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Behind the scenes on the TV show Dallas

Larry Hagman on setWork invariably begins with a 5:30 A.M. makeup call for some of the actors and a 7:18 A.M. call for crew. The first shot usually takes place around 8:00 A. M, as soon as the set is ready. Actors must always be ready and waiting. Since production time is money, actors stand by in their dressing rooms and are brought to the set about two minutes prior to the first walk-through. In addition to rehearsals, the actors will perform at least one walk-through for the camera. They will be already in makeup and wardrobe but draped with large, white, paper napkins at the throat to prevent makeup from ruining their clothes. Additional walk-throughs may be done for lighting or tricky camera shots.


Dallas call sheetEach scene will be rehearsed once and then filmed, usually twice – unless the first take was astoundingly perfect or the shot is a complicated track shot with a moving camera. After the scene is done, it will be "covered" from several other angles; each angle will favor one of the speaking actors. In editing, the various versions will be cut together so the viewer sees the speaker and one or more reactions. Film shows such as Dallas rarely use more than one camera (videotaped shows usually use three cameras) because the look and feel of the film is based upon the quality of the lighting. Two cameras may be used on an elaborate stunt, but otherwise the lighting will be adjusted to best flatter each situation and actor.


The day’s work usually wraps around 6:00 – 6:30 P.M., but can extend until later depending on the demands of the schedule. The director tries to accomplish all the assigned work on a daily call sheet because there is no room in the schedule to bump over to the next day. Only once, when both Barbara Bel Geddes and Victoria Principal were out ill, was the set closed down and the schedule readjusted accordingly.

Larry Hagman on the set of DallasOf course, not every actor works every day and not every actor has scenes with all the other actors. Cliff Barnes and Miss Ellie are rarely on camera together. After Pam and Bobby’s divorce, Victoria Principal was no longer needed for family living room and dinner scenes. The production office schedules the scenes for each day, the actors needed, and the arrival times for makeup and on set. A "call sheet" is issued around 3:00 P.M. of the day prior to the shoot. Actors must phone in for their "call." If they are not working the next day, the call sheet is marked with an "H" for holding. All actors are paid on a per episode basis. with fees ranging from around $5,000 an episode to over $100,000, unless they are day players. Since day players only work one day, they are paid only for that day. Sometimes an actor beginning as a day player becomes a contract player-if his/her character becomes a regular. Actors who direct were paid $16,800 per an episode. Only principal actors are considered for directing jobs.


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