Dallas: Lee Majors On How Larry Hagman Helped Lead Him To Guest Arc As Sue Ellen's Old Flame
Television legend Lee Majors is heading to “Dallas,” tonight on TNT.
The ruggedly handsome star of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Fall Guy” (which were actually on during “Dallas’” initial television reign) enters the drama as an old flame of Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen, in a multi-episode arc, beginning Monday evening at 9/8c.
In a new interview with AccessHollywood.com, Lee shared a few hints at how his character – Ken Richards — makes his way to town, and revealed that it was actually his old neighbor – the late Larry Hagman – who first put the idea of having the action TV star on “Dallas.”
AccessHollywood.com: When did the ‘Dallas’ gig come about?
Lee Majors: Well, it goes back a little ways because I remember getting a call from Larry Hagman, who used to be a neighbor of mine in Malibu for many years. We were both doing our shows back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He called me and said, ‘Oh, by the way… we just got picked up for 15 more shows.’… and he was really excited. He was just like a little kid. And I said, ‘Well, that’s great.’ And he said, ‘Maybe you’ll do one next season,’ and I said, ‘If it comes, I will.’
A little before Thanksgiving — about a month — I got a text from him saying that he’s working on it and of course that was all it said. I assumed he meant the show, and then of course, four weeks later, he passed away. And I went over to Southfork, to ‘Dallas’ side… went to the memorial and I did meet some of the producers who said that Larry had mentioned me many times and I said, ‘Yeah, that was very nice of him.’ Anyway, a month later… I got an inquiry about availability and they wanted me to do an arc. They said it would be at least three [episodes], hopefully five… So, I did it.
It was a shame that he had passed away, but I know that he had a lot to do with it. And so whenever I walk on the set, I kind of point skyward and say, ‘Thank you, Larry, for the job.’ And it’s tremendous working with Linda. I [had] never met Linda Gray before, but we get along great, the chemistry is really good and most of my scenes are with her — a couple with the other kids. So it’s just been a real pleasure to work on that show. Everybody the crew, the cast, everybody, it’s fabulous.
Access: ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ and ‘Dallas’ – they kind of overlapped a little.
Lee: Yeah, it was in the ‘70s, and I think ‘Dallas’ started in ’78, something like that, because I would see Larry every weekend and we would be having a little champagne. We would just enjoy each other’s company. We never would discuss our work because that was the last thing you wanted to talk about. So, that’s why I never really got to see much of his shows and he never got to see much of mine. I’m sure that [if] we both hadn’t been working in our series’ during that period, we would have done each other’s shows many times. I’m sure. When I went into ‘The Fall Guy,’ he was still doing his ‘Dallas.’ Anyway, it was good to be able to do it now.
Access: What are your impressions of the new cast? Had you seen it before?
Lee: I had looked at a little bit of last season’s shows, to catch up a little bit, but watching most of this season to catch up really, so I would know who plays what part… I got kind of hooked on it again because every week is a cliffhanger and you don’t know who’s doing what to who or what for (laughs). You’ve gotta keep up, because if you miss one show, you kind of miss something. And every week it’s a cliffhanger, like the one week when I forget the cast… Brenda Strong shoots her husband, you don’t know what’s gonna happen and then she was in jail ‘cause she was guilty. But then, how’s she gonna get out of that because she’d already been convicted and then you tune in the next week and the judge decides to let her off (laughs). Oh, and then the last week when [Judith Light’s character, Judith Ryland] fell down the steps — you don’t know if she lives or dies.
So anyway, they don’t like you giving out much information because every script they send you has your name blazed across every page, so that if a script gets out, they know where it came from… [What] I can tell you about my character is he got a call from Sue Ellen, and evidently we’ve had a past relationship before J.R. and she has a business thing she needs help with. And, of course, she does mention that she’s been wanting to pick up the phone to call me anyway and it was a great excuse, and that lends itself to a little romantic side also…
Access: I know in the last couple of episodes, Sue Ellen is still grieving the loss of her great love, J.R.
Lee: Yeah, and drinking heavily (sighs).
Access: And drinking heavily.
Lee: I kid her about that whenever I see her. I say, ‘You’re off the wagon again!’
Access: Are you kind of a surrogate or a Band-Aid to help her get through that grief?
Lee: I haven’t quite been able to get there yet because things are — since he did pass away, they’ve had to scramble to really pull the ends together, to get a reason why he passed away and where he did and who killed him and all that. I think they’re doing a beautiful job. I thought the memorial show, the funeral show was just fabulous… And I was shocked when Cliff Barnes walks in there – in the middle of it (laughs).
Access: In the middle of the memorial!
Lee: Yeah (laughs). They’ve got things like that that just pop out at you and you’re going, ‘What the!’ and it’s just so good.
Access: Is there a window that you’d be available to expand beyond your initial arc?
Lee: They only have one more [episode this season]. They’re shooting the last one this coming week. I’m not in it… I’m having to sit it out to see if I come back or not. It’s open. It’s very open. Sue Ellen has made a little bit of a great friend out of me and there could be some [lingering] sparks down the road, because she doesn’t have a romantic lead yet, so who knows what they’ve got in mind.
Access: Do you miss the grind of regular series television?
Lee: No, I don’t miss that at all, but I’ve gotta tell you, since there’s so many characters, if you ever wanted to do a series – I always wanted to do another series anyway — I don’t mind doing another one, because I’ve done about seven or eight, but never again will I take one with the word ‘The’ in front of it. Because I was ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ I was ‘The Fall Guy’ (laughs), and you just don’t want to be in every shot, 12 hours every day. Mine were all action shows and it just kind of really took a toll on [the] body. I’m feeling a lot of it now… I would love to do a show like ‘Dallas’ because you only work maybe two to three times a week and then you’ve only got two scenes or three scenes at the most because there’s so many characters in that show. You want an ensemble series, that’s for sure (laughs). You don’t want to be the star. Anyway, I’m also on the following Thursday on ‘Raising Hope.’
Access: You’re busy. You’re a busy guest guy.
Lee: Yeah, ‘Raising Hope’ is really funny… It’s on FOX — 9 o’clock on Thursday [March 28]. I went from a serious drama two weeks in a row to doing a comedy and then back to drama, but I enjoy every bit of it.
“Dallas” airs Monday nights at 9/8c on TNT.
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