Conboy was leaving and I said, “Well, Ed is good.”  And the others never gave him a chance to express himself.  And I said, “If you don’t like him after awhile, all you do is get rid of him and hire somebody else.”  And that is how Ed got his job.  Of course, he does not like to think that.  As far as Ed Scott, I was his biggest supporter.  We talked the first time the other day, as we both attended a wedding of a friend and he knows.  He knows what he did was wrong.

MICHAEL:

Another long time cast member, Kate Linder (Esther), also did not treat you so kindly.  Seems Kate went to the powers-that-be and pitched them a story where Katherine dies and Esther inherits everything including the mansion!  You had to be taken aback by that one?  I couldn’t believe what I was reading!

JEANNE:

I can believe it! (Laughs)  It’s OK.  Kate is aggressive, and she has lived longer in this town on less. The thing of it is, she became an icon for maids on daytime. They tried it on a few other soaps and it doesn’t work, because they don’t have me to bounce off of.  The thing of it is, I made the part work.  I gave her a name.  Kate just wanted to be a leading lady so desperately.  Well, they let her try that, and you saw what happened.  She would go out of her way to help you, as long as her picture was taken with it. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Terry Lester, you say, is one of your favorite actors to ever grace Y&R, and that you have worked with. You also talk about the differences between his Jack Abbott and how Peter Bergman plays the part.  What was it about Terry that you think was so unique and special?

Courtesy/CBS

JEANNE:

Terry was not afraid to step out of the box and try anything.  He had his dark side and shadows, but then most creative people do.  Terry was incredibly creative and sensitive, and he was a very special person.  I thank God he was part of my life, even how brief it was.  But I met Doug Marland (the late head writer of ATWT) through him.  Doug Marland said he would create a role for me as my contract was coming up and things were happening.  I said. “If you write the part, I will do it.”  I even said, “I would come to New York to do it.”  And he went home and had a heart attack and I died.  As for Terry, he nailed Jack Abbott.  It was like a Gig Young playing the part of a second banana, or a Tony Randall.  It’s such amazing parts of my life.  What a very rich and fulfilling life I have had, through the life of Katherine Chancellor!

MICHAEL:

Jeanne, you must have taken a moment after writing your memoirs and all that you have lived, and come to realize what an amazing journey you have gone on in your lifetime!

JEANNE:

I will pass by the book and think, “And that’s only a portion of what you have done and been through.  How about that?   There you are, your face is in my face.”  And it’s hard to realize it’s my face.  It’s me who has been there and done these things. Otherwise, as I have said, everything seemed to come by me and just bump into me.  I never said, “I am going to meet this person, if it’s the last thing I do.”  And there I would be at some event, and I would happen to meet someone I always wanted to meet, and they would know my name!  Oh God, that was thrilling!  It’s amazing, when you get on a plane and are doing a five- hour plane trip, and there is a celebrity sitting next to you who goes, “I know I just shouldn’t do this, but I love your work.”  And I am thinking, of course, they are just like me.  They have their favorite shows and favorite people.  And you think they are so far removed and they are not.  I think what you have to do is appeal to both men and women to reach any level of notoriety in this business.

Courtesy/Harper Collins

MICHAEL:

You have so many fans in the viewing audience, and so many fans of your work including your peers, and all the people who have had the good fortune to know you.  When all is said and done, and you look at your life and you read the last page of your memoir, you must now feel a sense of pride and respect from others that you deserve. 

JEANNE:

The respect from the industry, that includes the press, has been amazing.  It has been amazing how much I have gained in knowledge and in relationships, and it’s been a learning experience.  This life has been a learning experience for me.  That people basically love people, if they are decent human beings, and that I have earned the right to be respected.  I now know it, because so many people have told me.  I am aware of it, and I thank God I was put in a position to do so.

 

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kay/kay
Guest
kay/kay

Great Interview!! Yes I agree Terry Lester’s take was the rich playboy and he played it to the hilt I miss that man great actor.

Sean
Guest
Sean

She’s so amazing. I was a little suprised about all the affairs, especially with beau who played Brock but i can’t wait to read the book. I already have it preordered on my kindle. In a way i feel like i know the family because i know her for years on Y&R and i’ve watched L.A Law episodes many times to see Corbin and her other son Collen was in a few cinnemax movies several years ago.

Doe
Guest
Doe

Michael, loved this interview with Jeanne. I loved the fact that she was so open about her life experiences. Wow! Somereal eye-openers here. But she is one gutsy lady.She is a wonderful actress and whrn she comes into a scene, you know something is brewing. I also like the Katherine-Jill relationship. They really go at it, but truly love each other. Katherine is like a king pin where everything revolves around her.. And Jeanne, you look fabulous.! Can’t wait to read the book. Long may you reign….

Sandee
Guest
Sandee

Love the interview. Can’t wait to read the book!

Mara DeRose
Guest
Mara DeRose

Hello: If one is handicapped how can one go about getting an autographed book signed by Ms Cooper without having to stand on line? I want to present my best friend Kathy with a copy of Ms Cooper’s book for her 70 birthday on Aug 19/12 because she and I are in love with the show and I wanted to give Kathy a special gift because shes battling breast cancer and who knows what could happen? If there is some way please get in touch with me soon so I can purchase it. If Mrs. C would sign the book… Read more »

MBmomof3
Guest
MBmomof3

Thank you for another great interview. Can’t wait to read the book!

Brian Greene
Guest
Brian Greene

Thanks For This Great Interview With Jeanne, Michael! 😀

Charles
Guest
Charles

The Queen of Daytime was IN MINNEAPOLIS!!!!! – at the Mall of America at a book signing event. She was FABULOUS! Fans had tears in their eyes! Her generosity of spirit and love for her loyal fans was unbelievable!!!!!! We love her and are grateful for her talent!!! We are forever grateful for making Y&R the show that it is today. Still number #1………We absolutely love her. I told her myself that her scenes with Jess Walton are the best comedic scenes…..ever! ! The timing is perfect!!!There is no other actress in daytime that is better than MRS C……../Jeanne Cooper

tia
Guest
tia

Is this particular interview on audio somewhere?

terry mitchell
Guest
terry mitchell

What happened to Mrs. Chancellor? Why was she not in attendance at Victor and Nikki’s
43rd Wedding? And where is Murphy! Also would like to have Drucilla’s real name!

Thank you so much!

GINGER
Guest
GINGER

TO: MRS. JEANNE COOPER,
I AM DEEPLY SORRY TO HEAR OF YOUR ILLNESS, I PRAY GOD WILL RESTORE YOUR HEALTH. I HAVE ENJOYED YOU DOWN THOUGHT THE EARS ON YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. CONTINUE TO FIGHT A GOOD FIGHT AS ALWAYS. SMILE
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOU WILL CONTINUE TO BE IN OUR PRAYERS.
GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I.
GINGER

Interviews

Y&R’s Peter Bergman Talks On Dina’s Death & How It Will Impact Jack, His Final Scenes With Marla Adams & Taping During COVID-19

The Abbott family is reeling from the death of their mother, Dina Mergeron, who passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the end of last Friday’s episode; signaling the end of an era for Dina’s portrayer, Marla Adams.  In a pivotal and heart-breaking scene, Dina shares one last goodbye with her children: Traci (Beth Maitland), Ashley (Eileen Davidson) and of course, Jack (Peter Bergman).

Today, the drama continues as the Abbott’s grieve Dina’s death and its aftermath while they remember the life of their flawed mother. This puts Jack at the epicenter of the family, and like it, or not, the new head of the clan.  What does the future hold for him now?

Michael Fairman TV chatted with three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Peter Bergman, who has embodied Jack for over 30 years on the top-rated CBS Daytime drama, to get his thoughts on: how Y&R needed to handle Dina’s death within the confines of the coronavirus pandemic and its safety protocols, what he felt about playing those final scenes with Marla Adams and the significance of the ‘teardrop of love’, and a preview of what fans can expect in the coming days as the impact of Dina’s death will be felt by the Abbott children and extended family.

 

An actor’s actor, you can always expect a conversation with Peter to be forthright, candid and enlightening, and this one was no different.  Here’s what one of the genre’s absolute best had to share about the significance of this story and more.

How has it been returning to Y&R during the pandemic?  I bet you never thought in all of your years in daytime, that you would be doing your scenes socially-distanced, sitting or standing, so far apart from your castmates.

Courtesy/CBD

PETER:  Just getting back to work felt great, loved that.  I wasn’t involved really in romantic scenes at this point, so that I didn’t have to do.  So, all in all, I was very happy to be back, and socially-distancing didn’t really bother me at all, and then Dina died.  Doing that from six feet away was just awful.  You saw the limits at a time where not any of us could be within six feet of each other; where you would usually hold a hand, stroke a brow, and talk softly.  So, I think the writers did what they needed to do to make it work for Dina’s exit.  We are in the middle of COVID, in case anybody forgot, and so you have to ask, ‘Does America really want to watch an elderly woman die in the middle of the Abbott living room or anywhere else?’  So, we had to have Dina’s exit without looking at a dead body, out of respect for the times we are living in.  We had to do a strong, powerful, pivotal scene with our hands tied behind our backs.

Courtesy/CBS

It’s so interesting that you say that because that’s how I felt watching it, knowing what it would have been like, if Jack, Ashley and Traci would have been with Dina at her bedside, up till the end, for instance.  But all of that said, Peter, I got so choked up in your last moments with Marla.  Jack is just sitting there and Dina is telling him how much she loved him and you’re doing the thing that only Peter Bergman can do as the tears well-up in your eyes.  As we have talked about previously, my mom died from complications from Alzheimer’s, so these are always tough types of scenes for me to watch.  I am sure it was also for those in the audience, who have lost a loved one to this disease, many of whom reached out to me on social media following its airing.

PETER:  It’s got to be tough for you to watch.  I get that.

Photo: Ed McGowan/Plain Joe Studios

Yes, so I felt for Jack and Dina in the moment as a son and his mother.  But what did you think about how the scene was written, and what Dina was saying to Jack and his sisters as her final goodbyes to her children and their reactions to it?

PETER:  As written, something in this necklace triggers something in Dina that brings her out of a stupor, brings her out of the murk, the fog for a brief instant to tell the people who she cares the most about that she loves them in slightly different ways.  I have, with everything in me, a struggle to always add in there, “I have a complicated relationship with my mother.”  I’ve added that line in there so many times over the years, you have no idea.  It was a complicated relationship because by the time she dies, there is no kind of straightening that out, there is no kind of Jack looking for answers. The depth of what Ashley is feeling, what Traci is feeling, what Jack is feeling, were kind of lost because of the way we had to do it. The writers had to do it, so I’m not blaming anyone, but because of the way we had to do it, there was no, “Wow, why isn’t Ashley crying?  Why is she just so stoic that this isn’t touching her at all?” because she can’t go there. Traci feeling like she found her place in the family simply by Dina saying, “You’re the beating heart of this family,” and Jack, who is doing the right thing, “She should leave peacefully, she should leave feeling loved, we should all be here, we should give her nothing but love,” damn, this is complicated.  You couldn’t have any of those things.  .  Hopefully, some of that slid in there and we wedged some of those complexities into it, but it was hard to write a complex scene with the situation as it was.  We needed to get it done it one day.  We did not need to drag this out.  Again, were it not COVID time, sure, let’s drag it out.  Let’s spend some time on this.  People die.  Let’s watch the family process a death.

Photo: CBS

I just think of what it all means for Jack moving forward.  Dina basically tells him, “You’re in charge of the family. Look after the family.” That’s kind of where it’s been going for Jack this whole time.  I don’t know if that’s what Jack wanted, but that’s where he is ending up.

PETER:  Right!  That’s where he ends up, and you know, this has been a long time coming.  Dad dies, and it is pretty clear that he’s got to step up, and his mom comes into town, and she’s not just his mother.  She’s Ashley’s mother; she’s Traci’s mother, we’ve got to look out for her and give her the dignity and things like that.  Now, there is just no getting around it.  Jack is the head of the family.  That’s the way it fell.  Twenty-five years ago, was Jack ready to be head of anything?  Absolutely not, but I think enough has happened to Jack now: enough heartache, enough growth, enough introspection, enough losing people, that Jack might just be ready for this job.

Courtesy/CBS

When Marla Adams came back to Y&R 2017, and they started telling the Alzheimer’s storyline, it brought up such abandonment issues for Jack and rightfully so, about how a mother could just leave her family and children,  Throughout all that,  you did such poignant work.

PETER:  I wanted that to be in there at the very end.  One of the powerful parts in this whole thing is that Jack wanted to scream at Dina every bit as much as he wanted to hug her.  That was there for quite a while, and Jack had to kind of come to terms with, “Hey, you’ve been leaning on this excuse for quite a time.  She’s here.  She can’t do you any harm.  She feels bad about what happened.  What do you want, Jack?”

Photo: CBS

One of the highlights of this storyline was when Y&R explored the history and relationship between the siblings, Jack, Ashley and Traci.  We saw their younger versions as the show flash-backed to when Dina left John and the Abbott family.

PETER:  Between the writers and Peter Bergman, we built this story that the night that Dina left, Dad was upstairs with the girls, they were weeping inconsolably, there was no fixing it, there was no telling them that everything was going to be all right.  He didn’t want to lie to them and say she will be right back, he told them, “She’s not coming back,” and he comes downstairs, and Jack is fourteen-years-old, and a little confused, but decided to say to his dad, “Hey, can I help?”  He looks across the room, and his dad is weeping, first time he had ever seen that.  His father is weeping, and he said, “Jack, you’re going to have to help me with the girls.  I can’t do all of this,” and it changed Jack’s life forever.  Jack was a parent to Ashley for a good part of their relationship.  So, all of this stuff with Jack’s identity, all of the fighting with Ashley, all of the Jabot madness is Ashley finally getting to say, “I don’t need a father!  You’re not my father.  Stop talking to me like you’re going to fix things for me!  I’m sick of it.”  All done by Dina … all truly caused by Dina.

Courtesy/CBD

In my interview with Marla, she told me that at the end of her last scene, you and many others came back to the set to pay tribute to her.

PETER:  We did.  The show had arranged it, and Tony Morina, the executive producer, stepped out on the soundstage with a microphone, and Marla sat on the sofa in the Abbott living room. Tony began telling a lovely, lovely story about how far back his relationship with her goes because Marla and Tony wife’s, Sally Sussman (Ex- head writer, Y&R), also had a long-standing relationship.  Tony was just so grand and gracious in saying that there are some people who, if they weren’t an actor, they’d be this or that or the other thing, but that Marla was born to be an actress.  That’s what she is, and it was so generous.  I think she got three and a half years that she didn’t expect to get out of this.  It was supposed to be a six-month storyline, and four years later, she was still there, and it was a good thing for her, and a unique story turn for the rest of us.  It really was.  It was a powerful thing, and now the Abbott family has a new shape.  There are three adults there: Ashley has established her independence, she is not around as much, she is back and forth between Paris, and Genoa City, Traci is trying to be as supportive and kind as she can be, but essentially, Jack is in the big house by himself.

Yep!  Well, now we’ve got to find Jack a good woman.

PETER:  Yes, or a bad woman.

… Or a bad woman!  I’ll take him in a relationship with someone to stir things up.  I also hear coming up, there will be the reading of Dina’s will.  Is there anything you can tease about that?

PETER:  There is a will read, yes.  No one knows what to expect, and Dina … in the end… comes through for almost everybody…

Courtesy/CBS

Well … that ought to be good.

PETER:  Yep… really comes through for almost everybody, and you know, the Abbott children are wealthier, and all three of them are alone, and in no small thanks to Dina for that.  These are three adults who have been very unlucky in love.  Of course, this is the next challenge.  I don’t mean to assume that I have any idea of what you went through in losing your mom, but there is a point at which you also have to let go and say, “Okay, now it is just me, and what do I want to do with this life?  I’ve used this as a reason not to move forward for a good while.  What am I going to do now?”  I think the next turn in the Jack Abbott story comes pretty organically.  Dina’s death frees Jack to be just as alone as he has ever been.

No matter what Jack does, including the bad things, you always see the inner-pain that is very palpable within him, as you have portrayed him.

PETER:  Yes, but he really has grown in the last 30 years.  Jack is hungry for more right now, and he couldn’t really be that way with Mom in the house.  He didn’t have time for that.  Now he has all of the time in the world.  So, we’ll see what he does with that.

Courtesy/CBD

I understand there is a funeral for Dina, but it will be off-camera?  I guess, because of COVID, it is better that way.

PETER:  That’s true and it’s off camera, that’s correct.  What’s important at most of these things isn’t what happens at the gravesite, it is what happens at the reception afterwards, and that is also a fun turn.  So, they all agree as a family they are going to do it at Society, and they kind of close the joint and make it their own little party, and someone shows up who isn’t expected, and it throws a really, really different vibe into the whole thing, and everybody has to adapt.  It’s actually fun, what it turns into.  It turns into a memory fest with crazy stories of Dina.

Courtesy/CBS

Do you have a favorite moment, or memory, of a scene you played with Marla?

PETER:  I think I had a day where Jack tried to get through to her and tell her, “Do you realize the damage you did?  Do you realize?” and she wasn’t able to take it in, and he went to Traci, and he said, “I want to shake her.  I want to yell at her… and I want to protect her.”  I thought there was something just so rich about that.  That was my favorite moment, my favorite part of it, when Jack finally said, “She’s going, man.  We’ve got to get this conversation done now.  We’ve got to talk this through,” and he was too late.   She was too far along with Alzheimer’s.  She wasn’t up to it.  She couldn’t do it.

Photo: JPI

And now here is Jack; and his parents are both gone.  There is no Jerry Douglas or Marla Adams on the show as both John and Dina have passed on within the history of The Young and the Restless.

PETER:  Again, you were generous enough to share your own personal experience, but isn’t it amazing?  Wow, you’re the grownup now.  Isn’t it amazing?  That’s what the Abbott’s are going through: just what you went through.  There is no older generation to turn to for anything.  We are the older generation.  It’s powerful stuff, and I’m really, really grateful for anytime that Ashley, Jack, and Traci are together talking about those things, talking about, “Wow, okay, that just happened… where do we go from here?”  It’s going to be really interesting.  If you asked me, “Over the last 30 years that you’ve played Jack Abbott, have there been many times where you’ve thought, ‘I’ve got no idea where this is going!’”  I would say, “Yeah, right now.”  I’ve got no idea where we are going with this.

Courtesy/CBS

There has been much speculation that the “teardrop of love” necklace will lead Jack to a new romance, or some new adventure in his life.  They spent a lot of time mentioning it in short order, that it would seem it’s not just to bring Dina some closure.  What are your thoughts on it?

PETER:  I think it has legs.  I think you’re going to hear about it again. There is something in there, and I don’t know if it’s the teardrop’s magic charm or that its history is not what it was, or it gets stolen.  I don’t know, but I think we have spent enough time saying ‘teardrop of love’, that there could be a story there.

In Dina’s final moments where Jack brings her the ‘teardrop of love’, wasn’t it symbolic to her because it was her acknowledgement of having her family back together and with her at all times? There is a back-story to that piece of jewelry as well.

PETER:  The point of the necklace is, “This was when I was truly happy, when I had this necklace, when it is all back together,” and maybe we are to know something more about the teardrop…?  I don’t know.  So, this was a gift to her before Jack was born.  She wore it home from the hospital when she brought him home, but we don’t know exactly what year she got it, and we don’t know exactly what year she lost it.  It was stolen, and it was on the black market for a while, and Victor (Eric Braeden) was looking into it.  It was clear that it was very important to Dina.  So, Jack, against his own wishes, said, “No, I’ve got to do the right thing.  I’ve got to try to trace this thing down.  It clearly means something to her.  Maybe she is trying to tell us something.  God only knows.”  So, he did the right thing, not because, “I want to make Mommy happy,” but because he forced himself to do the right thing, to find the damn necklace, and to see what this is about.  Then, we saw the affect it had when he gave it to her.

Photo: CBS

It’s always good to chat and check-in with you during these key and historical moments in the life of the character of Jack Abbott.  There have been many throughout your time on Y&R, and it will be interesting to see where this goes from here.

PETER:  It will be, and I’m telling you, this is a real moment.  Normally, we just go from one story into the next, into the next, and this one has been hanging for so long that, “Okay, now that it is over, wow, what is going to happen to Jack?”  I’m just as curious as everybody else.

So, what do you think will happen next for Jack?  Did you reach for the hankies in Peter’s final scenes with Marla Adams?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Interviews

Marla Adams Talks Her Final Scenes As Dina Mergeron, The Alzheimer’s Storyline, and Her Touching Farewell

Today on The Young and the Restless marks the end of the enduring run of Marla Adams in the role of Dina Mergeron. In story, Dina passes away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a storyline that started four years ago when the CBS Daytime drama brought back the character and Adams; and one that has deeply affected many in the viewing audience who have also had their own personal experience of losing a loved one to this dreadful disease.

If you have not seen today’s episode yet, you may not want to read any further, but needless to say, make sure you have the hankies ready for Dina’s final moments with her children and how she leaves this earth, which will be remembered for quite some time to come.

Marla originated the role of the rich and spoiled Abbott matriarch back in 1983 and portrayed the role on and off for what amounts to five decades. Her classic scenes with Jerry Douglas (Ex-John), Eileen Davidson (Ashley) and so many more from the iconic soap, always made for great and complex stories.

 

With this her final airdate on Y&R, it also puts an exclamation point for Marla on an incredible daytime career having also appeared on: The Bold and the Beautiful. Capitol, Days of our Lives, Generations and The Secret Storm

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Adams in this very special conversation where she shared with us how it was to play these heartbreaking last scenes, the importance of the ‘teardrop of love’ necklace to the story, how Y&R gave her the most overwhelming and beautiful send-off, and her ‘thank you’s’ to all of you, who have been her extended family and are sad to see her go. She is one-of-a-kind …and now, here’s Marla.

Photo: Getty

Marla, I am so glad we have the opportunity to chat in this full-circle moment as you have brought the character of Dina to a close.

MARLA:  It’s such a joy to talk to you.  It seems like yesterday and an eternity as well.   I thought of you so much, and I remember talking to you specifically with all of the different interviews over the years, when I was at the studio.  But I will always remember the interview you did with me and Beth Maitland (Traci), my darling soul sister, and you talked to me about your mother who has since passed on from Alzheimer’s.  I’ll never forget what you had to say all those months ago

Photo: HallmarkChannel

Yes, and when as audience members we watch these stories unfold with characters we have loved, or watched on our screens for years, and there is a death, we feel connected to them as well.  And in this case, as a child who has lost a parent to Alzheimer’s, like many in the audience, you ask yourself first, “Can I watch this?” It hits very close to home, but I’m sure when people watch today’s episode of Y&R and see Dina pass away, they will be extraordinarily moved.

MARLA:  Oh, my gosh.  Wait until you people see Friday’s show.  I know they will be moved.  They should be!  I’ve got friends who I’ve already said to, “Get your Kleenex box out.”  It’s so beautiful what happens at the end of the episode.

Courtesy/CBD

How did you feel about playing Dina’s final scenes?

MARLA:  It was wonderful because it showed her lifetime of sorrow and regret, and what was so wonderful was the fact that the hero of the whole thing is the kindness and respect that she really did have for her whole family.  They had the most beautiful sendoff for me.  They sent me a limo!  I went to the studio, and dear Patti Denney (Make-up artist, Y&R) was there, of course with all kinds of makeup and everything else, and she looked like she was entering the ER room for Covid-19, because of all the safety protocols we must have.  It was unbelievable, the kindness that was served to me.  After we finished taping my final scenes, I came back to the soundstage and they totally surprised me.  Dear Tony Morina (executive producer, Y&R) and Sally Sussman (Ex-head writer, Y&R) were there, and Tony spoke about me, and so did my Y&R extended family and on-screen children: Peter Bergman (Jack), and Beth Maitland, and Eileen Davidson, and much of it was put on tape (see excerpts in video below).  Afterwards, Tony gave me beautiful flowers.  I was driven back home after this, and I felt really special, and it was just amazing to me. I had written Josh Griffith (Current head-writer and co-executive producer, Y&R) a ‘thank you’ for writing the show with his wonderful people, but I never heard back, but when I walked in my apartment, the phone was ringing.  Guess who?  It’s Josh!  He said, “I waited until I knew you would be home to thank you,” and I felt so lovey-doved up, I couldn’t believe it.  I want to read something to you that I received in the wonderful flowers that came the next day from CBS Daytime executive Margot Wain and others.  The flowers were so big that they didn’t fit on the bar!  The card read: “Thank you for bringing the amazing force that is Abbott matriarch, Dina Mergeron to countless fans of The Young and the Restless.  Your vast contribution to Y&R and CBS for more than five decades is unparalleled.  We are forever grateful for all you’ve brought to Y&R as both a consummate professional and a cherished co-worker.  All our best wishes.”  I was just so touched by the sentiments.

Photo: CBS

I also want to share something with you.  When it was revealed in the promo that came out last week that this would be your last show, I received so many notifications on social media, saying, “Oh, my God!  We love Marla!  You have to interview her!”  You are loved by the Y&R fans.  I hope you know that!  They’re sad to see you go, because you’re a legacy character to them, and soap fans have deep connections to characters that have been on their favorite soaps for decades.

MARLA:  Five decades!  My God!  I’m eighty-freaking-two.  I can’t believe it.

Courtesy/CBS

In story, Jack was on a mission to get the ‘teardrop of love’ necklace back to Dina before she died, hoping that she would have one last moment of lucidity and would recall it and it would hopefully make her happy.   He moves heaven on earth to get it, and does, and brings it to her and viewers saw her reaction. 

MARLA:  The necklace had never been anywhere before in story except recently, but I said to myself that I would play it ‘quietly and graciously’, because it made for such a beautiful moment for Dina with her children.

Courtesy/CBS

For Dina, the necklace was a symbol of remaining connected to her family and her children, even when she was not with them all of those years.  In your final scenes, Dina had these moments to say goodbye to each of your children.  Do you remember looking at Eileen, Traci, and Peter taping those highly emotional beats?

MARLA:  Yes, they were so there for me.  They are an extended family that is so precious to me, and playing this iconic character has been, too.  I remember when Sally Sussman told me a few years ago, “ I’m going to bring you back on The Young and the Restless, but you’ve got Alzheimer’s,” and I said, ‘What!?  You’re bringing me back so you can kill me off?’ and she said, “Oh no, it’ll be about a year.”  That dissolved into four years, and now five decades had passed and I was still on Y&R.  I am beyond grateful.

Courtesy/CBD

As an actress, was it hard to play Dina’s final moments when she goes to the light to join her beloved, John?

MARLA:  It was heart-wrenching for me.  In the story, Dina died when she went outside and to the front door of the Abbott home.  They did not tell me before-hand, and that’s why it was so wonderful.  I hope they came in for a closeup of that because I had no makeup on, it was beautiful, and then, Dina said, “Oh, John.”  I’ve done everything from movies, to daytime, to nighttime, to Broadway, but that was the iconic moment for me, to do this gig with wonderful, wonderful actors and friends, and to do this particular storyline.

Photo: CBS

It was 1983 when you first appeared on Y&R.  And through the years, Dina did not do such great things! She had an affair with Brent Davis who was the biological father of Ashley that caused such a rift between mother and daughter for years.  She abandoned the Abbott children and walked out on them and her marriage to John, and that’s just for starters! Dina was a complicated character. Did you love the fact that she could be very selfish at times?

MARLA:  You think?  That’s why I loved her.  Of course!  I can be very selfish, too.  You have to be selfish if you’re an actor, good God. (Laughs).

Courtesy/CBS

It was great that The Young and the Restless brought you back four years ago so that through the telling of the Alzheimer’s storyline that Dina was able to somewhat repair her relationships with her children.  Obviously, over the last many months the audience could not witness the more day to day progression and toll the disease took on Dina and her family in its final stages, but unfortunately with the way COVID-19 has affected shooting daytime soap operas, and all of our lives, including safety protocols, I am sure plans had to be altered,

MARLA:  Of course.  As an actress, this was the most important role of my life, and to have her final moments spread out in one day really is because of all of the fans who have been writing in and wanting to see Dina again,

Photo: CBS

People were rooting for you to win the Daytime Emmy back in 2018 when you were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. That must be a nice moment to carry with you from playing Dina’s final storyline.

MARLA:  Yes, and I should have won!  Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) was furious. (Laughs)  He said, “What do you mean, darling, you should have won!  Goddammit!” He’s a wonderful man and a good friend.  He came to pick me up several times to go to the studio for my last few shows, and that’s the kind of mensch he is. So, I feel just so blessed and I feel great love and loss.  I would like Dina to come back as a ghost, but I have no idea, if that will happen or not. But if the fans would be interested in seeing Dina as a ghost … make sure to write in to the show and tell them!

Courtesy/CBS

Speaking of the fans that have followed you for decades on Y&R, what would you want to say to them now that Dina has passed on?

MARLA:  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for all of the love, the support, and the chance to play Dina out… and I’m thankful that you cared, and loved her, up till the end.

So what did you think about Dina’s final moments on today’s Y&R? Will you miss Marla Adams?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.  But first check out the special behind the scenes tribute for Marla, followed by The Michael Fairman Channel’s interview with Marla and Beth Maitland from Y&R’s 45th anniversary celebration referred to during the above conversation.

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Interviews

B&B’s Jacqueline MacInnes Wood Talks Steffy’s Opioid Addiction Storyline, The Emotional Scenes & Adjustments Made Due To COVID-19

If you have been watching CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful over the last two weeks, you have witnessed the compelling and important storyline unfold with Steffy Forrester (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) at its epicenter.  In a harrowing tale of opioid addiction that can so easily happen to anyone given the circumstances, the daytime drama took on a social issue prevalent and rising in our society today.

This story gave Daytime Emmy-winner, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood another chance to shine in some of the most deeply affecting episodes and scenes in soaps of 2020.  In story, after Bill Spencer (Don Diamont) accidently hit Steffy with his car while she was on her motorcycle; she became hospitalized to treat her injuries. Once there, she met new love interest, Dr. Finnegan or as the show calls him “Finn” played by newcomer, Tanner Novlan. Finn prescribes pain medication for her. But before you know it, once Steffy is out of the hospital and back at home she struggles with the pain and the isolation of her life, and the losses she has experienced over the last many months, and before you know it, she is addicted, and no longer getting the pills from her doctor, but by any means possible.

Last week, we named Jacqui’s work the ‘Power Performance of the Week’, but we are also giving it to her again this week for her masterful performance on Tuesday’s episode, where Steffy breaks down after being confronted by Finn, Liam (Scott Clifton) and her father, Ridge (Thorsten Kaye) and finally coming to the stark realization that she is an addict.

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Jacqueline MacInnes Wood after all the key scenes had aired to: get the inside Intel on what went down taping those moments, and how the show made some important decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic about the telling of this storyline. Here is what Jacqui had to say about: her co-stars, herself, and what she learned about those who struggle with addiction.

Courtesy/CBS

How did you feel about being handed the ball to tell this important story, and how much were you told ahead of time?

JACQUELINE: Originally, I was told that we were going to tell this story, and that was before Covid-19.  So, it was literally the week before we went into lockdown, and we were about to dive into this story. Obviously, I am so grateful to be able to tell this story because traditionally The Bold and the Beautiful has a long list of social stories that we are known for telling.  It is something that that we need to talk about because it is happening, and it is happening everywhere.  Someone knows somebody – it is in our family, or our friends are dealing with this, and I didn’t realize how close to home it was for so many people.  I think that with our show, the way we balance drama, and romance, and real social issues that really touch people, is special.  I noticed that throughout this week with so many people reaching out to me.  People who are police officers, to people who actually work with people who are addicted, people who were addicted have reached out to me.  There have been a lot, but I’m very honored, again, to dive into this story.

A lot of fans and viewers remarked along the lines of “Wow, Steffy got addicted very fast,” because it felt like the story kind of accelerated itself, and some people are like, “Well, they just told it too fast.”  I wondered how you felt about that, knowing what you know about soap operas and research you may have done on addictions.

JACQUELINE:  I did some research on YouTube on opioid addiction from first-hand accounts of addicts and the effect on just them, but also on the grief it had caused their families. I originally had mistakenly thought, “It must take years to become addicted,” and I was very surprised by how quickly and easily one can be trapped in pain management, and many cases are heartbreaking.  You always think, with opioids, “Oh, this can’t happen to a lot of people,” but it’s not just, “Oh, the ‘crackhead’ down the street…”  It could be a mom, or these people who have a surgery, or an accident, and then they just get on these pills, and it happens so quickly.  Yes, the storyline happened extremely fast, but there is truth to it because addiction does happen very quickly in this world.  The other thing I have to say, I think what Brad Bell (executive producer and head writer, B&B) did so elegantly, is that we were going to tell this story, and we were going to tell this story for a very long time.  I love that he was very perceptive to this – that we are in a dark time right now.  It’s a dark world, and I think that it is important, again, to shed some light on this, but we didn’t want to necessarily drag it on too long because it’s like, you watch every news outlet, and it’s depressing, and it’s depressing everywhere.  Before Covid-19, this story would have been a lot longer, and I think it was kind of realizing, “Let’s take it back.  But, let’s dive into this.” I think we were also being mindful of the viewers because we are shedding light on this, but also, opioid addiction had now skyrocketed through this pandemic, and this quarantine.  I think, again, it’s important to tell this story, but we didn’t want to be another show that is just so depressing right now during such a depressing time.

Photo: JPI

Right, so the story won’t be as elongated , but obviously, she will always have this addiction now, which is always great as a character, to delve back into, that Steffy will have in her physical and emotional make-up now.

JACQUELINE:  Absolutely.  She will always have that.  She will always have to be mindful of it.

What did you think about Dr. Finn in all of this?  Do you think that he should have caught on earlier that this was happening to Steffy?

JACQUELINE:  (Laughs) Yes, absolutely.  I think, Steffy was pretty good at hiding it from him, especially the last time when she invited him over, and she said she didn’t need the pills.  However, on Tuesday’s episode when there was that huge explosion, and he really got to see that visceral side of Steffy as defiant and angry, that was a lot for him to take in.  Tanner has been doing such an incredible job of diving into this and telling this story, but yeah, you wonder if Finn noticed, but again, I do think Steffy was pretty good at hiding it.

She was pretty slick, but when she got the pills from Vinny, I kept thinking, “What did he give her?”, because they seemed awfully strong, or laced obviously with another drug. 

JACQUELINE:  When Steffy got the pills from Vinny, that was the first thing I said, “Is this just opioids?” Now, she’s getting it off the street, and we just don’t know.  It’s laced with God-knows-what.  She has no idea because she’s not getting it from an actual doctor; she’s getting it from Vinny.

Courtesy/CBS

So, when Tanner came to the show, did you read screen-test with him?  What was your initial thought of him and Steffy finally having a potential new relationship?

JACQUELINE:  He is absolutely wonderful.  It’s funny because we have a lot of friends in common, and he is a fellow Canadian, and we bonded over that.  He originally screen-tested, I think, a few days before we went into lockdown.  So, who knew that we were not going to be able to work with each other for months and months and months, but he has been completely added to the group, and it is a different world that we are navigating, especially with how we are filming on set and the 8 feet apart rules, and you have these emotional scenes, and you feel like you just want to grab someone, and hold them, and cry.  I have so many fans going, “My God, I just wanted one of the characters to hold you!” and then you’re like, “COVID,” and nobody can really touch me, so…

Photo: JPI

Isn’t he kissing his wife though as your stand-in?  B&B alum, Kayla Ewell?

JACQUELINE: Yes, yes he is!  I just thought it was priceless that, how long have I been on the show, that Steffy has just been pining away for Liam for years, and years, and years, and finally gets the go-ahead, and she’s going to get a new love interest, and I’m like, “Woo-hoo!” and then, COVID happened, and I find out, “Your love interest is going to be a doll!”  So, he gets his wife, which is great.  My husband has been completely supportive, but my husband has not come in.  I don’t think it would work playing opposite him as Tanner, but his wife actually has a very similar look to me, which is great.  So, she’s been in a few times, which has been amazing!  I get the foam doll. (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

I was just thinking it’s so funny, too.  Steffy FINALLY gets a new man, but she is with a doll! 

JACQUELINE:  I know, I know.

Photo: JPI

What’s great about when you get to play these kinds of emotional levels in an addiction storyline … or anything that kind of flips the character’s mental state, is that you get to see the anguish.  You know, we’ve never seen Steffy discuss or really say anything about having Beth taken from her, whom she raised her as ‘Phoebe’, and then losing Liam to Hope, and this is kind of addressing her pain through this story arc, which I thought was really good, that it wasn’t just swept under the table.  The characters, the audience, and Steffy were realizing that she had emotional baggage and distress over those losses.  How did you feel when taping those scenes with the confrontation where she pulls out a switchblade on Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang), Ridge, Liam and Hope (Annika Noelle)? Those were great scenes. 

JACQUELINE:  Thank you, thank you.  We didn’t know how we were going to be able to do these scenes.

Because of the social distancing?

JACQUELINE:  Well, yeah, social distancing!  We did it in one take.  It was a long 10-12 page scene.

Photo: Gilles Toucas/Bell-Phillip Television

Well, the final 7 minutes of that episode were just a riveting; which included that knife scene, which in itself was gut-wrenching to watch, as I assume it must have been to play?

JACQUELINE:  It was a big scene, and it was a big, emotional week for all of us, obviously, and I couldn’t have done it without my cast.  They were so phenomenal as well.  We were trying to think, “How are we going to do this?”  Thorsten Kaye came up with this idea that Steffy should have a knife because Ridge would want to go to her and grab her, and the only thing that would maybe keep him away.  She is so angry, and she does have so much emotional baggage, and yes, she is in pain from her motorcycle accident, but I think that a lot of people saw in that phone call from Hope, where Hope said, “Oh, Kelly wants to spend another night,” that was that whole mental shift of, “Oh, my God, this is my worst fear.  It’s finally happening.  My daughter doesn’t want to stay here.  I am truly alone.  I don’t have anybody.”  Her life up to now has been about raising Kelly, and then that was that whole baggage unload – the pain of all of the years of what the Logans had done to the Forresters – it was just a domino effect. She obviously is not dealing with the pain in a pragmatic way.  I think Steffy was using the pills to mitigate her misery, physically and emotionally.

Courtesy/CBS

I think there were two turning points … after the switchblade incident, when she finally realized, “Oh, my God, what am I doing?  I’ve got this knife,” and she gets rid of it.  She does seem to have these moments (in that episode and the one that aired Tuesday) where she realizes, “Oh, my God, I’m messed up,” which were heartbreaking moments.  Do you remember playing that moment of, “Oh, my God, I’m an addict,” where Steffy admitted it out loud?

JACQUELINE:  Yeah!  It was extremely difficult.  I’m really good at being able to work on set and being able to leave it behind.  That’s the one thing that people will say to me, “What is it like off of set?  It must be so emotional for you!”  Once we say cut, I’m done.  I don’t mentally check out from the scenes, but I’m just able to let go because we just have so many episodes and so many emotional scenes, but I have to say this took a little while to shake.  I had to get into my car, and I was still emotional, and I had to put some good music on, and blare it, and drive home.  To know that these things are happening in the world and it is happening to so many people, it just breaks my heart, and I still get emotional about it.  It is gut-wrenching to know that this happens.  When I have those emotional scenes, (especially like that) I can’t fake it.  That’s just not who I am.  I can’t just fake cry to get through it.  Yeah, I’m an actor, but even though we film so quickly, even though it’s usually just one take, even though we are crying all day with all of these scenes, I really like to emotionally get there.  Obviously, over the years, I’ve learned to get there quicker, and I am really proud of myself for that, but what you see is what you get.  Those are real emotions.  I am just as present as I possibly can be in that scene and just listening to Ridge, and Liam, and Finn and just taking it all in – then Steffy realizes that she is addicted, just that moment of everything breaking down; her whole world was falling apart.  I think it was an important moment, but we were just really there for one another in that scene.

 

Scott Clifton, I just really want to say, throughout that week, had to play annoyingly holier-than-thou with you as Steffy.  People were annoyed with Liam.  He was the perfect annoyance to get her really pissed off!

JACQUELINE:  Yeah, I know!  It was actually funny at one point because so many fans were like, “Steffy was out of her mind!  She was clearly on drugs!”  I love the Steffy fans who were like, “Liam is so wrong!”  You could see how loyal the fans were.

Courtesy/CBS

They were!  It was great, but Liam was super annoying. That being said; did you watch back last Friday’s episode where after Steffy runs out, the camera pans to Scott, and Liam breaks down and cries?  So good. 

JACQUELINE:  Yep, yep.  I know, it was so good, and that was him!  That’s what I find so beautiful is that when you are in that scene, you don’t know what the reactions are going to be, and I know that was so true and authentic of Scott.  It was a genuine emotion that came out of him. I hadn’t seen him break down in a long time, but it was so unexpected, but I was glad to see it, really glad.

Photo: JPI

We haven’t seen Bill Spencer come to Steffy yet.  How does she feel about that?

JACQUELINE:  That’s a good question.  I don’t know how Steffy is going to feel about that.  I think, obviously before the addiction happened, she would blame him for hitting her on her motorcycle, but you never know, things could change coming up with Bill and Steffy.

Well, he will probably blame himself now for the addiction, I would think, because he hit her.

JACQUELINE:  I think so, too.  That’s one of the things he may be playing in those scenes.  So, we shall see.

Courtesy./CBS

Talk to me about Thorsten Kaye in those scene with you as the dad, because in the episode we saw Tuesday, there was a powerful moment when he just sat beside Steffy, but not holding her at the very end.  I thought that was a very nice touch given also Covid-19 protocols.  At that point they weren’t dragging Steffy out into a rehab facility.  We just watched him sitting there quietly while Steffy had this reckoning to herself. 

JACQUELINE:  I really liked it.  I liked that we had a lot of those chill moments of taking each other in. Thorsten and I get along so well.  We’ve just always had a bond, and I love working with him because in rehearsal, we do something one way, and then, again, when you’re filming, it’s always so unexpected, you don’t know what he is going to throw at you, which makes you be even more present.  It’s a tough scene.  I was feeding off of him and vice versa, and I’m sure he was putting himself in that situation of God-forbid if his daughters were in this situation, and you know, I’m looking at him in that father-daughter moment and seeing him become emotional for his daughter.  It just kills you, it really does, but it was a heartbreaking moment, but I like how we ended the scene: with something as very simple as sitting beside each other.

Courtesy/CBS

Your fans and the soap pundits are saying that obviously you have your Emmy reel for next year, it’s done.  It’s right there.  This may just make you a two-time Lead Actress Daytime Emmy winner.

JACQUELINE:  Aw, that’s so sweet.

It is great for you because you have an arc of a story there to tell, and we’ve talked about this before – an arc of a story for a submission in Emmy competition seems what many of the judges like to see and can understand because they watch the performer in scenes from the progression of a story.   

JACQUELINE:  Definitely, and it was nice to know that I was going to do this story and that we were going to tell this story, but once we came back months later, I didn’t know that we were still going to dive into opioid addiction with Steffy, because again, with our show, and with a lot of soaps, storylines change all of the time. I am very grateful for it.

 

So, what can we tease?  Will Steffy get Kelly back, or will she be estranged from her for a little bit?  What do you think?

JACQUELINE: I think that Steffy is a strong woman, and I think she will come back stronger than ever, and I think she will get her daughter.

Courtesy/CBS

You should be very, very proud of this work, Jacqui!

JACQUELINE:  Thank you.  I am.  During the week, when we had all of the dialogue to do, and it’s a different world now when you’re taking care of a toddler, and then with the Covid-19 protocols, and then you get the story, (and again, so grateful for it), but it was so much dialogue, and going back and forth, and making sure you’re bringing it emotionally, and it was extremely challenging, to say the least,  But, I am really proud of myself that come that Friday I was like, “Oh, my God, we did it.  We did it!”

What have you thought of Jacqueline’s performances in the opioid addiction storyline? Were you glad to hear the show decided not to drag out the story due to the times we are all in? Do you feel this storyline was powerful and could help those in need of help? Share your thoughts on the interview with Jacqui and more via the comment section below.

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Video du Jour

B&B’s Jacqueline MacInnes Wood deliver the Power Performance of the Week as Steffy’s drug addiction leads to a confrontation and intervention by her loved ones with dire consequences.  Here is the last seven minutes that featured Emmy-winner Wood at her best. Leave A Comment

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Power Performance

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General Hospital

Airdate: 10-08-2020

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