The youngest child of part-Cherokee parents, Jeanne Cooper was born and raised in California. After studies at the Pasadena Playhouse, she made her stage debut in local musical productions. Put under contract, she appeared in several B-movies and Westerns early in her career. On the small screen, Cooper made guest appearances on many of the top shows of the late 50s and early 60s like "Playhouse 90" and "The Twilight Zone". In 1962, she earned her first Emmy nomination for her performance in an episode of "Ben Casey". After a turn as a regular on "Bracken's World", an NBC series about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a film studio in 1970, Cooper became beloved by many soap opera addicts for her long-running role as the wealthy, tough-as-nails but generally good-hearted grande dame Katherine Chancellor on CBS' "The Young and the Restless" (1973- ). She is the only actor who has been with the serial since its premiere and over the course of her long tenure, her character has coped with such problems as breast cancer, alcoholism and kidnapping and even got to play a lower-class lookalike. Cooper created a stir in 1984 when she allowed cameras to film her real-life face-lift which was incorporated into her story line. For her work on the series, she received back-to-back Daytime Emmy Award nominations as Outstanding Leading Actress in a Drama Series in 1989, 1990 and 1991.
Cooper is the mother of actor Corbin Bernsen and they have worked together on several occasions. She twice appeared as his intimidating parent on "L.A. Law" in 1986 and 1990 (earning a primetime Emmy nomination for the former). In 1992, Cooper was cast as Bernsen's mother in the feature "Frozen Assets".