TNT has canceled “Dallas,” but don’t tell Linda Gray the show is over. I was honored to speak to her today about the #SaveDallas campaign.
Fans are so upset that “Dallas” has been cancelled. What happened?
It’s challenging to even describe what happened. We lost our two biggest cheerleaders when Steve Koonin and Michael Wright [the top executives in charge of TNT’s programming] left their positions. Meanwhile, we were left wondering if we were going to get picked up or not. We were kept waiting for someone to come in, and then when that person or persons were put into place, we were kept waiting to find out if they liked us or not. [Laughs] And then they decided, “Nope, we don’t want ‘Dallas.’”
How did you hear the news?
Our producers, Cynthia [Cidre] and Mike [Robin], called us on Friday afternoon. When you look at your phone and you see that both of your producers are on the line, it’s either good news or not so good news. [Laughs] This was not such good news.
What did they tell you?
Cynthia and Mike both said, “We haven’t given up. We’re going to see if another network wants us.” But the beauty of this has been the fans. The whole #SaveDallas campaign has been a huge revelation to me. It’s been so lovely. I’m very, very grateful for that. There’s been such an outpouring of love.
I was saddened when I heard about the cancellation on Friday, but then I saw your tweets on Saturday and I thought, “There’s hope!”
Always, Chris. Always! There’s always hope. [Laughs] I flashed back to the original series. In the beginning, CBS had us on Saturday night. We didn’t do so well there. And then they put us on Sunday night. We didn’t do so well there either. But then they put us on Friday night and we took off! CBS loved us. They nurtured us. [The new series] hasn’t been nurtured. We were on opposite “The Voice,” the Emmys, “Monday Night Football.”
You had one of the toughest time slots in television.
Yes, but this isn’t bah humbug. I’m not bashing TNT — not at all. I just feel like what happens with corporate executives is they see numbers — and that’s it. That’s what they do, and God bless them. But there are also a lot of people who want to be entertained, and this cast loved entertaining the audience.
“Dallas” is a special show. I loved the original series, and I love this one too. They’re different, but I love them both.
They should be different. Times are different.
So what do you think are the chances of saving “Dallas”?
Personally, I think they’re great. It’s a built-in brand. It comes with publicity you can’t buy, and it’s lasted a long time. And we want to be with people who care about us and don’t just look at the bottom line. This show deserves a fair shot. We need another shot. And if TNT doesn’t do it, we hope another network will pick us up. Other shows have done that. It does happen. And if it’s meant to happen here, it will.
The fans really appreciate the encouragement you and Patrick [Duffy] have given us.
Patrick said over the weekend he’s not done with Bobby Ewing. And amen to that, I say. I ain’t done with Sue Ellen Ewing either! [Laughs] When we spoke to Cynthia, she’s got the first script for Season 4 written — and I think a lot of good stuff is going to happen. The cast doesn’t know what it will be, but we want to get our little fingers on it and find out.
Is it official that Warner Bros. [the studio that produces “Dallas”] is going to shop the show around to other outlets?
I don’t know, but at least there’s buzz out there. I was at a function last night and [CBS chief executive] Les Moonves was there and he told me he’s been inundated with emails from fans who want him to pick it up. He was just smiling and said, “You wouldn’t believe the emails I’ve gotten.” I smiled right back and said, “Great!” [Laughs] The fans are not afraid at all. It’s not, “Oh, how do I get in touch with the head of CBS?” They just do it! They slammed the switchboards at TNT. They shut them down!
Maybe TNT will reverse its decision. I’ve been encouraging fans to be positive when they tweet at the studio and the network.
Exactly. TNT may say, “Oh, we made a mistake. We weren’t thinking. We’ve now come to our senses.” I encourage the fans to be positive too.
So what would Larry Hagman think of all this?
Oh God, he’d be furious. I’ve seen him mad. [Laughs] He’d hit them hard and it would be with humor, but he would be very honest and forthright. He’d probably say something similar to what Patrick said: “J.R.’s not finished yet.” That’s how we all feel.
He’d be right too. J.R. will never be finished! I love how the show honors him.
I think that’s why Season 3 has been so special. We were all kind of fumbling around after he died, but this season, everybody thought, “Pull up the boot straps. Get back on that horse and do it.” Patrick and I have discussed this. Everyone was shining this season — the cast, the writers, everyone. The original show had a small cast, and you got to know every character intimately. Sometimes when shows are brand new, they’re long and shallow, but they don’t go deep. In Season 3, I think, we went deep.
You were pleased with Sue Ellen’s direction this year?
I was very happy with what they did with Sue Ellen this season. You know, I cringed when she started drinking again. I thought, “My gosh, here we go again. Haven’t I done that before? Didn’t I do it well?” [Laughs] But I felt this time, it was handled very well. And I thought the scenes with Josh [Henderson] were wonderful. He really hit his stride this season.
The scene where John Ross screams, “I am not my father!” is my favorite moment of the season.
Here’s the backstory on that: It was shot at night. It was the end of the day. So Josh and I were in a back bedroom in Sue Ellen’s home while they were doing the lighting and setting up. And we were like two caged animals. We didn’t speak. We didn’t talk.
He’s usually tweeting and carrying on. “Hey, Mama. How you doing?” But this time, I sat in my chair and went over my lines in my head and we never spoke. I mean, we didn’t plan it that way. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re not talking.” And then when we came out [to shoot the scene], man, you could feel it. The crew was very quiet. They knew it was an emotional scene. It was hard, and it was intense. It was something else. It was just amazing. That’s why it was so good. You went deep with Josh’s character. You went deep with Sue Ellen. She was blaming everybody and never looking at herself. It was such an intense, intense scene — because it was real.
That’s why this cancellation breaks my heart! How do you cancel a show that delivers amazing moments like that one?
Absolutely. To be canceled after that was like, “Oh, rats!” We’re all in the groove now, and then we get canceled.
So what’s your final message to the fans?
I would love to thank the fans for their love and their support and their outcry. I hope we get to continue making the show because I don’t think we’re finished.
So keep fighting?
Keep fighting! Yes, at all times. Keep fighting.
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