To put it mildly, it’s been an eventful year on “Dallas” for Emma Bell … and it’s not over yet.
Her alter ego on the TNT drama, also named Emma, has become the Tart of Southfork Ranch through her serial dallying with the now-married John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) while she schemes against her powerful father (Mitch Pileggi) and grandmother (Judith Light).
It’s a sure bet Emma will be caught in the crossfire Monday (April 14) as the “Dallas” reboot ends the first half of Season 3. For one thing, John Ross’ wife Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) finds out about his affair; for another, the ambitious Emma makes a bigger stab at practicing her family’s double-dealing, but not nearly as successfully.
“There’s no scene in the midseason finale that is not a shocker,” Bell tells Zap2it. “I feel the writers have outdone themselves each week, but cr** hits the fan — I don’t want to use the ‘bad’ word — in a way you can’t even really expect. It’s such a jaw-dropper, people will tune back in [when the show returns] in August. I mean, you can’t not.”
“I think TNT is really smart in splitting up our season,” adds Bell, acknowledging the competition ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and NBC’s “The Voice” yield. “Right now, we’re up against some very hard-hitting live shows, so that’s pretty tough. I think they’re trying to keep us on the air longer, and also to bring us back to the summer slot where we did really well. It gives the fans more of a chance to see us.”
Bell has been seen a lot on “Dallas” in its current round, and she appreciates that “there’s almost never a scene where Emma doesn’t cause trouble. Even if she’s not in a scene, people are talking about trouble she’s caused, so it’s almost as if she’s everywhere at the same time. She’s such a fire-starter this season, it’s been great.”
Indeed, Bell notes that “when you’re on a show like ‘Dallas,’ it’s fun to be one of the scoundrels, because that’s what it’s based around. Even with J.R. [the late Larry Hagman’s character] having been the biggest one, and sweet Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen being a scoundrel in her own right, it’s fun to be the bad girl.”
Lucy Ewing was that girl on CBS’ original 1978-91 incarnation of “Dallas.” Bell says she had an interesting chat about that with Charlene Tilton, who reprised the part of Lucy in the recent John Ross/Pamela wedding episode.
“We’re still the only Texas blondes on the show,” Bell muses. “We sat together in the hair-and-makeup trailer, and she has just a plethora of stories from the original days of the show, which are always fun to listen to. I do think there’s sort of a parallel between Lucy and Emma, but Emma has her own kind of conniving power plays. I’m incredibly honored to be part of that comparison, though, for sure.”
The fictional Emma’s frequent “come hither” seduction scenes aren’t stretches for Bell, she admits with a laugh. “I don’t know what this says about me and my personality, but it comes pretty naturally!” Bell says. “My friends always come up to me now and say, ‘We don’t ever have to give you notes on how to be Evil Emma.’ Whatever that means, I’ll take it.
“When I first saw the character change in her first season, I was a little hesitant. I usually play the more sweet, vulnerable girl everyone wants to save — and unfortunately, those girls often die, which is what I’ve done in most of my other projects. It’s really nice to play someone who’s so forward and brash, though at first, it kind of freaked me out.”
That directness isn’t likely to change in the back half of “Dallas” Season 3, since Bell promises “a whole other side of Emma” is coming. “This is such a perk of this job, that I get to act out all my adolescent behaviors,” she says. “Our consciousness stops us from doing all the horrendous things the people on ‘Dallas’ do, and Emma certainly doesn’t have that filter at the moment.”