Charlene Tilton on her return to Dallas TNT

Charlene Tilton: “I think there is still enough life in Lucy to continue to be a little bit of a wild child. Lucy might be fifty but she’s still Lucy”

As Charlene Tilton makes another return to Dallas TNT as Lucy Ewing, she talks of Larry Hagman’s death, her return to Dallas TNT and her love for the fans.

Hi Charlene. How are you doing? It’s been a while

Charlene Tilton – It has. I’m doing very well thank you

We got some questions in from the fans…………….

We have just seen the memorial episode and thought it was absolutely amazing. What was it like shooting that episode? It was obviously quite soon after Larry had passed.

Charlene – Well on a personal level, because from the time I was seventeen years old Larry became like a surrogate father to me and taught me about the business and taught me about acting and taught me about behaving on the set. He was an amazing man. Also his main advice to me always was “Have fun – you are going to work really hard but have a good time doing it”.  He was a surrogate father to me, I never knew my own father, I never had a father figure in my life and so Larry came along at seventeen years of age when I started the show. So on a very personal level I will never forget I got the call right after he passed away and they said “Where are you?” and I said “I’m driving” and they said “Pull over” and I said “What’s going on?” and they said “Pull over”. I pulled the car over to the side and the person that called me, I’m not going to say who – obviously in Larry’s inner circle, said “We lost Larry” and I just screamed, I was so devastated.  I got myself together, I was only three blocks away from home and I went back home and called my daughter, she was in a recording studio and came right over.  On a personal level it was devastating and honestly quite a bit of a shock because I had spoken to Larry less than a week before on the phone, we had a long conversation and he sounded great. He was very supportive of Cherish’s, my daughters, music and he always loved listening to her music. I went to his memorial in Los Angeles and it was very nice, we laughed, we cried, it was perfectly fitting for Larry.  

Charlene – On the show I was very grateful that Cynthia, the creator, did bring Lucy back for JR’s funeral.  I go up and say one quick line but at least Lucy is there to pay respects to JR and I was grateful to have that opportunity. You could see Lucy’s growth where she understood JR a little bit better. That was nice.

You were also in the scene at the Petroleum Club with the other former cast members where you remembered a scene with JR talking about Mitch and plastic surgery.

Charlene - Of course Lucy had to go to the memorial and the funeral. As I said I was grateful that they did give my character a chance to at least let Lucy pay her respects to JR. So that was good.

What was it like meeting up with some of the other cast members like Cathy Podewell [Cally]? I’m sure you have not seen her in years.

Charlene – That was great, it was wonderful.  It was great to be asked back because I think the fans are under the impression that Lucy is back but Lucy is really not back. There is really no character development for Lucy. I really don’t know if Lucy lives in Dallas, I really don’t know if Lucy is married or if Lucy has children, if Lucy’s successful, if she’s a drunken loser – I have no idea. I am literally just back to say goodbye to JR.

So there has been not talk of character development at all for Lucy?

Charlene – No no. Lucy really isn’t back. I was just there for a brief moment, which I was grateful for. In the next episode Valene comes and I was sorry I really didn’t get to have any moments with Valene or Gary. I just come in with Valene and Bobby says “I didn’t know Valene was here” and I say “I didn’t either” and that was kind of it. I’m basically there for a second; if you blink you miss me. It’s one of those types of things.

How was it seeing Ted and Joan again?

Charlene – Personally it was wonderful.  Like I said I just wish on the show we got to do more. Personally it was great.  I do see Joan from time to time and I get to talk to her from time to time. I adore her. I adore Ted.  It was great to see them personally but on screen there really wasn’t any real scenes between us or anything like that.

The fans obviously love Lucy, you’ve obviously heard about the support Lucy has out there, they want her back. At this point how would you see Lucy fitting in if she did end up back?

Charlene – I have to say Cynthia has done a great job bringing Dallas back with these characters. I think any ideas she would have for Lucy would be great.  As of this point I don’t believe there are any plans to bring Lucy back unfortunately, which on a personal note I wish they would.  I think that Lucy is a great age and perfect to be a bridge between the original cast and the younger cast. I think there is still enough life in Lucy to continue to be a little bit of a wild child – Lucy might be fifty but she’s still Lucy (laughs).

I love the fact, I really do, I can’t even tell you how much it means to me to hear from the fans every day that they wish Lucy was back on the show more. It touches my heart but I honestly don’t know what to say.  Unfortunately Lucy’s not back, I got to make a brief appearance and pay my respects to JR and I’m thrilled and grateful for that.

You were asked back before Larry passed away so do you know if Lucy’s story was changed following that?

Charlene – I don’t know because I wasn’t privy to any storylines that were written before or what changed. I know Cynthia had to quickly turn out a script for the memorial and my word she is a prolific, prolific writer. She turned out a beautiful script, I have to say, to pay tribute to JR.

A lot of people will be in tears after seeing that

Charlene – You know it really was a lovely script. The script was amazing, Cynthia did an incredible job. I think she is probably in the top three writers for television, I really do. She is amazing as a writer. I’m thrilled that at least I did get to take part, however brief, in the memorial and the funeral.

I think it’s great after all these years that Dallas has meant so much to the cast that so many are willing to come back.

Charlene – Absolutely.  It’s just the fans always say “We’re so glad you’re back, we’re so glad you’re back” but in reality Lucy isn’t back. There is no character story there for her. I know nothing about Lucy right now. At one point Lucy had shares of Ewing Oil  

It does seem a crowded landscape on the show with a lot of the new characters coming in. Maybe there is not enough time to give the attention that is needed to give a storyline to Lucy. Maybe down the road hopefully.

Charlene – Look, it is the new Dallas, I’m not under any delusion. It is the new Dallas and I’ve been fortunate to pop my head into a few of the episodes just to a quick hello (laughs).  So that’s nice. I enjoy doing that.

I don’t know how caught up you are with this season but there have been comparisons with Ann’s daughter Emma being kind of like a young Lucy.

Charlene – (laughs) Kind of? Honey I read the script, I didn’t even know what she looked like but I said “It’s Lucy”. I knew in my mind, I hadn’t even met the actress who plays her and I knew exactly what she was going to look like. When we were filming JR’s funeral Marlene who plays Carmen was sitting and the girl who plays Emma in between us and Marlene leaned over and said to me “She’s you”, I said “I know” (laughs).  She goes “She’s Lucy”, I said “I know, I read the script and knew exactly she was going to be blonde”. Of course there’s comparisons, I knew it right away, I read the script I went “Oh hello” (laughs).
 I think the new cast are wonderful, they’re fantastic, wonderful wonderful actors and they’re all good looking. I have to tell you on a personal note every one of them is professional and lovely as people as well.  They really have a great group of young people that are so talented, I have to say that. I think Josh Henderson, if the show continues without JR, is the perfect actor to carry the torch, I really do. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with him as an actor. He is so good looking and such a nice nice young man, a wonderful actor, he is perfect.  There are big boots to fill but he can do it.

We now have JR’s masterpiece that involves JR giving Christopher a dossier on Pam and then Victoria’s statement that she won’t return. What do you make of that?

Charlene – I have no idea. I have not talked to Victoria in a long time but I thought Pam was dead in a car crash.

I think she ran off from the hospital

Charlene – If they tried bringing Pam back as another actress, I don’t know if that’s the plan or not, but that’s going to be a tough one because I know the fans want to see Pam [Victoria Principal]. All I can do is go on Victoria’s statement that she’s not coming back.

I was thinking that was maybe a smokescreen to throw people off. But that’s just my conspiracy theory (laughs)

Charlene – You know I have to tell you that my mind went there too.  My mind went there as well. Cynthia has it figured out. Like I said she is one of the top writers right now on television, she’s an amazing writer – she will make it work. Personally I adore Victoria and I know the fans would love to see Pam back, at least however briefly.   And hopefully, god willing, they can come up with a storyline for little Lucy (laughs).

Do you watch your scenes back and are you critical?

Charlene - Yeah I do watch it .  I am hard on myself but I’m also honest, if I do something  that I think is good I go “Oh that was good” and if it wasn’t I go “That didn’t hit it, I could have done it better”. I’m not like Sunset Boulevard; watching myself at seventeen on Dallas with a Martini and a cigarette going “Arrgh look at me in that bathing suit” (laughs).

 You said that your favourite place is being on the set of whatever you are working on

Charlene – Absolutely. I love being on the set. I just finished Snow White in Los Angeles, at a wonderful theatre the Pasadena Playhouse. Ariana Grande played Snow White and I was the Wicked Queen and just showing up early every day to be in the theatre. I just love working, I love being on the set – whether it’s a theatre, location, a studio, anything, I just love working.    

You just did the web series Devanity

Charlene – Yeah (laughs)

That was brilliant. I watched it , that was hilarious (laughs)

Charlene - Truly truly an amoral character, she’s sleeping with her nephew for god’s sake. This character I played was absolutely fantastic, I had so much fun.

And finally do you have any messages for the fans?

Charlene – I want to say to the fans that their kind and lovely words to me and about the character of Lucy, honestly I can’t tell you how much it means to me.  [Ultimate Dallas]  you have known me over the years  and when you see me at Southfork you know that I am not kidding , you know that genuinely the fans of the show mean everything to me. You know that , I mean seriously those people mean so much to me. Everybody that watches the show, who remembers the original Dallas, I’m so grateful for and they mean the world to me.

Interview by Josh Eilberg & Colin Hunter

Full interview audio transcript


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    1. 8 years ago