Joan Van Ark talks about her return to Dallas TNT

Joan Van Ark : ‘I put as much or more into this limited effort as I have in carrying a movie. I swear to God. It meant that much to me

Joan Van Ark, who is about to return to our screens as Valene Ewing, talks about her return to Dallas on TNT, memories of Larry Hagman and the responsibility of bringing back a beloved character.

Joan Varn Ark on Dallas TNT

Joan Van Ark - How the hell are you? (laughs)

Colin - I’m very well, thank you. How are you?

Joan Van Ark - I’ll get back to you on that (laughs). This has been a crazy day. I don’t want to read my horoscope. I don’t want to know what they had in mind (laughs).

Colin – Josh is with me. I say with me, I’m here in London and Josh is on the line from the US.

Josh – I think I just missed you in Dallas. I was down just after they shot JR’s funeral and I think you were doing wardrobe.

Joan Van Ark - I was and I went out to Southfork as a matter of fact which wasn’t part of the schedule but because they were out there I had to go out there to their trailer out at Southfork. That was such a trip. Were you out on location, you were probably at the memorial.

Josh - I was at the ranch all day.

Joan Van Ark – You were? My god I came out there. Were you at the site they were shooting [JR’s memorial]?

Josh - No, I rode by and the driver asked if I wanted to be dropped off at that particular site.

Joan Van Ark - And you said, “No it would be a long walk back.” (laughs)

Josh - (laughs) Right, and what happens if they say “What are you doing here? You need to leave.” How do I get out of there?

Joan Van Ark - So you then you probably talked to Linda because I came back in with Linda. I have to tell you, I don’t want to reveal anything but I was at the actual site to talk with hair and make-up and to give Ted and Linda and Patrick a hug. It literally took my breath away. I think Mike Robin has consistently and the others too, because I watched all the episodes, I had not seen a frame of it until this Christmas break as homework prep, but I pretty much watched all the episodes back to back. And visually I think Mike Robin has captured such a magnificent sense of space and the look and everything. I have to say that this episode of JR’s funeral is going to knock everybody’s socks off – visually and of course emotionally.

Josh - I won’t wear socks that day then! (laughs)

Joan Van Ark - Don’t and take your shoes off too just in case. You don’t want to lose those (laughs)

Josh - On a previous trip down one of the tour guides [from Southfork] took me around different places and she took me to that particular location last year because that is where Miss Ellie’s grave was and then she took me to the Southfork trailer park if you can believe that

Joan Van Ark - Trailer park? (laughs) That’s where JR probably thinks Valene was raised.

Colin & Josh (laugh)

Joan Van Ark - The way he felt about her. He always looked at me as pond scum or trailer trash. I’m guessing that is why I’m not part, it’s also part of the storyline, of that amazing upcoming episode.  Now did you see the two hour (season two) opener last Monday?

Colin – Yes, yeah.

Joan Van Ark - Right, let’s hear from both of you. Let’s hear the review.

Colin - Yeah I thought it was really good. I actually thought it was an improvement on season one as it felt more like Dallas (the original).

Joan Van Ark - The traditional Dallas?

Colin – Yes.  It takes a bit of getting used to as it is a bit more fast-paced as opposed to the original series. I thought compared to season one Linda Gray’s character of Sue Ellen felt more integrated into the fabric of the show.

Joan Van Ark - I think that’s one of the biggest changes of season two, although I have not seen a frame of season two. I had a scene with her and she gets more gorgeous, accomplished and all of it. I think that’s going to be a gorgeous leap and a positive and wonderful enrichment of that character. It’s a delicious character and all of it is very special but I think they are enhancing everything which is what happens with a good team when they keep evolving it and creating it and making it better and better.

Josh - I thought season one was like a ten part pilot, kind of setting the table and then season two….

Joan Van Ark - ….will be the meal. It will be more of the meal then. If they are setting the table then you start to bring the appetizers and the main course.

Josh - Exactly. Then you bring back the Barnes-Ewing feud and everything, which was kind of out there but not really there in season one.

Joan Van Ark - What I loved in season one and I’m hoping they mind this in season two, I love the cross-generational weave. They have love stories, they have conflicts and greed, backstabbing and all of it but it’s cross-generational. It’s what David E Kelley did on Boston Legal or Private Practice, maybe both actually but they had Holland Taylor as sexy and vital and appealing as anybody. It’s like JR says to Sue Ellen in season one, one of the things that jumps out to me, “You’re still the prettiest woman in the room” and he looked her right in the eye and said that and I mean my god that’s ageless, I thought that was pure, pure gold. I love they have done it cross generational where the young titans with all their jealousy and love but it still exists too with the other generation. I love that.

Colin - While we are on this subject, we did receive a question in relation to this. We recently spoke to David Jacobs and he loves the show but he did feel certain elements were perhaps too plot driven in comparison to original Dallas or Knots Landing where it was very character driven. Do you feel that’s true?

Joan Van Ark - Yes, I do but what I have loved so far, I feel they have been – and I know this is why Larry, Linda and Patrick were attracted to it – I think they have realized the responsibility and core of each character and they haven’t violated that, they have enhanced it. And that’s a gift right there, that’s Cynthia Cidre doing her magic because it’s never violated the core of who they are. Then it digs deeper and in fact adds more, you know like dropping a pebble in a pond and you’ve got rings that go out from that. So I think she [Cynthia Cidre] and I tribute her for that, of not just tossing out what is the core of Bobby as the moral upright one and JR with his shenanigans and Sue Ellen we’re not sure and we’re probably going to continue to not be sure through this second season because everybody’s responsibilities have changed with the absence of JR. Here is the thing I want to say about David (Jacobs) too. In reflection having been down there, it was like a class reunion of sorts which I have never attended but every time I revisit Dallas or Knots Landing those are my High School reunions. But David Jacobs has supplied a sorority of actors with the most delicious golden parts which have gone on and on and on to fulfill the actors and the fans. I say god bless David Jacobs.

Josh - Patrick Duffy called Dallas the gift that keeps on giving.

Joan Van Ark - It’s exactly that and David wrapped up the box and put a bow on it. Actually Lenny Katzman and a lot of them put the bow on it but David gave the gift box and the rest is frosting and wonderful frosting.

Josh - We have received quite a few questions from the fans. Everyone is really excited to see you back. It’s for three episodes right?

Joan Van Ark - Ted is three and Joan is one.

Josh - Joan is one? Oh.

Joan Van Ark - I know. I don’t know how to dance around this. I am grateful, honored, thrilled, all of it but when I got the word that was the situation, I’m not going to say it broke my heart, I won’t say that but it’s the storyline too and that they had written before Larry passing so they stuck with it and I see why because Ted had filmed before Christmas the first of his three. I am honored to contribute in any way possible because it’s the diving board of my whole television career at least, although I have done a lot of Broadway and theater. I owe Dallas everything I got and I was thrilled and honored even though I must say it’s minimal, it’s a thrill and an honor and I will be there what, when, how they want or need me.

Josh - Without giving much away too much, we know you can’t reveal much but can you reveal any details as to what brings Val back to Dallas? There are rumors of a connection with Sue Ellen; there are rumors of marital problems between Gary and Val.

Joan Van Ark - Well, you’re right. I’m not allowed to say anything. But, I will say this: I think Cynthia Cidre knows EXACTLY what she’s doing, and there are fabulous story lines for both Gary and Sue Ellen, whether or not they are connected, I won’t say, but I do think the fans will love it!

Josh - Ted is in the episode, but is Charlene in the same episode?

Joan Van Ark - Yes she is.

Josh - What was it like getting back with Ted and Charlene after all this time?

Joan Van Ark - Well I see Ted socially and I do see Charlene too. We did a couple of game shows, we did Pyramid once and she actually won it for me/us, we were a team. But it was really something to be on the set, I call her my little girl and just to be there with her was an emotional scene. Playing the scene with Ted it’s almost like there was no separation, once we looked at each other and doing the scene it was like there was no gap. It’s weird. It’s five thousand years since we acted Gary and Val together and yet it was right there. It was weird. 

Josh - It was interesting to note that Lucy always seemed to be ignored after her one visit to Knots Landing and to reconnect with her after all these years must’ve been interesting for the dynamic of these two characters.

Joan Van Ark - Well yes, and also just high energy because when you bring a puppy or a dog back into a house and he hasn’t seen you in several months or years or whatever, he goes crazy.  We had a kind of excitement, I don’t know if Charlene would say that, but there was this pitter-pat kind of thing because it’s the actor in a way along with the character reuniting, so it was special.

Josh - As far as Val in 2013, has she moved away from being “poor Val”? 

Joan Van Ark - Well, see that was my—yes, that’s a great question.  That was my intrigue and excitement to see Cynthia or her team of writers might visualize Valene and I think there’s a clue and because it was the last scene of the night, 9:00 at night after a full day of shooting and that’s when we got to this scene, I’m not sure how it comes off but it was a clue and I kind of liked it and I went with it very strongly where I could’ve softened it maybe and I still wrestle with that.  I run 10 miles every day and I wrestle within the run — “Should I have been lightened up and more vintage Val or should I have done it the way I did it?” and it’s done and it’s out there so I feel it would be more interesting that she grows and evolves and becomes stronger.  If not stronger, then maybe bitter, but I don’t think she’s a bitter person.  I think she’s got a great spirit and a goodness about her that she wouldn’t be bitter.

Josh -  Right.  I believe you said in one article that you would like to see her in a modern day position of power in a movie studio or something.

Joan Van Ark - Absolutely. Absolutely. I think the arc of going from where she came from to something like that shows the potential she had or has and I would love to see that realized.

Josh - Is there a danger of there being a dramatic dead end at that point?

Joan Van Ark - Well, that’s a very good point. That’s very good.  If everything is smooth sailing, it’s boring. There is a way to have the strength but have the conflict which is tucked away in this minimal contribution that I do on the upcoming episode.  It’s a possible way to have conflict there.

Josh - Interesting.

Joan Van Ark - Mmm hmm!

Josh - We’ll see how this season, obviously, Val & Gary’s only children, you had the twins, and I believe you did an interview with Bob McCormick.  There was a picture of the actress who played Betsy.

Joan Van Ark - Aren’t they gorgeous?

Josh and Colin - Yeah!

Josh - Do we find anything out about the twins?  Do they exist in this universe?

Joan Van Ark - There certainly wasn’t any mention in this go-round at all about them, and you know what? My guess is there won’t be because Cynthia has mentioned in another interview about rights to the character.  All of us who were in fact on DALLAS, the original, those are the only characters who Cynthia and Mike (Robin) have the rights to.  Betsy and Bobby are a pure Knots Landing creation, so I don’t think there’s going to be any link-up with that.

Colin – That’s right, because I think she was quite interested in the character of Abby as well but I get that there’s issues around that potentially.

Joan Van Ark - Yes, the rights.

Josh - I know Cynthia met you, Joan, and Michele (Lee) and Donna (Mills) at an event last year?

Joan Van Ark - Yes, an amazing event.  The Paley/Warner Brothers Exhibit 50 Years of Television.  “Knots” is there and “Dallas” is there and there’s three amazing outfits from “Knots Landing”.  I wanted the photo op with three dummies in front of the dummies.

Colin & Josh - (laugh)

Joan Van Ark - Yeah, how’s that?  Joan, Michele, and Donna standing in front of the three dummies so it’s a total of six dummies (laughs) in this museum.  It was a huge event during one of the television critics’ gatherings and everybody came.  There’s stuff from “Friends” there, there’s stuff from “Dallas”, there’s stuff from “Knots Landing”, all the iconic Warner Brothers shows.  I think Wonder Woman is there.  It’s quite an exhibit and it’s still there.  There’s going to do an even newer one at Warner Brothers Studios this spring called “Ladies of the 80s” and we’re all going to send some of our gowns that we wore way back then.  More dummies at Warner Brothers Studios, so.

Colin & Josh (laugh)

Joan Van Ark - The town is loaded with them!

Josh - You mentioned Wonder Woman.  Didn’t you and Ted….

Joan Van Ark - That’s where we met!  Absolutely, yes.  We did a guest shot, both of us, just prior to filming the pilot for “Knots Landing”.

Josh - Do you think “Knots Landing” fans will be satisfied with where Gary and Val are at this point in their lives?

Joan Van Ark - Well I think it’s very much left a question mark.  In fact, Ted and I were talking and felt we needed one more scene, a kind of period on the sentence, or not.  We needed a button maybe on what you will see, so I would say it’s a question mark.

Josh - So it’s left open that there could be another return at some point in the future?

Joan Van Ark - I don’t know.  I’m sure with Ted there will be because he’s Ewing blood and he has rights.  So much of this is about the rights and who owns this and that how much percentage of Southfork is theirs and Ted being a Ewing is far more involved in that.  It’s a lot of the platform of what this reboot is all about.  Ecology against old school.

Josh - Obviously with Larry not being there anymore, there’s a dynamic that Patrick would need a brother to bounce off of.

Joan Van Ark - Yes. Correct.

Josh - Does that leave open that Ted could be willing to come back a little more?

Joan Van Ark - I’m sure that that’s true because, you’re right, there’s a void, and he needs a family connection, and it might mean a closer relationship between the two of them. I think the possibilities are limitless for Ted.  I really do.

Josh - JR and Jock were obviously what drove him away. Now they’re both gone.

Joan Van Ark - Exactly.

Josh - What are your memories of Larry Hagman?  You obviously shared some wonderful scenes and mentioned earlier that he (JR) thought Valene was pond scum but how was it working with him on the set?

Joan Van Ark - There is nothing, I mean, Larry’s mother played Peter Pan, and was one of my mother’s favorite shows.  There’s a song in Peter Pan, the musical, “I Won’t Grow Up”.  Peter Pan would sing it— “I won’t grow up, I will never even try.”   You know, way better.  The thing is, that is Larry, to my heart and soul, and that is the heart and soul of a good actor.  An actor has to be a child, willing to open it up and not protect and let it all show and let it all be out there heart and soul, whatever it is.  Larry had a forever, ever, ever young attitude about life, and work, and all of it.  He said, “Don’t worry, be happy, feel good.”  All these things are Larry, Larry, Larry, Larry.  I just couldn’t believe it about him dying because he is the antithesis of death.  He’s everything about life.  He loved acting, he loved working, I loved being on the set with him.  He would shoot peanut butter through his teeth off-camera.

(Colin & Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - Yeah, how’s that for playing opposite somebody when it’s a dramatic emotional scene, and he’ll shoot peanut butter between his teeth on the off-camera dialogue?  He and Patrick together were just two little devils.  But it kept the set the way it’s supposed to be – light and comfortable and loose so that you can do your best work. When it gets tense, you tighten up and the work isn’t the best.  Patrick has maintained that it’s one of the most profound moments that I had when I was just now down in Dallas.  Patrick has assumed the role of the host.  It’s silent, it’s subtle and it’s totally there.  God bless him because he puts his arms around me and it was just so special.  It’s one of the strongest moments I had down there.  The other two were seeing “J.R. Ewing” on the door of the trailer –that got my heart and soul—and he’s number one on the call sheet.  That got my heart and soul.  Working with Larry was working with the best child, the best actor, the most fun-loving, crazy, wonderful person in the world.

Josh - An eighty-one year old that looks at the world like a five year old, just, with wonder….

Joan Van Ark - Yeah!  It’s a gift.

Josh - A lot of fans were disappointed that you were not going to have any scenes with him.

Joan Van Ark - Oh! You know when my manager was called from Dallas to ask me to do an episode, they said “She’s going to have a lot of fun with Linda and Larry.”  Oh, my heart.  Here’s the thing.  I was running—I run, as I said, ten miles a day, and I had done a longer run the day after Thanksgiving.  I took my radio with me because I am a Lakers freak.  I love the Lakers and I listen to the games.  I had turned in off, and for some unknown reason at 7:30 I had turned it back on.  They were just saying “this news bulletin out of Dallas, Texas.  Actor Larry Hagman has passed away in Dallas.”  I just couldn’t even breathe.  I couldn’t believe I had turned it on at the second they were saying it.  I couldn’t run, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do anything.  It was just a shock. 

Josh - That reminded me of how Colin mentioned that one of the great things about the original “Dallas” series was that characters finding out big news like that on the radio, you’d get to see their reactions and it was just….do you know how Val reacts to the news that he (JR ) has died?  They obviously didn’t have the best relationship.

Joan Van Ark - I know, and I didn’t….I have to be so careful.  I think that would be a very interesting…you know I was out at Southfork to have this fitting, and I thought “Why couldn’t I just be behind the bushes and pull a Jimmy Kimmel?”  Like over-the-shoulder when they’re on Ted for a close-up, there’s her silly little face popping up behind the bushes either with tears or not, whatever.  What’s wrong with that shot?

(Colin and Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - So I thought about that but I didn’t think they would like that.

Josh - It’s funny, we were probably at Southfork at the same time but we didn’t run into each other.

Joan Van Ark -I’m sure we were.

Josh - Did you get to interact with John Ross at all, or much of the new cast?

Joan Van Ark - No, and let me tell you something.  From the Paley Center event in April or May of last year when I met Cynthia Cidre and Mike Robin, the guys, they all came together—Linda, Larry, Patrick, and the two guys, Christopher and John Ross—I hyperventilated looking at those guys.  I want a storyline with those two guys!  Oh my God!

(Colin and Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - I know, I know.  You want to know if Valene’s evolved?  Let’s put Valene in the middle of those two guys.  For crying out loud t/span Oh! You know when my manager was called from Dallas to ask me to do an episode, they said “She’s going to have a lot of fun with Linda and Larry.”  Oh, my heart.  Here’s the thing.  I was running—I run, as I said, ten miles a day, and I had done a longer run the day after Thanksgiving.  I took my radio with me because I am a Lakers freak.  I love the Lakers and I listen to the games.  I had turned in off, and for some unknown reason at 7:30 I had turned it back on.  They were just saying “this news bulletin out of Dallas, Texas.  Actor Larry Hagman has passed away in Dallas.”  I just couldn’t even breathe.  I couldn’t believe I had turned it on at the second they were saying it.  I couldn’t run, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do anything.  It was just a shock.  hey are gorgeous!!  They are absolutely gorgeous and no I have nothing to do with them at all in this and all I would welcome is a storyline.  I’ll show Gary and get involved with those two.

Josh - Ohhh, Mrs. Robinson!

Joan Van Ark - Either one or both.  Either one or both is all I’ve got to say!

Josh - How do you feel the new cast is doing from what you’ve seen?

Joan Van Ark - I think it’s beautifully cast and as I watched all of the episodes at Christmas from season one, I saw an evolution of all of them.  I think they’re beautifully cast and Brenda Strong is a quarterbackstrong for the show somehow.  She’s a quiet, wonderful quarterback that kind of links everybody together as does Patrick but he always has so that’s not a discovery, but each of the younger ones have grown and grown and grown with each episode so I’m very very proud of them.  I think /spanthey’re beautifully cast because whoever called the shots, which I would assume would be a team starting with Cynthia, Mike, and TNT, they chose well and they’re just all growing and getting richer.  Not in dollars, but performance!

Josh - Was it easy to slip back into your character?  I know in a previous interview you mentioned something about doing collages for your roles.

Joan Van Ark - I always do. You know, this time I had a folder. (Voice breaks with emotion)  There’s a lot with Larry even though he wasn’t there.  I did a limerick for his last big birthday that he had and I was lucky enough to be there.  They printed in the CBS soap magazine that comes out every week.  They reprinted it and did an interview with me and printed a couple of pictures of me kissing Larry at this Paley event as a matter of fact.  It was Larry, and a picture of me with Linda because we always joked that we were going to take “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” on the road.

(Colin, Josh, & Joan laugh)

Joan Van Ark - So there’s Linda and me together at her big birthday party.  I won’t say which birthday party, but she had a big birthday party and I was there so there was a two shot of us, Joan and Linda.  Then I had a picture I love that was in the trailer with me because it’s part of my collage.  It’s of Joan and Ted from the reunion—which was the chit chat reunion— and we’re sitting out on a bench in the cul-de-sac in front of our house.  I’m looking at the script and Ted is patiently looking at me like “When is this dumb bitch going to put these pages down and finish filming this interview?”

(Colin & Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - He has the most patient, darling, wonderful, but “oh-my-god-let’s-get-this-over-with” type look on his face, so I have that two shot.  Everything that meant to me, what this upcoming episode means to me, and Larry was front and center (voice breaks with emotion) I can’t believe I am getting upset about this.  I did love him so much more than I ever realized.

Josh - Did you have any reservations about coming back to the show?

Joan Van Ark - No, never. Never. I embrace it, I welcome it.  You know, I never thought I would—who would believe that this kind of thing of reinventing and rebooting something that’s a classic and returning to something you just said in season two as the original and better.  But who would ever imagine to have it come full circle?  I would embrace further investigating.  I’ll tell you what: When I see the traditional characters, and you see them now, it’s just gold.  You think, “Ah, that’s how they turned out!”  It’s a wonderful discovery for the audience as much as it’s a gift to the actor, you know, I love it.  I would kill to come back and I want to keep doing all my other things.  There’s something I did last spring and I got an award for it.  I did a webisode called “Pretty”.  It’s sort of a standup of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ and I’m dying to do comedy.  I play the senior in “Toddlers in Tiaras” so it’s like Jonbenet Ramsey or Honey Boo Boo 5,000 years later. 

Colin & Josh - (laugh)

Joan Van Ark - So I’ve still got the tiara on my head, makeup is way overdone, mascara is smeared down my face, I’ve still got the banner on, Miss Toddlers & Tiaras or whatever.  Miss Honey Boo Boo.  I love it; it’s a delicious idea for a character.  I still want to do those other characters but if you want me to revisit Valene, I’m there. I’m there.

Josh - David Jacobs, in our interview, said that if he was going to do anything, he would be involved in a new “Knots Landing” if it ever came back.  Would you jump back into “Knots Landing” again if that opportunity presented itself?

Joan Van Ark - Well, I don’t know how you couldn’t.  It would seem crazy that you couldn’t.  I have my own feelings about rebooting “Knots” because “Dallas” to me was iconic and a little over-the-top and big hair and big money and big greed and big everything.  “Knots Landing” in my opinion was the template for all the good shows that are on now.  Continuing stories played close to the bone, more reality-based, more identifiable, relatable, etcetera about us.  Dallas was about them, the 1%, and it’s delicious to watch and a fabulous guilty pleasure, but “Knots Landing” was close to the bone about us.  That’s why I think it lasted so long and why it might be a trickier reboot because everything that’s out there now is a bit of an echo of “Knots Landing”.  Alan Ball said “Knots Landing” was one of his, if not his favorite, and he did “Six Feet Under” kind of based on “Knots Landing”.

Colin - Yeah, I remember reading that actually.

Joan Van Ark - Yes, when I read that I thought “Oh my god!”  And there’s one of the greatest writer-producer-creators out there—if not THE greatest, alongside David Jacobs.  But there he is, saying he patterned it after “Knots Landing”. Wow!  So I think a reboot would be tricky, but it would be hard…. being the spinoff characters, Gary and Val, how could you not be a part of it?

Josh - Right.  In coming back to “Dallas”, were there any major differences between working on the original series of “Dallas” and “Knots Landing” and the new version now?  The switch to high definition and 16×9 and…

Joan Van Ark - Well, high definition I can’t wait for since I had the flu and some kind of eye infection which I just decided to ignore….

(Colin and Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark -….but I don’t think the high-def cameras will ignore the fact that I had this eye situation and I didn’t feel 100% but I think the biggest thing is that you feel a bit like a guest in the house instead of part of the house.  That’s what I discovered guest-starring on various shows since “Knots Landing” and “Dallas”.  You do feel more like a visitor.  Try as you may and as classy as one or maybe more of the resident cast might be, you still feel like a visitor and I don’t know how to explain it but it’s a little like being homesick at camp.  If you live there, you don’t have any homesickness but when you’re a visitor there’s kind of sunkenness in the pit of your tummy that….you’re a visitor.  You can’t get around that.

Josh - I know that Val—you always put so much care and emotion and energy into creating the character of Valene—did the writers on “Dallas” manage to capture that energy in the script?

Joan Van Ark -  Hmm.  It’s not that they didn’t capture it, but I guess, you know, I’d love to hear—and I’m sure there will be commentary—I’ll have to reserve that until it airs and there’s feedback.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  Film at eleven.

(Josh & Colin laugh)

Joan Van Ark - Film at eleven. Maybe that’s the best way to answer that and then you get back to me!  Okay?

Colin - I think that was one of the concerns from “Knots” fans, the purist fans, they were just worried that the writers wouldn’t get Val in the same way the writers on “Knots Landing” did.  I think that was a slight concern.

Joan Van Ark - Then I put my arms around and say “thank you” to the “Knots” fans who had that care because that means a lot to me and it was my concern, and as I say “film at eleven!”  We’ll see.  I realize totally the responsibility and the challenge of bringing her back, what, 20-some years later, so I couldn’t have been more—I put as much or more into this limited effort as I have in carrying a movie.  I swear to God.  It meant that much to me.  Her as a character means that much to my actress’ heart and soul, and Joan Van Ark wanted to do the fans right, too, the ones that care….all three of them. (laughs)

(Colin & Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - I said that in hair and makeup, I said “I want to not look like Joan Van Ark, I want to look like Valene might’ve looked to satisfy the fans, all three of them.”  They belly laughed too, they got that.

Josh - It was great seeing you on the “Pioneers of Television” when they talked about your scene where you had the makeup in the mirror and you transformed into Verna.

Joan Van Ark - I love that piece of film and I never love anything.  I never love anything and yet I love that.  I love it and most of all because it’s a collaboration.  I don’t know if I said that because I didn’t see the “Pioneers of Television”. I wish you had seen “The Talk” that Michele, Donna, and I did—

Josh - I was just about to mention that, yeah.  It looked like “home week” seeing the three of you together.

Joan Van Ark - It was. It was a love fest.  It all came together and they wanted me to do “Access Hollywood” but I was down in Dallas filming at that very same time, the two of us were at Southfork of course.

Josh - Right.

Joan Van Ark - I didn’t see “Pioneers of Television” but I’m hoping to find it streamed or somewhere online.

Josh - Right, I recorded it.

Colin - We didn’t get these programs over here. I’m missing out!

Joan Van Ark - I wish you did, because if there are “Knots” and “Dallas” fans, it has a lot to do with that.  There were “Dallas” people on it too.  I wish they would play it over in Europe.

Colin - It will be online somewhere.

Josh - I should’ve spent less time over at the Longhorn Bar at Southfork and more time in the parking lot when the vans were pulling up.  I probably would’ve run into you.

Joan Van Ark - (laughs) Yeah! Maybe so.  We brought Linda back and then hightailed it right back into town because I didn’t know if I would be first shot in the morning, I wasn’t sure, and they’re very last minute to give you the calls, so I just wanted to get back and situated, but we were inches away from each other.

Josh - I actually spoke to Linda last week.  She talked about how great it was working with you and it’s funny cause you’ve known her for so long and yet you haven’t had much interaction between the characters in the original series.

Joan Van Ark - We never did!  Let me tell you something, and this is kind of important.  Pre, the episode I did airing, we, to my recollection, and I would not forget anything like this—who could forget working with Linda—we never had any real interaction.  It might have been something like “Sue Ellen.”  “Val.”  You know, back and forth, a word at the Cattle Baron’s Ball or Jock’s funeral or a big barbecue or something but never did we have any face-to-face.  I think there’s gold there.  I just think there’s potential but it was my first ever, ever seen with Linda.  And as I say, we’ve talked about touring….(laughs)

(Colin & Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - ….any number of you know, arsenic and old lace or whatever, you know, together, but that was it.  That was the first.

Josh -  So Joan, Linda has been getting into tweeting on Twitter, she’s been learning it from the rest of the cast.  Seems like it’s a contractual thing, I don’t know, but have you ever thought of any Twitter, reaching out to the fans, or…

Joan Van Ark - Well you know, I debate that to myself, because I isolate from almost all of that.  I’ve read that Jim Carrey is the same way and of course we’re both crazy so maybe that’s it.

(Colin, Josh, & Joan laugh)

Joan Van Ark - You know, he doesn’t want a phone on the set.  I never want any distraction other than the carrot that is in front of me.  I know that the comments and this and that and there are blogs and places and reviews and criticisms and praises, maybe, and I want to keep my nose to the grindstone and not be distracted and lose focus and yet on the other hand I realize that could be a great connection between the actor and the fans….all three of them.  So I’m conflicted about that and I’m not really sure whether to join the swim or to stay focused with the priority that means the most to me, which is hand me a script, give me a scene, let me learn the  lines and let me give it everything I’ve got.

Josh - If you do join, it would be interesting to note that former costar Claudia Lonow is on Twitter.

Joan Van Ark - Uh huh.  I know Michele just did a part on her new show, “How To Live with Your Parents For The Rest of Your Life.” 

Colin & Josh – Oh yeah!

Joan Van Ark - Yeah, it’s going to be on in February.

Colin - Yeah, I wanted to find out about that, it sounded pretty good.

Joan Van Ark - Yes, you should check it out.  It’s a brand new show, it premieres very soon here, and Michele does something on it, I talked with her a couple of times about it.  Claudia is so talented; she’s such a great writer.  And it’s such a great concept—living with your parents the rest of your life?  She said “it’s my own story.”

Colin - Yeah, I read that. It’s based on her with her own mother I believe.

Joan Van Ark - Yeah, she lives with her mom and dad.  I love it!  I love it.  It’s contemporary, it’s brave and fresh and she’s so talented, I mean, you go girl.

Josh - It is an interesting concept.  That does throw back to the concept that the Ewings lived under the same roof with Mommy and Daddy.

Joan Van Ark - Well, you’re right, you’re right, and that’s where all the gold is, because there’s always family conflict.  There’s always conflict, so that’s the gold.  In more ways than one!

Josh - I know you have to run pretty soon, but can you tell us what other projects you had and maybe give us a message for the fans?

Joan Van Ark - Let’s see. I mentioned the “Pretty” webisode that I won the Best Comedy Guest Appearance on.  I’m very proud of an independent feature that I filmed in the middle of last year called “Watercolor Postcards”.  The trailer for it is on Facebook I believe and I wear not a stitch of makeup.  I am spray painted white because I’m a trailer-trash terminal cancer patient, if you will, whose ten year old daughter, Bailey Madison, this young actress who has played everybody’s’ daughter in every movie from Bette Midler and Billy Crystal in their new movie and she was in something with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler.  She’s everywhere, this little 10-year-old. She blew me off the screen and she goes to the local bar in dirt poor Texas and the bartender gives her a bottle of vodka and that’s my anesthesia.  I play a couple of scenes with her in this pretty interesting independent feature that’s coming out this spring.  Also, this month, or the very beginning of February, I’m a celebrity judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.  That was fun fun fun!  It was crazy. 

(Colin & Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - You know obviously about the soap icons on the PBS thing so that just aired….let’s see what else. I think that might be everything.

Colin - But you never come over to the UK, to London to do theatre or anything,

Joan Van Ark - Listen, I want to come to London.  First of all, I did work at Piccadilly Circus.  I did “Barefoot in the Park” which Mike Nichols directed me in and that was the first thing I ever did at 18 years old.  I was there at Piccadilly Theatre.  My heart and soul wants so desperately to come back to London and do any play, anything, I would kill to, say, do “Love Letters” with Ted or something back there in London.  I have to do that, that’s on my bucket list.  If you can make the people—all four of them in London—

(Colin & Josh laugh)

Joan Van Ark - Scream at some play producer or something, I’ve got to come back there.

Colin - Yeah, because Linda did too, she did “The Graduate”, didn’t she, in the West End?

Joan Van Ark - She did, and I was asked to do “The Graduate” somewhere, I think it was more New York or whatever and I was unable to do it because of the conflict here, but I’m telling you I’ve got to get back to jolly ol’ England—London is just the greatest city on the planet.  I was there once on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas through New Years’ to do something, and I never wanted to leave.  I love it so much I can’t stand it.

Josh - Do you have any wrap-up messages for the fans that are out there?

Joan Van Ark - Just stay there with us, and that means both “Knots” and “Dallas” because I feel that there is a connection there. Stay there, give your heart and soul to us as I think we’re giving our heart and soul to you.  I know for me, Valene is one of the most important people in my career and my life and I always want to do her proud.  I’m so grateful for any of the people out there that go with her and take the ride with her because I need you and I hope you need me.

Special thanks to the wonderful and inspiring Joan Van Ark

Dallas continues Monday at 9/8C on TNT

Transcribed by Mel Joy

Interviewed by Josh Eilberg

Follow Us on Twitter: @ultimatedallas 



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    1. 7 years ago