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'Dallas' Linda Gray interview: 'I liked Sue Ellen's drunk scenes'

By
Linda Gray

© WENN

Dallas is one of those television shows that became a true phenomenon. From the legendary 'Who shot J.R.?' storyline to the classic return of Bobby in the shower, it's one of those series that will be thought of fondly for years and years to come.

If you fancy a bit of a nostalgia trip, or if you've never actually seen Dallas, you're in luck! CBS Drama is repeating the show in full from tomorrow, so you've got a chance to relive the whole thing.

To celebrate the news, Digital Spy decided to chat to the programme's star Linda Gray, who you might remember as Sue Ellen. Read on to find out what it was like starring in the original series and why she's excited about the new episodes which will air in the US next year...

So why do you think Dallas is such a legendary show?
"It's a great question, and you know, I don't think anyone really knows the proper answer because it's individual. Why did it appeal to so many people, from the younger people to the older people?

"I think people love shows that are relationship-oriented. I think they love family shows. I think they like to look at rich, powerful people who are dysfunctional! I think simply people love to be entertained and that's what we love to do. We love to entertain people - that's our job on the planet. That's what we do. And if people respond, all the better.

"So I think we were absolutely blessed to have a show as powerful and as global as Dallas that was cross-generational, and to this day I hear stories about people watching it with grandma and sneaking down in pyjamas because they were not allowed to see it. You have that whole gamut of generations and now I'm talking to 20-year-olds who are hooked on the DVDs, they just love it.

"It's kind of shocking to us that it's achieved that status after so long. We went on the air in January of 1978 - it's like, 'Oh my God, how long is it going to keep going and we're still out there?' It's a phenomenon for us as well."

Do you ever resent being linked so closely to Dallas and Sue Ellen? Do you ever wish you could break away from it?
"Well, the word isn't 'resent'. I think it's lovely for any actor to work and that's what we do - we like to work. The downside is that people so closely identify you to that character that it's challenging to get other jobs.

"And then you look at your life and you think, 'Okay, I've been attached to Dallas for a long time. Is that a negative? No. Is it a positive? Yes. Has it prohibited me from working on other things? Yes, but I've carved my way out and done a lot of other things. But you have to dig a little deeper when you're so attached to a character."

Obviously Dallas is known for its dramatic moments - were there any twists and turns that particularly shocked you?
"You know, there were a lot of surprises, a lot of twists and turns that were really surprising to me. I don't think I was shocked a lot because we were so enmeshed in the work that things didn't really shock us a lot. We were always surprised and we would giggle and laugh and go, 'Oh my God, we're doing this this week'.

"I think we were fascinated. We were fascinated by the phenomenon of 'Who shot JR?' We didn't know it was going to be that huge. We were fascinated by the reaction when Bobby came back in the show. So there were a few things that were fascinating and interesting how the fans reacted, so there were a lot of fascinating moments more than shock I think."

Linda Gray

© WENN



Do you have a favourite scene from the original series of Dallas?
"Yes! I loved my drunk scenes. I know that may sound very strange to people! I got to just let go and just do a down and dirty version of Sue Ellen. It was like, 'Just let me at it and roll those cameras'. I remember being in makeup for 20 minutes, which normally took two hours. They put some kind of gel in my hair and some very light makeup and I loved it. I said, "Just let me go, please don't edit me, just let me go'.

"They told me they were going to take me down as Sue Ellen. I said, 'How far?' and they said, 'Down'. I said, 'Okay, if you're going to take me down it's got to go all the way'. As an actor, that was my joy. I just loved it. I loved the freedom and I loved the lack of any kind of... She didn't care what she looked like. She didn't care about her clothes.

"I remember having a very expensive Valentino outfit on and they ripped it! They tore it. I was shocked, I was like, 'Oh my God'. Then I remember thinking, 'Maybe they can fix it? I was like, 'You don't tear a Valentino!'

"Anyway, it was just one of those charming, charming, charming times where I just got to blow it out. I just wanted Sue Ellen to be raw unlike any other time in her life, where she was the victim and she was this and she was that; JR would do something and she would react, he would do something and she would have an affair or drink or whatever. This was just like, 'Let me go. Let Sue Ellen out of that box'."



You're working on a new season of Dallas now. Are you excited?
"Very. Very excited. Very honoured to have been chosen to be one of the three that came back, very excited about working with my buddies Patrick [Duffy] and Larry [Hagman]. Just thrilled. It's such an honour to be back on such an iconic show."

Do you think the show is still as good now as it was back then?
"Oh I think so. I think you'll be very surprised when you see the pilot. Patrick, Larry and myself are the three older ones, then they've introduced a beautiful crop of new, talented young actors that really we're very proud of. We're very, very excited to see them all coming on the show."

What do you think Sue Ellen will be like in the new episodes?
"Well, you're just going to have to watch and find out!"

Do you think we'll see any more of those drunk scenes?
"Hopefully not. Above all, she will be very interesting. I never want her to be boring. She was never boring before - she started out kind of boring, but I think that's the kiss of death because people will expect her to be interesting. By interesting, that doesn't mean she's drunk.

"I had to do a lot of thinking about what we would do with her. Where would she be now? I did a lot of homework finding out where she would be and what Texas women are like now. What has she gone through in her life? What has she come to grips with? What does she like about herself? What doesn't she like about herself? What kind of impact is she going to make on her life, on her son's life, on her future? Who is she?

"So I did a lot of homework and finding out more about her internal workings, put it all together and I came up with some pretty good ideas, I thought, and I gave them to the writers. Whether they take them or not is up in the air, I don't know. But we planted a seed in the pilot that should be very interesting.

"Sue Ellen isn't very prominent in the pilot which is fine for me because we planted a seed and that's the interesting part for me."

Jim Davis in 'Dallas'

© WENN / CBS/LANDOV

A lot of people will be wondering about Sue Ellen's relationship with JR now - how do you think that will turn out?
"Again, I don't know. We've only seen one script and we've filmed it. They've done a lovely thing and they're introducing us to the writers - we've never had that luxury. They're being very lovely and respectful to us. It's really charming the way they're treating us. So we get to meet the writers and have lunch with them which will be lovely, and off we go!"

What would you like to see for JR and Sue Ellen?
"Because it's been 20 years since they've been on screen together, I think either - I mean, these are just hypothetical, these are not things I've said to the writers - but I think either they'd be partners in crime where they could do things together, not devious but maybe in a powerful way. A very powerful team, not a romantic team, but maybe they could be a force for good or maybe they could help their son, whatever he would be up to. I think it would be very interesting.

"Or they would be at odds. One could say one thing to the son and the other one the other thing and then there'd be a tug of war. Either way it could be interesting, but the bottom line is it's got to be interesting!"

Obviously Dallas was huge back in the day with the 'Who shot JR' phenomenon and so on - do you think it could repeat that success and be just as talked about this time around?
"That's a great question, but I don't really know. When the original show was on the air it was so interesting because we didn't have nine million channels and cable and the computer and TiVo and VCRs. We didn't have all that stuff. So I don't know whether people will still watch it or whether there will be that kind of intrigue and interest.

"I don't know whether there could be another 'Who shot JR' kind of thing but you know, we didn't know it was going to be a phenomenon when we shot it, so the whole thing is kind of interesting. But the interesting thing is we're there and people want to see it and I bless them. It's like, 'Yes, come and see us and see what we can do and see what we come up with!'"

If someone has never seen Dallas before, why should they tune in to watch?
"I think there's magical chemistry. I think the chemistry and the characters are absolutely fascinating and I think that Texas is a place in the world where people think everything is bigger and expensive. I remember the film Giant and how people were fascinated by that lifestyle that seemed so different from any other part of the world - there were oil wells and rich people and cowboys.

"It was a different place, it was a whole different thing. It wasn't like going from city to city where you see the same stores and the same things. I think Texas in interesting in itself and then you add the complex people and their interactions. It's sort of its own little world and I think that's fascinating."

Dallas will begin its rerun on Friday at 11pm on CBS Drama.
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