A dream of mine came true last week when I interviewed ‘Dallas’ stars Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy — or, as they’re more commonly known, Sue Ellen and Bobby Ewing.
Dallas is without a doubt one of the most successful shows in the history of television, originally running from 1978 to 1991.
Who could forget the famous 1980 cliffhanger, Who Shot JR? 350 million people tuned in to that episode and made it the second highest-rated episode of all time.
And to the delight of fans worldwide, Dallas has been given a new lease of life. Linda, now a grandmother, and Patrick, a grandfather, are both series regulars in the revived show, the latest season of which airs on Foxtel’s SoHo channel.
Going into this interview, I was really nervous. I think they’re some of the biggest stars I’ve ever spoken to. But I was quickly put at ease when Linda and Patrick told me they were just sitting in their jammies in a Sydney hotel room.
I’m loving the new Dallas. Linda, you were the first real desperate housewife in the original series, you were an alcoholic and you really touched on some deep issues there, but now you’re back. You’re going for governor and you’re richer than JR! Do you think that shows the differences in the decades?
Absolutely! During the ’80s Sue Ellen was a reactor, when JR did something she reacted to whatever it was and now she’s wrestled with her demons and is coming back strong. I’m having the best time playing her right now.
Linda, you’ve had a great career on stage as well. You played Mrs Robinson in The Graduate on both the West End and on Broadway. Anne Bancroft played that role in the movie. Is it true that they’re your legs on the promotional poster that was everywhere?
You’ve done your homework! Yes, they are my legs. I was paid $25 American dollars for that.
Patrick, I was a little bit young to watch Dallas, but I know you from Step by Step and more recently The Bold and the Beautiful. How different are those three genres?
They’re completely different with the exception of one thing, everybody has to do the same job. It’s just the arena in which you’re doing it. I think with The Bold and the Beautiful and all actors who do soap operas, they’re the most prolific producers of television ever. They do more pages per day than we do per week on Dallas. You have to come in with your A Game. We’re not spoilt on Dallas but we have the luxury of rehearsal, take 1, take 2, take 3.
How different was shooting this show in the ’80s to shooting it now?
Linda: Well, firstly the technology has changed tremendously, and then the interesting thing to me is that we’re shooting in HD now.
Patrick: The other thing that’s different is the old Dallas was very languid in its rhythm, every scene played out in normal time. Television now has an unspoken rule, you have to make an edit every three to four seconds.
What’s extraordinary is the both of you hardly look like you’ve aged a day since the original Dallas. Linda, I was reading that you do a “gratitude walk” to keep looking fantastic. Tell me about that.
I realised I had a lot of be grateful for, as we all do. So every morning I think, ‘You know what? I’m going to consciously make an effort to get outside rain, hail or shine, and be grateful for my legs, my eyes, the trees, my kids and grandkids’. So it’s very cliché but it has changed my entire life and it’s a great way to start the day
Patrick: I do a gratitude walk too! I’m grateful the wine bottle is only three steps away from where I’m sitting!
Larry Hagman, who of course played the ruthless oil baron JR Ewing, is no longer with us. Has there there a tribute to him on the set of Dallas, considering he was such a pivotal character on the show?
Linda: I think the writers have done the most amazing job in honouring Mr Hagman and JR Ewing. In Season 2, episode 8, which hasn’t aired here in Australia yet, we honour JR and it’s a beautiful memorial. It gives the fans the chance to grieve and mourn and go to his funeral to say goodbye. The writers orchestrated this season to say farewell and they did it with such respect.