Jess Walton (born Mary Jesse Walton on February 18, 1946 in Grand Rapids, MI) is an American Actress. She is best known to soap opera audiences for her portrayal of Jill Foster Abbott on the CBS Soap Opera The Young and The Restless since 1987. She once appeared as a celebrity guest on a special "Battle of the CBS Soaps" edition of The (New) $25,000 Pyramid.
Born Mary Jesse Walton in Grand Rapids, Michigan but raised in Toronto, Canada where she attended the prestigious Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School. At the age of 17, Walton left home to join a Toronto theater company. In 1969, she packed her bags and moved to Hollywood and within the next year, she signed with Universal Studios.
In 1970s, Jess landed a number of guest-starring roles in a number of television shows, such as Medical Center, Kojak, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Rockford Files, Gunsmoke, and Barnaby Jones. She co-starred in the 1970 film The Strawberry Statement and portrayed the female lead roles of The Peace Killers in 1971 and Monkeys in the Attic in 1974. She also appeared alongside Donna Mills in the 1977 film The Hunted Lady.
In 1984, Walton landed the role of Kelly Harper on the CBS soap opera, Capitol, she remained with the series until it's cancellation in 1987. Later in that year, she joined the cast of another CBS soap opera, The Young and the Restless in the role as Jill Foster Abbott. The role was originally portrayed by actress Brenda Dickson until in 1980 and again beginning in 1983 until 1987 when she was replaced by Walton. Playing the role of Jill Foster Abbott has earned Jess a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1990 followed by a win a year later. In 1996, she was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and a year later, she won the golden trophy for Lead Actress making it her second Daytime Emmy win. Walton was nominated again for Lead Actress in 2000.
In the Game Show World, Walton has made two appearances on the circuit. First, she competed alongside her fellow Y&R cast mate Melody Thomas Scott on a special week of shows of The (New) $25,000 Pyramid titled "Battle of The CBS Soaps" where they competed against soap stars from As The World Turns, Guiding Light, and The Bold and The Beautiful.
In May 1995, Jess appeared on a special "Celebrity Award Winners" edition of Wheel of Fortune, she competed against Garry Marshall and rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J and won the main game as well as an additional $25,000 for the charity she played for.
Walton has married twice. She was first married to actor Bruce Davison in 1972 but the marriage was annulled within a year. Since 1980, Jess has been married to her second husband, John James (not to be confused with the Dynasty actor), an author and founder of The Grief Recovery Institute. They have one child together, son Cole (born in 1981) and Walton is the stepmother to John's daughter Allison from a previous marriage.
After the annulment of her first marriage, Walton's life began to spiral out of control as she turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. In 1980, she took a break from acting to get her life in order as she entered and completed rehabilitation, for her drug and alcohol addiction.
She was also close friends with her former Y&R co-star and on-screen rival, the late Jeanne Cooper, who portrayed Katherine Chancellor from 1973 until her death in May 2013. Cooper was also Walton's acting mentor.