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Jess Walton Article
 
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Jess Walton
(Jill, The Young and the Restless)

1997 Outstanding Lead Actress
1991 Outstanding Supporting Actress

Watch Jess's scenes come to life!

What was the storyline that you won for?

I donít know about the new way, but in the old way of judging, I think you picked your strongest shows; you picked your rawest shows. Whether itís joy or sorrow or anger, you picked the one thatís the realest. Because the second Emmy I won -- which was for Best Actress -- the Best Actress one was won when I was in the middle of no story what-so-ever -- two years before and two years after. So if I won it, it was for my body of work, plus the scenes I submitted. There were a couple of raw scenes in there. And both times I won the Emmys, I submitted shows that when I first read them, I thought, ďI canít do thisÖ I canít do this.Ē One of them, I just randomly started screaming at this innocent hotel clerk that he had ruined my life because he had forgotten to pass on a letter. I just went over the top at him in front of a lobby full of people. The thought of it was so outrageous and so not me that I thought, ďI canít do this.Ē Even up till just before we shot it, I said, ďIíve just got to do it a hundred percent flat out; I just canít even think about it.Ē And the second was a scene where I had to go to my lawyerís office and tell him that I just might as well kill myself -- so it was a very self-pitying, suicidal scene. And I hate [that kind of thing]. That whole thing just makes me cringe, because I guess what I really value -- I value survival a lot in people. I know how good life can be, and I know that itís a matter of attitude. I know itís a matter of where you direct your thoughts. And I know itís harder for some people than others to think like that. But I know it can be turned around, and I know all those people are saying, ďThe pain is too great for me to bear.Ē And so what you do is you work on the pain. You solve the pain -- the solution is not killing yourself. But anyway, so those are my private feelings on that whole subject so therefore Iím coming from a place where it was very abhorrent to me. And so I had to do it. They werenít going to cut the scene, so I had to do it.

What was your reaction to winning?

My very first feeling that was really kind of common in both of them was, I canít believe for me to have won, for my name to have been called meant that a lot of people had given thumbs-up to me. That was the warmest feeling, and that was exactly identical on both of them. The only slight difference was one was Supporting, and one was Lead. So the Lead was almost more unbelievable to me because it was the big one. I mean, I appreciate both of them very much, and they really have changed my attitude about anxiety. I mean, you know with actors, most actors trust in themselves. They have their moments of brilliance, and then they have moments when they just donít feel they can get it. It tends to be a passionate business. Sometimes you go to the most negative and say, ďWell I just canít do this. Iím not as talented as I thought I was, blah, blah, blah, blah, blahÖĒ But winning both of those -- and it shouldnít mean anything, but it did. It meant kind of Iíve got a stamp of approval on me from my peers. It is the most valuable award you could possibly win to me. I mean, I love the fans and I love the Peopleís Choice, but when youíre talking about fine tuning your own craft, the people I think that you want the kudos from as far as the acting goes -- are the Emmys. And it just changed my whole relaxation level. Iíve had like four nominations and two wins, and before that it was like, ďAm I going to be nominated,Ē or whatever -- and I never think of that anymore. Frankly, itís really nice if you do get nominated but itís almost like you got the thing yourself and nobody can ever take that away from you. And the trick is not to rest on your laurels, of course, and to try to keep up the quality of your work. But just having that little proof that at one moment in time, a lot of people thought that you did a fabulous job is so great. And I remember the biggest feeling with me, too, was resentment that I had to go up and make a speech because to me -- that was hell on earth. I mean, half of me didnít even want to win, because Iíd have to go up and make a speech and Iím just not comfortable up there. I mean, Julia Roberts does all this stuff off the cuff, I hear. And the people who do it off the cuff, oh my hat is so off to them. I had to go over and over and over the people I wanted to thank, so I wouldnít forget them.

Was there anyone you meant to thank but forgot?

You know what I did on the second one, before the drawing, but after the nomination? I took a huge ad out in [the Hollywood trade paper] Variety. I did a category of friends and people who had helped me my whole life; I did a category of people here [at Y&R], and I did a category of my family. A long list superimposed over a picture of myself with a note thanking -- whether or not I won -- these are the people I want to thank. So in case I forgot anybody, everybody was listed there and well thought out. And it took stress off me. Mind you, I donít think I won that year! That was the year I was nominated and didnít win. But still I got in everybody I wanted to thank. I donít remember how long [executive producer] David Shaughnessy has been here, but one year I forgot to thank David. I think it must have been when he was new. But I forgot to thank him, and I regret that because he is so responsible for so much good stuff. His notes and his guidance are really important to me. So yeah, heís the one person I think I forgot to thank. But the feeling of having to go up, the feeling of winning thatís so sublime, the feeling of having to go up and think is horrible. Then the feeling of going back and greeting the press -- because the year I won, I beat Susan Lucci [Erica, All My Children], which was all anyone ever asked about. I walked into the room and said, ďIíll answer any question you have but, donít ask me about Susan Lucci. I said sheís a gracious lady, and sheís a fine actress but I donít want to discuss Susan Lucci here. We can discuss this.Ē

Where do you keep your Emmy?

On a bookcase in my family room.

How has winning an Emmy affected your career?

NothingÖ I mean, I think shows are very careful not to make a big deal about it because they donít really want to give you any ammunition that youíre anything special. You know what I mean. I mean my show is wonderful, and they are always telling me they value me and they consider me an addition to the show, but never has the Emmy; itís not a big deal. I mean it looks good in print, ďEmmy Award WinningÖĒ but it hasnít saved my career because Iíve been here. So, Iíve been at CBS for almost 20 years, with Capitol and now The Young and the Restless.

What was the reaction of your co-workers when you returned to work after the win?

Oh they were very happy for me. I remember when I won the first one, I would play over and over the tape of me winning. Not with me talking -- that bothered me -- but everybody jumping up. I would play it in slow motion; Brenda Epperson [ex-Ashley] and [former executive producer] Ed Scott, and Mel [Melody Thomas Scott, Nikki], and Laura Lee [Bell, Christine] and just the look on their faces and how happy they were for me. Over and over I just relived that joy. It was absolutely fabulous. And then on the second one, when I replayed, it was my husbandís face. The look on his face, and my daughter was sitting behind me because she was there that night andÖ it was phenomenal. It was phenomenal; it was definitely two of the highlights of my life -- that moment. And then having to think was awful because I just wanted to feelÖI just wanted to feel that feeling. And when I had to think I had to go away from the feeling kind of. At least I couldnít combine them. My Supporting was actually the first award I think given out, either the first or the second of the night, when we went into night time. Before that it was in the day. So I was the first daytime Emmy awarded in the night time, and that was nice. You know, nobody had ever won [Lead Actress] for Y&R before. I never expected to win. This year, we may because Eileen [Davidson, Ashley] and Michelle [Stafford, Phyllis] are [nominated in Lead]; theyíre phenomenal.

 

Find out what makes Jess phenomenal.

Who most influenced you with regard to your work?

Susan Flannery [Stephanie, The Bold and the Beautiful] has influenced me a lot. Michelle [Stafford; Phyllis] has influenced me a lot. Elizabeth Hubbard [Lucinda, As the World Turns] has influenced me a lot; sheís phenomenal. Daniel Day Lewis has influenced me a lot. Who is my latest? There is somebody Iím using lately, and obviously I havenít used them enough to remember who they are. I canít remember; someone I saw. It just centers me, it grounds me, brings me down to the reality of it like Daniel Day Lewis always. His intensity is just mind boggling.

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