Linda Gray talks the return of Dallas season 3 on TNT

Linda Gray Dallas TNT Season 3 Interview

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Dallas blasts back onto our screens on TNT with the second half of season 3 on Monday, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m. To celebrate more backstabbing and family feuds Linda Gray who plays Sue Ellen Ewing joined us for a chat.

UltimateDallas.com: We’re joined today on Ultimate Dallas by Linda Gray who plays Sue Ellen. Linda, welcome!

Linda Gray: Thank you Josh! I love talking to you.

UD: We’ve obviously seen Sue Ellen hit what apparently is rock bottom. How long will the recovery process take and do you think it’s going to stretch for the rest of the season? Are you going to be back in the thick of the other plots that are going on?

Linda: Oh, you know Sue Ellen—or we don’t. The thing that I love and that I always go back to is that I applaud the writers. From day one they integrated Patrick, Larry, and myself with the new characters, new plots….everyone wove in together and then added more characters and yet did another magical job of pulling everybody together. I thought it was—we don’t know about Sue Ellen, but in the original series we never knew what she was going to do anyway, so that continues. That’s why I love playing her because you never know. I think when an actor is excited about finding out what Sue Ellen up to now, where she’s going, what’s the plot, what’s happening with her—when an actor is excited about the role that reverberates out to an audience. It translates through the film and it’s like “Wow, what is she going to do? Oh my God, she took a drink. Oh no! Now what?” In the 80s we used to call it the “water cooler” conversation—the day after the show when people would speak about the various characters and what they did or didn’t do or did to each other or whatever. I think it’s the same thing now. I love the cliffhangers, like with the fire. “Will she survive? What will happen to Southfork—is it burned to the ground? What’s happening?” I think that the writers have impeccably hit the same groove as they did in the 80s where you just don’t know about anybody. You don’t know about the threesome, you don’t know what’s happening, all this stuff is carrying on. You don’t know and that’s the exciting thing about episodic television. You just don’t know and that’s what keeps you tuned in.

UD: In episode 11, Patrick has referred to it as the one where JR’s masterpiece is revealed to the rest of the family. How do we see Sue Ellen, in your mind, reacting to such revelations that have been kept from her and everyone else?

Linda: Well, Sue Ellen doesn’t like that.

(all laugh)

Linda: That’s episode 11, and I’m not supposed to tell you things about that (laughs). Well, I guess my answer to be very politically correct is you just have to stay tuned. It comes as a surprise to everyone and that’s the way it should be. In life—I don’t know what the next question is that you’re going to ask me, Josh—so there’s a surprise element. That translates over to the characters we play when we read a new script. It’s a surprise. When the masterpiece is revealed, it’s a surprise to everyone. How the characters react is how those characters would react. There’s no false move there. Everyone reacts according to the way they should—again, I go back to the writers. How did they come up with all this? The masterpiece was not in the original scripts because we didn’t know Mr. Hagman was going to exit the planet when he did. Those writers came scurrying about to try to figure it out—“Now what are we going to do?”

UD: A lot of that is actually what Kevin Page said when we spoke to him the other day—and he says hello.

Linda: Oh I love Kevin! Mr. Bum, love him. We get along great. Oh we’ve got some great scenes together coming up.

UD: Maybe you two should be a couple if Sue Ellen gets together with anyone. Patrick directed episode 11 and said it took him two years of acting and studying to be able to direct television today. How do you think he did and do you have any desire to direct television today? I know you did some of the original series.

Linda: I did, I did the original. To answer the first part, I adore Patrick as a director. I think the actors did, the crew did, and even this summer we’ve done some post-ADR work in Los Angeles. The post people patching everything together loved working with him as a director. You hear everybody speak about how they got along with him and he’s very organized, very comfortable, and very calming. He has a very calming influence on the set. He had a daunting show to direct—every cast member in many scenes. Those are hard scenes anyway when you’ve got to incorporate every cast member. He calmly went through it piece by piece gently—there were long days, hard days—and he just masterfully orchestrated it. It was a joy to work with him.

UD: Obviously we saw your son get involved in the threesome in the last episode. There’s been talk that [the threesome] seems to have pushed the envelope a bit too far in the minds of some of the viewers of the original series who seem a little old-fashioned. What are your thoughts on the threesome and what do you think Larry would have thought of those shocking moments?

Linda: Larry wouldn’t have thought it was shocking at all. He would’ve loved it.

(all laugh)

Linda: “Let’s do more of that!” I can hear him now. When you watch the next episode that comes on the 18th of August….

UD: Which I’ve already seen.

Linda: Yes, you’ve already seen. I have too. (laughs) When the audience sees that, things will be quickly understood—why it happened, you know, the whole thing when it’s put together. It’s quick. It’s not dragged out and it comes to a conclusion pretty quickly in that episode. I feel that it was kind of shocking to a lot of people because we’ve never done anything like that on DALLAS, but this is 2014. In the 80s, the networks did a lot of things but when people wanted to see things more risqué, they would turn to cable. Now, networks are jumping on board and they’re doing much sexier things. I think cable has to kick it up a notch and that’s what’s happening. It’s not negative or anything—again, DALLAS has always been controversial. If you look way back, Miss Ellie had a mastectomy which was a first on television. Sue Ellen was an alcoholic and they blew it way out. That was shocking. Betty Ford came out and said she had an issue and started the Betty Ford Clinic. We were kind of trailblazers in the 80s for a primetime show. I look at that now going “Okay, this is 2014, this is a continuation of the way DALLAS was.” It will be resolved in this next episode you’ll see. It was shocking but also probably what would have happened.

UD: Do you think that some viewers hold the original series in comparison as far as longer seasons and character development and all? Is comparing the new series to the old helping or hurting the series from standing on its own?

Linda: I think people are individuals. If people want to compare, they’re going to compare. If people say “oh it’s this or that” or “I like the new one better than the old one”—I like it because DALLAS has always been controversial. It’s just a continuation and people have opinions. I mean, take a look at Twitter and Facebook. Everyone has an opinion. They feel comfortable verbalizing it and I like that. This is a time in our society when things are not pushed under the rug. Peoples’ opinions are valued. You don’t have to agree with them. Look at politics, you know, come on! People have opinions about everything. Now I think they feel more comfortable verbalizing them rather than keeping it quiet so I think it’s just about timing. People will compare, they will complain, and they’ll be an authority on how this one was better than that one, and who is better at acting, blah, blah, blah, blah….

(all laugh)

Linda: And they go on and on and you just let it happen.

UD: Right. What can you tell us about the rest of the season, what to expect….is JR’s role still pivotal to the future of the show? When do you anticipate finding out about a season four and returning to Texas hopefully?

Linda: That’s a great question–returning to DALLAS in season four. We’re all wandering around going “Um, when are we going to know something?” It’s kind of an interesting time right now. Patrick and I are very positive about it. We’re just going ahead whether we’re naïve—we don’t know, but we just keep saying “Oh well, when we get back, we’ll continue.” I feel very strongly about that—talking about peoples’ opinions! Whether it is or it isn’t, we have a strong audience that will be very unhappy if it doesn’t continue and I think they’ll make a lot of noise—hopefully—if it doesn’t come back.

UD: Down the road, where do you want to see these characters end? Do you want to see them have peace or have it be an open door for far-off feuding into the future so people will always wonder?

Linda: That’s a great question, Josh. I feel that it should be—in my mind, the way it “should be” is always open-ended. Who knew twenty years ago that we would be invited back to do another show? It’s always being open for the unexpected. That’s what I love about this show. It’s always a surprise, it’s always unexpected, in twenty years it’s still going. I think it should be open-ended. I’ll be a Lady Grantham and loving it.

UD: We’ll be wheeling you and Patrick on to the set.

Linda: That’s okay. We don’t care! (laughs)

UD: Just to wrap up, what have you been doing during hiatus? Other projects, relaxing?

Linda: I like to relax, but I don’t know what relaxing is. I’ve been with my grandchildren. I went to Brazil for two weeks, a little vacation. I went up to Idaho camping with my friends just to breathe the beautiful air and be with friends in a jeans and t-shirts kind of time. Next Thursday, Patrick and I go to Australia to promote the show, so that’s a fun adventure. Then I go up to Patrick’s ranch in Oregon to visit them. I’ve been kind of all over the planet this hiatus. Not sitting still.

UD: Still working with social media as you’re learning it?

MJ: Yes, I saw your pictures on Instagram of your trip in Idaho. I like that—the teepee out in the wilderness there.

Linda: It was so much fun! We had a ball and we were doing ‘dutch oven’ cooking. My girlfriend is a fabulous cook and I was dragging around cast iron dutch oven pots and having the best time. For me, I need the contrast. I need to get out and just be exactly who am I, hang out with friends, cook, eat, walk, and enjoy nature. That keeps me balanced. Then I can go back and play Sue Ellen.

UD: Any final messages for people out there?

Linda: My message is always a huge thank you to all the fans who have been hugely supportive and loving towards us and have just been cheerleaders to us for all these years from 1978 on. We still have the faithful fans who have continued enjoying the show. Bless them, I love them, and I’m cheering them on again to stay tuned.

August 8, 2014

Interview conducted by Josh Eilberg

Transcription by Melanie Joy

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