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Roseanna Christiansen interview

You asked your questions to Danone Simpson who played Ewing Oil receptionist Kendal.

Ultimate Dallas - Hi Danone , welcome to Ultimate Dallas. Thank you for doing this, we have questions from all over the world.

Danone - Hi. That's great

Ultimate Dallas - Are you looking forward to the Southfork reunion?

Danone - Absolutely. I have not seen Larry or Patrick in too many years to say (laughs). I saw that Deborah Tranelli was on your website too so I really hope she comes.

UD - I hope she does. We did an interview with her a while back.

Danone - What about Debbie Renard?

UD - I'm not sure actually. I hope she comes

Danone - I'd love to see her too. We'll see if we can dig her up.

UD - Have you been to the ranch before?

Danone - I'm from Texas. I'm a true Texan so drive by there pretty often when I go and visit my family. But we filmed on the MGM lot, but it was an exact replica of Southfork the swimming pool. We did a lot of shots on that stage that actually had the offices, the Ewing Oil company and in the next room beside us was the swimming pool and the living room.

Scarelet88 asks How did you end up getting the part of Kendall on Dallas?

Danone - You know it was a casting call, I actually remember the day quite well. I actually had a commercial all the way at Warner Brothers at 5pm and my appointment was 4pm, so there was 250 girls, if not more, in front of me and I remember begging my way through the entire line all the way up to the front. I run in and met with Lennie Katzman, I was so excited I literally just bombed in there, I only had a few minutes with him and told him I was really excited about the show but I have to go all the way across Los Angeles to get to Warner Brothers. We had a quick few minutes and I got the call later that night.

UD - Do you remember when that was?

Danone - I was there for 10 years, right after the year JR was shot. They cleared out the old secretaries and the new group came in - Sly, Phyllis and myself.

Killerbob asks I would like to ask how your work on Dallas was planned; did you film many of your scenes in the same day or week or did they call you in every now and then?

Danone - I worked every week during season. It was scheduled, back then they had to drive the script out to us, it was before email and PDA. I worked on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week but usually once a week.

UD - Did you get sent a full script?

Danone - I did. Which is great because I like to write scripts, I'm a reader, they were exciting.

UD - Do you recall your first scene with Larry Hagman?

Danone - I don't remember my first scene, but I remember all my scenes with him. He was amazing, as well as Patrick, Kenny was hysterical. We got to see so many of the dynamics with the characters and the thing I loved the most was the comedy. Believe it or not I used to always say I wish we could film this as a comedy. These guys were so funny, they got us all full of energy and pumped up before the scenes.

UD - Do you remember your last scene?

Danone - I don't remember the last scene because we thought we had another year to go at least. They printed bags and everything that said 'Lucky Thirteen' , they were really looking forward to another season so it wasn't at all nostalgic or anything like that. We actually thought we had more to go. I do remember Barbara Eden being in those last scenes and I loved her as a young woman, it was a joy to meet her. She was beautiful and wonderful. I do remember that at the end.

UD - What were these lucky 13 bags?

Danone - Well it was actually a duffel bag and a jacket. They gave us gifts every year, we had a wrap party and at the end of that wrap party we really thought we had another season, that was the concept of the lucky thirteen, it turned out to be unlucky.

I kind of outlived a lot of the people, I was actually pregnant on the show, I would sit behind the desk and wave at people. When she was a little girl I would put her behind my desk, she was such an amazing baby she never made a peep. She would sit right there with me (laughs)

Elvis Angel asks Do you wish they had explored the character Kendal more ?

Danone - In the very beginning yes, that was the hardest part for me.
I was a serious actress and had done films but they wanted to develop my character more with James, JR's son. But at that time he was 23 or so and I was 30, and I felt like I was robbing the cradle (laughs). This was a morning after scene, my daughters in kindergarten and I'm a girl scout leader and the girls watched Dallas. What am I gonna say to them? Leonard said "Danone you're just not a typical actress". So I show up for the scene, I'm literally in a full length gown at the telephone and James is in the bed (laughs), so they were very protective of me, which was great. I have a wonderful family life, Iv been married 27 years and my family was very important to me.

Garry asks Did you enjoy playing opposite Sasha Mitchell?

Danone - He was really a great actor. He would come in late a lot and they busted him, but he was great actor. I enjoyed him very much but the scenes got to be really sassy and that's when they brought in Michelle, remember?

UD - Oh yes. Kimberly Foster

Danone - The really cute blonde. She was perfect for that role with James because I really didn't want to go there. So it worked out well.

UD - You said that Sasha would come in late. So what would happen?

Danone - oh my god. The directors would be furious, would really bust at him in front of everyone. But you know Sasha was young enough that he had that youthful confidence about him, he took it and went to work and became a professional and was late the next day (laughs)

Janine asks How did that storyline come about? Were you surprised to get it after so many years of being at reception?

Danone - You know it was funny, at the wrap party the year before my husband had the chickenpox so I went to the party by myself. All the girls danced and we had a ball and that was the night Lennie looked at me and I could see it coming. He thought "we're gonna take this girl places". He decided to write me in to this larger role, but at the end of the day I just felt James was a little too young for me and the role a little too frisky. It just didn't work in my family life so I had to make a decision. I know that sounds boring but that's kind of who I am.

UD - So would that happen a lot? If Leonard saw someone he liked or had potential he would write them into the show or expand their part?

Danone - Absolutely. He was the writer or writers. I loved the man, my husband worked with Lennie on Petrocelli

Pamela asks As a female in the world of business did you come across any obstacles? How do you look back at Dallas and its a portrayal of women?

Danone - Its funny because I sent you a picture of me in a business suit and thinking of the Dallas days I thought perhaps that's not the right picture. But I always wore business attire as Kendal. so that picture was perfect. I'm a very different person to what I was then, now I own my own company. Iv been wearing business suits my whole life.

UD - Dallas is accused of being sexist.

Danone - I'm from Dallas and Dallas is a real mans world, especially in those days. I was always really respected by everyone. Larry was amazing, I remember sitting with him one day, he was getting his hair done , I was getting my hair done and he said "Danone if you never ask for a raise you will always get one every year". I never did ask and I always got one. They were good to us.

MattUK asks I thought all the secretaries were the most beautiful women on the show. What was your favorite other secretary to work with and do you miss Sherril Lynn Rettino who sadly and unbelievably passed away so young.

Danone - I have goose bumps right now. It is so incredibly sad what happened to her. She had a beautiful little girl, her husband worked with my husband. It was very sad what happened to Sherril. I think that hurt Lennie so much, he didn't go too far behind her.

My favorite to work with was Deborah Tranelli, she and I hit it off. She was just a brilliant woman.

HalfbreedRay asks We seemed to have lost track of some fellow secretaries, Do you ever connect with any of the fellow secretaries?

Danone - Deborah met a young man, and I remember we took a yacht out in Santa Monica and it was so much fun. That was one of the last times I saw Deborah and then she moved to New York. We stayed in touch through Christmas cards and letters. I have not heard from her in three years now, and would love to connect to her again. I think her father passed away and she quit communicating for some reason.

Caress asks Hi Danone.

Kendall was gone from Ewing Oil for the second part of Season 8 and all of Season 9 (aka the infamous dream season). Were you gone for your own reasons or was it part of the changes with producers and writers during this period on the show?

Danone - That's probably when I had my daughter. I was in the hospital for two and a half months. I missed part of one season, if that was in 1985 that was when Brianna was born.

DR30Guy asks How did you feel/what was your reaction - when you first discovered the amazing community at UltimateDallas.com?

Danone - I find it incredibly loving and amazing. I have gone on the site a couple of times. myself but I didn't realize how many hits it had. At one time there was eight thousand people online, its a really well loved show.

Barbara_Fan if you could have been one of the leading females on Dallas who would you like to have been and why?

Danone - I think I would of gone for Linda Grays role. I would liked a dash or so with Larry, although I wouldn't of put up with him for a minute (laughs). Then again, I loved Patrick too. He had this amazing magnetism to him, he was a very handsome man, as well as Larry, Patrick was little bit softer. Victoria or Linda, I would of done, either of those roles.

Mildred asks in the fabulous interview with Roseanna Chritenson she stated that sometimes she was treated rather off hand by crew and a certain director, not the cast. Did you ever experience anything like this?

Danone - I think I'm a really positive person, I enjoyed them all. After Lennie took off for a while, the new producer, he was very fastidious. He would fuss at me about my hair, he would literally call me at home and tell me to make sure my hair looked great the next day. He was very very particular and made no bones about it. We were competing with Dynasty, they were trying to attract a female audience.

UD - Did that change the atmosphere on set at all?

Danone - Absolutely. Lennie was a tough act to follow, that's why Larry called Lennie and said you have to come back - its the worse nightmare ever and that's what they did. It was a dream (laughs)

UD - What are your memories of Donna Reed?

Danone - I always loved her, it was exciting to meet her. I couldn't buy it , she was not a Miss Ellie. She actually reminds me of Mrs Reagan, her hair was perfect, she was beautiful woman. Barbara was a beautiful, mother earth country woman, that was the part that didn't work for me and a lot of people. To replace a character like that just didn't work.

UD - Donna Reeds son claims she was treated quite badly.

Danone - Really? I just can't imagine that. It was such a loving group and we really were a family. I think there may of been an awkwardness which could come off as a coolness.
Its like Victoria Principal, a lot of people thought she was snooty and honestly she was kind of shy. She was a very sweet person, a very lovely person. When people don't understand a person they stick a name on it.

UD - Victoria has a reputation for being cold. I interviewed her last year and thought she was amazing.

Danone - She was.

Misty asks Where did the elevator go in Ewing Oil?

Danone - (laughs) Well it really just went to the other side of the set, it did not go up or down, it was really just one floor.

Casey08 asks Do you have any Dallas memorabilia?

Danone - Actually on my desk today I have a little gold round, paperweight. I think it was from the last show. I was actually ill the last show, I had flu and couldn't go and get my wardrobe, so a lot of my own clothes were mixed in with the entire wardrobe at MGM. The wardrobe lady called me and said I had to come this week and you can have any of the outfits on the show. I was so sick and couldn't go. So unfortunately I missed out on my wardrobe which would of been great. I'm still mad about that (laughs).

Luke asks Given you spent most of your time behind a desk, what was it like shooting April's wedding shower at the Southfork Set. Was it fun to be there with the rest of the Dallas ladies?

Danone - It was great fun. We walked around a lot, we were just in the Ewing Oil section. We would sit and watch all the other scenes even though we were only in the Ewing Oil section. So we did get to meet everyone. It was great, we would sit around and play Trivial Pursuit, played a lot of games. We had great times. We went to the cafeteria with curlers in our hair and sit with the characters from Star Wars (laughs). We got to watch the ship from Hook being built, it was such a work of art.

Misty also asks How was working on the Dukes of Hazard?

Danone - I loved the character, I think it was Melody. I liked the character a lot, a little rich brat. It was fun, I liked the cast on that show a lot too. I was supposed to be a pilot for another show, it was called Toeheads, a spin off from the Dukes of Hazard. But the show didn't sell, I was excited about that, being a country girl myself.

Pamcakes asks Where have you been since Dallas?

Danone - Well I was an event planner for years, putting on large events for companies and non profit work. Then I owned a location based entertainment company, we brought entertainment into Las Vegas. Then I go into the commercial insurance industry and now I own my own commercial insurance brokerage firm. I have a lot of non profit agencies like Make a Wish Foundation, a great variety of companies, so its fun. Believe it or not its fun (laughs)

UD - How did you make the decision to leave acting?

Danone - Its a difficult industry to leave and it was just time because of the character, not that I played on Dallas, I was a Suzanne Sommers type and the roles were getting really rough. Heather Thomas beat me out of the Fall Guy, I had nine interviews with her on that one. I really wanted that show. After that I decided I wanted to do fund raising.

UD - So they only perceived you to be acceptable for a certain role?

Danone - You know the roles got incredibly sexy and it just didn't work for me being married and with my daughter in school. I really wanted to keep my family together and a lot of actresses can't do that due to the roles they play. I turned a lot of them down, I had people upset with me, casting directors. I chose to stop, to get out of the industry at that time.

It was when Meryl Streep did Silkwood and she took off her blouse and didn't have on her bra. I knew watching that film that our industry was going to change, and it did. You would literally get a script with no dialogue, and I would ask them to take me off the list. Wow look at it today, its really changed. I didn't mind the swim suits, I was good with that.

UD - Some names to throw at you and your thoughts:

UD - Kimberly Foster

Danone - Absolutely lovely, a beautiful girl. I was really happy she took over for me (laughs) So Kimberly came in and she was perfect.

UD - So what exactly did you feel uncomfortable with?

Danone - It was my girl scouts and watching Dallas and they would say "We saw you on Dallas last night" (laughs)

UD - Ken Kercheval

Danone - Absolutely loved him. He was a delightful human being and an amazing character. He was hysterical, funny man.

UD - Victoria Principal

Danone - I thought she was an incredibly elegant, sweet, quiet, dynamic woman. She was misunderstood by a lot of people, they thought she was snooty and stand offish like I said. I want to say shy, but that's not really the word, she was just not interested in a lot of fanfare.

UD - Where was that perception from? How did that transpire?

Danone - It was just the media, you know. What was maybe said, that she was the b word, you know. She wasn't that way at all. She was a lovely woman. She was smart. But Linda Gray was my favorite, she alluded this lovely grace about her. Morgan Brittany was another. The ones who played those characters are the sweetest.

UD - What about Priscilla Presley?

Danone - She was like Morgan Brittany. She was down to earth, a beautiful person.

UD - Any final thoughts for the fans?

Danone - Well I'm really thrilled that everyone is still excited about Dallas, so am I. I can't wait to see everyone again. I know they talked about doing a film, it would be fun one day to do something like that.

UD - Dallas may well be coming back to TV.

Danone - Works for me. I'll play Kendal again, now I own my own company I can take a few hours off. I could definitely do both (laughs)

 

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