A chat with Joan Van Ark

Joan Van Ark chats Knots and Dallas

The wonderful Joan Van Ark who played Valene Ewing on Dallas and Knots Landing joined Bob McCormack to answer questions from the fans.

Joan kindly made an intro video for the interview.

Joan: “Hi there”

Bob: “Hello Joan? It’s Bob here from the Knots Landing website” [KnotsLanding.net]

Joan: “WOW. Listen to your accent. I LOVE it”

Bob: “Huh?”

Joan: “Seriously. I just want to talk like yooooo” (in her finest Billy Connolly accent)!!!

Bob: “HaHaHa…”

Joan: “By the way, before we begin, I have something for you which may be of interest to all the Knots Landing fans out there. By coincidence, just a few days ago, the mother of my ‘daughter’ Betsy sent me the most stunning email photo of the two little girls who played her showing me how they’ve grown up now”

Bob: “Really?” (excited)

Joan: “So I sent this photo to Michael Filerman who was one of our producers as well as Michele, Donna and Ted to have them see how these two gloriously gorgeous little girls have turned out and I think you might get a kick out of that…”

Bob: “Absolutely that would be fantastic”

Joan: “Okay so I will email you the photo of Betsy. It’s not Bobby. Unfortunately I don’t know anything about him”

Bob: “And of course there were two actresses playing the same part wasn’t there? Identical twins…”

Joan: “Yes there was. Smart production companies and producers hire twins every time they need to use a baby so they can ‘spell’ each other and don’t hold up production if say for example one is having a crying fit”

Bob: “So one will fill in for the other?”

Joan: “Yes. They trade off”

Bob: (laughs)

Joan: “So that somebody is always working and they’re not holding up production. Babies and animals-like dogs-can hold up production”

And here are the original twins who played ‘Betsy’ as they are today:

Betsy all grown up

 

Bob: “Thank you so much Joan for sending us this. Now though, we better get moving with these questions from the fans as there’s a lot to get

Rose from Essex in England who asks:“I am thought of as a cross between Val and Karen on the Knots Landing forum, not too sure why. Do you have a friendship with anyone like the one between Val and Karen? Also, would you like to see Val and Gary have Lucy come live with them in the new Dallas?”

Joan: First up can I say I want to go to Essex. Lucky, lucky Rose, I wish I were there”</cite>

Bob: “No you don’t. Right now, the weather is appalling over here”

Joan: ”Ah well that I wouldn’t like…though it’s probably good running weather when it’s cool and kind of moist, but still, I love the way our weather is over here. Anyway, to answer Rose, I can say truthfully that my sister Carol who lives in Boulder, Colorado is my best friend. She’s not in the business – she’s a writer. Her name is Carol Kuykendal and she has written a lot of wonderful ‘bringing up children’ style articles, stories and magazines. She has her own blog on the internet and is without doubt my best friend”

Bob: “It’s interesting you mention this during Rose’s question since Rose is a primary (elementary) school teacher and I think she’ll be most interested in Carol’s website”

Joan: “Well let Rose know about it”

Bob: “I will”

Joan: “But I have to say I have in fact another such friend and she is in fact the glorious Ms Michele Lee”

Bob: “That’s wonderful”

Joan: “I have to say I just love her madly. I mean there’s Ted also (with whom I’m having lunch tomorrow) but with Michele, we just got so close during filming. You can’t share 14 years together with each other you know? I mean even though I didn’t stick around for the last year, I still returned to direct during that season and then for the final two hour show followed by the four hour reunion that we did. I’ve known Michele through all that time and I’m forever connected to Michele and forever to Ted, forever to Julie Harris, and I see and adore and love Donna all the time – even though we were rivals on the show, we’re still the best of friends.”

Bob: “That’s great to hear”

Joan: “So even though Carol and I have a Val/Karen kind of relationship, so too, do Joan and Michele”

Bob: “Lovely…what a beautiful answer and I’m sure it’ll give all the fans a big smile”

Joan: “I hope it does. Now as for whether I’d like to see Val &amp; Gary have Lucy come live with them in the new Dallas, I’m not sure on that. I mean we’re all so much older now and have our own lives. I’d expect that we’d be much more independent and more contemporary. You would hope that Lucy would have her own empire and I’d hope that both Val and Gary would also be different. I just think that to have the three of them together would seem rather dysfunctional because I think they’re all winners and would therefore be much more independent.”

Bob: “I agree. Now moving on…

Dave from Bristol asks: “In many of your most powerful and emotional Knots scenes, Val was barefoot. To me those scenes feel very organic, and as a viewer I always feel a different kind of connection to Val during these scenes. I’d so love to know how you approached these scenes, Joan, and where that trait originated. Is it specific to Val, or a grounding method that you’ve brought to other projects?”

Joan: “WOW. I just LOVE this question” (enthusiastically); “You know I’ve always said that with every character I’ve played and that goes from Valene to the various Broadway plays and the independent movie where I was barefoot…no, sorry, I had SOCKS on because I wanted to look real . . . not “vain.”

Bob: (laughing)

Joan: “I swear, I had my oldest, raggedy socks on which I brought with me from home and they were grey. However, I feel that either the inside of a character or if she is either wearing or not wearing shoes or even the perfume that she has on her will totally illustrate and ground that character. And this is so astute of Dave for noticing this. The same goes for Pretty – the web series that I did recently – where I wore the highest, tackiest, most whore-like platform high heels because that’s who this woman would be. So shoes (or lack of them) and perfume form the beginning of my characterizations. And I really love Dave for asking this question.”

Bob: “Laura Barr from London asks:

“Val always seemed very natural to me. I loved the way she rolled her hands around, clutched hold of her stomach and also fumbled her words and stuttered and stammered from time to time – especially around Gary. Infact during the seasons following her divorce from Gary, it’s fair to say she was a nervous wreck. It was clear she was still in love with him and her bodily actions made this clear to the viewer. Was this ever in the script or a decision by you to make the character more real? Congratulations to whoever was responsible as it made Val seem very real. Best wishes to you Joan. I love you lots.” x

Joan: “Well you know, there was a magnificent scene in the movie ‘Shine’ featuring Geoffrey Rush who was playing this magnificent pianist and Sir John Gielgud who was playing his tutor/teacher, and he advises him to “practice, practice, practice” and to “study, study, study within an inch of your life”, and “when you get on that stage and sit on that piano bench to play, just let it go”. And that’s what I would do! I would study my lines and study my script until I was blind and then whenever you’re on that set, whatever happens and how you react and all the other stuff that Laura noticed (which I loved by the way), I just let it happen. Whether it was gorgeous Ted who was standing in front of me as Gary or Lilimae or Bill Devane or whoever my acting partner was, I just let God sit on my shoulder and guide me…”

Bob: “To do the rest.”

Joan: “Yeah. So that was my method. It just happened after a lot of homework and a lot of learning lines and I just love this question. And with that last part “Best wishes to you Joan I love you lots” I want to say I love her right back”

Bob: “I’ll pass that onto her.

Knotsfan 61618 wants to know: “With regards to leaving Knots Landing after Season 14, I have always wondered about that and what exactly happened. Did you know that you were going to leave the show after Season 13 or did you only not come back after you got the Spin Doctors pilot? In your Lifetime Intimate Portrait special, it said that you finished season 13 knowing it would be your last, but I didn’t think that was true. If you hadn’t got the Spin Doctors pilot, would you have stayed for the last season since it was the last one? Also, when they had Val die in the car explosion, did they know she wasn’t going to be dead after all in the last episode or were they planning to really have her die?”

Joan: “That’s a tricky question because after that last season which I remember so vividly because Michele was directing our season finale for that year, I was asked to come over and read for this new NBC pilot called ‘Spin Doctors’. Now when I read this script, I was like “Oh my God” because they had Chris Meloni, who had already been cast”

Bob: “Oh I know him. That’s Elliott from Law &amp; Order?”

Joan: “Yes that’s him, and he is absolutely magnificent and I knew of him plus the character itself was about a thousand miles away from Valene Ewing. So the actress in me went on fire and I raced over to Burbank to the NBC studios, gave a quick audition, then spun back to Knots Landing, to the set thinking “That’ll be the last I ever hear of that”. However it turned out that they, I guess, loved it and wanted me etc. Now around the same time, there were also rumors everywhere that Knots Landing was on its last season and wasn’t going to get picked up again.

Bob: “Really…”

Joan: “You see at this time of the year, this exact time of year, there are rumors on every series set that you’re either not going to get picked up or that you’ll squeak by and have another season. So when they kept pressing me to return and do the pilot for Spin Doctors, the bottom line was that we played the odds and did the pilot which in the end didn’t go. Meanwhile, Knots Landing was renewed for its 14th season with what is called ‘The Bible’ which is writing for the whole season and by then, they knew I’d gone over to audition for this other show. So when push came to shove, the actress in Joan thought it’s time to start this whole new character thinking perhaps the show was over, when in fact it wasn’t. And by the time we found out that the pilot didn’t go, the best Joan could hope for by that point was that they might at least still want me to return as a director or something during that final season, which I did, plus a lot more.”

Bob: “Yeah”

Joan: “Though they did want me to come back during the car explosion to be a part of all that however I said “no way is that ever going to happen”

Bob: “You’re not killing Val”

Joan: “Well, it wasn’t that. I just didn’t want to come back to blow up in a car! And they didn’t want you to know whether or not I’d died, they just wanted you to see me flying past in the car which I didn’t. I think they used a double or something…”

Bob: “Yes it was a blonde haired double”

Joan: “However they did ask me to come back and direct and then they asked me back to do the whole two hour series finale for the end of the show. So it all just worked out great.”

Knotsfan 61618 also wants to know:“Of all of the current TV shows, which show would you want to have a role on and what type of character would you want to play?”

Joan: “My new favorite show which I’m absolutely hypnotized by is ‘Smash’ – and I don’t know if you get it over there, but oh my God, oh my God it’s just to die for. It’s about Broadway, about putting on a show and about the life of Marilyn Monroe. So Smash would be my first choice, my number one at present – probably playing some ageing alcoholic actress, some loser or something. Another show I’d love would be GCB which stands for Good Christian Bitches”

Bob: “Ah…I’ve read a few of the forum regulars raving about this show. We don’t get it over here”

Joan: “Well I love it and I would’ve killed to have been on that but it’s been cancelled so I guess that’s out. There’s another show called Castle which is on here on ABC starring Susan Sullivan who’s a friend of mine and she plays Nathan Fillion’s mother and again I’d love to play a drunk, alcoholic girlfriend/actress of hers. You know I want to play something which is unexpected and like nothing I’ve ever done before”

Bob: “I understand that.

Jason DeBoard from Austin, TX asks: “How did you initially learn about the role of Valene and do you recall anything about the actual audition? David Jacobs had indicated in an interview that Carol Lynley almost got the role and made it sound as if she had it until you blew him away with your audition”

Joan: “This happened so fast for me. There was no audition. I remember that I was filming something here in LA when the script came to me, and I think Carol Lynley was involved somewhere, I’ve certainly heard that name mentoned. She either changed her mind at the last moment or maybe they thought “perhaps not”. I don’t know. However the script came to me while I was filming something here and I was due to be in New York within 3 or 4 days to tape some Estee Lauder commercials, which I did for something like 11 or 12 years, and this came up forcing me to not only read the script but make a decision and go right down to Dallas to start filming. Given the timescale, I thought “no way” however it was my husband who talked me into it saying “This looks wonderful, you’ve got to do it.”

Bob: “That sounds like the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you”

Joan: “It gave me 15 years of my life so yeah. I mean, he’s a former NBC news reporter and he calls them like he sees them. It was a quick decision – though a thoughtful one as well but quick – since we were under a time crunch so there was no audition. However they saw what I ended up doing with her and with Lucy also. I think a lot of it also came down to how I bonded with Charlene. I mean I really adored this beautiful child and that’s what led to the Knots Landing spin off”

Bob: “Thank you. Now our next question relates to a voiceover role you had on Spider Woman.

Mel O’Drama from England asks:

“I’d love to know a bit about the voice acting process you used on the Spider Woman animated series. Do you have any stories about your time working on that series, and the people you worked with? Speaking of super heroines, I’d love to know any memories of your experience on the Wonder Woman show (apart from meeting Ted), and whether you interacted with Lynda Carter or any of the main cast.”

Joan: “Yeah…this role was simultaneous to Knots Landing and all I did – again it was instinct – was that I wanted this deeper, stronger, more solid voice for Spider Woman and a lighter, more feminine voice for the other character. Like Clark Kent vs. Superman”

Bob: “Oh yeah I understand”

Joan: “So Spiderwoman had one sound and tone of voice which was much more grounded, deeper and stronger. Then for the other half of her, it was just more feminine and lighter. All of that was done mostly on an instinct”

Bob: “I see”

Joan: “That’s what I brought to the audition and they must’ve liked it so I continued to do that. As for Wonder Woman, oh my God…”

Bob: (laughs)

Joan: “Someone put that clip on the air recently. I don’t know what it was for but I couldn’t believe how the two of us looked in that. And I always describe Ted in his costume as looking like a giant silver condom”

Bob: “Yeah I heard the pair of you giggling over that during the last reunion a few years back”

Joan: “Well he was the one who actually started that description, and I have to be honest I thought it was so accurate. And then…there’s me with a 1970s ‘bob’ and we all looked so different and so silly. Now I didn’t work with Linda so much but she herself is a singer and has this show which she does around several cabaret clubs which she has since invited me to on several occasions. So I’ve been to several of those performances. What I remember is that she has this gorgeous body and that she was a little bit unpredictable—but in a great way, and what she did with Wonder Woman, which was so iconic and special— was just terrific. She also had her own trailer with signs saying ‘Jesus Loves’ and all these special kinds of spiritual messages. I don’t remember a lot about working with her though. I remember more about my time with Ted. And then whenever the pilot was certain for Knots Landing – and I know you must’ve heard this story like a million times – they called to say they had this actor in mind whom they liked a lot and who they’d heard I’d just worked with. “His name is Ted Shackelford”, and I told them “absolutely not”

Bob: (laughs)

Joan: “I told them “we’re too much alike, don’t dare do that” and then I walk over for the first table read, and who’s sitting there but…”

Bob: “Ted Shackelford”

Joan: “Ted Shackelford, exactly. So what do I know?”

Bob: “Well it turned out to be one of the best television partnerships I’ve ever seen so I’m not complaining”

Joan: “I completely agree. I absolutely adore this man”

Bob: “Now our next question is the first of many relating to the new Dallas

Ms Ann from UK asks “Do you think a woman being in charge of the new Dallas makes a difference as Dallas was very masculine originally? The women were kind of sexualised or oppressed”

Joan: “So this refers to the producers in charge of the new version?”

Bob: “Yeah”

Joan: “Oh, right. Well I have to say the original version had a woman’s voice in the writing and there was a very strong woman’s input there also. I have to tell you that something I’ve come to revere of late is that the modern product has all variations on the theme which is exciting including wonderful gay couples and incongruous mating. The thing which is refreshing now is to see men be men and women be women. Now I’m not saying that one thing is better than the other but it’s kind of fun to see the cowboys be the cowboys and the girls wearing the big hair and being as pretty as they can possibly be” (speaking in a southern drawl); “Yes, it’s old fashioned, but nowadays with all the new ideas and relationships, which are in all of these scripted shows which are out there, I find it kind of refreshing. Also, as far as “being in charge” of that show, I thought Miss Ellie was in charge of everyone. She ruled in her quiet, gentle, magnificent Barbara Bel Geddes way”

Bob: “Absolutely. She was the best actress on that show!”

Joan: “It’s an interesting question but I absolutely always loved the Dallas take on this because I have to say…I just saw them all recently at this big Warner Brothers’ celebration of some 60 years of Warner Brothers television and all of the new Dallas crew were gathered at the Paley Centre and those guys…I mean come on…I had some photos taken with them and I told them “Holy Cow you guys are gorgeous”. I was just knocked out. I thought “what the heck? Now I really want to be a part of this show”

Bob: (laughs again!)

Ms Ann also asks: How you think Bobby &amp; Betsy would turn out as adults”

Joan: “How do I think Bobby &amp; Betsy would turn out as adults? Well, apart from that photo I’m sharing with you guys, I’d hope that they would prove very successful doing something contemporary and internet savvy, using technology and be very forward thinking. I would love to have them be “out there” using Facebook and on top of the world using all this technology and I in turn would be proud of them being a part of all that”

Bob: “Thanks for that answer. Now the next question which we submitted to you is one I’m not too sure you can answer. It’s really more for Ted so perhaps you can mention it at lunch tomorrow.

‘Underhill’ from Darmstadt, Germany asks “Dear Joan, do you remember your time in Germany? Also, do you know if Ted Shackelford still comes here to buy Schäferhunde?”

Joan: “Of course, I remember by glorious time in Germany. After you submitted these questions to me the other day, I asked Ted via email especially for this person and he responded telling me he just got a dog last year, which I have actually met about 3 months ago when Ted and I last had lunch, and the dog is called ‘Flash’. He actually has two gorgeous dogs. Just a year ago, he got himself a Schäferhunde. Now I don’t know if he went to Germany to get it or whether the dog was sent to him, but yes, he has two gorgeous German Shepherds at his house and I met them both”

Bob: “Joan thank you very much for going to all that effort in finding out that answer for us. I didn’t expect you to answer that”

Joan: “Well you got it as a bonus!”

Bob: “What a woman!

‘Oopsy’ from La Madeleine in France asks: “Val’s house always seemed to be the Grand Hotel of Seaview Circle. Lilimae, Aunt Ginny, Joshua, Chip and countless others all lived there. Do you think that Knots’ writers weren’t confident in your character enough to let you leave your adventures alone or do you think it was actually faithful to Val’s personality?”

Joan: “Okay I think this was more faithful to Val’s sense of family because while in the other cul-de-sac houses they were all divorcing, breaking up or having affairs, Val had family. I don’t think it had anything to do with the fact that Val could or couldn’t handle her adventures alone, I think it was because someone with the spine that Valene had would do that”

Bob: “Exactly. It wasn’t in her nature to turn her back on her mother or her brother or anyone…”

Joan: “For sure – I mean when you’ve got Julie Harris for a mother and Alec Baldwin for a brother, you can put them in my house any day of the week! It had nothing to do with my lack of anything. It’s my total 100% love. They’re brilliant as actors, and they offered fantastic brother and mother images as characters. Plus it provided me with some good script material and script conflicts”

Brewster’ from Amersfoot in the Netherlands asks: “Joan, this is a real honour to be able to speak to you like this. You are one of my favourite ever actresses. I once read that Julie Harris who played your on screen mother Lilimae on Knots Landing recommended you for a scholarship at Yale Drama school which was where she herself once studied. Can you tell me how Julie came to know about you at such a young age and also do you think that the fact you both attended the same drama school attributes for the similarity in acting styles and the chemistry you both had with each other on Knots Landing?

Keep up the good work and continued success in your career”

Joan: “Well I think everyone knows this story as I’ve told it so many times but when I was a teenager living in Boulder, Colorado, Julie came through Denver in a show. I don’t even remember what it was, however she brought many various plays on tour and through my father (who was a writer in Denver, working as a journalist for The Rocky Mountain News). I interviewed Julie Harris while she was starring in this play in Denver. I was the teenager/aspiring actress interviewing the ‘star’. At the end of the interview, I said to Julie that I was thinking about colleges, and I didn’t want to study for 4 years and then go to Graduate School having wasted 4 years of my life. All I wanted to do is act and she said “I hear you loud and clear. School was not my favorite subject either.” She said all she ever wanted to do was act and that she’d gone to the Yale Drama School at the age of 18. She then promised me she would write to them and suggest that I go and meet with them – which she did, and they invited me to come back for an interview at 18 years old while still in High School. My father and mother drove me back to New Haven, Connecticut where I met the Dean and got a scholarship and I was the youngest female after Julie Harris to go straight out of High School and into the Yale Drama School. So that is how we are connected and when they told me years later on Knots Landing that they’d found me a mother, I fully expected them to say one of the Gabor sisters. Instead, though, they said Julie Harris, and when they did, I let out an absolute scream”

Bob: “No wonder”

Joan: “Yes. No wonder”

Bob: “What a fantastic story. Actually, I had never heard it before”

Joan: “You hadn’t? Well there it is and I have to say that I correspond, and speak to and send flowers to that gorgeous woman all the time. So I’m connected to her forever”

Bob: “Again…what a beautiful story.  Now before I ask the question on his behalf, I have to tell you a little story about this guy. He has the kindest heart and like myself, is a huge massive fan of Val and indeed yourself. Now approximately 10 years ago, I was on vacation in LA and managed to get in touch with Joshua. He knew in advance through our email conversations and the time we spent on the Knots forum that I had wanted to go to the cul-de-sac and it turned out he only lived approximately 15 minutes

Joan: “No way”

Bob: “Yes he does. So he kindly met up with me and took me to the cul-de-sac one morning which was obviously a dream come true for me and while we were standing in the centre of circle taking pictures and recalling moments from the show, who walked up the street but the owner of your house – Val’s house”

Joan: “WOW . . . I think that house traded owners a couple of times.”

Bob: “Well this was in 2002 and the couple who lived there then had lived there since just after the reunion you guys did around 96/97”

Joan: “Uh huh”

Bob: “So he got talking to us and Joshua told him how I’d come “all the way” from Scotland in the UK and he kindly let us into his home and took us on a tour of the entire home”

Joan: “WOW. What a story”

Bob: “And I’m talking the entire home Joan. The kitchen, the living room, the balcony – we spent a long time on the balcony and discussing what he knew about the show with us”

Joan: “That must’ve been a treat”

Bob: “Oh it was”

Joan: “Of course, we filmed some of the interior shots inside that home”

Bob: “Well it’s funny you say that because what struck me was just how similar the layout of the interior was to the set they used for Valene’s home so I can see why they did that”

Joan: “Yes, I believe the floor-plans were based on the actual homes”

Bob: “Anyway it was an unforgettable day for me – however getting back to Joshua’s question”

Joan: “Right”

Bob: “And what he wants to know is this:

Joshua Slow from Los Angeles, California asks: “Recently, I was watching Meryl Streep acting insecure opposite Alec Baldwin in the film “It’s Complicated,” I couldn’t help but think of you and Alec in “Knots.” You had such good chemistry with Alec. Would you like to work with him again?

Joan: “Oh absolutely. Who wouldn’t? Alec was the most amazing acting partner to have. I fell in love with him during the very first scene on the very first day he came to be on Knots Landing and the minute we finished the scene, I went right up to David Jacobs’ office and I said to him; “Where did you find this one?”

Bob: “Really?”

Joan: “We had lots of guest stars but this one I thought was a prize winner”

Bob: “Special?

Joan: “VERY special”

Bob: “Joshua also wants to know what you liked and didn’t like about the Hollywood Show you all did a few years ago?”

Joan: “You mean the Autograph Show?”

Bob: “Yes”

Joan: “Okay, well I’ve always said no to them. I’ve been asked many, many times and I’ve always thought that could be a signal that you’re ready for the Motion Picture Home”

Bob: “HaHaHa”

Joan: “However I saw so many fantastic people who were out there and Larry Hagman does them all the time. What is amazing though is to get that feedback – person to person you know?”

Bob: “Yes”

Joan: “And people telling you such specifics on what scene or what moment from this, that or the other meant so much to them, that to me was quite stunning really and it left quite a deep imprint on me…and believe me, I don’t expose myself to that kind of opportunity so that’s what I loved. You’re captive right there while sitting at this long table and people can share that moment with you and they seemed truly sincere. So it kind of blew me away”

Bob: “I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t fly out there to be with you all however it cropped up at a really awkward moment for me coinciding with a house move amongst other things. However when various friends from the Knots forum returned, they shared their stories with me and they were a joy to hear. My friend Jason sounds like he had the most fun. He managed to get Donna Mills to sit on his knee”

Joan: “Lucky Jason”

Bob: “Absolutely”

Joan: “You know I think a few of us from the core cast should go to Europe. I know Donna did one a year or two ago in Monaco. And I think it would be great for the core to meet up with the fans in Europe”

Bob: “There’s a huge, loyal fan base over here”

Joan: “Yes, huge – and for people like yourself who couldn’t make it that would be a good thing”

Bob: “That would be absolutely wonderful.

Chris Sumner Matheson’ from San Antonio, Texas asks:“Joan, I LOVED your guest starring gig on Pretty, which garnered you an Indie Soap Award for Outstanding Guest Appearance. It’s recently been announced that Michele Lee and Charlene Tilton are also starring on different web series. Would you consider a larger role on a show for the web?”

Joan: “Absolutely. Especially if it’s for a character like in ‘Pretty’ which is so rich in character and so rich in comedy which is what I really want to do. So yes, I’d love it”

Bob: “Well if it’s the right role why not?”

Joan: “Oh absolutely. I mean it’s fun to play”

Bob: “Good stuff.

‘Mrs Superman93’ from England asks: “I’d be interested to hear her most vivid memories of working with the Dallas cast; Charlene Tilton, Larry Hagman, Victoria Principal etc”

Joan: “Charlene, I already said, is a bit like my daughter. She is so beautiful and when you look at her, you just love her – at least I looked at her and I loved her. Right away, we had an immediate chemistry and an immediate bond and I see her quite often. Now her gorgeous daughter Cherish looks just like Charlene did when I first worked with her – I mean it’s unbelievable! So there was this immediate, genuine bond and a love right there. It’s emotional and totally like a mother and daughter relationship plus we were – or at least I hope we were – a good match”

Bob: “Yeah you were”

Joan: “I connected with her right away. Now Larry Hagman, there’s no one on the planet like this man. He’s a great trickster – just like Patrick Duffy. The two of them together were terrible trouble. They were like two little…I don’t know…”

Bob: “Schoolboys?”

Joan: “Yes exactly. They were unbelievable. They were great tricksters, incredible fun on the set and great acting partners. Larry though was on a planet all by himself”

Bob: “Yeah”

Joan: “Now with Victoria Prinicipal, I have this fun story because I remember this one time Victoria said to me (while we were in Dallas filming at Southfork); “When we work together, I always feel like I have to double my ‘primping time’ in front of the mirror”. She said this because the two of us were so alike between doing and redoing the eye makeup. Of course, Victoria is killer gorgeous and everyone has to scramble to keep up with someone like her. Now all the women on that show were gorgeous however Victoria in particular”

Bob: “Well you should take that as a compliment. And that’s a terrific story for the fans to hear because we all know that Larry, Linda, Patrick and yourself – and this was highlighted just earlier today what with the email you shared with me from Linda – have all remained the best of friends even after all these years. With Victoria however, she tends to stay out the limelight somewhat”

Joan: “I know. I often think about her and wonder “where is she?” There’s another actress whom I know and feel the same way about. Her name is Susan Dey and she was on LA Law. I mean she’s a beautiful actress in every way yet she sort of disappeared. Now I’m sure Victoria will be back but you’re right. She is definitely isolated. I mean with Larry, Linda &amp; Patrick, they’re like the three musketeers of Dallas – and deliciously so. However I wonder where Victoria is. I don’t run into her or see her at various events. She has definitely stayed somewhere out of the limelight”

Bob: “Well as I said, any stories you can share like the one you just have are like pure gold dust for the fans so thank you for sharing it. Rolling onto the next question now and do you have any particular memories from your time on Nip Tuck?”

Joan: “Oh yes. That involved working with Donna and I have to say I loved it. I absolutely loved it – both Donna and I were members of the ‘Beverly Hills Cougar Club’. Then we went back a year later and Joan Rivers was there also! So it was like a win/win situation. What I remember – and again this is the actress muscle in me – I ran into Ryan Murphy on the first day of being there when I went in for a costume fitting on the lot at Paramount Studios and he said to me “we’re so excited to have you and Donna and it’s wonderful,” etc. but “the key to any of these characters is to play it totally straight and totally for real. Don’t ever go “wink wink” or overdo it – like anything to indicate that you’re being less than serious”. Now this advice is the greatest rule for comedy or drama but particularly for comedy where the straighter you play it, the funnier it is. However I adored this job and in particular, the title of being a member of the Beverly Hills Cougar Club” (laughing)

“Now with Pretty, it was similar to Watercolor Postcards – the independent feature which I finished about a month ago. The character’s name was Annette Champagne. I called myself ‘old Annette’ because Steve Silverman – the very talented writer and producer, a sort of like David Jacobs of this show – didn’t want anyone (including his cast) to know who was playing the grown up lead character on the show. The only people to know I was on the show were the producers and of course Steve himself. Therefore we filmed out at a factory one Saturday somewhere deep in the valley and I said to him “since you know ‘young Annette’, let the hair and makeup person turn me into ‘old Annette’”. So, he purposely chose a place with no mirrors and let this amazingly gifted hair and makeup guy do both my hair and makeup, and the only time I ever caught a glimpse of myself (it scared me to death it was so awful – good awful – but still awful), and that was when I went into the ladies’ room to change my clothes real quick before we started filming. But seriously, it took my breath away – I was aghast! I had learned a seven to ten page monologue because I thought previously that Steve wanted me to perform it all in one. What he ended up doing though was little tiny segments. At the very end of the filming, I did the full out ten pages because I wanted to try it just as I’d learned it”

Bob: “You mean in one straight scene?”

Joan: “Yeah – and he said at the end that he was totally stunned that I had learned the full ten pages”

Bob: “Probably because it was so rare for anyone to do that”

Joan: “Well that’s exactly what he said. No one had ever done that”

Bob: “There you go”

Joan: “And that was at the end of Season Two. In two full seasons’ worth of episodes up till that point, he’d never seen that being done before and he was blown away by that. But I loved the character and really I’m dying to go back there and do more of her. He did invite me to return and play another character but I didn’t want to spoil what I’d had with her because she was so special. Therefore I’d rather come back as her at some point when their web-soap wraps or as a ghost or something. I’m sure they could think of something fun. But I loved it and I loved working on it and it was a challenge I’ll say that”

DallasDivasDerby’ from the U.S asks: “Did you or Ted have any thoughts as to the “dream season” on Dallas and how it wiped-out some of the best crossover ties to Knots Landing? Was it was even an issue for you guys? It was sad that it made it impossible for more crossover episodes with Knots after that, from a fan perspective”.

Joan: “Is this with reference to Bobby being in the shower?”

Bob: “Yes”

Joan: “You know after the first season or season and a half after Knots Landing came on the air, the producers and CBS did not want more crossovers because they wanted the two shows to stand alone. I mean it was dynamite and wonderful when it happened. Patrick and Larry both did it and of course Ted and I went over to Dallas. However, they did that minimally, and as the seasons went on, that soon fizzled out. I know there was a backlash from the fans and I totally got that. I mean we had always wanted Barbara Bel Geddes to come over and visit Gary because Gary was her favorite. But she didn’t want to cross over. She wanted to stay at home – on her home show. So that was a mixed bag. There was another dream sequence though which I don’t know if you remember that Leonard Katzman – the wonderful Dallas producer – directed and that involved both Ted and me crossing back over again. This was a special dream sequence where Ted played this lawyer and I turned up in his office dressed in this tight, white Thierry Mugler suit, while Ted played this drop dead gorgeous lawyer in this high rise tower building in Los Angeles. And when I turned up for a meeting, we locked eyes with each other before he ended up asking me to dinner. And I loved that. It was a delicious request and a delicious idea and a crossover which worked in the best possible way”

Pam’s Twin Sister from the forum wants to know: “What do you think that Val would be like in 2012? Do you think that Val´s relationship with Lucy should be an important plot in the new series, at least in one episode? Would you like to interact with Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy again, and what way exactly (I assume that Larry is a favorite of yours)?”

Joan: “Well in our last scripted reunion, Valene wrote a movie script”

Bob: “That’s right I remember”

Joan: “Now in 2012, I’d love to see her run a movie studio or something. She is like THE BOSS”

Bob: “WOW – I’d definitely watch that”

Joan: “Because that’s the way it was headed in the last reunion movie. Now I’m not talking about the chit chat in the living room that we did, I’m talking about the last scripted reunion that we worked on, Valene had an affair with the young co-writer and again we had that older/younger thing again and she was moving in the direction of Hollywood. So since she lives out here in California, I can see her running a movie studio or the other possibility could be that she becomes a CEO or someone who is totally in charge and holds no prisoners. Still as nice and still as happy but nonetheless she is the boss. I’d love that”

Bob: “So she’d be powerful Val”

Joan: “And no longer poor Val”

Bob: “Yes…no more poor Val”.

Joan: “Now as for the other half of that question and whether or not Val’s relationship with Lucy should be a story in the new series, I have mixed feelings about that because it should be two grown up’s now and two strong, independent women and if anything, it could be that Lucy becomes the mother now because Charlene is such a go getter. She’s writing for newspapers etc (I’m talking about Charlene here, not Lucy) and she has her fingers in a lot of pies. So I’d like to see that happen where Lucy becomes the mother. That kind of dynamic happens you know where ‘mom’ ages and the daughter grows up so the mother becomes the daughter and the daughter becomes the mother”

Bob: “Yeah – the roles become reversed you mean?”

Joan: “They do. They absolutely do so in terms of Dallas continuing, that might be an interesting story to tell because Valene was never the best mother in the world although she tried to do the best she could to take care of Lucy. But I really think that would make for an interesting change of pace”

Bob: “Definitely. What about interacting with Linda and Patrick again?”

Joan: “I don’t know. I had more time with Patrick, you know. I had very little interaction with Linda because she never crossed over. Any scenes with Valene and Sue Ellen together were merely trading glances with each other so we never really had any kind of back story whereas Patrick’s character always came to the rescue and was always the grown up and he was magnificent . Plus he came to Knots Landing two or three times to guest star. That said, I’m not sure what the connection with Linda Gray or Patrick would be, but it would be fun to explore”

Bob: “Fantastic. Now finally, while we’re on the subject of Dallas, we have been inundated with lots of questions asking if you’re going to appear on the new revival or even if you would like to appear at some point on the future. Have you any thoughts on this?”

Joan: “Well this is something I have no idea about at this stage however I can share with you that they’ve already asked Ted last fall when they were down in Texas filming. Unfortunately though, he was so busy filming Young &amp; the Restless that he had to pass. And I know he was really disappointed to miss out on this because he feels he should’ve been down there with his brothers J.R and Bobby. I think they’re waiting to see first how the new show performs and then who knows after that…”

Bob: “Yeah – they’ll need to wait first to see if it’s popular enough for a second season”

Joan: “Yes. As for whether or not I myself would like to appear on the new Dallas, I think this would be divine providing it would result in a wonderful surprise with Valene turning up and in a wonderful way. You know, it sounds like they’re using everyone in a wonderful way – quite brilliantly, so yes. That would be amazing. As for Lucy &amp; Val, I think that would be such a ‘sidebar’ story because we have these two women who are quite different, but that’s what would make it wonderful for the fans. Because it’s not generic or typical, but a story that would be something different”

Bob: “What about a Knots Landing continuation? Would you be up for that?”

Joan: “I don’t know about that because Dallas was like this cult/iconic show. So I’m not even sure if that it would lead to a Knots Landing revival. I don’t know, it just doesn’t lend itself to a full series. I mean it would be wonderful as a one off, as a reunion. But I don’t know that it has the same ‘gold nugget’ as a series that the Dallas concept has”

Bob: “It’s not ‘epic’ so to speak. I mean it’s epic for us but not as a concept”

Joan: “Dallas is all about the ‘grand’ and about being down there with the wealth and it’s all so wonderfully woven and real. However I think reunions are equally as fantastic and wonderful and I think another scripted Knots Landing reunion would be amazing to do but Dallas lends itself to what ‘they,’ the other half of the one per cent, are doing and more power to them. Bravo”

Bob: “Great Joan. Now I have one extra final question for you and this is one you don’t know about already. It wasn’t in the submission I gave you the other day”

Joan: “Uh oh” (suspicious)

Bob: “As a thank you for agreeing to chat with us today, I’ve taken one more question from a very special lady. Her name is Karen Mackenzie and she comes from Knots Landing in California – now I’m talking the real Knots Landing here”

Joan: “HaHaHa. So that is actually her name?”

Bob: “No no no. Her name is really Michele Lee”

Joan: “Noooo…” (surprised)

Bob: “And she would like me to ask you about your computing skills. Sorry…she’s asked me to tease you about your computing skills”

Joan: “Oh my God” (laughing)

Bob: “It’s true. Michele wanted to join us tonight however unfortunately she’s flying back to LA today and can’t make it”

Joan: “You know I have to tell you she has wanted to come over and teach me for such a long time. Now I – by choice – and maybe “ignorance is bliss,” but I don’t know a thing about computers. Then a couple of months ago, we both had lunch, and she said to me “I am going to come over and teach you how to do all this”. Now in a way, I feel like I’m glad I don’t know anything because I hear these other actors saying “I wrote this” or “I wrote that”. Now this is something that I could perhaps throw out there to the Knots Landing fans following Karen Fairgate Mackenzie’s little tease; “Should Joan Van Ark be out there on Twitter or Facebook or on any of these social media networks?” I mean I value my privacy so much and yet I wrestle with the idea of whether or not I should get myself out there and join the new millennium. I don’t know if I want to or not”

Bob: “I agree. I’m a latecomer to Facebook and Twitter myself purely to communicate with my friends however with regards to you, while I (and the other Knots Landing fans) will want you “out there”, in all honesty, you’re already out there communicating with your fans on your website and of course here today…”

Joan: “I mean I don’t want to hide out, but I do value my privacy”

Bob: “I agree”

Joan: “I’m basically a shy person and I love my acting which I have done for my whole life – since I was a teenager like 13 or 14 years old, giving me a script in my hand for me to learn my lines and going to rehearsals so I can put on a show, that’s the happiest I can ever be”

Bob: “That’s all you know”

Joan: “And I mean that. And the same with Julie Harris and all the other actresses I love including Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and Charlize Theron who is a deep, magnificent and thoughtful actress. I think we’re all at our happiest when we have a challenge in front us – whether it be a character or a script – and some lines to learn that will help breathe life into that character. And that’s how I feel”

Bob: “Well it showed Joan. It showed in abundance through all your performances of Valene and in other projects which I’ve seen you in over the years. But with regards to Val, I just have to say to you that you worked a certain magic with that character which I’ve never ever seen any other actor or actress ever do and that’s why I must surely be without doubt one of your greatest fans because I see all you did for myself and how you made Val so ‘real’, and I compare you to all the other actors out there and as far as I’m concerned, there is no one who holds a candle to you and I sincerely mean that”

Joan: “Well bless your heart. You know I just saw Jane Kaczmarek from Malcolm in the Middle who also went to Yale Drama School. And she has just completed this magnificent part in a play which originated in Broadway and now they’ve brought it out here to the Geffen Theatre. And she said how she just couldn’t shake this character and that’s what happens you know? When you get this great character you have to go deep. I’ll go deep. Tom Cruise goes deep just like he just did in Rock of Ages and he said “I’ll go deep and I’ll go hard” and I agree with that because I’m there myself. I salute and celebrate any actor who does that. So thank you for saying that. I’m not sure it comes off from me”

Bob: “It certainly does”

Joan: “Well it’s all I care about and I hope to give you many more ladies that you guys can enjoy”

Bob: “That sounds wonderful Joan”

Joan: “Now before we go, I just want to say that my daughter Vanessa – sorry our daughter (my husband and I) because we’re high school sweethearts – her name is Vanessa Marshall and she has her own website because she is a voice-over goddess. She does cartoons and animation and voice-over work for commercials, I mean she does everything, and her website address is vanessamarshall.com so if any fans out there are interested in what she does, they should visit her site”

Bob: (laughs) “You must be so proud of her”

Joan: “I am because she’s brilliant – just brilliant and anyone who goes to her website and hears her work will see how brilliant she is too. I’m just so so proud of her”

Bob: “She sounds just like her mother”

Joan: “Well I don’t know about that but she is amazing”

Bob: “Well I’ll make sure I get all the Knots Landing and Dallas fans out there tuning into that site to check out her work. We’re a large group”

Joan: “Thank you so much, that would be great”

Bob: “It’s been a real pleasure talking to you Joan and thank you for giving us your time today”

Joan: “The pleasure was all mine. Now give my love to Dad”

Bob: “I will thanks…and my best wishes to you, John and Vanessa”

Joan: “Okay bye bye”

Bob: “Bye”

Special thanks to Joan Van Ark and all the fans for their questions

You can find more information on Knots Landing at http://www.knotslanding.net

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