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Dallas TNT Linda Gray talks season 2 and life after JR

Linda Gray Q&A

Linda Gray returns to ultimatedallas.com to remember Larry Hagman and discuss what lies ahead for Sue Ellen in Dallas TNT season two. 

Ultimate Dallas: Hi Linda. Welcome back to ultimatedallas.com

Linda Gray: Thank you very much

UD: We know you have limited time so we will kick off

Linda: Yes I have other things but you are special. We want to talk to you (laughs)

UD: First of we would like to say on behalf of ultimatedallas and the fans how sorry we were to hear about Larry. Like yourself he was always wonderful with the fans and so supportive of the website

Linda: He will be sorely missed and he is already. He loved the fans so much. He will be smiling because he will be remembered forever, for JR Ewing, Larry Hagman, for I Dream of Jeannie, all the way through. He will be remembered in people’s hearts forever. Yes he is missed but he will be in everybody’s hearts for a long time.

UD: How have the past few months been for you and the cast? I believe you were in the process of filming episode 5 when Larry passed and went back to work quite soon after.

Linda: He passed while we were doing episode seven so there are scenes that he won't be in. You know honestly we all expect him to walk through the door; it's the very weirdest thing. He was this bigger than life presence, he was a bigger than life personality, actor and honestly I keep expecting to read the script and I wonder “Where is the scene with JR and Sue Ellen?” “Where is that in the script?”. It takes me a moment to regroup and go "OK there won't be any of those".

So it's been a challenging time but the beauty of Larry is that he passed knowing that he was doing the work that, I think, he was born to do. I think he was born to play JR Ewing. He died doing the thing he wanted to do and that was Larry you know. What a gift to be given to play JR Ewing twenty years later and actors don't get that opportunity.
So for him to come back and make this giant impression again, a global impact with this iconic character, that was a gift and he knew it. That's why he struggled very hard to keep his health as best he could at all times.
That was the grace we were left with. We were left with this abundant amount of talent that will forever be in people’s minds.

I feel that the writers will have something that JR would have done that will reverberate throughout the rest of the shows, for as long as Dallas runs. You know it could be he started something and that turns into something else, it could be this huge snowball effect. It could go on and on but he will always be remembered so people won't forget him ever, ever.

UD: Did Larry ever talk to you about moving forward should he pass or prepare you. Did you ever have that type of conversation?

Linda: No. No he didn't because Larry was like a cat he had these nine lives, I think he had eighteen you know. He just kept going on because he survived so many things - the liver transplant, diabetes, all these kind of things and he always came out, always smiling. He was never afraid of dying and he told us that a long time ago. Patrick and I had spent, it was Thanksgiving weekend, we spent two hours, just the three of us in his hospital room giggling, laughing, reminiscing, etc. etc. We had such a great time, we just talked about good old times.

When we first walked in he said "I have two weeks to live" and I said, not uncharacteristically, "Bullshit" (laughs). I said "We have a scene on Monday what are you talking about?" and I said "You've bought this fancy new car and I want a ride in that car" and he perched up and he said "Oh I forget about that. Oh gosh of course"

So after two hours of glorious giggling, laughing and reminiscing about everything , Patrick and I walked down the hospital corridor smiling and we said "Man he's amazing, he's going to bounce back out of this crazy thing". We were on this great high [thinking] he'll rest over Thanksgiving weekend, all his grandchildren were in town for Thanksgiving, his daughter, his son, so we thought "Oh great this is fantastic". Then on Friday morning Patrick and I got the call saying get to the hospital now, well you hate to get those calls because you know that's not a good call. So we ran over there and that was the last time we saw him. So yeah, that's what happened.

UD: You have just filmed JR’s memorial episode and eulogy. Can you tell us how that went?

Linda: It was tough but I tell you I think the fans, the world, everybody needs closure. Everyone knows globally that Larry Hagman has passed, they need to see it, they need to have a grieving moment, they need to have closure with him, they need to mourn him and it was done with such style, such dignity, just like JR/Larry Hagman deserved. It was the most beautiful ceremony, it was stunning. Every single actor that came up to speak was brilliant, was amazing, it was stunning. It was divinely guided, it was beautiful.

UD: We know some of the original cast are back for the memorial including Deborah Shelton who played JR's ex-mistress Mandy Winger. Can we expect fireworks?

Linda: You can expect all you want (laughs). I just know she's back. I don't think there are fireworks. I don't know. There weren't any. I think sometimes at a memorial, this is my personal feeling, is that all of those things from the past are put in perspective, you look at somebody who could be an enemy and you go we are here to mourn somebody we all loved and let’s get on with it, let’s not wallow in it and bring up old resentments. To me it was a joy to have former actors that had played pivotal roles in the original come back. It was great fun to have Deborah Shelton there; I had not seen her in twenty years or something. It was so much fun.

UD: and Cathy Podewell (who played Cally Ewing)

Linda: Yeah Cathy and Deborah. It was so much fun. We giggled and laughed and exchanged phone numbers. I hope to see them when we get back. I did have a scene with Cathy and Deborah which was great fun.

UD: How does Sue Ellen react to JR's death?

Linda: Well they have such a history together, such a bitter sweet history that she would react in a very human way. This was her husband, the father of her child and again in those kinds of situations all the other stuff, in quotes, goes away, it dissolves and it becomes just about the relationship that you had. It was hugely impactful for Sue Ellen to feel the impact JR had on her life and the empty feeling that she has now and whatever their relationship did, good bad or indifferent to the raising of their son - all of those things come flooding in. So it wasn't one emotion, it was just this conglomeration of many emotions that just flood into Sue Ellen's psyche. Again I go back to the writers, it was stunningly well orchestrated, so well written, so well taken care of. They gave Sue Ellen such beautiful words to say and as an actor it was stunning.  It was a pleasure for me to do.

UD: Are JR and Sue Ellen left in a place you feel will be satisfying for the fans?

Linda: I think so. I think you will like it (laughs). What they have done is beautiful. I have always been fascinated by the fact the writers can do such magic, that they weave this web of really beautiful words that will impact every person who sees this in such a powerful way. I was thrilled by what they wrote. And again every person that spoke had an individual gem that will remind people "oh I remember when that happened". Just stunning. That episode should be much longer than one episode, it should be an hour and a half and it should be a special. When I looked around I thought “How can they cut this?" "How can they edit this down to 41 minutes?" In my mind make it an hour and a half special (laughs) but I'm not the network.

UD: Like the extended episode when Bobby died

Linda: Yes. It's such an enormous amount of information, not just the memorial and all that but there is a huge amount of other stuff that leads up to this that I don't know how in the heck they can cut it all out because you'll miss bits and pieces. Maybe I'm going to go on a campaign and go “Come on let's go, we need more time” (laughs). It won't make any difference but it's what I feel (laughs)

UD: Obviously JR and Sue Ellen has been a huge dynamic on the show both for the characters and you personally. What would you like to see for Sue Ellen going forward?

Linda: That's a fabulous question but it isn't what I Linda Gray wants to see but it's about what the writers feel is important. I have script number ten sitting on my kitchen counter, I have not read it yet so it's not what Linda Gray would like to see happen to Sue Ellen, that's kind of a joke, it doesn’t matter. The writers have to weave every character together. How they do it? I'm in awe. That's kudos to the writers. So I'm staring at show number ten and I'm thinking what's going to happen? I have no idea but that's the fun part, that's the magic, that's the spontaneity. If we were all asked what we want that character to do it would be a train wreck, it would be a mess. So thank god we are not in charge (laughs)

UD: Do you feel Larry would be pleased with the way JR is written out? It has been revealed there is a murder mystery.

Linda: He would have loved it. He is the centre of attention. Are you kidding? (laughs) It's what he always loved - Larry being the centre of attention. He loved being surrounded by beautiful women, he loved being centre of attraction and of course Larry would have loved it. It's all about him (laughs)

UD: We have previewed the first two episodes which are brilliant. It’s great to Sue Ellen properly integrated into the story this time. What can we look forward to in season two and how does it compare to season one?

Linda: It's a great question. I really feel that season one was testing out the territory and I felt at the end of ten shows we had a better idea of who people were, where they were going, so I think it was kind of a dress rehearsal for this season. I feel this season is very solid, not that season one was not solid but I feel people have a better grasp on who their character is and what direction [they are going]. There is a wonderful sense that we're a team, we're moving this train forward at a beautiful pace. I think the writers know our pacing, everybody got it this year. So I think now we are on the train and it's now going full speed. It's up and running, we're in the groove, we're like a laser right now - that's how it feels. It  feels that way on the set. I think the first season was also very beautiful but I feel this season, for me just watching it, it's more solid.

UD: And there are some new characters - Judith Light [who plays Judith Brown]

Linda: Yeah I love Judith. Judith is great I have known her forever, she is a dear friend. We don't have any scenes together, not yet; maybe in show ten, I don't know (laughs). But she is divine. Wait until you see her.

UD: And we have some old favourites returning - Audrey Landers as Afton and the fans are really excited about the return of Gary and Valene Ewing. How has it been working with them again?

Linda: Yesterday was the last day [filming] of Gary and Valene and we worked together and it was just great. It was so much fun. We met in 1978 at Southfork so Joan and I have stayed very close over the years. So it was a joy to work with her, what fun to look in her eyes and think "How many years has this been?" The same with Ted. I don't think I have had a scene with Ted before; we had a great time together. He has a lovely role so that was nice to see.

UD: JR and Larry was the cornerstone of Dallas for so many years. Is there life for Dallas after JR?

Linda: Of course. To me he is not gone; he will be totally in the show.

UD: Any final messages for the fans?

Linda: I love you all and cheer you on to watch this season with open hearts and open minds so we can cheer Larry on, wherever he may be on the planet.

Dallas season two kicks on on Monday January 28th at 9pm on TNT and on Tuesday 29th January at 9pm on Channel Five.

Coming up: Joan Van Ark joins ultimatedallas.com to discuss the return of Gary and Val on Dallas TNT

Follow us on Twitter @ultimatedallas

For all the latest news and spoilers for season two check out the Dallas news








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