Friday, May 01, 2009

Interview Y&R: Jess Walton Sets the Record Straight, Part 1

There was a weekend last month when Jess Walton was no longer Jill Abbott. Different magazines reported various reasons for her leaving, as well as for her change of heart. One outlet printed that after Jess “discussed the matter with a beloved The Young and the Restless co-star, she and the show hammered out a new deal.”

Jess wants to set the record straight, stating: “It had nothing to do with my co-stars. It had to do with my family and this economy. I felt so bad that so many people have lost their jobs, that all of a sudden I thought: ‘This is really silly. I have a wonderful job, and I really think I owe it to myself and my family to continue on.’

“But I really was off and done. I really did come back in that one weekend. I am very fond of Maria (Bell, co-headwriter) and the Bell family. I am very fond of my co-stars and the crew. But, ultimately, it was a decision between my family and me, and had nothing to do with anyone at work.”

Another big piece of news happened around the same time: the cancellation of long-running soap-opera mainstay Guiding Light. When Jess and the rest of the Y&R cast found out, she reveals: “We were shocked. I was walking down the hall, and Eric Braeden (Victor Newman) asked: ‘Did you hear? Guiding Light just got canceled.’ The first thought that came to mind was gratitude that we are still on and that our show is still going strong, and we have a really nice place to work. We get along so well and we laugh all the time; it’s really, really nice working there.”

Aside from monetary or economic reasons, Jess has an even better reason for further exploring the character of Jill: “I have to say that the turn the character is taking (finding out she is not Katherine Chancellor’s daughter) is really intriguing to me. This came up right before the negotiations. It’s kind of hard to say goodbye to her when she is just turning a corner and becoming all feisty again.”

Dedicated viewers know the reason behind her feistiness: Jill is reeling from the news that she is not Katherine’s daughter. Jess recalls when she first realized something was fishy.

“As I was reading the scripts, I was thinking, ‘Who’s screwing with the DNA?’ Then I realized, no one is screwing with the DNA; the DNA isn’t matching. I am very excited about the new story line. I am always glad when there’s a big change.”

Although Jess is grateful for the new angle to her relationship with Jill, she admits: “I very much liked the fact that they were mother and daughter. I just don’t know that it was ever handled right. I just thought that we’d been playing one thing for so long that the new direction would have to add something interesting, it would add other dimensions, instead of just ‘You old cow!’ and ‘You tramp!’”

Now that these old rivals are no longer related, Jess is anxious to see where this will lead them. “We’ve now had 32 years of a feud, and I don’t know how long you can just flat-out play that. With this new discovery, we’ve had a whole new change-up, and we could play off this. Now we can come back to the feud with renewed vigor, with fresh eyes.”

Check back next week as Jess discusses the emotional impact of this revelation on Jill, and the new Jill we can expect to see.