The August 8 season finale of TNT's Dallas revealed that Christopher Ewing's estranged wife, Rebecca Sutter, is really Pamela Rebecca Barnes — the daughter of Cliff Barnes and his ex, Afton Cooper (who is also the sister of Lucy Ewing's ex-husbnd, Mitch). Got all that? Oh those frisky Ewings just can't stop sleeping around.
Among the viewers shocked by the reveal was Audrey Landers, who played Afton on the original CBS series on and off from 1981 to 1989. Like many fans, Landers wonders what this could mean for her. While Landers, still stunningly gorgeous at 56, hasn't yet been approached about a return, she admits she's anxious to step back into the world she knew so well.
TV Guide Magazine: Audrey, I know you're close friends with Ken Kercheval (Cliff). Did he clue you in to Rebecca's true identity?
Audrey Landers: Absolutely not! Not a word or hint. I'm amazed they kept the secret so well.
TV Guide Magazine: Had you been watching every episode?
Landers: Yes, and I think it's incredible what they've done. It's a great blend of the generations, with a new look and relevant storylines to today's audiences.
TV Guide Magazine: So when you heard in the pilot that this character was named Rebecca, were your suspicions not aroused that she could be your Pamela Rebecca?
Landers: Well you know I always thought it seemed so logical that she would show up again in a show about the next generation. And in one of the reunion movies [1996's Dallas: J.R. Returns] they had the character, so I was hopeful. But I was just guessing.
TV Guide Magazine: When did Afton actually give birth to this child?
Landers: There was a period that Afton left Dallas, and I left to do the movie A Chorus Line. When the character reappeared in the late '80s, there was a very touching scene where Cliff was looking for Afton and he finds that she's back in Dallas singing somewhere. He knocks on her door and this beautiful little girl answers and says her name is Pamela Rebecca. Afton would never tell Cliff that she was his daughter. And then in J.R. Returns, all the kids were hanging out.
TV Guide Magazine: The new series is ignoring the events of those two wretched TV movies.
Landers: Right. The reunion movies were pretty sketchy because they were reaching and grasping and not sure where to take it. They really did want to do the next generation, it just wasn't done well. This has been an idea brewing for a long time.
TV Guide Magazine: Have you reached out at all to Julie Gonzolo, who plays Rebecca?
Landers: No, I don't want to push myself on them. As much as I really want to be a part of it, I don't want to be obnoxious.
TV Guide Magazine: They know where to find you when they decide what happened to Afton. What did you think of the scene in the finale when Cliff stepped off the plane to greet Rebecca?
Landers: I thought it was very dramatic and powerful. A great cliffhanger and a shock to the audience, which was in keeping with the classic Dallas. Cliff was always trying to out due the Ewings any way he could. Back in the day, he would use Afton however he could as his tool, and now here he is using his own daughter for their collective benefit.
TV Guide Magazine: I do think Rebecca needs her mother, don't you?
Landers: Oh I think she definitely needs her mother. And for different reasons. Afton's character went through some amazing transitions during the run of the series. Afton started out as the gold-digger who would do whatever was necessary. I think early on she poisoned Cliff! But then somehow she finally fell in love with Cliff. He was pretty much a loser, but she stuck by him until he was impossible to put up with anymore. The audience really grew with Afton and they came to really admire her strength and how she was able to turn her life around. To this day I still receive letters from women who appreciated that she stood up for herself. It could be very interesting to see Afton show her daughter that she doesn't need to follow in her father's footsteps. She doesn't need to be conniving and evil. She can make it on her own merits.
TV Guide Magazine: Any thoughts on where Afton may have been all this time?
Landers: Well, since Rebecca's last name is Barnes, you would guess that Cliff and Afton had to have gotten married at some point. They were never married on the series. So there are two possibilities. Afton was a survivor, so she went off to pursue her singing career. And if it didn't work out the way she wanted to, she married some wealthy businessman. Maybe she traveled the world with some wealthy industrialist and had a son. That's what she was headed towards.
TV Guide Magazine: Have you spoken at all to Leigh McCloskey, who played Afton's brother and Lucy's on again/off again husband?
Landers: He and I have been in touch. I tried to get together with him the last time I was in L.A., but we spoke a lot.
TV Guide Magazine: Where is home for you?
Landers: I left L.A. about 10 years ago. I've always had a home in New York and also now on the west coast of Florida. I have two boys who are both in college now. I took a break to be a mom, but I continued with my recording career in Europe. Over the years I've had a dozen gold and platinum albums. And my mom and I developed and I wrote a musical/educational kids series called The Huggabug Club that was on PBS. We did 50 episodes and won a lot of awards.
TV Guide Magazine: What happened to that reality show you and your sister Judy were supposed to do for E! called Living Landers?
Landers: [sighs heavily] You know what, as a family we had second thoughts about it. That was back in 2008. But we have been approached three different times to do reality shows. We shot a few episodes and the network said, 'We really need to spice it up.' We looked at one another and said, 'We've lived our lives in a respectable way,' and I didn't want to expose my son, who is an aspiring rock star, to that. We're probably too square for Hollywood.
TV Guide Magazine: But not too square for Dallas. I hope you get to resurrect Afton! But how would you feel though if they explained Afton had died?
Landers: Oh, well I'd be very, very disappointed. And heartbroken. And I honestly think a lot of the fans would be too.