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Uncut Channel 4 transcript exclusive to Ultimate Dallas
Interviewer : How would you describe the character of Ray Krebbs?
Steve : for me Ray Krebbs was the dream character, all American, Western style, bright, capable of getting in trouble , trying to do the right thing most of the time, he was the blue collar hero in the Dallas story so everyone could say "I kind of know that guy he reminds me of, I don't know who but I know him and I like him"
Interviewer: how did you get the part of Ray?
Steve: I had a traditional interview based on a phone call from an agent, he says there's a show and they would like to see you and its called Dallas. With very little knowledge I go over to this meeting at Warner Brothers. I know there this role of Bobby Ewing an Oil man, there's a role of J.R. his older brother , there's a role of Ray Krebbs a cowboy and there's the role of Cliff Barnes, so I might be right for one of these roles. In the office there are twenty or so young beautiful blondes auditioning for the Lucy Ewing role, I know one of them and ask if I could please see the script for a minute. I look through, there's Ray in the hayloft with the granddaughter, Rays girlfriend is marrying the younger brother Bobby, Ray is taking the girl out in the helicopter that he flies to compromise her so J.R can bring Bobby to break up the marriage, he rides a horse, does all this cowboy stuff , lives on this great old ranch called Southfork and their going to Dallas to film it. I say I love this role, I came in here thinking about Bobby Ewing but I love this Ray Krebbs role and they gave me a script and told me to come back in a couple of days we'd like to read you, so it was very typical. I came back in character and that night the phone was ringing, we're making a deal.
Interviewer: so did you go back to read dressed as a cowboy?
Steve: (laughs) well as an actor I think sometimes producers need a little bit of encouragement to see you in a particular role, they may not have as much imagination as you would expect. So I was in love with this character of Ray Krebbs , I wanted the part badly. I had done several Western films in my career at that point and there wasn't much opportunity then to play Western roles on television at that time. I thought this was my chance,m this is a really wonderful, contemporary character in a modern setting.
Interviewer: did you grow up watching Westerns?
Steve: I grew up like a lot of people of my generation with the television product being old Western serials like Roy Rogers, and John Wayne and Gary Cooper and many others were my favorites when I was a young person going to films. I wanted to create a character like that who people could identify with and that's what I always tried to bring with Ray Krebbs.
Interviewer: Would you consider Ray a bad character?
Steve: Ray would be in trouble, he would get drunk, he would try and kill J.R on three different occasions, he would make mistakes with financial affairs, and have various human problems but he didn't have any mean bones in his body and that was a little bit of what the show was about. Larry Hagman occupied the area of "how bad can I be" and Ray would make mistakes , pride would get in his way, Bobby generally didn't have too many bad habits which drove him crazy, he'd call himself Bobby goody two shoes. There was a little something for everyone which was a part of the secret of the show I think.
Interviewer: so was Ray an interesting role to play?
Steve : I would say that over the ten or eleven years that I was on the show it seems that I had the full gambit , there was very little that I did not have the chance to play, wild, crazy, remorseful, thrilled, you name it in all those episodes there was a little something for each one of us to try and grow on , that was probably the best part of being on a television series for all those years, you really get to home your craft.
Interviewer: Did you think that any of the writing for Ray was unbelievable?
Steve : no they didn't write Ray in a way that he would do things unbelievable, basically I never had trouble with any of the writing for Ray. Ray was used as a tool to divide people, to get the motor going, to create a friction in some way. There was always a lot of reason applied to the script as it related to Ray.
Interviewer: what did you feel about the dream season?
Steve: I knew you were going to get to that. The dream season was the clean way out and when Patrick came back to the show after we buried him the year before what are you going to do? Well it could be a C.I.A plot, he really had a twin brother, those were a few of the ideas that were thrown around but really the best to come at it is throw all that out, say its all a bad dream and lets start right where we left off. So I would the show lost 10% of its audience at that time, people were insulted, they said if they are going that far I'm not watching the show anymore. So that was a calculated risk but it paid off I think for Lorimar and for Dallas because Patrick came back then and stayed on the show till it finally closed in its 13th year.
Interviewer: when did you leave? what happened?
Steve: that was actually in the end of the 10th year, something you might call Corporate down sizing, runaway budgets and cuts in licensing fees caused Lorimar to reconsider how many regular cast members they needed and Pricilla Presley had elected to leave the show at that time and over the summer they decided that would also include Linda Gray and myself.
Interviewer: was there any point you wanted to leave the show?
Steve: I wanted to quit at the end of the first year, half way through the second year I was ready to leave the show. At that point the series had not developed to any level where the audience was large, it gained little attention and the story had shifted from Southfork Ranch to Ewing Oil, for the large part it was all Ewing Oil and my role was becoming smaller and smaller. I initially thought I had as good an opportunity on this program as any other actor but suddenly I was just tiny bits and pieces for Ray Krebbs and I had been in the film business for eight years prior and had done a lot of films and said I don't really need t.v so I'd go right back to pursuing film work and I'd be quite happy. Larry Hagman said "wait a minute pal, this is going to shape up, its gonna be something", Jim Davis said "don't quit that show, this is going to be a big hit, you stay on this show". So Larry and I played racquetball one time and he said "lets think about some story ideas", so we played out some things that might improve Rays position. So the one idea that really fit was if you put Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Steve Kanaly and Jim Davis in a line up and said pick that old guys son, they would of chosen me, because I looked very much like Jim Davis and Patrick and Larry did not. So illegitimate son, they do it in day time television all the time, its a soap opera so why not. Once Ray was a Ewing all the problems were solved.
Interviewer: what type of accent did you use?
Steve: When we came into the show we asked what kind of accent they wanted us to do. Are we supposed to be Dallas people? The producers were a little undecided about how far to go. You have eight core actors trying to come up with their version of a Dallas accent and Texas has a huge range of accents. In South West Texas I know many Oil men who sound like they have a bunch of hush puppies in their mouth and you can hardly understand any word that they are saying. In East Texas they talk kinda fast, kinda excited, kinda like JR. If you hear that weekly in a hour hour show from all the characters it becomes boring and starts to hurt your ears. So we all did a hint of a Western accent, everybody's was a little different, mine was not supposed to be Texas, so I kind of did a Colorado accent. But whatever we did worked.
Interviewer : How did the real Texans feel about Dallas?
Steve: When Dallas became a big thing it was a wonderful thing for all the people in Texas. They would travel for instance to where you are in the UK and be asked "what is that accent? oh my god your from Dallas, do you know the Ewings?" So the city of Dallas, Texas and being a Texan became a popular thing.
Interviewer: How were those very first days of doing Dallas?
Steve : We were all thrown together on this show very rapidly, there was casting then a few days later a meeting where we all got to read the scripts and meet each other. Literally days after that we were on our way to Dallas. None of use besides Larry had done a television show that had stayed on the air for more than a few weeks, so Larry knew, he was prepared . Larry came down in this brown step up hippie van, all the rest of us took planes down there and cabs. We were all stranded apart from Larry who would say "come on, you all jump on in here and lets get some dinner some place", so we'd go out in his van and drive out all around Dallas. He loved Chinese food, he'd go in and he'd say "Remember me Major Nelson, me and my friends here are making this show called Dallas , have you got a table for us?". It would work every time and Larry set the stage for kind of the wonderful feelings we had for each other and the comradary began at that point. He understood that one of the things that would make the show successful was if we could all bond and work arm in arm to take the show as far as it could go.
Interviewer: Did you get involved with the joking around on set?
Steve : I wasn't a big joker, Larry and Patrick were the jokers and experts at it.
Interviewer: Alcohol, I hear there was a lot of alcohol consumed on the set?
Steve: It was acceptable, where as smoking was not acceptable. I had a cigarette in an early episode and you know what that Barbara Bel Geddes smoked in a scene and the directors from the network saw that and said no smoking. From then on there was no smoking on the shows unless it was a character that smoked a big fat cigar. But alcohol never seemed to be an issue but ironically many of us drank too much such as Larry.
Interviewer: There is actually a Dallas drinking game
Steve: (laughs)never played it but sounds pretty good. At one point Larry decided to give up drinking, apart from champagne, he had champagne in the morning, at lunch and at other times.
Interviewer: The show wasn't an immediate success but seemed to then take off quite quickly.
Steve: This show had a long climb up hill, there were five shows produced which we called the mini series, each show quite different than the other. They were opposite heavy competition , a major show about Fred Astaire, another about the Holocaust. The who was originally on a Sunday night and did not have any audience until the 5th show. It was 12th in the week on the very last show. If it had not been for the 5th show there would have been no audience. So then there was what is called a half order, your picked up but not for a whole season but for twelve shows. We go down to Texas and start filming again, at the end of that 12 we are on the air but we are not getting good numbers. The network is not in a hurry to buy the next half, then we go home and think its all over but been nice. The next day Leonard Katzman rings and says the order went through. The next year again they did not buy a full season . So we are struggling, this is a show that isn't going any place fast, then in the second part of the second year it starts to pick up audience and at the end of that season there was a two part show where Jock was on trial for murder when they discovered some bone buried on Southfork, largely a court room drama, then at that point the network comes and says "do you think you can give us another couple of shows". The writers and producers are scrambling, it took them many days then finally someone said "why don't we just shoot the s.o.b.", "well who's gonna shoot him?" , "we don't have to decide" . So it was this fluke, after a season of planned episodes that set the show on fire.
Interviewer: How did the U.K. fans take to you? were you mobbed ?
Steve : I have English family in Northhampton and have been to England numerous times. But my best story about being mobbed has to do with Jim Davis. Jim had a 45 year career and lots of ups and downs then suddenly he ends up on this show Dallas and was totally the best choice and I could never imagine anyone else playing Jock Ewing. Then about the 3rd year he went to London with his wife Blanche in front of Buckingham Palace watching the changing of the guard when suddenly all the tourist attention was drawn not to the guards but to him, then one of the guards in the big hats came over and said "Mr Ewing would you please step behind the gates". He came back with this story about how the guards who never talk had to take him behind the gates and he said "you know Steve fifty years Iv been in this business and this is the most remarkable thing that has ever happened to me. Finally a success". Jim died a few years after that and it proves that if you stay in this business long enough your liable to hit it big.
Interviewer: So what about that cowboy fashion.
Steve: well like I said I came in wearing my idea of what a cowboy would wear but then I met some real cowboys and they said that I rode the horses well, shoed the horses but no good cowboy would be wearing a pair of Levi's and that I had to get a good old pair of Wranglers. So despite what people think of these cowboys they take pride in how they look and that look is important to them.
Interviewer: How did all the publicity affect you?
Steve: Its something that you have to get used to, my character, I felt, was admired largely by the audience so because of that I was not threatened in any way, I would be concerned about Larry Hagmans character who people really did hate. When a show becomes a mega hit internationally you loose a lot of privacy, you become a hider and its not really a human condition we are exposed to very often.
Interviewer: I believe you had some involvement with the NRA?
Steve: I was featured in an NRA program which was called "I am the NRA" because of a shooting background I have in my life which is a sports shooting, shooting clay targets and field shooting, I'm also a firearms safety instructor. I also did a fore arms safety video for the NRA and my focus is that firearms are handled safely and that we can continue to enjoy them here in North America. I want to continue doing these things, but I am willing to make concessions.
Interviewer: Susan Howard is very involved in the NRA
Steve: She was or still may be a board member of the National Rifle Association, there is a political lean to her. (he laughs)
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite episode?
Steve: I have a happiest and saddest episode. The happiest was an episode called "The Third Son", where its discovered Ray is Jocks illegitimate son, it's something I had worked to get into the show and finally it happened. The saddest one was when Patrick was leaving, we had all been such a team at that point, his character had been involved in a terrible automobile accident in the story and flatlined and died and we bury him. It really was as if he was dying because he was leaving us and at that point we had no idea he was coming back but nobody was acting when tears were falling in that scene, it was very sad but as fate would have it we went on to do three or four more years together.
Interviewer: How would you sum up your time on the show
Steve: It was far more fun than work doing those shows for all those years, we all loved each other and loved going to work, we all understood how fortunate we were to be in that place , to have achieved that success world wide. But there was one thing that took a while to really adjust to , you do it for the the art, for the money, for being together and having a good time, but you do it for all those people out there who really care about the show, it never ceases to amaze me that we are now talking about a show we did over twenty years ago, this remarkable large caring audience who admire the show, its storylines and performers. Its a great pride giving them what they look forward to. I still think that's the most important part of what I did for all those years.
Special Thanks to Steve Kanaly
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