For 14 years on CBS – 1978 to 1991 – “Dallas” was a huge hit on CBS, making household names of the Ewing and Barnes families, not to mention the other interesting people who crossed their paths. More than 20 years since it went off the air, the folks at Southfork Ranch are just as popular on TNT’s “Dallas” revival that welcomed back brothers Bobby and J.R. Ewing, portrayed by Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman respectively, and their expanded families.
Reuniting the famed Ewing clan proved to be a big success for the cable network, premiering to nearly seven million viewers when it debuted in June, holding on to a nice-sized portion of the audience right up to its August 8th Season 1 finale, drawing in 4.8 4.8 million viewers. Fans of the original joined new audiences lured into the enticing drama thanks to the introduction of a new generation on-screen.
Jesse Metcalfe plays Christopher, the adopted son of Bobby and former wife Pamela Barnes Ewing (Victoria Principal), and Josh Henderson is J.R. and ex-wife Sue Ellen’s (Linda Gray) son, John Ross. And in true Southfork tradition, there was no lack of drama, twists, turns and secrets in the show’s first season.
Julie Gonzalo (“Veronica Mars,” “Eli Stone”) knows that all too well. The 30-year-old Argentinian-born actress portrays Rebecca Sutter, Christopher’s new wife. Audiences, and Christopher, quicked learned she was part of a scheme along with her brother (or is he?), Tommy, trying to get their hands on the Ewing fortune. Years earlier, Christopher received an email from then-fiancée Elena (Jordana Brewster) breaking off their engagement. Never speaking to Elena about it, Christopher had no idea it was actually Tommy who sent the email. So with Christopher single, Rebecca made her move. Posing as a woman in love, matters got more complicated when Rebecca actually did fall for Christopher. Angry after learning who she was (little did he know, she still had more secrets), Christopher would barely speak to Rebecca who tried desperately to cut ties with Tommy and make good on her deceitful ways with the Ewing family.
But just as the writers of “Dallas” have done for years with J.R., they know how to keep a character interesting and continually shock audiences. And that’s exactly what happened when Rebecca revealed her pregnancy – with twins. And then, in the finale, after shooting and killing Tommy – who we found out was actually her boyfriend – Rebecca’s true identity was revealed to the at-home audience: she is the daughter of Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) and has been conspiring with him the whole time to take over Southfork, just as he had been doing decades ago. Meantime, reeling from Rebecca’s lies, Christopher has ended up back in Elena’s arms…and bed.
The Seven Sees and other reporters recently spoke with Gonzalo about the big reveal, a secret she says she’s known for a while and even kept from fellow castmates, plus her hopes for Season Two, which premieres in January 2013.
Q: When did you first learn about Rebecca’s identity?
Julie Gonzalo: I knew before we shot the pilot. I remember getting the part…we all met and after reading the script and before we even took off to go to Dallas to shoot the pilot, [Executive Producers Mike Robin and Cynthia Cidre] let me in on the secret that I was a Barnes, but that was it. That was all they told me. They [said], ‘You’re Cliff’s daughter, but don’t play it and don’t tell anyone.’ So that was what I got.
TSS: All season, Rebecca has been a suspicious presence at Southfork and we have slowly learned little secrets. But in the finale, you flipped the switch on her from meek to manipulative in a matter of minutes. What have you enjoyed about this story arc and journey of Rebecca’s?
Julie Gonzalo: I have to be honest, I didn’t know when I got the part where they were going to go. Obviously, you read Rebecca in the pilot it’s pretty clear. I always thought there was a secret behind her, but I didn’t know. And then they let me in on the secret of being a Barnes, but to be honest I had no idea where the role was going to go. I had no idea where the writers were going to take me, and what a ride! I got to play so many levels of a character. I got to play so many different layers of this girl and I got to really be very diverse and really have all these feelings, like these true feelings.
She was really playing three people; she was the con artist that she was with Tommy, she is in love with Christopher, and she’s also the behind-the-scenes of everything. She is Cliff Barnes’s daughter. She put together this team; she put together Tommy, you basically realize she is the mastermind behind all of it. And at the end of the day she’s trying to make her dad proud just like John Ross is, just like Christopher is.
And I was so surprised that I honestly couldn’t have been more thankful to the writers to let me have such a fun role. I really enjoyed it. Again, I had no idea where it was going, but I couldn’t be more blessed with it. I got a lot of fun out of it.
Q: Do you think Rebecca has sincere feelings for Christopher at all? And, even though they’re not biologically related, they are cousins. Cynthia Cidre has now confirmed she is Pamela Rebecca Barnes, so she has the same name as his mother. How does Rebecca feel about that and how do you know if that will come to play in the next season?
Julie Gonzalo: I don’t know. I ‘m not entirely sure about the name, to be honest. I haven’t really heard anything. I can’t really confirm anything about Season Two because they kept us in the dark so much for Season One that I really don’t even know what’s going to happen next year.
Yeah, the reality of it all is that I am married to my first cousin, sure not related by blood, but it is kind of weird. It’s interesting…to know the reality of this role, and I don’t know where it’s going and that’s to be completely honest with you. The idea that she is married to her cousin, I don’t know – I think she is in love with him. She really is in love with him, she fell for him. She fell for her mark, as we like to call it.
And it’s great that Ken’s character Cliff had a line in the finale last night saying, ‘I can never trust you, you’re just like your aunt [Pamela]. I couldn’t trust her around the Ewings.” I think there’s this superior energy that attracted the Ewings and the Barnes for evil and good, and you see that in the original with Bobby and Pam, and you see it in the Cliff and J.R. feuds. There is an attraction whether it’s positive or negative.
So I do believe that Rebecca does have feelings for Chris, she did fall in love with him. But now, I think the tables have been turned, the cat’s out of the bag and she might be a bit pissed. So I don’t know what the future holds, I really don’t. I wish I did, but I can only be blessed that the writers are so talented and they’re so willing to write such beautiful storylines for myself and the rest of the cast. So I’m leaving it to their hands.
Q: The producers have told you who your dad is, but have they told you who your mom is?
Julie Gonzalo: No, my mom has not been addressed as far as me talking to anyone on the show. I’ve read things about who Rebecca’s mom is. Obviously there are so many websites and so many back stories and storylines from the original, so I’m aware Afton [Cooper] should be her mom, but I haven’t been told anything.
TSS: When do you start shooting Season Two? And, how have you felt or been surprised by any of the reaction from the show given the new generation of viewers? And what’s it like for you when you hear that famous theme song start playing?
Julie Gonzalo: I get really giddy [when I hear the song].
We start shooting Season Two mid September I believe, or late September, somewhere around there, I don’t think anything’s been set in stone yet.
It’s very exciting. I remember I was aware of the show “Dallas.” I don’t think I had ever seen it when I was growing up. I grew up in Argentina and my mom used to watch it; she was a huge fan. So worldwide the show was obviously, as everyone knows, such a phenomenon. And I think that was the scary part…right before we started promoting the show right before it came out, it was like, “Oh, wow, we are really dealing with such an iconic show that if people aren’t going to like it then we’re kind of screwed…if we don’t stand up and play hardball like people expect.”
But the reaction has been nothing but amazing. Everyone I speak to – and I’m so close to it obviously, I’m so biased – but every time I hear something positive and lovely about it, it’s just such a good feeling to be a part of something that people are really enjoying. And yeah, I still get giddy. I also do a dance every time you hear the theme song. [The night of the finale] right before the Round-Up, the song started playing and I think like we all started moving our shoulders and moving our hips. It’s like, it’s the song! It’s so surreal. It really still is surreal to be part of this show.
Q: How do you think Rebecca will react when she finds out about Christopher and Elena?
Julie Gonzalo: Oh, she is going to be mad at that woman. And don’t piss her off, she’s got a gun!
I think at this point she knows that things are pretty bad with Christopher, especially that last scene that they both had. I think that there might not be a way out. I don’t want to say that she’s fully going into the dark side. I don’t know if she’s fully going to go evil. I don’t believe in villains. I believe that they’re all coming from a place of truth. Whether you want to take that as good or bad that’s your prerogative, I guess.
I think she always saw it coming. I think that Elena has always been something very, very dear and special to Chris. And she’s not stupid, Rebecca’s not a stupid girl. She’s a very, very smart girl. She’s a very calculating girl. You can tell that she’s going to be now – she can be very manipulative. In a way, she fooled everyone; She fooled Tommy, she fooled Chris, she fooled the audience, she fooled a lot of people. So you can’t underestimate this girl.
I just don’t think she’s going to be way too happy about [Christopher and Elena]. But I wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of her.
Q: What was it like keeping the secret from everyone in the cast?
Julie Gonzalo: Oh man, it was interesting. I think I did spill the beans to Jordana because I was like, “I have to tell someone!”
It was interesting. There were moments that [the cast questioned], “Oh, where’s this going? Where’s this character going? Where’s that going?” And I’m like, “I know where I’m going, I just don’t know how.”
But we never really talked it about. I think we were so invested in every script, we [would ask each other], “Did you read it last night? Did you get it last night?” I [would say], “I got it at three in the morning but I still read it.”
And myself, Julie, as a person, lives day by day and moment by moment. I don’t really get ahead of myself too much, so to me it wasn’t [that] we needed to keep it a secret like that because there was so much stuff going on in each script that I don’t even have to. I think the impact will be when everybody reads it. And it was, it was nice. It was really interesting to see it.
TSS: In listening to you describe the place that Rebecca’s coming from – she doesn’t necessarily think she’s a villain or look at anything that way – it reminds me obviously quite a bit of J.R. Ewing. Do you think it’s fair to say that she could be the female equivalent here?
Julie Gonzalo: Wow, I could only hope and pray because that would be fun. I don’t know, I don’t know. I really – I don’t know. That’s always how I saw her. I don’t see her as evil, I don’t. And I think as an actor you can’t really play evil. I think there has to be some honesty coming from somewhere.
I wish I could be in the writers’ room right now and let you know, but that would be amazing. I mean J.R. is a guy you love to hate for over 30 years. If I’m the female version, which I don’t think I could ever reach such highs, but I will sure try. Yeah, I’m in!
TSS: Yes, they’ve done that very well, making you hate to love everyone.
Julie Gonzalo: Yes, absolutely, and I’m so in! I’m in such good hands. Cynthia Cidre and the team, I’m in just such good hands. And I will forever do what they say and I will bring myself and whatever I can to the table. So far, I thankfully haven’t let them down and they haven’t let me down, so one can only hope. I mean bad guys are always fun.
“Dallas” Executive Producer and writer Cynthia Cidre has more on the Season One finaled, titled “Revelations” – how they decided to wrap up storylines and set up the action on Southfork Ranch for Season Two - in this video.