After playing Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless for the last 32 years (the longest running cast member), Jeanne Cooper has done it all, seen it all, and been through it all. But she still finds coming to work a pleasure and everyday a new adventure. In fact, she loves it so much that she recently signed a new three year contract.
'You know...at first I admit I thought should I resign? But then I thought, this is my second family. It's like second nature. The powers that be were wonderful. They met my stipulations, so what the heck?' Cooper said. 'Also I'm not looking to be the president of the studio. At this stage in my life, I've already made my mark in this business. I don't have to fight.'
Cooper added that playing Katherine is just an 'absolute joy.' People call her Katherine on the street, and to Cooper that's the greatest moment any actress can have.
'It really is. I'm always so touched. Many times people don't know my real name, but refer to me as Katherine,' Cooper said. 'It's knowing that that the character of Katherine has such power and influence on people. To me it's just an honor.'
Cooper said that Katherine is loved by all. She's adored by people of all ages, income bracket, and walks of life. Kids think they would like a grandmother like Katherine.
Soapdom needs to know are you anything like Katherine, and why has she survived so long? 'I'm like her to the point of being independent and having a zest for life. I'm a survivor. As for her longevity...I think her wealth is an attractive part to the viewer, and that she is able to deal with every problem on a human element, but then again, if you cross her, she has the ability to cut off your legs.'
Cooper has garnered five Daytime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and last year a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She also received a Soap Opera Digest Award and the Soap Opera Digest's Editor's Award for playing Katherine. In 2004 she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Daytime Emmy's.
A veteran actress of TV, stage, and screen, Cooper earned her first Emmy nomination in 1961 for an episode of Ben Casey, and another nomination as Outstanding Guest Performer for a recurring role on 'LA Law' playing the mother to her real-life son, Corbin Bernsen (Arnie Becker).
She recently starred in 'Carpool Guy' a movie with all soap stars that was directed by Bernsen. And what was it like working for her son? 'Well.. I've worked with him many times, but in 'Carpool' he was great! He's so creative. Of course, I disagreed with him on certain things, but he was the director,' Cooper laughed.
The highlight of her career was to receive a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993.
'It was a remarkable day. To think that I made a mark in this town,' Cooper said. 'Having my star is something I will always be proud of.'
Cooper worked with some of Hollywood's greatest. She began her film career in 1953 with Maureen O'Hara in 'The Redhead From Wyoming,' followed by 'The Man From Alamo' with Glenn Ford to name a few. She likewise appeared with Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Jon Voight, and Frank Sinatra. She also starred with the late Shelley Winters in 'Let No Man Write My Epitaph.'
'Everyone knows that Shelley recently passed, but she was one that I always called my friend,' Cooper said. 'Shelley was quite a gal. She was at Universal under contract when I arrived, and to think of how far she has come. Honestly, she was not a blinding beauty, but look at the mark she made.'
Copper has handled success in all her ventures as well as The Young and the Restless with dignity, wisdom, and charm.
'I've always said, I'm never bigger than the show. I have helped the show. I contribute,' Cooper said. 'I am just grateful to be making a living at what I enjoy, and that is to act. It takes to much energy to be more important than the other person.'
In 1984, Cooper made TV history as her real-life facelift was televised on The Young and the Restless, as her character underwent surgery at the same time. It was the first such story ever to be broadcast in soap opera history.
Cooper did admit that she would like to see The Young and the Restless and other shows have storylines for mature actors. She feels that putting them to back burner status is like putting aside your family.
'I do. I know corporate looks at things differently, but the fact is that we veterans don't want a rocking chair, and if they want to bring in rocking chairs then give them to the writers,' Cooper said. 'I admit there are days I take a deep breath at the script, but I just go in and do my job of what I was hired to do. I can tell you another vet is also not thrilled.'
The always outspoken Cooper said that storylines have changed, and in her opinion for the worse. 'Everything is about the kids. The stories move so slow and lack the content that is needed.' Her belief is that is why the shows are loosing viewers.
'Everything today is love, hate, and sex. They lost control of the growth,' Cooper adamantly said. 'There is no intense storyline. There needs to be core stories. Stories should show problems like a suicidal teen, or problems like drugs, financial, things that people face. The show should be used as a teaching tool mixed in with drama. Pick a topic, do your research, and go for it. We need to represent family, and we are excluding that.'
She hinted that she'd like to see Katherine be more of a titan. Be out front and fighting, and not just be there babysitting, or answering characters questions.
Cooper recently met some of the 'Desperate Housewives,' and discussed with Marcia Cross (Brea) the popularity of their show, and both ladies agreed that the viewers want back the 'Knots Landing' and Dallas' type shows. 'Give the audience what they want, and that's drama! And you will join up at the hip,' Cooper said.
She believes reality shows have also taken over, leaving much to be desired.
'C'mon...eating bugs? No way! If the networks want reality shows then let's have one that should make a difference, like end the war. Hollywood has lost its luster, but I hope, will try to find its way back.'
Away from the business, Cooper enjoys planting flowers of the season and adding color to her beautiful Hollywood home and spending a lot of time with her grandchildren.
Her home consists of an office with a collection of many fine collectibles over her years in show business. She prides on collecting theatre programs, huge photos with various celebrities adorn the walls, and the office is full of stuff she receives from her fans. 'I'm just what you call a pack rat.'
She is currently penning her autobiography that will be filled with stories and photos, as well as a beginning, middle, and end. She hopes the book will be released this Spring.
She is an avid spokesperson for 'No2Debt,' a company that helps people reclaim their lives by getting out from under the burden of debt.
'People, rip up those credit cards. Learn to live with discipline, not the politicians. Ask yourself...do you really need those designer jeans?' Cooper said. 'No2Debt is remarkable. They help consolidate your bills and teach you along the way. You know, even Hollywood is guilty. It's all about the clothes. Take an award show, everyone is concerned what someone is wearing, but asked them what that party was nominated for or won, and they don't know.'
Asked to sum up her remarkable life? 'Blessed! Truly Blessed. I've worked with great people and still continue to do so. And my thanks to all my fans for their loyalty. I promise to never disappointment you.'
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