■ The Dallas legend, 78, on the Ewings getting axed, visions of her grandson and never doing pantomime again
You’re guest speaker on a cruise ship to New York. Do you like doing them?
I was going to go on one from Copenhagen to St Petersburg but it interfered with a work situation and now I’m going from Southampton to New York. I’ve done several now. One of my favourites was to the fjords in Norway. I climbed a mountain, I was up there like a mountain goat, I had the best time. My children couldn’t believe I’d done it. The scenery was so spectacular I came home wanting to move to Norway.
What does the talk entail?
They’ve made a video about my life and career and one afternoon a week when we’re at sea, I go on stage and the cruise director interviews me while the video plays. I talk about the photographs on screen — my time on Dallas, my family, all the wonderful things that have happened in my life that I’m very grateful for. Then we do a Q and A, take pictures with people and I autograph my memoirs.
What do people ask you?
A lot about Dallas. They remember it fondly and tell me about watching it on the sofa with grandma and mom.
What’s the work situation that changed your plans?
I’m co-producing a film. It’s a comedy with a female cast and I’m in it a little bit. A lot of people at this stage in their lives retire. I can’t relate to that word myself. I don’t even think about it. My friends came to me with a wonderful script and asked me if I’d produce it — I’ve never produced anything before so I’m learning.
Would you go back to Hollyoaks?
I loved the experience and I’m still in touch with [cast member] Lysette Anthony but in shows like that, characters come in and out all the time. My character was alive when she left so I suppose I could go back. But on shows like that, it doesn’t matter if your character has died — you can go back anyway. I loved walking around Liverpool. Everything I’ve done from theatre in the West End, to Hollyoaks, to regional theatre tours — I love the UK.
And you did panto in Wimbledon — would you do another one?
No. I fell in love with the cast but it was gruelling. It was two shows a day. The reboot of Dallas had just been abruptly cancelled and I was invited to do panto — to go from Sue Ellen to the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella was an actor’s dream. I was very lucky. But at the end I was exhausted. I did it, loved it, and as you say over there, I’ve ticked that box.
Why was the Dallas reboot cancelled so quickly?
We’ll never know. It was political. I was disappointed they didn’t give Dallas the respect it deserved. They should have given the show another three episodes just to finish the storylines and say, ‘This is the last time you’ll see these crazy Ewings.’ That would have been respectful to the fans. We had to wait six months to find out we were cancelled. That wasn’t very nice.
Was it down to viewing figures?
We’ll never know. The head of the network was a big Dallas fan but he left for another job. The new regime got rid of all the old regime’s shows.
Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
No, but I had a miraculous event. When my daughter was pregnant with her first child, her due date was September 12, which is my birthday. I thought that would be the best birthday gift you could receive but due dates are rarely accurate. My daughter called on September 10 and said she’d gone into labour. I jumped in the car and as I was driving I saw a child around 18 months looking in through the windshield. He had blonde hair, brown eyes and sang Happy Birthday to me. I freaked out.
I pulled over into the slow lane and said, ‘What did you say?’ And the baby moved his hands and sang Happy Birthday again. I was stunned. I got to my daughter’s house and didn’t say anything, just ‘Let’s go for a walk, maybe it isn’t labour.’ We did and the labour pain stopped. She said ‘How did you know?’ And I said ‘Mothers just know these things’ but I was freaking out. Anyway, the 10th and 11th came and went and she gave birth on the 12th. We all sang Happy Birthday to my baby grandson when he arrived and I figured that was the child I’d seen through my windshield. When he was a tiny baby he was crying, so I picked him up, walked him around the house and sang Happy Birthday to him — he stopped crying and looked at me as if to say ‘How do you know that song?’ It was the most surreal moment of my life.
So you had a vision of your unborn grandson?
Yes. Most people will think, ‘She’s a loony tunes’ but it happened and I don’t care what anyone says.
■ Gray is a speaker onboard Sapphire Princess sailing from Southampton departing Sep 14, princess.com