‘The Young and the Restless’: The History-Making Move That Made Jeanne Cooper a Household Name

The soap opera world hasn’t been the same since the death of The Young and the Restless matriarch, Jeanne Cooper. She’s been gone since 2013, but the legacy of her character, Katherine Chancellor, remains. There was even a time when Cooper made history. Here’s how.

Jeanne Cooper played Katherine Chancellor until the very end

The Young and the Restless
Doug Davidson, Jeanne Cooper and Peter Bergman | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Jeanne Cooper began her acting career in the 1950s with projects like Perry Mason, Daniel Boone, and multiple daytime soaps such as The Bold and the Beautiful, and Guiding Light.

However, it’s Cooper’s work as Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless that lends itself to her superstardom. From 1973-2013, Cooper appeared in 1,329 episodes of Y&R, joining cast and crew until the weeks and days before her 2013 death.

In a 2012 interview with Washington Times ahead of the show’s [then] 40th anniversary (and 10,000 episodes), Cooper explained why she’d never retire.

 “What would I do? I’m no good at crocheting. My fingers would bleed,” she said.

The Young and the Restless has remained TV’s top-rated daytime drama since 1998 — something Cooper said is due to the love of the characters.

“That’s the mainstay of the show,” she said. “You’ve always been able to become involved, whether you were wealthy or whatever your status is, our show hit the human being.”

Here’s how Cooper made TV history

In the same interview, Cooper spoke of her favorite moment throughout all her years with Y&R. In 1984, Cooper’s character, Katherine, underwent a facelift. Cooper also had a facelift at the same time in an event deemed TV’s very first “extreme makeover.”

“It opened up reconstructive surgery for so many people, youngsters getting things done,” she said. “To this day, people will come up to me and say, `Thank you so much for doing that. My mom or I had something done, and not just cosmetic surgery.’ That was an incredible experience in my life.”

The actress never shied away from revealing reconstructive work she’d had done, claiming a chin tuck and her eyes done. She also noted she kept a trainer to stay in shape, doing stretching exercises.

“Then I get my tush to work,” she said.

Here’s what Cooper says you can’t do to the daytime audience

Over the last decade or so, Y&R has had a few cast exits that caused a stir among the fan base. Cooper lamented on co-star Eileen Davidson’s (who plays Ashley Abbott) previous exit, blaming “abrupt changes of the storyline” that revolved around Ashley and love interest, Tucker.

“To suddenly take that away and say, ‘Okay, how do we resolve this? Eileen Davidson will go to another show, and they didn’t have to resolve anything. That hurts a little bit because it’s not a solution to the problem,” Cooper previously told SmashingInterviews.Com.

“It’s a little too abrupt. I mean, ‘I love you, I love you,’ and then, ‘I’m going to divorce you.’ You can’t do that to your daytime audience.'”

She continued: “You cannot ask someone to fall in love with a character that you identify with that makes you escape for an hour a day, and all of a sudden say, ‘You can’t have that person anymore.'”

“That happens when you make these abrupt changes. You become disrespectful of the audience that put you there in the first place. That’s what is wrong. In daytime, you can’t have a favorite grandfather, mother, sister, or lover and the next day have somebody totally different looking and expect to like that person. Right off, you’re supposed to like that person as well as your favorite,” she added.

“That’s not sitting well with many fans. They are saying, “Don’t fool around with my emotions.”

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS.