May 11, 2013

Longtime 'Young & the Restless' star Jeanne Cooper dies at 84
by Lynette Rice

Jeanne Cooper, who played matriarch Katherine Chancellor on CBS’ hit soap The Young and the Restless, died on May 8th. She was 84.

Cooper, who has starred in the daytime series since its first year in 1973, had been in and out of a Los Angeles hospital recently due to an undisclosed illness. Her actor/son Corbin Bernsen had been informing fans of her condition via Facebook, where he confirmed her death today. “My mother passed away this morning just a short time ago, peaceful with my sister by her side, in her sleep. I was going to visit this afternoon, thought I had time. Reminder to self – time is a precious thing. I too am at peace however. I said my goodbyes several times over during the last few weeks.

“I’ll go one last time now for a gentle kiss a final farewell for this lifetime,” he continued. “She has been a blaze her entire life, that beacon, that boxer I spoke of earlier. She went the full twelve rounds and by unanimous decision… won! And while her light finally gave into the wind that gives flight to all our journeys, there will always be a glimmer left behind by what she stood for. I will speak about that more in coming days, months I suppose. I will certainly dedicate what remains of my life to continue her purpose of honesty, equality, humility, empathy and love.”

No cause of death was revealed.

Cooper in 1977
A California native who was born with the name Wilma Jeanne, Cooper had a flourishing career as a journeyman TV actor — she made countless appearances in shows that varied from Playhouse 90 and Twilight Zone to Gunsmoke and L.A. Law — when she was approached about a role on a daytime drama that was in development at CBS.

“(My agent) said ‘I know you. You won’t like doing it,” Cooper told EW recently. “Even with the stage you don’t like doing it for six months. You will get very bored playing the same person.’ I said you’re right, so I just kept hiding on island after island in Hawaii. Finally (Producer) John Conboy said, we have to have her. I caught a red-eye out for the table read. William Gray Espy, the young lead who played Snapper, warned everybody that I was a tough lady who doesn’t put up with a lot of nonsense.

“I was going to give it my all for three years but all of a sudden, when you are creating another person who grows with you, Katherine grew with me. I grew with her.,” Cooper continued. “It was fascinating. Then, of course, I got a divorce and couldn’t afford to be too terribly hard ass about what I was and wasn’t going to do. You have to admit, to have a paycheck coming in weekly for 40 years is pretty great. I did not join this show when I was 21. I was 45. Everybody was shocked I would do this and stay with it. [Co-creator] Bill Bell gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted.”

Cooper’s fan base — not to mention her stardom — exploded when she allowed the soap to incorporate her real-life facelift into the storyline. Cameras were there when her Beverly Hills plastic surgeon took off the bandages to reveal the results of her surgery for the first time.

Cooper and the soap were also was lauded for shining a light on alcoholism. The actress told EW that she was routinely approached by recovering alcoholics, who thanked her for the storyline. They also offered up their AA sober chips.

The actress was nominated 10 times for a Daytime Emmy and two times for a Primetime Emmy. She won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and finally took the gold for playing Katherine Chancellor in 2008.

“You can have a life with this show,” Cooper said recently about her longtime gig on Young and the Restless. “Lots of actresses say they want to do movie but that’s for only three months. It all depends on where you want to hang your lights. If you want to be a movie star, then this is entirely different. I never wanted to be a movie star. I always wanted to be an actress, one of the best. And I am.”

Jeanne Cooper Tribute to Air on May 28th

Jeanne Cooper, 84, star of CBS’ The Young and the Restless will be honored in a tribute to air May 28.

An episode of the daytime soap opera will feature Cooper’s family and friends as well as cast members of the show.  They will share their fondest memories of the actress as well as review clips from her time on the series.  It will also feature interviews from the show’s 40th anniversary.

Angelica McDaniel, Daytime CBS executive opines, “Jeanne Cooper was a legend and we want to give her the tribute she deserves.”  She goes on to say, “The cast will honor their longtime friend, family member and coworker in the greatest way possible, as we celebrate her life and vibrant spirit and share it with the audience who loved her as much as we did.” (