Linda Gray has spent the past six months playing four roles on two continents.
The iconic “Dallas” star appeared in a London stage production of “Cinderella” during the holidays, then came home to California to film a cable movie, an independent feature film and a new online soap opera.
She also wrote a book.
Hey, you weren’t expecting to Sue Ellen Ewing’s alter ego to slow down, were you?
“It’s been fabulous,” Gray told Dallas Decoder last week. “I feel very fortunate because I got to have all these different experiences, one right after another.”
Gray’s fans will begin to see the results of her busy schedule on June 20, when her Hallmark Channel movie, “Perfect Match,” debuts. She plays Gabby, the mother of the groom in a story about dueling wedding planners who fall in love.
Gray describes the movie as “very Hallmark-y,” right down to the happy ending.
In other words: Don’t tune in expecting to see a Southfork-style wedding.
“No, not at all,” she said with a laugh. “Nobody gets dunked in the pool.”
Gray donned heavy makeup for her role as an eccentric, elderly matron in the feature “Wally’s Will,” which will be shown at film festivals this year.
She also plays Joanna, the matriarch of a wealthy candy-making family, in the online soap opera “Winterthorne,” debuting August 27.
“She’s weird and wonderful. She wears all these feathers,” Gray said. “It’s one appearance, but I would say she’s an important character.”
The Write Stuff
Gray’s most intriguing project might be her memoir, “The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction,” which will be published September 8.
She began writing the book while working in London last year. In between performances, she Skyped with her editor in New York City and wrote a chapter at a time, dashing off drafts via email.
The book will cover her experiences as a mother and grandmother, as well as her career. She writes about playing Sue Ellen on both incarnations of “Dallas,” as well as her longtime friendships with co-stars Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy.
Gray promises lots of candor. She doesn’t want to give too much away, but the book will include her experiences working with the original show’s executive producer, Leonard Katzman, who she said wasn’t always nice to her.
She also writes about a scene she felt Sue Ellen should never have been part of, along with other behind-the-scenes revelations that are bound to fascinate “Dallas” diehards.
“I wanted to write about the good and the not-so-good,” Gray said. “I don’t write anything mean or dismissive — I just share what I’ve learned. Everyone may not like it, but I can’t worry about that. As I get older, I find that the things that used to worry me don’t worry me anymore.”
‘The Trampoline Effect’
One passage in the memoir will detail what Gray calls “the Trampoline Effect,” a period last year marked by high points, like her return to the London stage in “Cinderella,” and low moments, including the death of her beloved cat and “Dallas’s” cancellation.
She also writes about the fan-driven #SaveDallas campaign to rescue the series, which she found inspiring.
“I still believe we should have been given another season — even if it was something like eight episodes,” Gray said. “They could have billed it as the end of ‘Dallas.’ The fans invested so much in the series. They don’t deserve to be kept hanging.”
The cancellation was “like breaking up a family,” Gray said. She stays in touch with friends from the show, including Jordana Brewster, Julie Gonzalo and costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin, who all got together with Gray for lunch recently.
“Everyone is moving on, but we all miss working together,” she said.
Above all, Gray misses Sue Ellen.
“I always say she was the most interesting woman on television in the ’80s. I had to wait 20 years to play her again, and then I got her back and they took her away from me,” Gray said.
Although the “Dallas” writers penned several fourth-season scripts before TNT pulled the plug, Gray doesn’t know what was planned for Sue Ellen. She suspects the newly sober heroine was going to throw herself into her career and clash with her estranged son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), and his new ally Judith Ryland (Judith Light).
“I think we would have seen Sue Ellen and Judith go at it, which would have been such fun,” she said.
Gray believes “Dallas” remains a viable brand with worldwide appeal, although she doesn’t expect the series to return anytime soon.
“I never say never,” she said. “If it happens, it happens and that would be wonderful. I just don’t want to have to wait another 20 years to play Sue Ellen.”
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