Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Interview: Linda Gray, "It's a Joy to Play Sue Ellen"

The second season of TNT’s reboot of “Dallas” (which airs Monday nights at 9/8c) has started with a bang. While the new season will be bittersweet — with the recent death of series star and legendary actor Larry Hagman — the cast is eager for fans to see what the Ewings are up to now. I recently spoke with longtime “Dallas” star Linda Gray, and she can’t wait for viewers to experience the new season.

Celebrity Extra: First and foremost, I must tell you how sorry I am about the passing of your dear friend and castmate Larry Hagman. What will you remember most about him, and about working with him?

Linda Gray: Thank you very much. From day one, he was magic to work with, and it never stopped being magic. He was a joy to watch, and looking into those baby-blue eyes and going, “You little rat, what are you doing now?” When Larry and I worked together, it was really like a Ping-Pong game. It wasn’t a tennis game; it was faster, like Ping-Pong.

He was a great, generous actor. I remember in 1978, I was coming at him (in a scene between Sue Ellen and J.R.) and just yelling at him or something, and he gently took my shoulders and moved me; I didn’t realize it, but I had gotten out of my light. Another actor would have thought: “Let her bury herself. She’ll be in the dark; I’ll be in the light. Perfect.” But he wasn’t like that. He was gentle like that. It was an unspoken chemistry that happens so rarely in life, and I was blessed to know him.

CE: When TNT first approached you about the resurrection of “Dallas,” what did you think about coming back to the show, and to the character of Sue Ellen Ewing?

LG: That was just beyond fabulous. It was a big surprise for Patrick (Duffy, who plays Bobby Ewing), Larry and I. We called each other immediately, shouting: “Oh my God! We get to work together in the same characters that we love.” And that wouldn’t have happened before, because we are too recognizable. We never, ever get to work together in anything (other than “Dallas”), so this was a win-win situation. I am loving every second of it.

CE: How has Sue Ellen changed in the 20-year interim between the series?

LG: I really did some wonderful homework for this. That’s the fun part of being an actor. She was born and raised in Texas. She was Miss Texas. She knew everybody in Texas. She knew all the oil deals that J.R. had done — good, bad or indifferent. She knew all those politicians; she knew all the oil men; she knew everything and everybody.

It’s 20 years later, and she’s now sober. Lots of things went on in her life prior to coming back. She’s no longer the victim; she’s a survivor. Life is different for her. I didn’t want her to be the same. She couldn’t have been the same. Bobby could still be the good guy, J.R. could still be the bad guy — but adored by fans with that cute little smile — but Sue Ellen had to be different.

CE: I am bummed that she lost the election to become Texas’ new governor.

LG: This is a little tidbit that I like to tell people: The governor lives in Austin, so if she had won, she would have had to live in Austin. The show’s called “Dallas,” so we didn’t need that. (Laughs.) We need her in Dallas. It’s OK she lost. She can move on to what’s next. This is the fun part, the absolute joy. You don’t ever know where Sue Ellen is going. That’s why I love this character.

CE: Can you give me any clues as to what the rest of the season has in store for us?

LG: Not a clue. You have to stay tuned. I can’t tell you anything, and I won’t, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you. It’s a surprise for us each week when we get our scripts, so for me to take away that surprise for you would be very bad for me to do.

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