TNT’s reboot of Dallas has a little bit of something for different parts of its gay audience. For those who watched the original version, there’s Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing. For those who like their eye candy, there’s Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing, the son of Sue Ellen and J.R. (Larry Hagman).
I had the chance to talk with Gray and Henderson as they stopped in Atlanta to promote Dallas about their roles, auditioning, and their connection with gay audiences.
It’s rare to see characters from one iteration of a primetime show appear in an updated version of the series. It’s even more rare for multiple members of the original cast to return as series regulars for the update. For Gray, her biggest concern was keeping the character authentic.
“Sue Ellen was a big part of that show. I think in 20 years Sue Ellen has grown in leaps and bounds. Still interesting, still complex…but fascinating. I want to remind people of what she had done but brand Sue Ellen for the new show. What has her plight been? Has she addressed her demons? The answer is ‘yes.’”
Gray went so far as to take her concerns to the show’s executive producer to find out where the creative team planned to take her character.
“Because if they were going to take her down like they did before… [laughs] It really wasn’t where I felt that she would be.” To Gray’s liking, the creative team took her input on the character.
Henderson, meanwhile, had to go through numerous audition rounds for the part of John Ross, one of the central characters in the updated Dallas. He wasn’t the only one. Henderson took the initiative to contact the studio quickly and pitch himself, using the fact that Dallas is his hometown as a selling point.
“When I went in, Cynthia Cidre – our executive producer and writer – said that she knew that I was John Ross from the second line out of my mouth. But she couldn’t tell me that, obviously.”
After auditioning and going through testing, he landed the role. His thoughts on landing the role?
“I got the coolest freaking role for any young male actor out there.”
While there’s not an LGBT-themed storyline in the show (at least not yet), both Gray and Henderson are appreciative of their respective gay fan bases.
“For me, I have a lot of gay friends in LA., and I do have a pretty large gay fan base from Desperate Housewives. At the end of the day, they love juicy drama, just like everyone else,” says Henderson. “And I feel like I hear it more from my gay friends, that ‘Oh, you with your shirt off,’ and ‘I remember you from Popstars.’ They’ve been so supportive of me, and they’re so passionate about what they like.”
“I love my gay fans and I love hearing the stories of watching Sue Ellen and having Sue Ellen parties,” says Gray. “I have so many gay friends who are part of my life. I think they could relate to Sue Ellen in many, many ways. I had great stories from them. I think my followers felt a camaraderie, a rapport with Sue Ellen. I am forever grateful, and very supportive of the community.”
Dallas premieres its first two episodes Wednesday, June 13 at 9 p.m. on TNT.