The actress, who reprises her signature role as Sue Ellen Ewing on TNT’s Dallas update later this month, vividly remembers the firestorm that erupted when she showed up for work at the start of Season 6 in 1982 with her famous flowing locks chopped off.
“I thought the producers were going to lynch me,” she recalls to TVLine. “I didn’t know back then that I had to ask permission! I was like, ‘Oh dear, I guess I should have asked somebody.’ They were not happy with me.”
But as Gray explains, her tresses were trimmed out of necessity not vanity. “We [spent so much time] outside at that damn Southfork breakfast table and the wind would whip up during my close-ups and my hair would fly into my lipgloss and get stuck,” she says. “And the [director] would go, ‘Cut!’ So I was always brushing it out of my face. It was always a nightmare. It was unbearable. So I went to Jose Eber and I said, ‘Cut it off!’ And he did.”
Gray’s ‘do is back to its original length in the Dallas reboot (premiering June 13), one of the only characteristics new Sue Ellen shares with the old. J.R.’s long-suffering alcoholic wife is now a big-shot politician who gets drunk on power instead of booze. Of course, she’s just one sip away from a relapse, right?
“She’s been there, done that,” Gray insists of Sue Ellen’s unhealthy relationship with the bottle. “A lot of women in the ’80s didn’t communicate as well as they do now; they didn’t embrace their power. If they were in a dysfunctional marriage like Sue Ellen was, they stayed. Times have changed though. It’s now acceptable to tackle your demons, wrestle them to the ground, and change your life. So I don’t feel that she would be drinking again. She probably went to AA and got her stuff together.”Follow @MichaelAusiello