No worries, soap fans! Jeanne Cooper is doing just fine. The Emmy-winning grande dame has been absent from The Young and the Restless for several weeks causing much concern among her devotees, especially when her character, Katherine Chancellor, failed to show up Monday for the start of the Victor-Nikki wedding. Turns out Cooper, like many other Y&R stars, was hit with a bad bout of the flu but she's now back and sassier than ever! TV Guide Magazine had a chat with the outspoken, 84-year-old survivor about Y&R's upcoming 40th anniversary (March 26), the infestation of newbies in Genoa City and, of course, those scary symptoms Katherine's been having. Duck for cover!
TV Guide Magazine: Welcome back. Your fans are freaking!
Cooper: Boy, that flu really knocks you out! It's no joke and so contagious. Melody Thomas Scott [Nikki] had it, then Eric Braeden [Victor] came down with it, and so did Joshua Morrow [Nick]. I really only missed a couple of weeks of work, plus a dark week, but that's a lot of airtime, considering we now shoot 175 episodes a day! At one point my temperature was up to 105 degrees but I refused to go to the hospital. God only knows what you can come home with. My brother went into the hospital for an operation, got a staph infection and it killed him, so I'm all for home care.
TV Guide Magazine: Yikes. That CBS studio sounds like a Petri dish.
Cooper: Why do you think all the executives moved out and went to the Radford lot in Studio City? The CBS building is falling apart. There's mold, there's rats, there's dust. I mean, the place hasn't been vacuumed in 50 years. People are contracting a lot of nonsense there. Plus, we're sitting on methane gas.
TV Guide Magazine: Well, while you're at it, don't forget the La Brea Tar Pits. Aren't they close by?
Cooper: [Laughs] You're right! And I feel like one of those f--king elephants who got stuck and couldn't get out!
TV Guide Magazine: And so your character had to miss the wedding of her BFF Nikki.
Cooper: Oh, please! Katherine was supposed to conduct the ceremony, now that she has a minister's license from the Internet. But she's been to most of Nikki's other marriages. Why bother with one more? The gifts alone! [Laughs] Maybe next time Katherine should just send a card.
TV Guide Magazine: Happy 40th, by the way! Didn't your character kind of save Y&R soon after it hit the air?
Cooper: The show was not a success at first and [creator] Bill Bell was so discouraged he wanted to close it down. People said, 'Don't! These things take time!" So he brought on Katherine about six months into the show to shake things up. She was a rich boozer socialite with a thing for stable boys who didn't take s--t from anybody. [Laughs] She still doesn't!
TV Guide Magazine: Neither do you. Word is, you're not happy with these strange symptoms Mrs. C is experiencing.
Cooper: The writers want you to think it's Alzheimer's and it's driving the audience crazy. It'll turn out to be a benign something or other. But if it was Alzheimer's, I wouldn't have played it.
TV Guide Magazine: Meaning you'd have quit the show?
Cooper: Absolutely. Nobody wants to see that. Y&R is an hour of escape and relief for people. That's what's kept it on the air 40 years! The audience wants Katherine vibrant. They want to see her kicking ass. I've worked hard for that. There was a barrage of concern as soon as Katherine started forgetting things and misplacing things. Then I got one script where she was supposed to be seen reading a pamphlet about Alzheimer's. [Head writer] Josh Griffith came rushing into my dressing room all breathless, saying, "Don't worry, it's not what you think! It only looks like Katherine has Alzheimer's." I said, "I'm not worried. You don't think I'd do an Alzheimer's story, do you? You'd have to get somebody else."
TV Guide Magazine: How come they didn't fill you in before it started showing up in scripts?
Cooper: Josh said he tried to call me three times. I'm sure he did, but I'm not good at [retrieving] messages. I probably have 18,000 of 'em stacked up. I don't do well with technical stuff. [Laughs] I don't even know how to ring my own f--king doorbell.
TV Guide Magazine: How are you handling the invasion of newbies on Y&R?
Cooper: I tell these kids they better show up fully prepared, lines learned, or they're outta here. It's amazing how much these young ones don't know. They don't have the training we did. [Laughs] But, hey, they're good at taking off their clothes, so there's always porn.
TV Guide Magazine: Will you ever retire?
Cooper: And do what? Sure, there are days I throw my hands up and say, "I've had it!" But I still love this job. When I signed up for Y&R, my actor friends said, "A daytime soap? It'll kill your career!" Now they'd trade places with me in a heartbeat.