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You sent in your questions to Susan Howard in this exclusive Ultimate Dallas Interview.
Read the transcript below and click on the icon to join in the discussion with other fans from across the world.
Interviewer - Welcome Susan to the Ultimate Dallas interview. We have had 100's of questions sent in from the fans.
Susan - (laughs) That's wonderful
Interviewer - Ok let's kick off
Greg in Auckland New Zealand asks - How did you get the role in Dallas? Is it true you knew Leonard Katzman?
Susan - Yes I knew Leonard, I had done a television series which Leonard produced, which Greg may have seen called Petrocelli with Barry Newman, Albert Salmi and myself. There were a couple of characters that he wanted me to do for the first years he was doing Dallas, he and his wife were good friends, but they just didn't seem like me. Then he called me and said "I wrote this script for you" and I thought I don't really have a choice here and it was Donna. You know the first episode was Sam and all that was going on, JR and Ray. It looked like there is loads of potential for this character and not only that I related to her in ways, maybe being a strong character and feeling you wanted to make differences in life. I was very grateful to Leonard for doing that.
Interviewer - Petrocelli has just started a rerun in the UK on a cable channel
Susan - (laughs) You're kidding, it was a wonderful two years, it was so much fun and we lived in Tuson Arizona, it was a grand time. Harrison Ford, Kim Basinger did the show, if you go back and look at all the people that were guest stars it was just unbelievable we had some wonderful people.
Rotem in Israel asks Are there any thing in common between Donna Krebbs and Susan Howard?
Susan - I always believed when you do a character I don't know necessarily that's who you are. But you always have to draw on the things that perhaps attracted you to it to begin with. I very strongly believed in more simplicity of life rather than out there in your face kind of thing, which I thought Donna was. I think she was probably a very loyal friend , she was very interested in the political end of things, she had a passion for her husband, she wanted very much for him to be the guy that good things happened for and wanted to support him. Possibly I was trying as much as anything to make a rounded person, a normal person in the midst of all the others.
Pam´s twin sister from Barcelona, Spain asks Who was your inspiration for the role? btw I'm a man
Susan - huh? oh ok (laughs). You know when I was growing up my there was two, Doris Day and Ingrid Bergman but one had the incredibly gifted personality of being able to laugh and smile and make you as an audience feel like something good was going on. Ingrid Bergman on the other hand was able to bring out the pathos and the true emotional criteria of what characters and people are. So if I had any it was me trying to make a combination of those two, I'm not sure I did so good (laughs)
Pauline in UK asks What was your favorite series/storyline in Dallas?
Susan - The one that Steve and I did about the down syndrome children. For Steve and I it came the opportunity for our characters to be show cased, not only that if you go back to that time in American television, we were not really running around putting disabled, handicapped, special people in anything because they more to be pitied than to be promoted and it became the catalyst for many shows that all of a sudden started hiring people who were in wheelchairs, people who were deaf or were blind. Rather than saying that they are not worthy or can't do it they said "wait a minute, maybe we need to take another look" because we are not so perfect ourselves. I just felt like it really did bring an element that many said had nothing to do with Dallas and yet I felt very strongly that it was probably one of the most genuine pieces of film that we had done. I loved it, it was hard. The crew would cry at times when these kids would come, the kids are wanting to just be touched and the crew got very involved. It was a very emotional time, all of us did a lot of growing.
Interviewer - Didn't you have to learn to sign?
Susan - I did, oh my gosh, I still see it now. In fact when they gave me the 'Teldocto' in Italy one year I signed my thank you in sign language, I don't speak Italian but this is a universal language. It was so good, in fact I went down to the deaf school in Los Angeles and got to be there when they crowned their King and Queen, their big prom. Obviously they can't hear but they had all this music but what it is the floor, as I recall, is wood and they get a sense of rhythm from the very vibrations of it. You learn, that's one of the beauties of being an actor.
Dan James in England, UK asks I'm a big fan of yours, and i have read in several places, that you write for tv. I would like to know if this is true, have you written tv shows or films?
Susan - I wrote two of the episodes of Dallas, I also wrote a Christmas musical I would like to see produced somewhere. Iv also co written a screenplay with a friend of mine.
Claire Wass from Kidderminster,UK asks Did your political development within the Dallas series influence your decision to be involved with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept as a Commissioner?
Susan - Well I wouldn't say that it did, growing up in Texas you are always involved in the outdoors. I even asked the Governor, now the President, "Why are you appointing me to this?" and he said "because you would be good at it". I think as much as anything, what he was saying and what I came to understand after all of years of doing that, you care about the land, you care about the wildlife, you care about the fish and the waters. Pretty much what Parks and Wildlife is about is being a steward of the things that belong to the people of the State of Texas. It was great, I'm still involved, the game wardens, I'm on their Council because what they do is 'Operation Game Thief' and what they do is people who poach on park land or private land or kill animals out of season, we raise money to make sure these people go to jail or pay huge fines and then we donate the moneys to make sure kids go to college.
Margaret Goodman in England asks Do you miss Dallas,and do you stay in contact with the cast?
Susan - You know what I miss, I miss the ability to know you are going to work everyday and have an opportunity to use your gift. I miss that, I really really miss that. I try when I go and speak and do things to try and sense that I do use that gift but nothing will replace acting. Steve and I stay in touch quite often , I hear from Kenny every now and then, Ken Kercheval, I ran into Larry a year ago in Washington.
David Nisbet in Scotland asks Who was your favorite person to work with on the show?
Susan - Steve (laughs), I really loved working with Steve but as much as anything I would really love working with the different guest stars who would come in because you get comfortable with each other as actors and sometimes you take each other for granted because you pretty much know what the other is gonna do. So when guest stars come in you were challenged to listen and respect them for the uniqueness they were bringing. But I loved working with Steve, he listens and that to me is critical for an actor. If you want to learn to act learn to listen.
Sarah B, Northern Ireland asks Hi Susan What was your relationship like with the other Dallas actresses? Who were you closest to and do you stay in touch with any of them?
Susan - I had great relations with every actress on the show. I think Barbara and I had some really fun times together and Charlene and all of us did. As far as staying in touch with any of them , no I don't. Charlene every now and then I hear something about her or from her but I would not say we have any kind of a close relationship, no.
Adam in Scotland asks What's life been like since you left Dallas? Do you still act?
Susan - Well it's been very interesting (laughs), you never know what god is gonna do or where he's gonna take you. We knew someday we would want to come home to Texas, if you are from Texas you always come home. The last film I did was for the Billy Graham organization and it was obviously a Christian message film. I was the on camera spokesperson trying to reinvigorate the oil and gas industry of Oklahoma. Iv done some charity acting, some two people shows where you raise money for charities But thats it.
Lance Howard in Arizona asks I was wondering, what Jim Davis was like to work with, and how did his death, affect you, and the rest of the cast?
Susan - He was wonderful, the other day I was surfing this old movie channel and there was Jim Davis when he had to of been 30, I went "Oh my gosh, you were gorgeous then". He had the most beautiful white hair you ever laid your eyes on and he really set a tone, Jim had such a sense of who he was, he was a big man and there was no doubt that this was the head of the family, this was Jock Ewing and you believed it. He had a great sense of humor, his wife Blanche was one of the sweetest and dearest people and they were very open to you about their lives. It was very hard for anyone to be around someone suffering from Cancer like that, to watch the debilitation of him physically, emotionally and mentally , it was hard but it was good because Jim came to work everyday and he gave everything he had and it was like saying to everybody "if you think you have a problem get over it", it was a great loss but he left a legacy, he always has and he always will.
Jan in Tyler, Texas asks Susan, I'm sure you know where Tyler, Texas IS! My question is this: What "Name Brands" of clothing did you wear while on "Dallas"? "Makeup"? "Shoe brands". As I am a Personal Shopper for a large department store, I am quite interested! You looked (and still DO) look Fabulous!!!
Susan - Oh I know where that is, that's close to my home town (laughs). Prettiest roses in the world, it is the rose capital of Texas, you can smell the roses 15 miles outside the city limits. We wore all of the brands, I loved Chanel, I loved Gucci, Nino Cerrutti, Loved all of them, I really enjoyed it. Up until the show was a success you couldn't go out and spend that kind of money , all of a sudden when the show was a success the sky's the limit (laughs).
Brian in Wooster Ohio asks hi Susan what do you think of hollywood making a big screen version of DALLAS? Who should play donna
Susan - The mere fact they would have the ordasity to try to remake anything always blows me away, but I take into consideration the fact that Dallas was never a movie, its the remakes of the movies I have a problem with. The fact they may like to take a television series and encapsulate it into an hour and half of film I find very challenging. I haven't a clue who should play Donna, all I will do is if they cast somebody I don't like I will raise my voice (laughs). But if they start with a younger version of Jock and Ellie, Steve and me should be playing the role. (laughs)
Hafsteinn in Iceland asks Did the character of Donna develop the way you would have wanted to, or didn't you have anything to say concerning her development, just the writers' decision?
Susan - Yes you did have some say because a lot of times people look at what you were doing and how you were interacting with the other characters to work to figure out where they should go. There were storylines you would like to see have gone differently, I never believed Ray and Donna would divorce, I never believed Ray and Donna would not raise their own child and so I think that was a storyline that was abused and misused and poorly handled but that was the way they chose to go with it. I think it was interesting the fact they would take Donna to Washington, but I always say that she's flitting around doing her thing and Rays flitting around doing his thing and then a year later, wow they see each other at some grand ball and like the stranger across the crowded room (laughs), I'm a romantic at heart. I have all these visions of them waltzing somewhere and here's your daughter you have never seen, you know, that kind of thing.
Pauline asks What did you think of the dream series and the return of Patrick Duffy to the show?
Susan - Everyone was thrilled Patrick came back but I thought it was a poorly conceived idea. I thought the public was just wrapped around a wheel with it, that they abused again and misused the public. But it was the only way I guess they felt they could get Patrick back on the show but as I do recall that was the beginning of the demise of the show because too many people said "You know this is stupid, we all wept and cried when Bobby died but now you have really undermined our intelligence and we don't appreciate it". So I think there was a backlash there, I really do.
Pamela in London asks I heard there were several factors leading up to your exit from the show. The dream season and how Philip Capice was treated plus you were asked to have an affair with another character on the show. Were these all deliberate attempts to undermine what Mr Capice had done on the show? It seemed the all strong women during the dream season were totally toned down once Pamela woke up
Susan - You are right in that sense of the word. My being written out of the show, press releases that came out from the show, I assume from Lorimar, saying I had asked to be released from the show, I said this was not true. In fact the way I found out is I was sitting in the makeup chair one morning in March and my make-up man said to me "Have you heard Susan we are going to start back early this year" , I said "No I haven't heard", he said "Yeah we are gonna start back April or May", I said "Oh really".
I immediately left and went over to Leonard's office and I said "Is something going on?" and he said "We have decided not to bring the character back" and I said "Why is that?" and he said "We really don't have anymore storylines", I said "Ok if that's the way it is, that's the way it is", I got up and left.
To preface that what had happened the year before, the year Leonard was not on the show, that was the year we had the sequence with the handicap children, well the season Leonard came back Donna had found herself pregnant again, because the whole year was wiped out.
Originally they had come to me at a party before the show had started that year and Leonard had said "You and Steve, keep talking about it, why don't you have a baby", I said "Yes but first of all how could we, we don't even have a bedroom, do you know Donna still hangs her clothes out on the line and she has millions of dollars, what's going on here?" (laughs), really this is the conversation, and he said "Well we have decided Ray and Donna are gonna have a baby", I said "Oh great , oh Leonard that's great", he said "Yes but she's gonna find out shes carrying a down syndrome child and she will have an abortion", well my heart fell to the floor.
I really went home and because I don't believe in abortion I called up Phil Capice, and I said "Phil I need to talk to you, I look back at the history of Dallas and there have been abortions already on the show, don't you think sometimes we need to show the other side, that maybe there would be someone who would want to have the baby, he said "but it's down syndrome, 98% of women who find out they are carrying a down syndrome child have an abortion" and I said "But there are 2% and what do you think they do?" and he said "Well I guess they want it", so I said "Why don't you consider Donna part of that 2%".
So that's how the story went and then the dream sequence came and all of a sudden we are back and Jennas pregnant and she's hating Bobby and she's going to hate the baby she's going to have and Leonard comes to me and says "We have decided you are going to go to Jenna and say 'You know Jenna you really need to have an abortion' ", I said "Leonard why would Donna go to Jenna, the only reason should would want an abortion is because she was mad at Bobby, and tell her to have one?", I said "If you want anybody to tell her to have an abortion it would be J.R because he's got everything to loose".
So in all honesty I believe I was written off the show is because I'm not a politically correct person and people can read into that anyway they want to , my faith had nothing to do with it, I was simply saying "Don't we ever show the other side", and I believe they did not want to live with that so it was much easier to write you off the show and continue in a genre of lifestyle they liked or justified rather than have them daily confronted with someone who challenged them on social and moral issues, that's the truth. It had nothing to do with me not wanting to have an affair with somebody, they did want me to get involved with the Senator and I said "Excuse me, Donna is pregnant with her husbands baby, she is not going to be running around having an affair with some Senator, you've lost your mind" (laughs). People ask this because they want to know the truth and this is the truth ok. Let me tell you, everybody else dances around that question, because they want to say "Oh well it had to do with this or that", no it didn't, this was what it had to do with.
Interviewer - Its very much like the character of Pamela who became quite strong during the dream season and she was totally ruined after that.
Susan - Absolutely, she was a wimp. I love Victoria, she was a good friend. I have to tell you, one of my cousins in Houston, their son had a baby born with a harelip, I immediately called Harry Glassman and I said "Harry I don't know anybody, they don't know anybody" he said "I'll take care of it". He got on the phone, he found the best plastic surgeon for babies, you would never know this child has a harelip. You know you read all this crud but the heart of who people were is sometimes never told. That's who Victoria and Harry are, anything they could do to help they did. I love Victoria Principal and I love Harry Glassman and I always will. That's a good little personal thing you will never read in the tabloids and I'm proud of her, she's done so good. She's a smart woman.
Interviewer - What happened to Phil Capice, he seemed to have vanished?
Susan - Phil has and I'm gonna try to find Phil, I really am.
Jamie in Germany asks Were Donna and Ray a good couple? Why or why not?
Susan - I thought they were a real good couple, they were more common folk, they were trying to live normal lives, Ray and Donna always brought you back down to a center. Sometimes they did weird things too, like punching women in bars (laughs), I don't recommend that.
Interviewer - Great scene though
Susan - (Laughs) Leonard said "We got an idea, when you find out about Ray and Bonnie, there is not going to be a brawl, its going to be one punch", I said "Oh I can handle that, this is gonna be great" and I did I loved it (laughs)
Interviewer - You can tell from the scene, you looked like you enjoyed it
Susan - (Laughs) I did, it was great.
Evan in Cedar Park, Texas asks As a Texan, I remember that you were active in Texas politics. Are you still involved and, if so, what are you doing?
Susan - Very much so, I was appointed by our Governor right now, Rick Perry, I am on the Advisory Council for Physical Fitness, which everybody knows we have a problem with fat people in the world, and we all have a problem with fat. Primarily its to get people motivated to doing what's right for their own psychical and emotional well being. I serve as the treasurer of the Republican Party of the State of Texas and very involved in local, state and national politics. In fact I will be going to Washington sometime the end of April for a fundraiser for John Cornyn, our new Senator who's up there.
Christine in Germany asks - Being a member of the NRA, as you might know, here in Europe the weapon laws are totally different than in the states.How would you explain the American right to own guns to people from other countries who might not understand.
Susan - It goes to the very root of our country and back to when the British wanted us to stay a British Colony, and one of the major things was if we could just disarm the people then their ours. The National Rifle Association is an organization which is over 130 years old, the majority of Presidents were all life members because written in our bill of rights were the bills that said we believe people should have the right to free speech , the freedom of religion, the right of assembly, the second amendment is the right of the people to own and bare arms because the threat of Government aggression of someone wanting to takeover is always there. In Switzerland you must have an arm, there are countries all over Europe that do that, if you go back into the history of Germany you will realize if you go back to the time of Hitler that one of the major things was disarming the people, I'm sure that's not historically wanted to be taught in a lot of schools but our history is important, who we are, where we came from. I believe you must learn to shoot a firearm safely, I believe that it is a deep responsibility, I do not believe it is one of these things just running around firing into the air, like Saddam Hussain, standing out on his terrace firing into the air. But I believe its important for people, and I hope I have explained it to Christine but its certainly not saying everybody should be armed , its a personal right.
Celestine in Moscow asks Is it true you know George Bush? How did you find him and do you support his current Political strive. I personally have difficulty understanding the whole situation?
Susan - Yes I campaigned for our President before he was elected for Governor, and I find him one of the most honorable people I have ever had the privilege of knowing or meeting. Deeply committed, totally given to serving what he believes is the good and the right of this Country and it's people. I believe what is going on in Iraq right now is a necessity, more and more information will come out. No one likes war, no one wants war but there are certain people in this world, there was gangs in streets that do nothing but go around to destroy what peace other people have, and I believe this is a thug regime that is in Iraq and the sooner its done away with and the decent hard working people who would just like the chance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am so grateful to Tony Blair, to Australia, to Spain , to all those Nations who have said "We see, believe and know and we're not sticking our finger in the air either". When this is done the world will be a safer place for you, your children and your grandchildren, so I thank god everyday. I said to Calvin, "Wouldn't it be neat, if when this is done if we volunteer to go other there and we could work in a school, give them some of the gifts and the knowledge we have". Start this whole thing all over the world which said 'will you be willing to give six months or a year of your life to go to Iraq and help them become educated about the things we take for granted everyday of our lives.
Jamie in Germany asks Any funny stories that have happened on the set you could tell us about?
Susan - We had fun, we really had fun. To break things up you just do silly things, one day I kept thinking "Why don't I get the make-up, hair and wardrobe and made up like Barbara Bel Geddes", and they did. We got a wig, I got one of her frumpy old dresses, you know the sacks she wore. Barbara was doing this scene in the living room and her back was to the main doorway , she was facing the picture of Jock, (laughs), so the camera was on her back on a medium shot, so I stood on camera and she turned around and I won't tell you what she said (laughs), but it was wonderful.
Robert in California asks Hi, Susan, I had once read talk of a spin-off series involving Donna and Ray moving to Hawaii. How come that never came to be?
Susan - It wasn't that, do you remember this family who at one time adopted all these kids from all over the world, it was a true story, that was the idea, Ray and Donna would become like this. That was the idea of it.
Jake in Humberside asks Would you be in a television movie for Dallas and what would Donna be doing?
Susan - Honey they never even asked me to be in the other ones, they never invited me to the party (laughs). It would depend on the script and how Donna was portrayed but I would always be open to accepting work. I want to see her coming back and marrying Ray, its never too late. The story would be, here they have this daughter now, he probably had very little to do with her, they sent him off somewhere to Switzerland, so maybe Ray and Donna bump into each other on the slopes (laughs).
Interviewer - Thanks Susan, do you have any final words for everyone who sent in a question?
Susan - But that's wonderful because I want to say thank you because the longevity of Dallas has nothing to do with us but with you all.
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