A little over 30 years ago, television viewers caught a glimpse into the cutthroat world of the dysfunctional family behind Ewing Oil watching Dallas. A family torn between greed, loyalty and scandal week after week unknowing heralded a new era in TV - the nighttime soaps. It didn't take long for others to follow but none had quite the impact of the original. Now two decades after the original show ended its 13-year run, TNT has revived the now defunct genre with a Dallas for a new generation. The series revolves around the progeny of Bobby and JR Ewing as they clamor for control of Ewing Oil and the beloved estate of SouthFork. During a recent press tour, actors Linda Gray who portrayed Sue Ellen on the original show and Josh Henderson who plays her now grown son John Ross discuss the legacy of the series and the expectations of the new Dallas.
Dallas premieres, Wednesday, June 13 on TNT. Episodes will be available online Thursday, June 14.
Its been 20 years since we last saw the Ewings. Catch us up from 1991 until today.
Linda Gray: What a lot of people don't know is that Larry [Hagman], Patrick [Duffy] and I are dear friends - we've been for over 35 years now. I think its rare to have people you work with that you can still say you're best friends. Larry and I see each other two or three times a month for lunch through those 20 years. We traveled together - we did love letters together all over Europe and all kinds of things as friends. We never anticipated we'd work together again, even though we've done some [Dallas] movies in between. So when this came up, we were like, "Are you kidding me?" [laughs]. Those phones were going!
How did show creator David Jacobs react?
Gray: He has nothing to do with this show, but we speak regularly. I remember sitting with him in a little motel in Dallas, Texas in 1978 in an ice storm. He said, "Oh my God, I've never been to Dallas, Texas before." We were sitting in a coffee shop in the motel and he said, "Well, I have to commit to this series, five episodes and all I know is that everybody has two names. You're Sue Ellen and that will be JR. ... "
Your character has grown quite a bit from the Sue Ellen we once knew. She's quite accomplished - tell us about the new Sue Ellen.
Gray: Well, the way I like to work as an actor is I love to do the homework. So I wanted to trace back where she would have been, what she would have done for 20 years. I didn't want to sashay down the driveway at SouthFork and say "I know how to play that character, I played her for a long time." I don't have a clue to who she is right now so I really wanted to ask a lot of heavy duty questions, so I took her [Sue Ellen] to lunch and said, "Sit down girlfriend, we're gonna talk - where have you been, who have you been with and what's your drink of choice!" [laughs] So I had a lot of those questions because I just didn't want to go in blindsided. I wanted to know about women in Texas these days - what are they up to. There are more women CEOs in Texas than there are in any other state, and I like that and I like the fact that she has the mother guilt of dragging John Ross off to London and putting him in boarding school, taking him away from his dad. And she's a native Texan and now she's come back and now has more money than JR. I wanted to take them on a journey, I'm not saying she's going to be goody two-shoes, but I also don't want her to be vanilla.