Jess Walton. (CBS)

“Part of me does live as Jill…”

Soaps.com recently caught up with Jess Walton (Jill Abbott, The Young and the Restless), and she was just a pleasure to speak with. Keep reading to hear about the highlights of her career outside of “Y&R,” as well as her insights on Jill, her past loves and family, and her current husband, Colin (Tristan Rogers).

Soaps.com: Landing the role of Jill on “Y&R” must have been fantastic, but you’ve led a very eventful life in the entertainment industry, and have lived in both Canada and the US. Can you share a few of your most memorable experiences as a performer, looking back?

Jess: My early years in the theatre in Toronto were so exciting to me, because that was always my first love, and still I would love to go back on the stage. It was George Luscombe’s Toronto Workshop Productions, a very avant-garde theatre company. We worked in Stratford in the summer at Theatre In The Park, so that was really exciting. When I came down here, it was exciting to be picked up by William Morris, which was the top agency; I did a lot of television for them, and then I got a contract at Universal, which was fabulous. It was at a time when you were a contract player and got all the parts automatically, you didn’t have to read or audition for them – that was great. One of the big highlights of my whole career was being in a show for KCET, which is public television here, called “Montserrat,” which had been a stage play. It was a really prestigious production because it was really ‘all-star’; it was Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Martin Sheen, and Keir Dullea. Geraldine Page and I were the only women in the whole cast so we shared a dressing room, and to see my name and hers up on the dressing room door, and to work with her, was a dream come true – that was a huge highlight for me.

Soaps.com: You’ve stayed with the role of Jill on Y&R since 1988. What makes her such a great character to play over the long term?

Jess: She’s always unpredictable, and she’s kind of the vehicle by which they keep the story moving, because she adds the conflict a lot. The downside is that I sometimes pick up the script and say, “Oh my God what am I doing now?”, and have to make it believable, but the upside is that she’s a little bit loony and it’s fun.

Soaps.com: Jill is always having misunderstandings with Katherine (Jeanne Cooper), and also seems to have a pattern of jumping into ill-fated relationships with men – do you ever feel frustrated that she doesn’t seem to learn from her past mistakes?

Jess: I did. After about 15 or 16 years of this, I thought, “This is ridiculous that this woman never learns.” So, I started trying to play her more sensibly, and that started about a six-year period of the most boring part of Jill. It was just really dull, I thought. I decided to make her crazy again; her impulsiveness came back, her bad judgment came back, and it really picked up and made it more interesting.

Soaps.com: Jill and Katherine are magic on screen together after all these years – why do you think that is?

Jess: I think it’s because we have such a good time with it; the dynamic; and because we know each other so well. We love insulting each other! I guess because it goes so deep and it’s time-tested and true. We also have the timing down on a technical level, and are able to pick out the kernels of humor in it.

Soaps.com: Jill has been involved with many men – are there one or two whom you believe were her best matches?

Jess: I actually think John Abbott (Jerry Douglas) was one of her best matches, because I think Jill had a real love and respect for him – I just don’t think she had the physical passion for him so she got restless. I thought that Rex Sterling (Quinn Redeker) was great, but he only fell in love with her because the real Katherine had been spirited away and a fake Katherine was in her place. So he fell out of love with fake Katherine and fell in love with Jill [laughs at her ‘soap ramble’]. I hope this one, Colin, is going to be a good match. I hope that Jill can reform him, and the death of his son will reform him – I have great hopes for this one. I also thought her boy toy, Sean (Bridges, Christopher Douglas), was a great match, though he was really young.