Exclusive: How The Young and the Restless Will Deal With the Death of Jeanne Cooper
Jeanne Cooper | Photo Credits: Jim Spellman/WireImage
The loss of Emmy winner Jeanne Cooper is a staggering blow to the daytime drama community and to the millions of fans of The Young and the Restless, where she spent nearly 40 years as supernova Katherine Chancellor. CBS plans to honor the actress, author and humanitarian, who died May 8 at age 84, with a 60-minute tribute airing on Y&R Tuesday, May 28.
Cast members taking part are Jess Walton (Jill), Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki), Eric Braeden (Victor), Peter Bergman (Jack), Doug Davidson (Paul), Christian LeBlanc (Michael), Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), Tracey Bregman (Lauren), Kristoff St. John (Neil), Greg Rikaart (Kevin), Billy Miller (Billy), Daniel Goddard (Cane), Kate Linder (Esther), Bryton James (Devon), Tricia Cast (Nina), Lauralee Bell (Cricket), Beth Maitland (Traci), Michael Fairman (Murphy) and Jerry Douglas (John), plus The Bold and the Beautiful's John McCook (Eric) and Heather Tom (Katie). Eileen Davidson (Ashley) and Michael Damian (Danny) were invited to participate but were forced to decline due to schedule conflicts. Stephen Nichols (Tucker) and Beau Kazer (Brock) are also on the invite list, but are not yet confirmed. The memorial episode will be helmed by longtime Y&R director Sally McDonald.
But what about Cooper's beloved character? Will Kay Chancellor also die, or will the show recast the role, as has been rumored? TV Guide Magazine sat down for an exclusive chat with Y&R executive producer Jill Farren Phelps to get the facts.
TV Guide Magazine: The outpouring of love and sadness over Jeanne is unprecedented in daytime, wouldn't you say?
Phelps: I've never seen anything like it in all my years in this business. It's a real phenomenon. But then there was never anyone like Jeanne Cooper. She is the heart of this show and it's just devastating. There are a lot of tears, still. Jeanne was a loud and wonderful voice in these halls, and for that voice to be silenced — on the show and in life — is shocking. So hard to believe.
TV Guide Magazine: Tell us about the plans to honor her on air, and what you plan to do about her character.
Phelps: We're going to have the actors closest to Jeanne — probably 25 in all — sit in the Chancellor mansion set and tell stories and reminisce about her life, as themselves. We'll serve tea and let everyone talk and cry and laughs and share and we'll find the best photos and clips we can get our hands on and edit it all together into a beautiful celebration episode. This is all for Jeanne. And then later we will deal with the death of Kay Chancellor. We've already written the show into July, so it will take some time before we can address her departure on air. In the meantime, there will be references in the script that Katherine and her husband Murphy are off somewhere on a trip.
TV Guide Magazine: Was there any thought to handling this the way Brad Bell dealt with the death of Darlene Conley on The Bold and the Beautiful — by sending her character, Sally Spectra, gallivanting around the world, leaving us with the comforting feeling that she'll always be out there somewhere?
Phelps: We decided, for the sake of the audience and the characters, that it was important to have closure with Kay. And, contrary to rumors, we never gave a thought to recasting the role — not for a minute! Y&R was forced to do it when Jeanne was out ill for a bit a couple of years ago, when she was replaced by Michael Learned. But that was a temporary situation. You cannot replace the irreplaceable. The greatest way to honor Jeanne is to make Kay's exit as dramatic and meaningful as possible.