INTERVIEW: Kate Linder explores her past and future as The Young and the Restless' Esther Valentine

Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2022 10:20:50 AM
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The Young and the Restless' Kate Linder opens up about a possible new romance for Esther, an important service storyline she'd love to tell, and how she feels about celebrating 40 years in Genoa City.

Elva dressed as a fairy Beloved The Young and the Restless star Kate Linder marked her 40th anniversary as Esther Valentine on April 8, and the show will be honoring the actress and her four decades of history with two upcoming episodes that give Esther a much-deserved place to shine. Fans can look forward to the fun on Friday, May 20, and Monday, May 23, but they won't have to wait to find out what's in store during the episodes, because Linder gave Soap Central the scoop!

Keep reading for a preview of the Esther-focused storyline moments, as well as Linder's thoughts on her alter ego's love life, her lack of interaction with staple Y&R characters, an important social issue storyline she'd like to tell, and what it's like to be celebrating four decades as part of the nation's number one soap opera.

Soap Central: Congratulations on celebrating 40 years in the role of Esther Valentine. What an achievement!

Kate Linder: I hear you say 40 years, and I say it to myself, but it's unbelievable to me, truly. I mean, gosh. To start out on this show and to be part of The Young and the Restless for this long, it's incredible. And I love to say 40 years and counting! [Laughs]

Soap Central: One of the most impressive things I've heard you say so far about your anniversary is that you still fit into your original maid uniform?! Well done, Kate!

Linder: [Laughs] There's an exhibit on right now at the Hollywood Museum that includes my original duster and my uniform and my first two scripts. It's amazing, and I'm thrilled that I could wear it again. Not that I want Esther to wear it again, although it would be interesting!

Soap Central: How do you feel about being honored at the Hollywood Museum?

Linder: It's really unbelievable. The museum is such an incredible place -- it's the old Max Factor building, and there's so much history there. They have different rooms, like the blonde room and the brunette room, because depending on what your hair color was, you'd go into different rooms to get your makeup done, because the lighting would be different. So, just to be part of history there with this exhibit, it's really amazing.

Soap Central: You've done a lot of "looking back" interviews lately. Through doing that, have you remembered anything that you had actually completely forgotten about?

Linder: There have been so many amazing things that I've remembered, and one that I haven't talked about a lot was that so many years ago, Esther had these pictures of Jack [Peter Bergman] and Jill [Jess Walton] -- things people have completely forgotten about, because we really are talking almost 40 years ago -- and Esther also has a brother, which is something that a lot of people probably don't realize -- and neither does Esther, really, because she hasn't seen him in so long! [Laughs] I don't think her brother was a very good guy, and he somehow got ahold of these pictures, and Esther dressed up as a bag lady to go and do something with these pictures in the park. So, I remembered that, and I remembered how excited I was that I was wearing something besides the maid uniform, and then to realize it was just going to be as a bag lady, I thought, "Really?!" [Laughs]

Soap Central: They included that in the special video Y&R posted of you looking back on some of your best moments, and it was so much fun to see!

Linder: Yeah, they did, and it was so neat to see those clips, and it was great to see the masquerade ball, as well. That's one of my favorite things that I was able to do. I'm a singer/dancer -- I started my career that way -- so, to be able to do that on the show was just totally amazing. There was also a scene way back when -- I think I had just been put under contract -- where Esther had to testify at a trial, and I remember that they asked her to raise her right hand and swear to tell the truth, and Esther, being Esther, of course, raised the wrong hand! [Laughs] I remembered that just now, and I really love that Esther has been able to provide a sense of humor and some comic relief over the years and that she's been able to make people smile. That makes me happy.

Soap Central: There were some fun scenes in which Esther and Katherine switched places. Do you remember working with Jeanne Cooper on any of those scenes?

Linder: Oh, yeah! We were kidnapped, and Esther was pregnant at that time, and they put in a fake Mrs. Chancellor. Filming those scenes was great -- it was with a green screen, and Jeanne, as she always was, was yet again totally amazing in those shows. And it was great to be working with her on those.

Soap Central: When you think back to when you first started playing Esther and think of her now, in what ways do you think she's grown?

Linder: Well, she's grown a tremendous amount. Or, at least, one would hope that in 40 years, she's learned something! [Laughs] In the beginning, it used to drive me crazy because I was like, "Oh, my gosh, she's just so silly!" She did all these crazy things, and then I realized that Esther really is quite bright, because those times that people thought she was dusting, that wasn't really the case -- she was eavesdropping and trying to figure out what was going on. Esther has grown and has had a tremendous amount of insight. And, of course, she learned a lot from Mrs. Chancellor and from Jill, though she would never give Jill the credit for that, at all, because Jill calls her all these crazy names like Chihuahua or says she's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, that kind of thing. But she has grown, and now she has her daughter, and she has grandchildren. However, what I love is that through all of this, while she has grown, she has also continued to be caring and loving and loyal and will stick up for Mrs. Chancellor, even though Mrs. Chancellor is unfortunately not with her anymore. She's still loyal to her, no matter what.

Soap Central: You teased that the show would be delving into Esther's history, so what can you say about that?

Linder: I don't know if you remember, but years ago, Chloe [Elizabeth Hendrickson] changed her name because she was embarrassed about her mom being a maid. There are some episodes coming up that deal with that, which I'm very excited about. They air on May 20 and May 23. I'm so excited about these two episodes. The one on May 20 is sort of a retrospective with flashbacks, and there is a scene with Chloe and Esther, back when they had problems with each other, and that happens in mother and daughter relationships. And one of the many reasons why I think that Y&R is the number one show is that we deal with real-life situations that people can relate to. [Even when I think about my own life], me being a teenager was probably not the best time for my mom and myself. In a relationship, all kinds of different things happen, and at that time for Chloe and Esther, there were rough patches, and we hit on that in that episode, along with the flashbacks. I had so much fun taping it, and I'm excited to be able to see it! But, of course, you also go, "Oh, my God, that's what I looked like?!" [Laughs] I love seeing flashbacks, not just with my own character, but with all the other characters, as well.

Soap Central: Soap operas have recently been dealing with issues that affect the older generation, like Alzheimer's on Y&R and on General Hospital, and erectile dysfunction on The Bold and the Beautiful. How do you feel about that in general, and can you think of anything that would be a good story to tell through Esther?

Linder: What I love about our show is that we are here to entertain, but we also educate at the same time. I love that because I think it provides a service. I think falling is an issue that has not been brought up. I've dealt with it myself, and falling is really dangerous. People need to be more careful about where they're walking and to remember to look where they're walking. And as people age, they don't bounce back as well when you fall, and I think that might be a good issue to explore.

Soap Central: I think you just struck upon a genius idea, Kate! You are absolutely right about the importance of being careful about falling, particularly as people get older, and I know it's something that affects a lot of families. And Esther could be the perfect character for that, because she's quite scatterbrained at times, and I can see her not being absolutely careful herself!

Linder: When you said that, it just hit me. You could kill yourself by falling! And you don't even have to be older. Younger people fall, too. I don't think we put enough stock into making our homes safe -- I look around my own home and see things that I know need to be fixed to be a lot safer so that I don't fall, because you really don't want to do that. My mom has unfortunately fallen many times, and she just recently fell again and has broken several things. And she's amazing -- my mom is 97, and she's totally incredible and strong -- but it happens... so I think a storyline about falling would provide a really good service. I hadn't thought about it until you asked me that.

Soap Central: I'm going to shift the conversation to romance, if you don't mind, and ask you what you think about Esther's romantic exploits over the years. She hasn't really chosen well, and she's had some terrible, terrible luck in the love department!

Linder: You're right -- she's had back luck. Because Esther is so open and giving and loyal, she just expects everyone else to be like she is, and I think Esther is just so happy that someone would say they care about her that she doesn't look at the whole picture. I think it would be really great for Esther to find some sort of caring person. I'm honored to have worked with this incredible actor, Sam McMurray, in the episode that's airing on the 23rd of May, and I know when you see him, you'll go, "Oh, yeah, I know him!" He's been in tons of things, and he's a really good actor. But anyway, we had scenes together that air on the 23rd. I don't know what's going to happen with that, but I would love it if something did! We'll see.

Soap Central: We have our fingers crossed. You have legions of fans who would love to see Esther explore love with someone and be cared for.

Linder: And it's never too late! It's never too late to have love in your life. We were just talking about the older population, and just because people are older doesn't mean that they don't need to experience that and have that in their lives, because it could make their lives so much richer and more meaningful, to have someone to share it with or spend their life with, and Esther is no exception to that. So, I think it would be very interesting to explore that, and who knows how it might turn out after the episode on the 23rd, but just to see that other dimension and part of Esther would be really great.

Soap Central: Can you think of any moments where the writers tried to explore Esther's chemistry with some of the major players on the show, like Victor Newman or Paul Williams or any other longtime staple men over the years?

Linder: You know what? No! I don't know how those other actors would feel -- or would have felt -- about it, but I would love it! Because no, they have not done that, and I think that would be quite interesting.

Soap Central: Me, too! Esther is a major part of Genoa City, so they should just test these things out and see. You never know what sparks could fly.

Linder: Yeah, I think that's a great idea! And listen, at the very least, Esther could keep those men heart-healthy -- she knows what food to serve! [Laughs] But listen, at The Young and the Restless, everyone on the show works so hard. There's an old saying, "It takes a village," and it definitely does take everyone coming together to make our show as amazing as it is, and whatever our writers have in store, I'm just thrilled to be able to play it, and it's my job to bring what they write to life, and I will always try to do that to the best of my ability. Whatever they want me to do, I'm happy to do it, because I love the 40 years and counting!

Soap Central: I'd love to ask about either a very strong memory or a favorite moment that you've had with some of your longtime co-stars, starting with Jess Walton.

Linder: I absolutely love Jess. Our characters might have problems with each other, but we are friends. She's a very caring and giving friend, and I love working with her. And with Jeanne, too, the three of us would always run our lines together and come up with things to do in the scenes, and that was always just fabulous. And Jess and I still do that when we get to work together. I miss it when I'm not working with her.

Soap Central: How about your on-screen daughter, Elizabeth Hendrickson?

Linder: I just love Lizzie! She's so talented, and the scenes that are coming up on May 20 and 23, they're with her, as well, and I'm thrilled about that. And actually, I got a text from her on Mother's Day that said, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom," which made me cry. That was just so sweet of her. I love her, and we have that kind of relationship, like mother and daughter, in lots of ways.

Soap Central: You've also had some fun scenes with Greg Rikaart [Kevin Fisher], as well.

Linder: Oh, yeah! Greg is so great to work with, and Christian [LeBlanc, Michael Baldwin], too. Christian and I have an incredible relationship. We're friends, and he's co-hosted my annual tea with me in Canada. I've been doing it for over 20 years, and we've raised several million dollars for charity. So, not only on the set but also off, I have great relationships with these people, with my cast mates, that are really wonderful and giving. And they give up their time -- they're not being paid or anything -- and I ask them if they'll do this, if they'll come and give up their weekend for me and for the charity, and they always say yes, and they do it, and Christian has been there for all the years I've been doing it now. So, it's great. It's great when we get to work with each other, and it's great when we get to help people, as well.

Soap Central: Is there anyone on Y&R that you've not had many scenes with in your 40 years that you'd like to work with on a deeper level?

Linder: Oh, wow! I think it would be really interesting to have Phyllis and Esther together in some way. Michelle Stafford is brilliant, and we've hardly had anything together, so that would be lots and lots of fun. I could see them getting into trouble, both of them! [Laughs]

Soap Central: Do you get the chance to form relationships with Y&R stars that you don't have a lot of scenes with?

Linder: With the last couple of years, it's been tough, with COVID going on. It's been a whole different thing, because we haven't been able to spend that kind of quality time with people. But hopefully that will come back, and it's always great to see people when I haven't seen them. Peter Bergman would also be interesting to work with more. Although, I had worked with him before -- we've had scenes together. But another one would be Amelia [Heinle, Victoria Newman]; I would love to work with her. I've always said it would be interesting for Esther to go into Chancellor Industries and work there, because there's a lot more to Esther than people realize, that maybe Mrs. Chancellor set that up, because she knew. There was one line during the masquerade ball, one line that sums it for me. When Mrs. Chancellor is introducing Esther before this number, she starts to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my maid," but she takes a beat there and she doesn't say it. Instead, she says, "I give you my... friend." And that says it all for me. Not only were the characters that, but in real life, it was the same. It just says it all. When you're working with some of these people, you have a good working relationship, and friendship happens, and I think it comes through on screen, the chemistry. Chemistry between actors in a scene is just so important. You know when you're watching something and it affects you, or you think, "Why am I not being affected by this character? They're crying their eyes out, but I don't feel it. Why?" So, I just find that whole aspect of different people working with each other and bringing different things out in each other very interesting. And like you said, there are actors that I haven't had the pleasure of working with in these 40 years, and it would be great to explore some of those relationships.

Soap Central: Fingers crossed there is a lot more for you to explore as Esther with other characters on the show! We'd love that. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Linder: You asked great things and made me think of things that I hadn't thought of before, so thank you! But I do want to say how grateful I am to everyone on the show, all of our producers, directors, writers, our crew, the office, our publicist, because it takes everyone, and everyone pulls together. And I'd also like to thank the viewers that are watching our show and have kept it going for almost 50 years! And here's another thing that I've always said -- my mom watched the show from day one, so when I started on the show, she was telling me about everything, and she never missed an episode, and to this day, she hasn't missed an episode. She watched The Young and the Restless every day, and not just because she's my mom! She's slightly prejudiced, but she is definitely a fan and a viewer and has opinions! [Laughs] She loves the show, and actually, she was on the show a couple times. It wasn't that long ago, but she was in a scene with Tracey Bregman's [Lauren Fenmore] mom, and she loved doing that. And also, my parents were on years and years ago as extras, and that was a big deal for them, as well. My mom just loved doing that. I think my mom always wanted to be an actress, so the fact that I've done that and she sort of lived it through me is very special, as well.

Soap Central: I'd love to congratulate you again on being part of Y&R for 40 years. You're so loved by fans and you're such an important part of the show. We cannot imagine Genoa City without you; it wouldn't be Genoa City without Esther Valentine.

Linder: It means so much to me that you said that. You have no idea how important that is to me and how much I appreciate that. They'll have to drag me out of there! [Laughs] I absolutely love what I do, I love the show, and I am honored that I am able to bring Esther to life. It has provided me with so many ways to give back, and I am absolutely thrilled and honored. So, thank you.

What do you think about our interview with Kate Linder? Would you like to congratulate her on 40 years of playing Esther Valentine? What would you like to see for Esther's future? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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