'Dallas' Q&A: Emma Bell On John Ross Romance

Emma Bell as Emma Ryland in 'Dallas' Emma Bell as Emma Ryland in 'Dallas'

On “Dallas,” Emma Ryland just wants somebody to love.

Unfortunately, the person Ms. Ryland has chosen – John Ross Jr. – is already taken. But, that hasn’t stopped her — or him.

“[Emma is] feeling something extraordinary with this guy because all the men in her life have always kind of suppressed her and I don’t think she really understands what true love is,” Emma Bell, who plays the character, told Access Hollywood.

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While Emma Ryland may not understand true love, the daughter of Anne (Bobby’s wife) certainly knows how to scheme and plot with the best of them. She got control of her daddy’s (Mitch Pileggi) business, and when he came back to claim it and threatened her, she got grandma (Judith Light) out of the crazy farm.

In a new interview, Emma Bell addressed her character’s secret romance with John Ross Jr., Sue Ellen’s snooping and what it’s like working with living legends Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray on her Monday night TNT drama.

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AccessHollywood.com: Patrick Duffy has been directing a ‘Dallas’ episode. How is that going?

Emma Bell: He’s like the dad of the group. He’s the best. As an actor, he’s a very nurturing and very present kind of person, which is amazing and really translates into a director and because of his acting background, he knows how to speak to an actor. My character has a certain scene with him where I’m supposed to be pretty emotional and he respects my process because he understands the process, but he also knows exactly when to step in there and kind of – just give you the little push, [the] direction that you need and that’s really wonderful because a lot of directors can be like technical based. Actually, I have to say, on this show, we’ve had a lot of amazing directors but Patrick, he’s a nurturer in general.

Access: Your character – her cheating with John Ross has continued into this season. Does she have a moral compass or is she just so messed up from everything that happened with her dad and the secrecy?

Emma: She has a moral compass, sure. Is it in line with other people’s moral compasses? Not so much. She definitely has boundaries, although I believe that she doesn’t even maybe know what her own boundaries are. What’s really great about this season is the first half of the season, she is very kind of unpredictable and wild and exploding from the shell and the cage she was initially kind of stuck in when she grew up with her dad and her grandmother. And then, the John Ross thing has less to do with [having something] over Pamela and more to do with feeling something extraordinary with this guy because all the men in her life have always kind of suppressed her and I don’t think she really understands what true love is. So it makes sense that you always go after your daddy type when you’re a girl… It absolutely makes sense that she’s attracted to John Ross or that she would kind of fall under his spell a little bit. He also doesn’t have the most standard moral compass and he also doesn’t use love very deeply. … [With] John Ross and love as power, that’s very comfortable to her. She definitely spirals down this rabbit hole a little bit and towards the back half of the season, her boundaries are coming back at her.

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Access: Do you think they could have a relationship if he wasn’t attached and married to the other half of the company?

Emma: I think it would always be a disaster zone. I really do. I think they would always be a little bit like dynamite with each other. Personally — Emma Bell, not Emma Ryland, but Emma Bell believes, ‘Pamela and John Ross forever!’ I think that they’re a perfect match. They totally challenge each other, they’re cut from the same cloth, but there’s a real deep seated kind of love for each other. Will he screw it up? Will she screw it up? Probably. But with Emma Ryland and John Ross, there’s like this animalistic attraction to each other and it’s this power and this lust and this greed that they absolutely connect with on the same level. But if they were unattached and he wasn’t married to Pamela… they might try to [give it a go], but I just think it would blow up in their faces.

Access: Can we expect some trouble between Emma and Sue Ellen because Sue Ellen is starting to suspect something is wrong?

Emma: Oh yes. Anyone whose seen any ‘Dallas’ episodes [previously knows that] Sue Ellen, she’s up on the betraying stuff. She’s like a hound for it. She can smell it a mile away. I will say karma plays a big role this season. Everything has its karma.

Access: Being on a show like ‘Dallas’ and having Patrick and Linda there, do you get to ask them questions about the original, for background or because you can? It must be nice to have living legends working with you.

Emma: Oh yeah! Yeah, not even [just] about ‘Dallas,’ but about their experiences in their careers in Hollywood or in life. They’re two of the warmest and most kind people you’ve ever met. … From Day 1, walking in, Linda Gray is so nice. I love her to death. Josh calls her ‘mama’ on set. She’s just a very warm woman and Patrick is just a great guy and very funny. … My character has been compared to Lucy a lot and now with this season, I’m getting a lot of comparisons to Kristin, [who] was Sue Ellen’s sister and I did, I asked her about both those characters and her experiences with working with those women and her point of view of the characters. … It is lovely to hear Linda and Patrick just bust into stories while we’re sitting in the Southfork dining room or around the pool or something and bust into some sort of story. It usually involves Larry [Hagman] doing something hilarious.

“Dallas” airs Mondays at 9/8c on TNT.

-- Jolie Lash

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