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Actress and producer Leonor Varela who plays the fake Marta Del Sol on TNT's Dallas joined Josh Eilberg at ultimatedallas.com for a chat about the new show.

Josh - We are joined on ultimatedallas.com by Leonor Verala who plays Marta. Welcome Leonor

Leonor - Hi, thank you for having me here

Josh - You play Marta Del Sol on Dallas, or do you? (laughs) You were born in Chile and left Chile when you were young

Leonor -  Yes I left Chili when I was young and we came to Costa Rica first for a year and then I grew up here in the States , in Boulder, Colorado. I grew up, pretty much, in an American environment, then we went back to Chile and then we moved to France, and then we moved to Germany. But my informative years , from twelve years on, I spent in France, in Paris. All my acting, the beginnings of my career were in Europe.

Josh - Do you have any memories of the original Dallas from when you were little?

Leonor - I never watched Dallas as a kid because it wasn't part of what my family did, we were not big TV people.  But I remember it very clearly because at school everybody would talk about it. I remember everybody talking about the characters and I remember very well knowing who they were even if I hadn't watched the show.
It just goes to show you, I'm the perfect example of the kind of people who didn't watch it but were still very much influenced by it because it was such a huge part of pop culture. It was like Madonna, you just couldn't avoid it in the 80's.

Josh - What drew you to the role of Marta? Did you audition for any other parts?

Leonor - I clearly have a very distinct look, I look Latin. I wasn't auditioning for anything else and you know I was in the age group for that character. I think the were very much looking for someone who looked like me for that part.

When I read the pilot , and you have to remember it only had information for the pilot, I had no idea where this character was going at all, so it was as much of a surprise for me as it will be for the audience as this unravels. So [when I read the pilot] it just seemed like she was very together, smart, a business woman, I could relate to the quick mindedness and she came from this environmental group, which is one of my biggest passions back in my country.
I immediately understood that world she was coming from, what she was talking about made sense to me. It was only very slowly as things unravelled that I understood what I was in for.

Josh - Which is the true Dallas nature

Leonor - Exactly. Which is just fantastic because then I could have never played it the way I played it knowing what I knew.  It was just genius of them to keep me in the dark

Josh - I was down on the set in January and it really seemed like a warm atmosphere on the set. Did you find that working with the cast and the crew?

Leonor - Oh I was so lucky. I don't want to sound like one of those people  that say 'Oh it was so nice' but it was truly truly a lucky experience in the sense that when you do a TV show the working environment isn't necessary this harmonious.  I think that was due to several things.
Number one, the soul of the show was back with us , we all felt a great level of responsibility, we wanted to honour them, you know I'm talking about Linda, Patrick and Larry. They have such a level of teamship, friendship between them that just transpired everywhere else.
So everybody got very quickly on page with the way they were with each other, how supportive, how kind, how funny, how light, they were just there to have a good time. So everybody got just on-board with that tone.
The second one would be that Michael Robin's is one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. For a Director, that is pretty rare.  He can be extremely firm and have really really clear beliefs and see things in a certain way. He is the Captain of the ship, there’s no doubt, but he's a gentleman, in every single sense of that term. He treats everyone with equal respect and kindness no matter if you are the Grip or the A - list star.

Josh - There was obviously a kinship between him and Cynthia [Cidre]

Leonor - Absolutely

Josh - I think it was Brenda Strong who called them the Bobby and Pam of the set

Leonor - Yes it very much that way

Josh - Ooops Bobby and Ann. Not Pam, Pam's gone (laughs)

Leonor with Josh Henderson and Larry hagman on the set of Dallas TNT
Leonor with Josh Henderson and Larry Hagman on the set of Dallas TNT

 

Josh - How was the audition process? Jesse Metcalfe did his interview via Skype

Leonor - I got to meet them in person. I happened to be here in LA and so I got to go in a room and read for them. It's a very competitive business and there were a lot of people after the role for sure.

Josh - As we alluded to Dallas was obviously a global phenomenon. Did that create nerves for you at first?

Leonor - No, because I wasn't bringing back a character people had expectations about so it was much easier for me.
I didn't have anything to be compared to and I think that gave me a great amount of freedom and lightheartedness. I didn't feel any pressure whatsoever. I just knew, and well felt that we were on the verge of something very big and potentially historical. That is something we felt in the air but I didn’t feel any pressure in any way. The ratings have been so great, I heard this just earlier today, TNT repeated the episodes later that night [premiere] and it got another three million viewers. I believe, is that right?

Josh – Oh I never heard that. Three on top of the six point nine. Wow

Leonor - So not only did they blow everybody out of the water, they are breaking records.

Josh – Also on Twitter they were….

Leonor - ….trending topics

Josh – Trending worldwide. John Ross, JR, Sue Ellen, #DallasTNT.  You can pick up a lot of this from Josh Henderson [John Ross] who lives on Twitter, practically (laughs)

Leonor - I’m on Twitter as well, @Leonorvarela . I was watching this completely explode, as it was happening

Josh – How was it working with Josh Henderson and Larry Hagman. You had most of your scenes with them.

Leonor - Josh is amazing, all you have to do is look at those scenes and see how much fun we’re having while doing this. It’s ridiculous. I can’t believe I get paid to do this, you know. 
Josh is not only evidently very handsome but he’s a really good guy. He’s a light-hearted, fun, generous, gregarious human being. So what’s not to like working with him you know. It was just really really lovely and you know he is so photogenic, the cameras loved him. He is having a blast.

And Larry. Wow what can I say about Larry? You know him as well as I do. He’s just a jokester, he’s a fun guy. Even in the midst of the hardest personal challenges he never looses his smile, ever. He loves his job.

Josh – Obviously by the end of episode two you start to take on a bit of a different twist . Do you have the potential to be one of the great Dallas female villains like Kristin Sheperd or Katherine Wentworth?

Leonor -I sure hope so (laughs)

Josh – I have seen up to episode seven so I won’t give away what happens but you are now on a different path you alluded to when you went in. How was that twist for you?

Leonor - It was just a lot of fun because villains always have the best time ever. People who are double crossing just have much more liberties than if you are playing straight. As an actor that’s just more fun to do. But I think the audience will always love a good villain because they do things they would never do or could ever dream of doing. At the same time they are extremely attractive in their dangerousness or their charming ways, like JR was the most popular character on that show and there is a reason. He did things everybody wishes they could do but yet found appalling he was doing, but with such charm and wit. So I think that should set the precedence for how fun it is to play the baddie.

Josh - People always root for the baddies

Leonor - because it’s fun. This is entertainment you know. If you are playing it straight it’s a little less memorable. That’s all there is to it. The more I got these scenes, the more I saw what was happening, the happier I was.

Josh – I was talking to Marlene Forte, who plays Carmen and we were talking about the original series and the under representation of the Latino audience. The two of us now counted five cast members, including yourself, Marlene, Jordana, Julie, Carlos Bernard and of course exec producer Cynthia. How do you feel about the way they have been represented?

Leonor - I think it’s fantastic. I think the reason the representation is so big is because of Cynthia. We have to give her credit because she comes from a Latin background, although she is very American in many ways but she is also very Latin. I think she really works with what she knows and incorporated that part and gave us the opportunity to have these really great roles. I think that’s fantastic and so important. I think it will really support the success of the show because the Latin population doesn’t  have that many shows that are main stream, apart from Ugly Betty in a different way, that represent the Latin community. I think it’s fantastic, I’m proud of that fact, I’m more proud of it because the Latin characters are not simply, how to say this, put in the way they usually are. There are no drug addicts, like the typical Latin characters.  Yes Carmen is the cook of the house and that’s also very probable in what Dallas is like today.

Josh – Being on such an historical place like Southfork, what was it like working there?

Leonor - It’s really crazy because it’s a place that hasn’t changed in time at all so we were all very excited to be shooting there and all very excited to be on the same location as the seventies. It’s a beautiful place, it’s very very nice.

Josh – Were there any funny moments on set? With Patrick Duffy on the set there must be something? (laughs)

Leonor - Oh my god they are such jokesters [Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy], they just love to clown around, say silly things and play pranks. Larry is just a charmer, and so is Patrick by the way, they just love to talk your ear off about stuff and to ask you questions. It’s just a really really great vibe.

Josh – Do you want to tease anything about where the storyline is going, without giving too much away.

Leonor - That’s a little bit hard, I think eighty per cent of the fun is discovering where this is going so I definitely don’t want to give anything away. I will say that if you have seen the first two episodes you know that this show has picked it up where the other show [original Dallas] left off. It’s the same tone, it’s part of the same cast, and it will be very faithful to the rhythm and the unexpectedness of the first show.  

Josh – Do you have any messages for the fans on Ultimatedallas.com

Leonor - I would definitely like them to stick around for the season. The fans of this show have been the driving force and the reason why this show is back. So I just want to say kudos to you guys for sticking to something you love so much because you brought it back. That’s amazing to me, that people can love something so much that they can actually twenty years later see it happen again. That just shows you that this, and I’m saying this from an insiders point of view of this industry, this shows you as creators of this industry, we do what people want to see.  It’s just amazing to see a community be so strong and so driven and so passionate about a show because here it is again. I can only sit back and applaud. I’m just very very thankful to be part of it and to be given the opportunity to play a role on here.

Josh – There must have been some intrepidation with ‘Oh they’re bring Dallas back’ , they tried Charlie's Angels, that failed, this failed. It must have been a little like ewww at first?

Leonor - Well I knew it was definitely not a remake, I read it, which I think was so smart about it. When people asked what I was doing I would say Dallas 2.0, because like when you talk about  software it was like the new version. I have to be honest with you, I never had any intrepidation about it not being quality because I had read the script and I knew what we were doing. I knew that Cynthia and Michael had thought about this in a really smart way. I had never heard of anyone bringing back a show in that manner. You know I read Charlie's Angels and I knew this was not very good and sure enough it was even worse on screen. I have to say I didn’t like it at all

Josh – Would you go to Dallas if they asked you?

Leonor - Of course, are you kidding me?

Many thanks to the wonderful Leonor for taking part in the interview.

Listen to the full audio version below

 

 


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