‘The Young and the Restless’: Jess Walton Talks Jeanne Cooper, Saying Goodbye to Billy, and Working With Tristan Rogers

The Young and the Restless (Y&R) fan favorite, Jess Walton (Jill Abbott), has been on the CBS daytime drama for over 30 years. The Y&R audience has seen Walton grow, fight with Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) and fall in love multiple times. One thing Jill has never wavered in was her love for her son, Billy Abbott (Jason Thompson). Jill’s scenes a few weeks ago, fighting to keep her son alive after being told there was no hope for a recovery was heartbreaking.

On Air On Soaps sat down with Jess Walton and got her take on working with Jeanne Cooper, saying goodbye to Billy, and what is like to work with Tristan Rogers. Jess thanked her fans for always standing by her, and to this day cannot believe the fan support for her alter ego, Jill.

Jess Walton said taping the scenes surrounding turning Billy’s life support off were emotional and rich in The Young and the Restless history. It brought up a decades-long battle between Jack (Peter Bergman) and Jill Abbott and how they both wanted to do what was best for Billy. Jess explained that Jill (as most mothers in the same situation) couldn’t understand why Jack would agree to turn off the life support — even if that was Billy’s wishes. Jill wanted her son alive and refused to give up hope he wouldn’t make a recovery.

Jess explained that when taping, she was able to get in the zone and become Jill in a way she cannot explain. There was a moment when Jack decided to turn off the life support — you could see the pain in Jill’s eyes, worried about the little boy’s fate. Even though Jill was aware that it was Billy’s wish to be allowed to be free of life support, she had a hard time coping with the thought of losing him.

“I think it’s every mother’s pain. They can relate to that and the horror of the situation. We were all crying for days. I thought this is all very maudlin for the audience with this unrelenting grief.”

Jess said it was important to the cast to mention Katherine Chancellor in their goodbyes to Billy. Walton explained that when you have the threat of someone close to you die, often (you) take comfort in that deceased loved one will take care of them. The mention of Katherine was a beautiful touch from the writers, and it helped bring his family some solace knowing Mrs. Chancellor would take Billy under her wing.

“It felt amazing doing that line and bringing Katherine (Jeanne Cooper) into the story. That’s the thing about grief and death that those left behind believe that when their loved one passes they will be greeted by someone that they know and love. So, I think Jill was trying to comfort her son in that way. It was really hard, because Jill would have fought till the bitter end to keep her son alive.”

Jess bragged the new Billy Abbott is such a talented actor. Jason Thompson’s first day of taping was full of decades long of drama, and he never missed a beat. Jason was enthralled in a the fight to keep him alive and had scenes with Delia Abbott (Sophie Pollono) straight off the bat. Jess Walton said she was extremely impressed with his dedication to the role, and his professionalism to ensure each scene was not only great acting but historically accurate for the audience.

“I’ve had so many different Billy’s! However, each and everyone I have loved, and that’s the truth. Each and every one of them, I really feel like I connected with as mother and son. I had magnificent relationships with Burgess Jenkins, and with David Tom. I know they also really enjoyed our scenes, too. We all got along well together. I often wondered if it’s because in real life I had a son around the same age, so that portraying that type of relationship is very easy for me.”

Jess Walton explained working with Tristan Rogers is such an incredible experience, and has been her favorite significant other for Jill. Having loved her time with Jerry Douglas (John Abbott), Jess explained there is someone magical almost about Rogers. On screen, Jill and Colin are in love and an excellent place. Jill knows what he is capable of, and even so loves him for who he is not for who he could be. Jess previewed that in the coming weeks, Colin and Jill will have a major storyline in the coming weeks.

Soap Opera Digest noted that what makes Jill such a compelling character is that Jill is such a versatile character. When she needs to be tender, she can be — and when needs to be tough as nails, she rises to the occasion. Jill is the one of those characters that the audiences roots for her even if she’s in the wrong (for example, her affair with Phillip Chancellor).

Jess Walton said she envisioned Jill becoming the wise one and taking over Katherine Chancellor’s advice role on the show. Jess said that The Young and the Restless has been a huge part of her life, and feels a sense of gratitude for the fans and supporters for backing her for so long. Jess Walton said her journey is not over–if Y&R calls her to work, she will report to work for as long as they will have her!

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[Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images]