Why Young & Restless’ Kate Linder Almost Walked Away From the Role of Esther Before She’d Even Started — Plus, 39 Years’ Worth of Laughs, Tears and Photos
“It would have been the biggest mistake of my life!”
It’s hard to imagine Genoa City, let alone the Chancellor mansion, without Esther… right? After all, Kate Linder has been playing the maid since April of 1982. But believe it or not, the actress almost took a pass on the role when first it was offered to her by The Young and the Restless‘ then-casting director, Tom Palmer.
“He said, ‘I have a part for you, but it’s so small, blink and you’ll miss it,’” Linder told Soaps.com during a recent chat. Although Palmer said he was looking for something bigger she might do down the line, she knew how the industry worked. “Usually, once you’ve appeared on a soap in one role, they don’t necessarily want you for something bigger. And this was just a one-day part.”
Or so everyone thought.
“That was 39 years ago, and I’m still here,” she laughed. “Can you imagine if I’d turned it down? It would have been the biggest mistake of my life!”
Instead, it turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.
At the time, the character didn’t even have a name, she was simply the maid of the late Jeanne Cooper’s iconic Katherine Chancellor. “They kept calling me back,” recalled Linder, “and one day, during rehearsal, Jeanne called me Esther, and thankfully, I responded! After that, other characters referred to Esther, and the writers eventually began writing it into the scripts.”
Over the years, Esther’s been kidnapped, fallen in love and had a child, but the one story Linder always hoped might come to pass never did. “I always thought it might turn out that Katherine’s husband had an affair with a Vegas showgirl who got pregnant, and Esther was the result,” she shared. “Mrs. C knew — and that was why it sometimes felt as if they had a love/hate relationship — but Esther didn’t.”
Despite having appeared on the soap for nearly four decades, Linder still keeps her “day job” as a flight attendant. “One day I’m on the set, and the next I’m serving coffee at 35,000 feet,” she marveled. And yes, she’s sometimes recognized by passengers. In fact, years ago, Cooper became the first person at Young & Restless to learn about her co-star’s dual career when they wound up on a flight together!
“I swore her to secrecy,” said Linder, “because I was afraid people at the show wouldn’t take me seriously as an actress if they knew about my other career!”
These days, when not flying around the country or bustling about Genoa City, the busy lady continues to be actively involved with numerous charities. “It’s so important to give back,” she said humbly. “Why wouldn’t I use the platform I’ve been given to help other people? All I’ve ever wanted to do is be an actress. I feel so fortunate that I get to not only do that but find ways to help other people.”
Now, join us in continuing the celebration of Linder’s 39 years in Genoa City by flipping through this photo gallery in which she shares stories about everything from life behind the scenes to some of her most cherished personal memories.
<p>“Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s real,” admits Kate Linder as she reflects on her long run as <em>The Young and the Restless’ </em>Esther. “Not bad for a part that was originally only supposed to last one day!” Not bad indeed, as evidenced by her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, which she received in 2008. </p>
<p>“Without them, none of this would have been possible,” says Linder of <em>Young & Restless’ </em>late co-creators, Bill Bell and his wife Lee Phillip Bell, here with Victoria Rowell (ex-Drucilla). “I loved them and miss them so much. Back in the day, they lived in Chicago, so it was a very big deal when they would come to the set!” </p>
<p>“Jeanne Cooper was the very first person I worked with,” reflects Linder of the late icon, who of course played Katherine Chancellor. “I walked up to her in the makeup room on that first day, introduced myself and said, ‘I’m going to be playing your maid today.’ She looked me up and down and said, as only Jeanne could, ‘Well, it’s about time!'” </p>
<p>For years, Esther was caught between Jill (Jess Walton) and Katherine as the lifelong rivals waged war upon one another. “Esther always took Katherine’s side,” says Linder. “Which isn’t surprising, given how disrespectful Jill was to poor Esther!” </p>
<p>“Some of my favorite memories involve running lines with Jess and Jeanne,” shares Linder. “We had such a great time laughing and finding new ways to make the wonderful scenes come to life.” </p>
<p>Over the years, the actress has become synonymous with charitable events, most notably the teas she hosts with the help of her castmates. “I’m forever grateful to them,” she says humbly. “I don’t think people realize this, but they don’t get paid to attend these events. They’ve helped raise countless amounts of money” for a variety of organizations, including The March of Dimes, the Los Angeles Mission and the ALS Association. To keep up with the latest events, check out her official website at <a href="http://www.katelinder.com/" target="_blank">KateLinder.com</a>.</p>
<p>“I love that at the charity events, people get to see some of our actors in a whole new light,” says Linder, here with Beth Maitland (Traci) and Bryton James (Devon). “He comes alive in front of a live audience, and they absolutely love him!” </p>
<p>Although rarely in the spotlight, Linder’s late husband Ron was, as she says, “always right there in the trenches with me every step of the way. This was truer than ever after she became the celebrity spokesperson for ALS soon after her brother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease. “I know Ron would want me to continue doing doing this. And I know that he’s still there, by my side.” </p>
<p>“I’m really proud of my mom, so I loved being able to take her to some of the charity or industry events,” admits Linder. “And she loves it!” Asked if she helped Mom select outfits for these occasions, the noted fashion plate says just the opposite is true. “I probably get my sense of style from her!” </p>
<p>After Cooper released her memoirs, Linder was thrilled to be among the cast who had the opportunity to join the author at book signings. “She always supported me,” says Linder. “After I joined the show, she was the first person to find out that I was still working as a stewardess. I swore her to secrecy, because I worried that people at the show wouldn’t take me seriously as an actress if they knew!” </p>
<p>In 2011, Linder exchanged Esther’s maid uniform for a more dazzling costume, jetted off to London and filmed the movie <em>Hysteria</em>. “It was a small part,<em>” </em>she demurs, “but I’m so glad I did it! I’ve tried to be the kind of person who doesn’t say no. Think of all the opportunities you miss by just saying that one word!” </p>
<p>“I’ve gotten to meet so many wonderful people over the years,” enthuses Linder, here with Carol Channing and Angela Lansbury. “I actually got to know Carol and her husband quite well, because they were very involved in efforts to bring arts back to the schools, which is so important. Without it, so many kids have no way to express themselves.” </p>
<p>“When they decided that Esther was going to have a baby, Bill Bell asked if I wanted it to be a boy or a girl,” shares Linder. “And that baby, Kate, grew up to be Elizabeth Hendrickson’s Chloe. She changed her name because she was embarrassed that her mom was a maid!” </p>
<p>Linder certainly approves of Chloe’s husband, not to mention his portrayer, Greg Rikaart. “He is one of the kindest, most caring people you will ever meet,” she says. “That makes it interesting whenever Kevin does something sort of shifty, because that’s so not in Greg’s personality!” </p>
<p>“Esther felt like it was her responsibility to protect everyone from Colin,” says Linder of Tristan Rogers’ wily alter ego. “Working with him is always so much fun. I miss him!” </p>
<p>“It’s always interesting when an actor people know from another show joins our cast,” says Linder, with Steve Burton (ex-Dylan; <em>General Hospital</em>‘s Jason). “I didn’t get to work with him too much, although Dylan would visit the coffee house while Esther was working there.” </p>
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