After twenty-one years, Linda Gray is returning to her role as Sue Ellen Ewing on TNT’s updated version of Dallas. Older and wiser, the former wife of JR Ewing (Larry Hagman) has become a powerful woman in Dallas, so successful that she’s considering a run for governor. But she blames JR and herself for the turbulent childhood of their son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), and has promised to help him in his endeavor to find oil, working against Bobby Ewing’s (Patrick Duffy) son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), who wants to move the family business into an alternative fuel industry.
Linda Gray spoke with journalists at the TV Critics tour about the surprising return of the iconic series.
Why did you want to play the role of Sue Ellen again?
How many actors get a chance to play a character that you played 20 years ago, and continue that? I don’t know many actors who get that luxury. And for [Patrick, Larry and I], it was so exciting because we love, love, love the show.
We love each other.We’re very, very close friends, and so it was a lovely continuation of the momentum we had started years ago.
What was it about Cynthia Cidre’s script that made you want to sign on?
The exciting thing was she was a woman. The original Dallas was very male-focused.
The script was really about the men, and the women were the victims, as in Sue Ellen’s case. We were the bookends and reactors; the men did something and we reacted. We had male producers, writers; everybody was male.
When I saw Cynthia’s name on the cover of the script, I thought, ‘Isn’t this great!’ Women have come into their own empowerment. So for me, at this time in 2012, having a woman as the writer was extraordinary.
Could you reflect a little on leaving the set in 1991, and then the first day on the set of this new series?
I can’t remember that last day on the set, and if you said there was to be 20 years in between, I wouldn’t have believed that. To walk back onto the set with my friends was a seamless transition. I didn’t feel an ending or a beginning. It was just like we seamlessly moved into the new series.
How did you prepare to reprise your role as Sue Ellen?
I did a lot of inner homework. Where would Sue Ellen be in 2012? I felt that Sue Ellen would be a powerhouse. She got away from JR: she moved to Europe and took John Ross with her. I felt that she would have a global vision and that her world had expanded.
She became much more aware that she was not a victim. She was a survivor and was fifteen years sober. She would be an empowered, powerful woman at this stage.
What’s it like play this role again with your good friends?
Amazing. The beauty of Larry and Patrick! We have been friends for thirty-three years. We’re just like The Three Musketeers!