Forever Afton: My Interview with Original Dallas Star Audrey Landers
In the wake of the revelation that Rebecca is indeed Cliff Barnes’ daughter Pamela Rebecca, Dallas fans are wondering if season two will see the return of her mother Afton Cooper. Executive producer Cynthia Cidre didn’t rule it out in her recent exclusive interview with TV Guide so Dallas Redone went to the beloved actress who played Afton, Audrey Landers, for her take on the new Dallas. Audrey was a fixture on episodic television in the ‘80s and played Val in the motion picture version of Bob Fosse’s “A Chorus Line.” Long before the Kardashians, she and her sister Judy, who starred on the series Vega$ and B.J. and the Bear, were Hollywood’s most glamorous siblings. Audrey couldn’t comment on whether Afton is set to return just yet but gave Dallas Redone some insight into the love story of Cliff and Afton, her fashion line and playing a psycho co-ed on the original Charlie’s Angels.
Dallas Redone (DR): Hi Audrey. Thanks for speaking with the Dallas Redone blog. Dallas fans are clamoring for your return as Afton Cooper and nobody knows her better than you so we’re excited to catch up with you and dish some classic Dallas.
Audrey Landers: Thanks for reaching out. I always love the opportunity to connect with Dallas fans.
DR: What has been your impression of TNT’s first 10 episodes of the new Dallas?
Audrey: It is amazing! I think the producers and writers have succeeded in recreating the intrigue of the original series, and yet the characters, the look of the show, and the story lines are relevant to today’s younger audiences as well. The new Dallas seems to bring together the generations of viewers- something that very few shows can achieve.
DR: I’ve seen your Twitter exchanges with Ken Kerchevel, who made a triumphant return to Dallas as Cliff Barnes. What kind of rapport did you share with him during your run on the original show?
Audrey: We always had great chemistry.
DR: Now that Dallas executive producer Cynthia Cidre confirmed to William Keck at TV Guide that Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo) is indeed Afton’s daughter with Cliff, Pamela Rebecca, the return of Afton makes more sense than ever. Do you have any thoughts on where Afton might be in her life in 2012, emotionally and career-wise?
Audrey: I would be crazy to try to second guess where the writers see Afton today. They have done so well with the other characters’ development. I just hope they keep Afton alive (laughs) so she can make an appearance. There are so many different ways to take the character. Afton was always a survivor and she developed into a strong woman. Given that Rebecca is Pamela Rebecca Barnes, my guess is that Afton and Cliff were married at some point. Maybe they still are! Maybe Afton remarried. There are so many interesting possibilities.
DR: The Facebook campaign to get you back on Dallas has thousands of fans. How does that make you feel?
Audrey: It makes me feel great. “I can’t deny the fact that you like me… right now… you like me. Thank you.” Sally Field said that (laughs). But really, it is true. It was such a sweet surprise to have discovered that Facebook campaign. When I was on Dallas I knew that the fans connected with Afton. I received endless letters from people who would offer Afton advice on her love life, her relationship with Cliff. Women admired Afton when she stood up for herself. Fans loved the music Afton sang. I wrote all of Afton’s songs. When I would get the script, I would often write the song to fit Afton’s situation in the episode. In the beginning, Afton was naive enough to have fallen for J.R. By the end of 84 episodes, she was finally wise to his shenanigans.
DR: In real life you are the proud mother of twin sons. How are they doing?
Audrey: They are doing great. I am so blessed. My boys, my family- that’s what life is all about. The rest is just icing on the cake. You know, I have been acting, singing, and performing nonstop since I was a child, so when I finally decided to take the time to have children, I chose to take a break from Hollywood and devote myself entirely to this chapter of my life. I know it was risky — career-wise, but I knew I wanted to give it 1000 percent – just as I have done with everything in my life. However, I kept my creativity flowing all along – writing, recording, and producing a kids’ TV series.
DR: Career and family life have always been intertwined for you and you produced a children’s show called The Huggabug Club that ran from 1995 to 1997. What was that experience like?
Audrey: The show was truly a labor of love. It was a family endeavor. I had taken a break from acting. My kids were babies. My nieces were just a few years older. My sister (Judy Landers) and I realized that there was a need for quality children’s television. We created a musical educational show for kids. I researched the rhythms and colors children responded best to, in order to teach through song and dance. The Huggabug Club empowers children. We wrote 47 half hours, including the 200 original songs in the series. I even edited the series. My mom (Ruth Landers) produced the series and donated it to public television for five years, so that all children could have the opportunity to benefit from the show’s life lessons. The Huggabug Club won many awards, including Parents Choice Award, Dove Foundation, Kids First! Award for quality children’s programming, the Media Access Award for our episode about a physically challenged boy, and many more. I am very proud of the show. By popular demand, we created a live stage show that toured the U.S. That’s when my son Daniel got the show biz bug — my other son, Adam– well, not so much (laughs).
DR: From the Gabors to the Kardashians, the public is fascinated by celebrity sisters and you and Judy were arguably the most famous sisters of the 1980s. How is Judy doing these days?
Audrey: Judy is great. We have always lived within a couple of miles from each other. We raised our children– her two girls and my two boys- like siblings. My mom is also in the neighborhood. We see one another every day.
DR: Are there any Landers sisters projects in the pike?
Audrey: We are always cooking up something…
DR: You’re a businesswoman as well as an entertainer. Tell me about your fashion line Landers STAR Collection.
Audrey: My mom and I have been business partners in many ventures through the years. This is our line of ladies’ fashion that offers affordable glamour to women of all ages. My mom is very glamorous. Our fashion philosophy is “Every woman is a star and she deserves to shine.” We launched the line in 2008 on Home Shopping Europe and are presently on QVC in the U.K. Hopefully we will soon be in Italy and the U.S.
DR: How can your fans learn more about the collection?
Audrey: They can contact QVC in the U.S. Also, I will try to keep you posted at www.LandersStarCollection.com. We will soon offer select items on our online boutique as well.
DR: Did you enjoy your recent guest appearances on Burn Notice?
Audrey: I love that show! It was so much fun to zip in and out of Miami to play a “sugar mama!”
DR: Daytime dramas are having tough times as long-running shows have been canceled by the networks. Having appeared in shows like Somerset and One Life to Live, what are your thoughts on this trend?
Audrey: I think it is a shame that the genre is disappearing. I believe it will leave a void. Viewers would get involved in the daily lives of these characters. It was an escape. It was romance. It was mystery. It was imaginative. Reality shows seem to be taking their place but they lack all of that. I think that voyeurism is replacing creativity. Hopefully, with shows like the new Dallas pulling in the ratings– and drawing viewers into the story lines, networks will bring daytime dramas back in some form.
DR: Dallas isn’t the only iconic TV show you’ve appeared on. Early in your career you had the dubious distinction of pulling Cheryl Ladd’s hair as a murderous co-ed in the “Teen Angels” episode of Charlie’s Angels. What was it like appearing on that show at the height of its popularity? Any fun angel anecdotes?
Audrey: I remember looking at those three women, and thinking that they were so beautiful– They were flawless. And they were nice. That made an impression. Of course, my character was so evil! I had never played such an evil character before- nor have I since, come to think of it. Usually, when I create a character, I find some redeeming qualities to rationalize the character’s behavior. That was NOT the case with ‘Teen Angels.”
DR: According to IMDB you’ve appeared in 84 episodes of Dallas and I suspect more are to come. Do you have any favorite Afton storyline or specific scene that stands out in your memory?
Audrey: I think that Ken and I had some pretty incredible scenes together. They were always a little unpredictable, though. Very often, just before the cameras would roll, Ken would ask for Chinese takeout- for us to eat during the scene! I found it challenging to try to deal with chopsticks and lo mein noodles while having serious dialogue. I’m not sure how many of those takes actually made it to air (laughs).
DR: Audrey, thanks again for visiting with Dallas Redone. We’re all about bridging the span between classic Dallas and the new Dallas and look forward to seeing more of you – and Afton — in the months to come.
Audrey: Thanks for having me. It was a real pleasure.
Dallas fans who want to catch up with Audrey Landers can visit her sites. Audrey’s talented son Daniel has his own site, too. Check out the links below.