Q&A

“I think some­times when women get pro­moted, they for­get to bring other women with them”

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - LINDA GRAY ac­tor In­ter­view by ELAINE LIPWORTH The Road To Hap­pi­ness Is Al­ways Un­der Con­struc­tion by Linda Gray (Si­mon & Schus­ter, $39.99) is out now.

Linda Gray shares what it was like be­hind the scenes on the set of Dal­las.

In the iconic TV soap Dal­las, you played the al­co­holic Sue Ellen, who was mar­ried to J.R. Ewing (Larry Hag­man). That must have been a fun role? It was be­yond fun, the best thing in the world! I would be sit­ting in the make-up chair, prepar­ing, and they would give us the scene for the next episode, and we were all, “Oh my gosh, oh no, this couldn’t pos­si­bly be hap­pen­ing,” be­cause it was so crazy. Be­hind the scenes it was like a com­edy. Larry would al­ways start gig­gling or do­ing some­thing stupid – he was a con­sum­mate ac­tor but also a co­me­dian. Any favourite mem­o­rable scenes? All my drunk scenes – of course. Those were the best be­cause nor­mally I would spend two hours in hair and make-up, but when I did the drunk scenes it was 20 min­utes, just in and out. I loved that fa­mous scene where Larry called me a drunk and an un­fit mother and I threw a bot­tle of wine against the wall. In your book, The Road To Hap­pi­ness Is Al­ways Un­der Con­struc­tion, you wrote about how your mother Marge was an al­co­holic – did she in­form your per­for­mance? Peo­ple al­ways say: “The role must have been easy for you be­cause you grew up with an al­co­holic.” But my mother wasn’t like that – she was a func­tion­ing al­co­holic. That was the Mad Men era, when ev­ery­body had cock­tail hour. She wasn’t fall­ing down drunk, she just slurred her words and was in her own world. My role ended up be­ing very healing for her be­cause she even­tu­ally stopped drink­ing. You di­rected episodes of Dal­las, which ap­par­ently was quite the bat­tle? It was a very chau­vin­is­tic and sex­ist time. I pushed re­ally hard to di­rect and then I got fired. But Larry helped me. He said, “If she goes, I go.” I knew Larry wouldn’t have quit, but the threats worked and I got to di­rect, which I loved. Would you say Sue Ellen paved the way for all those flawed and feisty women we’re see­ing on TV now? Oh sure. I re­mem­ber speak­ing to one of the writ­ers of the show Em­pire, and she said, “Honey, do you know how many sto­ry­lines we stole from Dal­las?” Why did Dal­las, a show named af­ter an Amer­i­can city, res­onate in Aus­tralia? I think it res­onated in Aus­tralia the same way it did all over the world – be­cause it was all about fam­ily, and we all have a fam­ily, whether it is good, bad, in­dif­fer­ent or dys­func­tional. Peo­ple en­joyed it be­cause they would look at these crazy, rich, dys­func­tional peo­ple and go, “Oh my god. These peo­ple are not do­ing so well with all this money.” What are your hap­pi­est mem­o­ries of Larry Hag­man, who died in 2012? There are so many. That man was just de­li­cious. When I was go­ing through my di­vorce from Ed [Thrasher], I moved to Mal­ibu and he came to my door with cham­pagne and a bub­ble ma­chine. Tears were stream­ing down my face, I was so up­set, and he said,

“Stop all this now!” and took me for a ride on his Vespa around Mal­ibu. You are still mak­ing films and do­ing TV in your 70s. How has Hol­ly­wood changed in your time? I re­cently did a Bri­tish show, Hol­lyoaks, and I was work­ing with two fe­male di­rec­tors and they said noth­ing much has changed, that men still have con­trol. There are a lot of pow­er­ful women in this in­dus­try now, but I think some­times when women get pro­moted, they for­get to bring other women with them. Is it still tough for older women in Hol­ly­wood? We are inch­ing to­wards suc­cess, but we are not there yet. We need peo­ple to take a step back and say, “Older women have more life ex­pe­ri­ence.” We need the great roles to be writ­ten and net­works have to put money into shows with older women. But it is hap­pen­ing with great shows like Grace And Frankie [star­ring Jane Fonda and Lily Tom­lin]. How chal­leng­ing was it ap­pear­ing naked as Mrs Robinson in The Grad­u­ate on the West End in Lon­don in 2001, when you were 61? I was ter­ri­fied. All the way through re­hearsals I was fine, but I wouldn’t drop the towel [and ap­pear nude]. And then at the fi­nal dress re­hearsal, they said, “Linda, you’re go­ing to have to drop the towel to make sure the light­ing is cor­rect.” So I did it. I stood there naked and I was so ner­vous, I started shak­ing. And they said, “Fine.” The light­ing was per­fect… it was very dim. What are your thoughts on cos­metic surgery? I haven’t had plas­tic surgery, noth­ing, be­cause it scares me. I once had Bo­tox and I looked ridicu­lous, so I never had it again. But I don’t crit­i­cise peo­ple who do. If that makes them happy, great. Also, I don’t take any pre­scrip­tion drugs at all and I am 76 years old. You played a woman in­volved with a much younger man in The Grad­u­ate. Is age ir­rel­e­vant in re­la­tion­ships? Yes. You ei­ther have a con­nec­tion or you don’t. It’s all about the guy. It’s not about the age. But if they ask me how old I am, they’re toast! Would you ever get mar­ried again? I’m hav­ing way too much fun and I love my free­dom. Well – I’m al­ways open, but I fo­cus on life and my chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. Life is de­li­cious. I get up ev­ery sin­gle day and I say: “Thank you, God. I’ve got an­other day to be the best me I can be.”

``it was like a com­edy be­hind the scenes on dal­las ´´

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