Whatever you do, don't turn this TV Guide Online interview with Linda Gray into a drinking game. If you took a swig every time the actress, best known as Dallas's liquor-lovin' Sue Ellen Ewing, revealed something shocking about the long-running prime-time soap, you'd be halfway to pickled before your three-martini lunch even arrived. And by the time you caught the 62-year-old knockout ruminating with her cast mates on Sunday's all-star get-together, Dallas Reunion: The Return to Southfork (9 pm/ET on CBS)? Please! You'd be passed out cold. Just look at the alcohol equivalent of the tidbits she shared with us:Champagne — the good stuff, too! Newhart
innkeeper Mary Frann
was originally supposed to play Sue Ellen. "She had the part," Gray confirms. "Victoria Principal
was a brunet and so was I, and Mary was a blond, and [the producers] wanted that [visual] contrast. But the casting director [who had only recently tapped me to play a transsexual on All That Glitters
] kept bugging them until they finally said, 'OK, we'll read her.'" One dazzling audition later, and she had stolen Frann's "husband," Larry Hagman
Tequila shots — and lots of 'em!
Early on, Gray's leading man set the tone for J.R. and Sue Ellen's volatile marriage by undermining his "spouse's" confidence. In fact, after a scene in which Sue Ellen was flouncing around in a teddy, Hagman told Gray that her performance had been terrible. He denies it, of course. "Oh, bulls---!" counters Gray. "I'm sorry. He said it to me loud and clear, and made me feel terrible, and it started one of our first fights on the way back [to the motel where everyone was staying]. I swear to you — he devastated me. Then, years later, he said, 'Oh, I didn't mean that.' I could have killed him!"
Pitcher of Cosmopolitans.
More so than many a series lead, Gray felt Keri Russell
's pain the season that Felicity
got shorn. "It was so hot on the set," Gray recalls, "that I'd always wear my hair [pulled back] or something; if I didn't, the wind would whip it [in my face]. I just hated it, so one day I was at the hairdresser's and said, 'Go for it! Cut it!' and afterward, I won all the fashion awards [for having such a sharp cut]. Everybody loved it." Well, almost
everybody. "Oh, my god! My producer hated it!" she laughs.
Six-pack of Schlitz.
After a while, long-suffering Sue Ellen's portrayer told her bosses, "'I'm tired of playing a doormat! I have to assert myself!' They patted me on the head — not literally — and said, 'But you're doing so well.' I thought, 'Oh, look out! I'm on the warpath now.' It was a struggle, though, because it was a man's show." At contract-renegotiation time during Season 8, Gray demanded the same opportunity that her male peers had gotten — the chance to direct. "And they fired me," she admits. "When I finally told Larry, he went with me into the office and said, 'If she doesn't come back, I don't come back. I can't be playing J.R. without Sue Ellen.' He was very loyal and, honestly, a very smart businessman. He knew that truly, it was a huge relationship to the show." We'll drink to that!
For more dishy
Dallas reminiscence, read today's Insider interview with Larry Hagman, who played Sue Ellen's sinful husband, J.R.!