Ultimate Dallas interview with Marlene Forte who plays Carmen Ramos on TNT’s Dallas.
“All the Ramoses, Elena too. Let me tell you, we’re on that roller coaster and we’re just at the edge of the big fall”
UD: We’re joined today with Marlene Forte who plays Carmen on TNT’s DALLAS. Marlene, how are you doing today?
Marlene Forte: I’m doing really well.
Ultimatedallas.com: So we’re halfway through the third season. How has the reaction been so far?
Marlene: (laughs) You tell me. Fast and furious, isn’t it?
UD: Is that a pun?
Marlene: Yeah, exactly. It’s moving very fast. I find that TV nowadays moves twice as fast as it used to because we only have 15 episodes to do what we used to do in 24. A lot happens in these peoples’ lives—very fast.
UD: It’s like a roller coaster.
Marlene: Yeah it is, and the Ramoses are “up”. The next 5 or 6 episodes—what’s going to happen with the Ramoses?
UD: This is the first season without Larry Hagman. How has it been and how was it working with him in the time that you had?
Marlene: Larry is still number one on our call sheet. I think all of us—of course we miss him, there was nobody like him—we really think he looks over us. He’s not gone. JR is not gone. Michael won’t take him off the call sheet because he was first and that’s just the way it’s going to be as long as Dallas is ‘rebooted’. He does look over us and I know he’s over there smiling upon us. The new DALLAS is really about the new generation and I think that they are doing fantastic work. They have an amazing following. The show is doing fantastic, the storyline is really moving along and you’re going to see there’s a lot of other evil people among the Ewings. JR was not the only evil one there.
UD: When Cynthia said she was ‘spreading the evil around’, one of those people that seemed to go over was your daughter Elena.
Marlene: My daughter is going to the dark side! Oh God, she’s going to the dark side. Juan Pablo Di Pace has a lot to do with that!
UD: How does that impact Carmen and her relationship with Elena, Drew, Nicolas, and even the Ewings? She’s right in the middle there.
Marlene: Carmen is very isolated right now. She’s feeling confused, hurt, and angry. Of course she feels the betrayal too. Even though I think she’s an incredibly religious woman—which is why all of this going on around her is so hard—I think she’s kind of stunned. Boy, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s going to get bad. I think at the end of this season Carmen has been bruised and damaged. I’m really going to be interested to see what Cynthia does when—I’m going to put it out there—when seasons four comes out. We have not been officially picked up yet, but when it comes out I am just as curious to see how the heck Carmen is going to come out of this—all the Ramoses, Elena too. Let me tell you, we’re on that roller coaster and we’re just at the edge of the big fall.
UD: Carmen has had some great scenes this season, especially when she gave the Saint Christopher line to Nicolas in the kitchen.
Marlene: Oh, Nicolas, Nicolas….Nicolas is going to break Carmen’s heart.
UD: It finally feels that she’s coming into her own. Will this continue? Do we see an increase in Carmen’s interaction in the storyline?
Marlene: Yeah. You’re going to see a lot more of her in the next 4 or 5 episodes. Right until the end of the season pretty much. That’s why I’m really excited for a season four. I think you’re going to see the Ramoses rebuilding themselves. There has been a big divide right now between the Ramoses and the Ewings and I think it’s just going to get bigger. It’s going to be really interesting. It’s like Humpty Dumpty. Once it falls, it’s going to be interesting to put the pieces back together again.
UD: It’s interesting to see Carmen and her family so integrated in the storyline. In the original series you really didn’t hear from—
Marlene: Teresa, yeah.
UD: Your sister-in-law as we call her.
Marlene: My sister-in-law, yeah. (laughs)
UD: She’s still locked up in the basement.
Marlene: Exactly! (laughs)
UD: How would Carmen have gotten along with Jock and Miss Ellie if she was around then? Would she have been so outspoken or would they not have had that being from a different time?
Marlene: I think when you have a live-in housekeeper who also raises your children, I think they have more of a say than people think. I’ve always said that the person who feeds you and washes your clothes and cleans your toilet knows a lot more about you than anyone else.
UD: That’s true.
Marlene: I always think Miss Ellie would’ve been fine with Carmen. Maybe Miss Ellie would’ve been more hands-on, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I would like to think that they would get along fabulously.
UD: Carmen had a hand in treating Nicolas or Joaquin or whatever we want to call him as one of her own. How is she going to react when she finds out that Nicolas and Elena have been….
Marlene: Doing the nasty?
UD: Borderline incest, here. Nicolas punching holes in her diaphragm.
Marlene: Ugh, God I’m telling you, it’s just getting so messy. Well, he’s not her child, so I don’t think that’s really an issue. I think the issue is going to be with the disappointment of the betrayal. I think it’s going to be much more of a problem for her. Carmen does love Nicolas, but even though I took him in as one of my own, he’s not one of my own. I could say the same thing about Jesse and Josh’s characters because I raised those kids too. I don’t think it’s an incestuous thing but I think the betrayal is really going to…..I don’t know man, I think Carmen needs a drink. Carmen and Sue Ellen are going to become the drunks of Southfork. I want to see Carmen following Sue Ellen saying “PLEASE bring over that flask!!”
UD: Maybe Lucy can come back and you two can have those drinking scenes again.
Marlene: Yes, or Lucy. Somebody bring Carmen a drink! She’s going to need a few.
UD: Elena, Nicolas, and now Drew know what JR did to Carmen’s husband with the switching of the land deed. Is Carmen going to find out? How is she going to react?
Marlene: It’s already bad. When she finds out, it’s going to be hard for her to come back to the Ewings after that. You know? I know it wasn’t Bobby, it was JR—that’s the only salvation. It was not Bobby’s doing. I think it will all depend on how Bobby reacts and if they do the right thing by us. I just love that Cynthia and Michael have—you know, it’s like revenge of the Mexicans. We’re taking back our land!!
UD: It’s actually come up to some people watching the show who seem to think that the focus has shifted more in that direction and away from the Ewings in some respect and they say “Well, what about Bobby’s other child?” Maybe bring in Lucas and some other next-generation Ewings. Is there room for that down the road?
Marlene: I think there’s always room for anything. Of course, the longer the show goes, the more room there is because they have to go out there and find the stories. I’m sure now that I’ve worked with Cynthia and Michael for a couple of years that they’re really open to things. I wouldn’t count anything out to be honest with you. I don’t really think it’s going away from the Ewings at all. When the first DALLAS was around, there was no internet. There was kind of a ‘bubble’—Southfork was in a bubble just like a lot of us lived in our bubbles. That bubble has already opened. We’re aware of everything that’s going on. Seriously, it probably took all this time to even find those papers because things were just buried easier back then. It’s really hard to keep things a secret nowadays. It’s even hard to keep plot lines a secret now. We air three hours earlier on the east coast and people start tweeting about it. It’s like “No, no, no, don’t tell me, don’t tell me!”
UD: They haven’t even seen it and you caved.
Marlene: Exactly! I don’t really think that it’s changing in that way. I think it’s just cracked open and there’s more things that seep in and more possibilities. It’s actually reflective of the kind of world we live in now. One of the things I really like about DALLAS is that it is kept current—you know, oil versus methane—then they throw in the scandal and deceit to keep you guys coming back.
UD: It was interesting to see Drew (Kuno Becker) in the last couple of episodes because when he left, he didn’t hug his mother. He just kind of went. Was there something to read into that? Disappointment in her eyes?
Marlene: I think it was really coming from Carmen. She was disappointed. Our relationship will be a little different now. I think because of the way he left, he broke his mother’s heart. Carmen was so disappointed that I had a discussion with the director. I made that choice. People kept saying “how could he not hug his mother?” and it was my choice. I don’t know how Carmen is going to come out of this because she takes these blows very hard. I’m actually glad I made that choice because it really resonated with the audience. I guess if you’re a mom, even if you love unconditionally, you have to work your way through that. In that moment she was so disappointed and it was too heavy.
UD: So Southfork is possibility getting a makeover after this fire. Is Carmen going to help them build a new kitchen?
Marlene: Poor Carmen’s kitchen.
UD: Is the interior going to look any different or be a closer remodel nearer to the original?
Marlene: I think if John Ross has anything to say about it, it’s going to be completely redone. They’ll put a pool hall or some shit in there.
UD: Maybe a helicopter pad too.
Marlene: There’s going to be a lot of renovating in Southfork in every aspect, not just the physical structure. I’m telling you, hang on guys.
UD: That’s very intriguing!! Now, you mentioned Juan Pablo earlier. How was it working with him?
Marlene: It was great. I had really missed working with Kuno but he was always preoccupied with other projects. This kid (Juan Pablo Di Pace) just came in and is going to get really evil.
UD: Yeah, there’s the cartel and the ties to Harris, maybe Emma.
Marlene: Yeah, it’s going to get ugly.
UD: The McKays are coming back.
Marlene: Emma! She took Lucy’s character to a new level.
UD: With that threesome, too, oh my God.
Marlene: Yup! We were reading that scene and at first we thought “Pamela’s going along with this? What is going on?” and then she started convulsing so it was like “Oh, she’s trying to kill herself.”
UD: She wants to throw up on them in the middle of it.
Marlene: I really like what they’re doing with the characters. You get this script and you commit 100% to the reality of what those lines are, and then two weeks later you get a script that seems completely out of character. You have to commit 100% of the time and basically just trust that the writers will guide you. When you’re doing film or a play you know where the character is going and where it ends up. When you’re doing television, you really don’t know where this character is going to end up. It’s up to the writer. They throw in these new pieces of the puzzle. It’s like “Oh, okay, now there is a third child that I was raising in Mexico.” That’s the tricky part of TV. I think Patrick Duffy said it best about how difficult it is when you’re going one way and making your choices based on what you know about this character and then they add this piece and go “Ohhh” or have you lie. I thought “Carmen doesn’t lie.” Well, I’ve got news for you. Everybody’s lying.
UD: Do they guide you on that tour? Do they give you any indication of how you should play that or do you just kind of have to go with it?
Marlene: None! That’s why. Patrick’s trick is just to commit 100% to what’s on the paper today in front of you. Next week, you’ll get a new script and go “Ohhhh God, whaaaat?!” It’s just like when you get killed. We get no warning when we’re thrown out of windows.
UD: Is there anyone that you wish you had more scenes with?
Marlene: I love the entire cast. I’d love to do scenes with Emma. I love me some Emma Bell even though her character is viciously evil. I’ve been really blessed. When I first booked this job, I thought I’d only be doing scenes with Patrick and Brenda because I work in their home. If you look back in season one, I think I only had one scene with them. I had lots of scenes with JR and others that I never thought I’d have scenes with. I know there’s always a chance that I can work with other people on the show. I love working with Jesse. Jordana is such a pro. I just love playing opposite her. It’s kind of a roulette game, though. You just show up and go “Who’s going to die today?”
UD: Has this role gone as you expected or has it been a complete “fasten-your-seatbelt?”
Marlene: It’s gone faster than I expected. I definitely have my seatbelt fastened but it has also gone beyond my expectations. How nice everybody is and how much fun we’re having together—it’s really hard to have an ensemble cast. I’m number 13 on the cast list and there are people underneath me. It’s huge. We all like each other which is nice.
UD: Is there a vibe about a fourth season?
Marlene: We’re all optimistic. Patrick keeps saying “Oh, it’s going [to happen].” I just don’t like to say the words in case I jinx myself.
UD: You went to the premiere party for the JR Bourbon back in the winter. How was that?
Marlene: It was awesome. It was more intimate than I expected it to be. I thought it would be some big shindig. It was very nice, two or three hundred people came to see an episode. I always like to see the episodes projected like that. It’s always fun to watch with an audience. I love live theatre for that reason.
UD: Any other roles coming up that you’d like to share?”
Marlene: I always play somebody’s mom and I’m usually religious and very moral on TV. The working name of the movie is ‘Assassination of a Citizen’ and I run an East L.A. meth lab. I’m not a very nice person—I’m actually kind of ruthless. I’m looking forward to that. I’m nervous. I don’t get to play bad people like that!!
UD: Any last messages for the fans and everyone out there?
Marlene: I just thank you guys for supporting us. Just keep watching so we can have a season five!!
Interview conducted by Josh Eilberg
Transcription by Melanie Joy
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