Jess Walton on Y&R's Jeanne Cooper: "She Was My Friend and I Loved Her"

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In 1987, an actress from the newly-defunct series Capitol had the unenviable task of recreating the insanely-popular role of schemer Jill Foster Abbott on CBS Daytime's The Young and the Restless. Unlike most soap opera recasts, where success or failure depends on chemistry with an opposite sex romantic lead, newcomer Jess Walton would sink or swim, based on her ability to connect with fellow female powerhouse Jeanne Cooper, who played Jill's bitter rival Katherine "Kay" Chancellor.

To say Walton swam alongside Cooper would be an understatement. The two women did a backstroke even Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps would have to admire, during their 26 years as acting partners.

Here's what Walton had to say about her late leading lady in a statement released today: "Jeanne Cooper was one of a kind. No one who has ever known her would disagree with that statement. Her life force and energy were legendary. Many a time I marveled as she outlasted the rest of us on late night shoots. She was a moving, inventive, and powerful actress. She was a loving mother and grandmother.  She was part warrior, part rabble rouser, part truck driver and part Diva, all wrapped up in one Great Lady.  Most of all, to me, she was my friend and I loved her.  For the last 26 years, hers was the face I most wanted to see when I came to work. Hers was the energy I most wanted to bounce off of on stage.  Hers was the voice that kept me in stitches .  And because of all that, hers is the presence I will never in my life forget."