Ever since Jill Abbott Atkinson decided to push forward in removing Chancellor Industries from the clutches of Victor Newman (Eric Braeden), who was left the company per Katherine’s will, fans have clamored for the ultimate showdown between the pair and they’re definitely in for a great ride as Jill’s portrayer, Jess Walton, tells Soap Opera Network of the storyline that picked up steam on yesterday’s episode. The actress also reveals her thoughts on onscreen husband Tristan Rogers (Colin Atkinson) deciding to stick around Genoa City, how much input new head writer Charles “Chuck” Pratt, Jr. (“All My Children,” “General Hospital,” “Melrose Place,” “The Lying Game”) has had in the direction of the Jill vs. Victor battle, which began under previous regimes, how she learned of the passing of former co-star Beau Kazer (Brock Reynolds), and if the show should possibly memorialize the character as they did with Katherine Chancellor, Brock’s mother, after the death of portrayer Jeanne Cooper in 2013.
First things first: The new year has been very good to Walton. After spending the Christmas holiday break among friends and family in Oregon, where football was playing upstairs and chick flicks downstairs, the actress opened 2015 looking forward to a fabulous time. “I just think it’s going to be a fabulous year. I really believe you can decide and I’ve decided. So, there you go,” she says enthusiastically.
Speaking of a fabulous year, when she returned to work earlier this month it included news of Tristan Rogers deciding he’ll be sticking around a little while longer as Jill’s husband, Colin Atkinson. “I like being in a storyline with him because he’s very amusing. I think it keeps Jill viable and young, to be in a love storyline, and Tristan is hilariously funny to work with and he’s a really good actor. He brings so much to that character and to that relationship,” Walton says happily of how Colin helps flesh out Jill by making her a more well-rounded person.
Speaking of Colin, it was his input that helped Jill in deciding to pursue Chancellor Industries despite what Katherine’s will stipulated. “He’s always been a distraction because she loves him very much and he loves her. It’s wonderful that he’s going to help her get the company back and she’s just focused on the company right now and not the [nuances] of their relationship,” Walton shares.
While it’s too early to tell what exactly it will take for Jill to get the best of Victor, who Walton admits her character ultimately hates, she feels “come hell or high water,” Jill will [eventually] do it. “Jill had an affair with Victor a long time ago, and she was really in love with him way back then, but since then she’s just watched the horrible things he’s done. She has no respect for him whatsoever as a human being and she always kind of flirted with him a bit and fakes it a little bit, but she does not like him.”
Which is why the revelation that Victor’s the one behind the warehouse development came at the perfect time. “She’s actually very happy that this came out because now she doesn’t have any qualms about going over and getting back this company that she always thinks should have been hers,” which Walton notes was pretty painful for Jill at the beginning, despite nothing really being made of it when she first found out.
Considering Colin has been in the picture for quite sometime now, his being a distraction essentially kept Jill’s mind in the clouds for a while, but “now that everything is coming back down to earth, I think she is completely determined, come hell or high water, and she’s gonna get that company back,” says an as determined Walton of Jill’s mindset. “I really think she believes that Katherine did this as a test for her. I really think that. I mean, Katherine has always played games with her, and she really believes that Katherine gave the company to Victor, not because Jill couldn’t handle it, but to see if she was strong enough to get it back.”
Whether it is a sign from heaven or just pure luck on her side, “[Victor] being behind all this is the proof for her that she can go ahead.”
With his material hitting the air for the first time late last week, after officially being named head writer and co-executive producer of the soap last November, Charles “Chuck” Pratt, Jr. is now helming the creative ship, but one can only wonder how much input the veteran daytime and primetime writer has had in the direction of Jill vs. Victor. Making clear that the story has been years in the making, Walton says, “The minute Katherine’s will was read, there was always a possibility of trouble there in that area… Before Chuck came on board, we had been talking about Katherine and Jill, and Victor, so it wasn’t something unheard of or unthought of before he came.”
With an average of 5 million viewers tuning in each day this season, “Y&R” continues to amaze after nearly 42 years on the air, 26 of which includes ranking as daytime’s most watched drama series, and Walton credits the fans. “The fans are very loyal. And we’ve had a lot of regimes and we’ve still got a core of wonderful fans, and everybody is pulling together. We have a new head writer and we’re all very excited about it and very hopeful for the future,” declares Walton, who has yet to understand why the show and daytime as whole doesn’t seem to get the credit it deserves, particularly in the Nielsen ratings, where it continually outranks every show on The CW and several others on the big four networks.
“I’ve never understood it. It makes my husband furious. I realize that. I mean, he can’t even believe [it]. The answer always is, ‘Well Daytime, they’re built for a certain demographic…a younger demographic,’ and I’m thinking, ‘but it’s the older demographic that has all the money!’ All the younger demographic is moving back in with their parents and then they say, ‘But [the older demographic] are set in their ways, they’re not going to buy a new product’ and I just say that’s BS. I mean, we’re the baby boomers. Maybe 200 years ago they used Borax or something [laughs], some of them may not have changed from Borax, but nowadays we’re the boomers. It’s a whole different ball game. I never understand why we get the short end.”
On December 30, 2014, “Y&R” lost one of its own. Actor Beau Kazer, who portrayed Brock Reynolds off and on since 1974, passed away. Walton learned of his passing while in the “Y&R” makeup room. “Lauralee [Bell; Christine Blair] told me about it and I was just so shocked and baffled to hear it. I emailed his wife [Sharon Alkus] and she emailed me a lovely letter back. He was such a talented actor. When he would give his speeches… he was very professional. He loved to rehearse, which I love to rehearse. He was kind and he was giving. I always judge people by my ability to cry with them. It means I feel safe with them. If I feel safe with them. Truly enough, I used to cry very well with Eric Braeden [laughs]. With Beau, I felt very loved. I just thought the world of him. It makes me very, very sad to think that he’s gone.”
As for whether the show should memorialize Kazer, beyond yesterday’s end credit mention, Walton would welcome it with open arms. “I certainly hope they will. I certainly would love it if they would put on a show where we heard it and they had a memorial. It would be a great way to get Tricia Cast [Nina] and a bunch of old cast members together again. It would be a way of honoring him, so wherever he is he knows how much we valued him, how much the fans valued him. I can’t say enough about how much of a wonderful guy he was… I hope they realize how much it would mean to the fans.”