Daytime veteran Jess Walton (Jill, THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS) admits that she could never have envisioned her life the way it is now. “I could never have imagined being up here in the north woods [in Oregon]!” she laughed to Soaps In Depth. “It was 12 degrees this morning! And I could never have imagined the love I have for my grandkids! Babies would come on the set, and [the late] Jeanne [Cooper, Katherine] would be all over them, everyone would be holding them, but I was never that into other kids except for my son [Cole]. These four [grandchildren], though… people used to tell me for years that being a grandparent is different. And I never believed them, but it’s so true!
“I’m not downgrading being a parent,” she hastened to add. “I watch my daughter-in-law, who is a wonderful mother, but she has four children and a million details that she’s taking care of. Grandparents have a chance to sit with their grandkids, devote their time to them. It’s just amazing to me. It really is!”
Also amazing to the actress is that she continues to commute to L.A. in order to breathe life into the character that she’s played for 32 years. “I’m ecstatic that a woman of my age still has a job in Hollywood,” Walton said. “I’m really excited that the fans still want to see me on their TV screens and that the show still wants me. And Y&R does it at my convenience. I really couldn’t have designed this better, but I really do believe in my heart of hearts that we design our lives by our dreams.”
In fact, if there is one piece of advice the soap vet would share with younger people, it’s to stay positive. “Keep your focus on your dreams, because that is the vibe you’re going to put out there,” she insisted. “Keep your mind off the fears, the dangers… People who are only focused on the negative, their lives tend to spiral downward, while people who have positive energy have mostly happy lives.”
Walton’s radiance testifies to the fact that she practices what she preaches. Indeed, she expresses delight that Y&R included old clips of her scenes with Peter Bergman (Jack) in the special episode that celebrated his three decades on the show. “Jill was so bad!” she chuckled. “When I watched the episode, I even thought to myself that I need to bring a little of that back. In this business, you are always reshaping your character. I remember in years gone by, I would pick up scripts where Jill was really bad, and I would soften her for a few weeks so she wouldn’t be a one-note character. But I love that [vixenish] side to Jill!”
Of course, if she wasn’t living in Oregon, Walton says that she’d relish a story in which Jill ran Chancellor Industries. “I would love to go head-to-head with Victor and Jack. I love boardroom scenes. Jill would always look fondly at Jack’s office. And for a time, Jill had her own office. There was a statue of a naked man in it!” she laughed. “It was perfect! Really, [Y&R’s co-creator, the late] Bill Bell created such an interesting character when he created Jill. It’s been so much fun to play her!”
For more from your favorite Y&R stars, keep reading the CBS edition of Soaps In Depth magazine.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine