“The Young and the Restless” brought the soap opera community to tears this past May with an emotional and very well planned memorial for the late Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor), who passed away due to an illness that same month. And now the sudser is pulling out all of the stops yet again to honor the character Cooper played for 40 years. The emotional storyline has already begun to play out with several of Genoa City’s residents receiving letters from the grand dame, and Doug Davidson (Paul Williams) says this is just the start of a powerful story arc that will change the small Wisconsin town in more ways than one.
“They’re remarkable shows,” the Emmy winner previews of not only Katherine’s funeral episodes that will take place Tuesday, September 3 and Wednesday, September 4, but also the weeks ahead when the fall out from the mysterious letters takes place. “A lot of the characters have a relationship with Katherine, and they take from the show excerpts of the scenes that we had with Jeanne, and then they fold them into the story… It’s really the seed for so many stories to branch out, and it’s a very clever way of bringing Jeanne back into the show. You get to hear her voice and see her in some of her most famous scenes that she played with all of us throughout the years.”
Cooper’s real life son, Corbin Bernsen, is returning as Father Todd for the funeral episodes, a feat which Davidson can’t even begin to imagine. “The fascinating aspect is it’s real for him: He lost his mom, and he also lost Katherine,” he explains. “I mean, it’s true for all of us, but it was probably supremely difficult for him to remember Katherine and have images of his mom on the set.”
But it wasn’t only imagines of Cooper that brought the entire cast and crew to near tears during the filming of the memorial episodes; Bernsen brought some of his mother’s real life ashes to add to the urn used for Katherine’s onscreen service. That together with the reading of a very heartbreaking poem was nearly too much for Davidson to handle. “It just hit me like a ton of bricks, because I still hear her and I still feel her, and I still get messages from her,” he says, adding that it was difficult to keep his emotions in check and remember that Paul wouldn’t react as strongly as Doug would during the funeral. “Paul had a relationship with Katherine, but a lot of it was professional. Some of it was personal, but it wasn’t like the relationship I had with her… So it was very difficult.”
However, though not emotionally easy to film, Davidson says the process of creating the episodes went rather well. “Usually those scenes are horrendous to do. They’re like weddings, and you have all the cast assembled there,” he explains of the scenes that also feature other familiar faces like Lauralee Bell (ex-Christine Blair), Michael Damian (ex-Danny Romalotti), Tricia Cast (ex-Nina Webster), Adrienne Frantz (-exAmber Moore) and Beau Kayser (ex-Brock Reynolds). “This one went really smoothly, and I think everybody was really proud to be there and honor her.
“Corbin had some really incredibly nice things to say about the show and the impact on his mother’s life and their lives,” he continues. “He mentioned that it was the start of a new era, like the adage of one door closes, and another one opens. It’s all up to us to carry the show forward — not without her, but in a different way. She would come so prepared, knowing her lines and with great energy, great ideas, and he kind of sent that out to all of the young people here and the rest of us, that if she could do it after 40 years, then we should have enough pride in it ourselves to continue her legacy.”
Davidson certainly plans to carry on the tradition of being fully present in his scenes, and he’s looking forward to playing out how Katherine’s death will impact Paul. “My letter personally is the advancement of story that has been on the fringe for some time,” he teases of what’s to come. “When I heard about it, I went, ‘What?!’ And when we got it up on its feet and out there and taped it, it was amazing.”
In fact, the actor believes that Katherine’s letters will continue to play out over the course of at least the next year or so, which he finds befitting for a character and an actress that touched the lives of so many. “She’s still running the town! Which I think is really great,” he shares. “I hesitate to say [much else], because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a brand new set that we see for the first time, and it’s an honor to Katherine Chancellor, and it’s great. I can’t imagine it being better, actually. They’re giving her a fitting tribute in a really terrific way.”