Back in April, when last we saw Sue Ellen Ewing …
The staple of “Dallas” lay unconscious in a drunken stupor as a fire raged though the main house at Southfork Ranch, started by an unidentified person. The possible culprits included Drew Ramos (Kuno Becker) — seeking revenge for what he felt the Ewings did to his family — and Bo McCabe (Donny Boaz), the angry ex-husband of ranchhand Heather’s (AnnaLynne McCord) new love interest Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe).
Add to that Pamela’s (Julie Gonzalo) collapse after finding husband John Ross (Josh Henderson) with his frequent fling Emma (Emma Bell), and Bobby’s (Patrick Duffy) spouse Ann (Brenda Strong) sharing a kiss with her ex Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), and it’s a pretty bad night all around for those in “Dallas” as the TNT update resumes with what it’s calling its “Season 3.1” Monday (Aug. 18).
What’s bad for Sue Ellen is, of course, terrific for Linda Gray. The actress has played the part over 36 years, also encompassing the original CBS show’s 14-season run and a couple of TV-movie sequels. She couldn’t be more pleased to remain a vital part of “Dallas” along with Duffy’s Bobby and, earlier in the revival, the late Larry Hagman’s J.R.
“It’s a thrill,” the charming Gray tells Zap2it while admitting, “Patrick and Larry and I were concerned whether they were just going to use us as bait [to launch the update], then dispose of us and carry on with the new kids. And what kind of show would it be? Would it be tacky, where we wouldn’t be proud of it?”
Gray says her fears were “put to rest early on,” thanks largely to executive producer Cynthia Cidre, who developed the current version. “I got excited because I saw a woman’s name under ‘Written By.’ I was in the boys’ club [on the show] in the ’80s. Everything was male. Women were victims, just reactors. Sue Ellen had some glimpses of strength, but she wasn’t meant to be pivotal at all.”
Now, she frequently opposes her son John Ross … not only on his intended takeover of the family company, Ewing Energies, but also over his cheating on Pamela with Emma. That prompted him to have Sue Ellen committed to a treatment facility earlier in Season 3, just as his father J.R. had done on the original “Dallas.”
“From Day One, from 1978 through this new version, it’s always been about the writers,” Gray maintains. “You can’t do much without them, so no matter what I’ve done throughout my career, it’s been about what I can grab onto to breathe magic into these words they put together so beautifully. That’s my job.”