Dallas Exclusive: Brenda Strong on "Shades of Gray," Female Rivalry to Come

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Dallas Season 2 kicked off last week with Bobby’s current wife, Ann, being rejected by the daughter she thought she’d never see again.

How will she react when Bobby tells her that her evil ex has had a relationship with their child for years?

Brenda Strong talked to TV Fanatic recently and teased that we may understand the reason why Harris is so evil, while also previewing how Ann may be holding more secrets from Bobby and explaining that Ann and Sue Ellen may soon be at odds again.

Read on for excerpts from our Q&A, including Strong's reaction to acting opposite the late, great Larry Hagman...

Brenda Strong Pic

TV Fanatic: I remember last year you teased a lot about what Ann would be going through in season two. How worse is Harris going to become? He’s just awful and you love to hate him.
Brenda Strong: You do love to hate him. What’s great is as you get to know more about his past and his relationship to his own mother and his relationship to me and, at some point, believe it or not, and I know this is going to be hard to believe, you may actually feel sorry for him.

There’s a little bit of empathy there that you have or sympathy for this character at some point and then he turns around and does another nasty thing and you go, ‘Oh, I love to hate you again.’ But you kind of see why he is how he is. That’s what’s so great about the writing is no one’s just black or white, we all have shades of gray.

TVF: Is it safe to say that Ann and Harris’s mother don’t get along? I mean, his mother seems fiery from the start!
BS: Oh yeah. It’s very safe to say they don’t get along. In fact, talk about female rivalry, they are very much at odds. One of the main reasons why Ann has such a tortured past was because of this woman. I think in a lot of ways you get to see the climate with which she became who she is. I mean Ann is seriously loyal and kind and generous and strong and really protective. I think she became that way because she has been treated unjustly in so many ways, and you get to see exactly how as it unfolds.

TVF: Does Ann have some more secrets that she’s holding that may challenge her marriage to Bobby later in the season?
BS: Yeah. Ann’s past starts to really unravel who we think she is and it does threaten her relationship with Bobby. Those secrets start to challenge his trust of her. I think ultimately, whenever we have secrets there’s a hidden shame that we’re trying to cover because we can’t be with that part of ourselves. In some ways, once those secrets are unearthed it allows herself a healing that I think will make she and Bobby even stronger because she’ll no longer have those secrets to hide from him. But it does test the mettle of the relationship, for sure. It’s not easy sailing for Ann and Bobby in the first half of the season.

TVF: In the second episode back, there’s a nice moment where JR tells Sue Ellen that Ann could use her, basically she could use her friend, her strength. It sounds like JR actually respects Ann, even though they may not get along. Will we see some of that at all in these last episodes that Larry’s in?
BS: I’m so happy you picked up on that. I think Ann and JR’s relationship is a complex one for sure, because Ann is obviously in Bobby’s care. But I think she also understands JR and I think he does respect her. I don’t know if you remember there was an episode in season one where I tell him, ‘If you hurt Bobby in any way I’ll shoot you.’ Since you have no heart it’ll be somewhat more vital. He says, ‘She’s crazy!’ but he respects her loyalty and he respects her love of his brother. I think he knows that she’s a fierce protector and isn’t going to mess with her. There’s a wonderful…and I won’t spoil it. But in episode eight there’s a wonderful line that kind of called back to that conversation.

I think had Larry lived on and had JR lived on, Ann and JR would have had a lot more business to complete with each other. I loved working with Larry. He and I had such a good time together as those two characters. I do mourn the fact that we won’t have a chance to delve deeper on camera as well as off into that relationship.

TVF: We know that Ann and Sue Ellen are such great BFFs and I love those scenes. Is their relationship challenged at all in these coming episodes?
BS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Blood is thicker than water and oil is thicker than both. Sue Ellen will always choose, as Ann does, to honor her own family first. Her son doesn’t give…let me rephrase this. Her son will make her choose a camp that will be conflicting with Ann and Ann will have to choose what’s more important, her friendship or her loyalty to her own family.

TVF: How was that first day back for you working without Larry there?
BS: You know, luckily we have some very sensitive and very human executive producers and they recognized the need for us to have time to not just go straight back to work. They created an opportunity for all of us to come together and share a story about how Larry had touched us and experiences that we had had with him. So, it really created a foundation of love and laughter to move forward from.

It allowed people to mourn in a very private way with just the crew and the cast, and then we got to work, as Larry would have wanted. He was all about the work. It just gave us a chance to kind of share until we felt like we didn’t have anything more to say. Then we picked up our pride and our courage and we moved forward.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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