We knew this day would come. Last May, the soap community mourned the death of 84-year-old Jeanne Cooper, the great Emmy-winning star of The Young and the Restless. Now it's time to say goodbye to her character, Katherine Chancellor. In episodes airing Sept. 3 and 4, the citizens of Genoa City — past and present — will gather at Chancellor Park, a sprawling new set for the CBS soap, where they will pay their final respects to "the Duchess."
Among the stars returning for the flashback-packed tribute are Lauralee Bell (Christine), Tricia Cast (Nina), Patty Weaver (Gina), Adrienne Frantz (Amber), Beau Kazer (Brock) and '80s rock sensation Michael Damian (Danny) who will perform, "That's When I'll Stop Loving You." The ceremony will be conducted by Father Todd Williams, the recurring character played by Cooper's real-life son Corbin Bernsen.
"Katherine knew she was dying and made it clear she didn't want a sad event where everyone wore black and was miserable. She wanted a celebration and that's exactly what she's getting," executive producer Jill Farren Phelps tells TV Guide Magazine. "And Katherine being Katherine, she will continue to orchestrate things from on high — just as she always did on earth."
Letters from Mrs. C. to several top characters, including Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott), Jill (Jess Walton), Victor (Eric Braeden) and Paul (Doug Davidson) will arrive soon after the news of her death. The contents of those letters, and the reading of Katherine's will a bit later in September, will "shake up the show in dramatic, drastic ways that will change it forever," Phelps says. "There's no greater tribute we can pay to Katherine, or to Jeanne, than to make sure their presence on Y&R will always be felt."
Phelps says Nikki's letter will trigger a major plot for Thomas Scott, "one that will haunt her character and pull in many players as we go into the fall. It's a real front-and-center story, the kind the fans have been asking for. Jill's letter sets up a mystery that will, at first, drive her absolutely crazy. Paul's letter from Katherine tells him to 'Follow his heart.' Christine also gets a letter but I can't talk about that one just yet." Victor's letter is also a big secret — but that's because he's not going to share it with anyone.
Chancellor Park will remain prominent in the scripts. "Our characters will go there a lot, sometimes talking to Katherine's plaque as if they're actually speaking to her," Phelps says. "It's another way we can keep her legacy alive." Having Bernsen take part in the memorial "helped us feel like we had a piece of Jeanne there with us," Phelps continues. "After the filming of his last scene, Corbin made the most beautiful, heart-wrenching speech to the cast and crew about how much Y&R meant to his mother, and how she had worked there for 40 years and filled up that big soundstage in much the same way our new Chancellor Park now fills it up. There wasn't a dry eye anywhere."
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