It's been nearly two decades since Victoria Principal left Dallas behind, but dang if the 54-year-old stunner doesn't still sound like the only actress who could've possibly played the indomitable Pamela Ewing. Now the kind of businesswoman who'd turn even J.R. dollar-green with envy — her Principal Secret line of skin-care products is worth a pretty penny — she has resisted the temptation to revisit her old stomping ground via TV-movies, holding out instead for what she considers a proper reminiscence, this weekend's Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork (Sunday at 9 pm/ET on CBS). Before shooting the breeze with her former castmates at the get-together, she took a moment to dish the dirt with TV Guide Online.
TV Guide Online: Is it true that you got your Dallas audition under false pretenses?
Victoria Principal: I sent myself in for it! I had left acting to be an agent and was on my way to law school, but when a friend dropped off a Dallas script, I read it. When I finished, I knew my life had changed — that part was mine. So I called the [casting] person and said, 'I'm sending someone in.' She said, 'Who?' I said, 'Just put down my name. It will be a surprise.' And it certainly was a surprise — I showed up with me!
Principal: I had so thought about her and her lifestyle that the outfit I wore to the audition is what they asked me to wear in the first episode. They just couldn't get it out of their heads that I walked in looking exactly like her. TVGO: Your insight obviously paid off. Dallas didn't just become a hit, it became a cultural bellwether!
Principal: We broke a lot of taboos, because we discussed in a very factual way whether someone was an alcoholic or had cancer or was gay or was adulterous. We showed a couple having good sex who were married. Hello! Who ever saw two married people on TV have good sex — with each other?! These were very provocative issues, but they were never done in a trashy way. TVGO: You must have been ticked then that the show was so often dismissed by critics as well-cooked mental junk food.
Principal: God, I was always so offended by those descriptions. I really felt that it was very much like the old serials of the '30s. It was a serial, not a soap. It was done on film and we took seven or eight days to do an episode... with a quality crew. I'm not for one minute putting down soaps; it simply wasn't one. TVGO: Nonetheless, Dallas certainly possessed elements of classic soap. Weren't Bobby and Pam the Texan equivalent of Romeo and Juliet?
Principal: We ended up being that. Originally, Bobby was supposed to be killed off in the first five episodes. Pam was going to become the protagonist and Larry Hagman the antagonist. They had no idea that Patrick and I would have so much chemistry [or that] Larry would create another level of acting with his role. So the decision was made by the network to keep Pam and Bobby as a couple, and I'm so glad they did. TVGO: No regrets, then, that Pam always had to toe the line morally?
Principal: As Larry blossomed and J.R. became more and more evil, there had to be good on the show or it would have been unwatchable. Patrick's character became very good, and so did mine, which made it less interesting to me. I thought Pam was so complicated in the beginning. Then, by Year 6, she had become pretty one-dimensional for me. But the network was consumed with her being all good. TVGO: Many people say when you left, so did the heart of the show. Would you agree that's when Dallas began its decline?
Principal: It's very hard to keep a show fresh after more than five years. You can blame it on me, though — I'm very flattered. Actually, the decline of Pam's role precipitated my leaving. But I also felt that there was a decline in the show overall. They offered me the most amount of money ever offered a series actress to stay, but my experience in life outweighed the money. TVGO: How much moolah are we talking about here?
Principal: I'm not allowed to say! TVGO: When Bobby emerged from the shower, washing away an entire season as a dream, did you think, "Aw, crap! We just jumped the shark!"?
Principal: I was very happy to see Patrick. But I must say [that in his absence] I had a really nice experience with John Beck, who played [Pam's other back-from-the-dead love interest] Mark Graison. TVGO: Were you really happy to see Patrick? I've heard he's a terrible prankster!
Principal: Patrick and Larry were like two brothers... an older and younger brother. And the younger brother wants to keep up with the older one. So the pranks they played were amazing. I have a very strong sense of smell, so Patrick used to put a clove of garlic under his tongue just before our love scenes to see if I could get through it. TVGO: Eww!
Principal: So I'm supposed to look like I'm kissing the love of my life and I'm completely turned on, and meanwhile, I'm wondering if I can do it without gagging! Whenever Patrick was bored, he found some way to torture me! TVGO: Speaking of torture, why haven't we seen you act in so long? Your last series, Titans, came and went in the blink of an eye.
Principal: I act when something appeals to me [so much] that I can't imagine anyone else doing it. It's really a wonderful luxury to have. So many friends in the industry in their 50s... it's not fair, but they're offered so few roles. But in fact, [now is] when we hit our stride. TVGO: Ah, if only you were in Europe!
Principal: In Europe, a woman in her 50s is a babe! I pursue a European way of life; that's how I regard myself. My husband [Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Harry Glassman] and I are celebrating 22 years. He's handsome, smart and funny, and I have two wonderful stepchildren and two beautiful granddaughters. I live under the radar, and I'm happy to be that way.