Erik: Deborah, I’m sure that all of our members and guests of Deborah Shelton
Online join me in thanking you sincerely for taking the time to give us this
interview, especially at a time when you’re so busy with so many things…
Deborah: Thank you so much for asking me! I apologize for taking so
long, but, as you know, I’ve just been crazed lately…
Erik: Not at all…Let’s jump right in with our first question, courtesy
of Tamara McClellan who hails from your old hometown of Norfolk Virginia:
“Do you ever visit the Hampton Roads area anymore?”
Deborah: No, I haven’t been back there in 13 years! Ever since my family
moved from there, I haven’t had either the time or the occasion to return.
However, I may be coming back to Tidewater within the next year. The President
of my old alma mater, Old Dominion University, is interested in my doing some
promotional work for ODU. So I may be returning to Norfolk soon!
Erik: Tamara would also like to know if you keep in touch with any of
the "Dallas" cast?
Deborah: No, not really, although I do bump into some of the cast
members from time to time. Mainly, Linda and Victoria. Back when I was married, I used to
run into Priscilla a lot…
Erik: I’ve heard very nice things about Linda Gray from the Dallas fans
who’ve met her!
Deborah: Yeah, Linda’s a doll!
Erik: Several fans have asked how they can get an autographed picture…
Deborah: That’s really easy now that my contact information is posted on
our website. I’m very pleased that I now have an official website that’s run by
my fans! If people write to me, I’ll be more than happy to send them an
autographed picture. They should
mention the site in their request!
Erik: Now here’s a very interesting question from R.B. from Houston:
“I have heard that one of the ways you were discovered for the
"Dallas" series was that your picture was used to advertise a Dallas
FM Radio Station on a billboard along a Dallas freeway. I swear I also saw your
photo on a billboard in Houston at that time. Is this story true?”
Deborah: No, it isn’t true, but I love the story! Actually, I went
through the normal casting route to get the part. A casting director was
insistent that I audition, so I did, even though I thought it was a waste of
time – the ‘Mandy Winger’ character was supposed to be a very young, blonde
“hooker with a heart of gold”! I first found out about getting the part from my
commercial agent, of all people – I was shooting a Finesse commercial, and my
commercial agent called me up to congratulate me! It was the first I’d heard
that I got the part…
Erik: Chris Gilkey asks:
“When did you start your acting career?”
Deborah: About 1978, in New York.
Erik: (laughing) He also wants to know what you look like today…
Deborah: (laughing) Well, the pictures I sent you are very
Erik: (laughing) Yeah, like check out the Home Page, dude!
Vlada from Russia has two questions:
“Do you know if there were any other possible storylines for Mandy that the
authors later dropped?”
Deborah: There were many, but mostly they involved coming back and
displacing Sue Ellen…
Erik: I guess all the Sue Ellen fans are glad that never went down…
Deborah: (laughing) I guess not…
Erik: Vlada also asks a very interesting question that I’ve heard debate
over for years:
“I always wondered: in 'Body Double", there is a scene where the hero
secretly watches your heroine dancing all alone, in her bedroom. Later, we're
supposed to believe it was actually Melanie Griffith in this scene. Was that
you in this scene, or her?”
Deborah: It was Melanie! I’m surprised that I’ve also been asked this
question by people who should know better, who know what my body looks like.
For example, I’m much higher-waisted than Melanie…
Erik: There were even some guys who insisted it was porn star Annette
Haven, who was originally considered for Melanie’s role…
Deborah: She was hired to coach Melanie in the various aspects of what
it’s like to be a porn star, that whole mental attitude…
Erik: Vlada also wanted to know what it was like working with De Palma?
Deborah: He’s very artistic, very creative – an artistic genius, really.
He has very definitive ideas about exactly how a scene should be played – he
has a vision of all the tiniest details in his mind, how the final scene should
look on the big screen…
Erik: Rainer Fiedler from Germany asks:
“How old are your children Tamara and Christopher now? And what they
Deborah: They’re both all grown-up! Tamara just graduated cum lauda, Phi
Beta Kappa, from U.C.L.A. in Communications…
Erik: Great program!
Deborah: It is a great program! Christopher works in the culinary arts,
but he also really enjoys coaching adults to obtain their G.E.D.
Erik: Lorraine from Virginia would like to know if you reside in
Deborah: No, I live in LA….
Erik: She also asks if you’ve considered publishing a beauty/fitness
Deborah: Yes! In fact, I’m currently working on a beauty book! Now, I
have a question for everyone reading this: Is there anything you feel I should
definitely include or exclude?
Erik: We’ll have to start a special thread on the message board to
obtain people’s input, maybe with a link on the Home Page…
Scott from So Cal has three questions:
” Can you tell us about any "underrated" or lesser-known movie (or
two or three) that you really liked watching, but which might surprise
us? Something a little unusual?”
Deborah: I love movies, including lesser-known, independent films. I
love a lot of art films and foreign films where you have to read the subtitles!
Erik: Anything specific come to mind?
Deborah: Just off the top of my head – The Winslow Boy, Wilde, Merchant
Ivory, Much Ado About Nothing (the Kenneth Branagh version). I really enjoyed
The Shawshank Redemption…
“If the character of Mandy was to stay on Dallas, and you had influence over
where the writers would take the character, what would you have enjoyed?”
Deborah: I would have liked her to have rivaled both J.R. and Cliff, and
taken over both of their fortunes! (Laughing) Just joking….
“(Just for fun) What would be the "nightmare scenario" of what the
writers would have been likely to come up with on their own?”
Deborah: Mandy marries J.R. (or Cliff, or anybody else for that matter)
and becomes a domestic queen…
Erik: Jan S. has several questions. She’s from the Dallas /Fort Worth
area, but I happen to know she originally hails from Hampton Roads – another
“You've done so many things in your career, Miss USA of 1970, modeling,
actress, composer and lyricist, producer, writer, charity work, etc. What
do you consider your greatest achievements?”
Deborah: Actually, I consider my greatest achievements to include being
a good mother and a really good friend – being a good person. Being a perpetual
student of life, and continually evolving as a person…
And of course, I’m also evolving as an actress as well. There’s that comparison
Heathcliff makes in Wuthering Heights, where he’s contrasting his son with
Linton’s: “His is gold set to paving stones, while mine is tin polished
to ape a service of silver”. As an actress, I feel I’m making that transition
from tin to gold…
Erik: (laughing) When you need a metaphor, you can always depend
on the Bronte sisters…
“I read that you had a role in the play The Vagina Monologues; I wish I could
have seen that!
Did you enjoy doing a play, have you done others?”
Deborah: I loved doing The Vagina Monologues – I had so much fun! I have
done a few others and I enjoy the work – except for appearing in front of a
live audience! It’s a lot different than acting in a film, let me tell you…
“We have lots of pictures of Tamara and Christopher in the magazine section
of the site from the '80s.
How's your family these days?”
Deborah: They’re terrific, wonderful, great! Thanks for
“I loved the TV series The Yellow Rose; my favorite actress, Deborah
Shelton, and Sam Elliot on the same show. What more could I ask? I
thought the show was great; it seemed like a sure bet with all the stars in the
cast. I was so disappointed when it was cancelled;
What do you think happened?”
Deborah: I have no idea – I guess Westerns didn’t go over particularly
well at the time.
“What are you favorite movies, and who are your favorite actors?”
Deborah: I love all sorts of movies, and I have too many favorite actors
to pick just a few out – it wouldn’t do justice to those I overlooked…
“Of your past roles, which one did you enjoy playing the most?”
Deborah: I’ve enjoyed most of my roles for different reasons. For
example, in Sacrifice, I had this really gut-wrenching scene – it was a hard
part to play. It was good to work with Michael Madsen, too. I also enjoyed
working with Nick Cassavettes in Sins of the Night – a very creative guy
– and with James Coco in Hunk. For my role in Nemesis, I really
challenged myself physically, working out 6 hours a day, and changing my body
completely for that role. The weapons training was also very difficult. My Dallas
role evolved over time, and really grew with me. I learned so much, especially
in that family environment. Various scenes also stick out for me, scenes that
challenged me both as an actress and as a person. At different times in my
life, different roles have helped me to evolve. I’ve used characters I’ve
portrayed to investigate my inner self…
Erik: On an internet message board, a poster took exception to your
segment on Hollywood Women. For those who are unaware of that show, it was shot
in the early 90s, and was all about the challenges of, well, being a Hollywood
woman. This poster actually believes you’re a “gun nut”, and objected to what
she viewed as your “glamorizing” of guns…
Deborah: (laughing) Well, I’m really not a gun person at all!
That segment featured me out on the firing range, getting firearms training in
preparation for my role in Nemesis…
Erik: Cool little cyberpunk flick…You should do more movies like that
one - you were the best thing in that flick…
Deborah: Thank you! The training was arranged through the Beverly Hills
Gun Club, and I had no idea what I was in for! I arrived at the training
facility, and popped out of my white Jag, dressed in my black Converse High
Tops, black designer jeans with gold accents, a little black tee with gold
glitter lettering, and I had my hair tied back in a ponytail with a black,
gold-flecked scrunchy…and the guy who was training me, who was a mercenary-type
who trained soldiers in the Falkland Islands, walked right up to me, stuck his
face about 3 inches from my nose, and said, under his breath, “This is gonna be
fun…” He really put me through my paces - about 4 hours later, I looked a total
mess – just a disaster! (laughing) My clothes were ruined…
Erik: Big ugly mercenary-type dude 1, Deborah 0…
Deborah: (laughing) But I really enjoyed that role, it was a lot
“Is there a type of role that you would really like to do in the future,
maybe something you haven't done?”
Deborah: Yes, many of them! I’m dying to do a period piece…
Erik: Historical drama, like Mary, Queen of Scots, with that incredible
battle of wills between Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson…
Deborah: Not a bad little cast…
Erik: …Or a story set in a different time, with an historical backdrop,
like Cold Mountain?
Deborah: Or anything from classic literature – I’d love to do it all.
Currently, in acting class, I’m working on a scene from ”Julia”, which was set
in Germany in 1937 at the time of the rise of Hitler…
“Just wondering why you didn't appear in any of the two Dallas reunion type
made for TV movies? “
Deborah: Those things are written primarily with the original cast, so,
unfortunately, I wasn’t asked.
Erik: Najam Ahmad, from London, England asks:
“How does it feel to still have such a loyal fan base and did you ever
envisage the impact the Dallas role would have on your future popularity?”
Deborah: It feels wonderful! I’m very amazed and grateful – it’s
awesome! I never envisioned the impact of my Dallas role, but it’s wonderful as
Erik: Longtime fan Garland English, from Richmond, Virginia, has several
“How is your mother?”
Deborah: My mom is great! Thanks for asking! She’s in great health, and
walks two miles every day. I bought her a tiny Maltese for Christmas. He only
weighs about 2-3 lbs.
Erik: Yeah, “Killer” the Maltese: He may be small, but he always seems
to get the better of you whenever you dog-sit him. Since I started keeping
score, I’ve got it at Maltese: 3 Deborah: 0
Deborah: (laughing) Actually, his name is Boo-Boo…
“Did you come to Richmond to do the commercials for K 95?”
Deborah: No, those commercials were all done in a studio in LA, through
an ad agency that specializes in that kind of work. We did all those spots at
one time, substituting different peoples’ names and different radio stations.
“How do you feel about your Virginia heritage, and Norfolk in particular?”
Deborah: I love my Virginia heritage and Norfolk – it’s a great place to
be from! I can’t wait to go back to do that promo work for ODU!
“Oh yeah, I am very happy to be a member of this site in honor of you.”
Deborah: I’m thrilled with this site; I’m so excited that people
participate here! I just find it awesome…
Erik: Didi from France has a couple of questions:
“Do you remember the time you spent in France? Did you enjoy it?? And if it
is positive do you plan to come back here someday for a holiday or a
Deborah: I loved it! Of course, in the beginning, I really didn’t know
what was going on. You had to bag your own groceries, which we didn’t do in the
States at the time, and I didn’t know that at first. I was holding up the
checkout line, and I didn’t know why people were yelling at me! I didn’t do so
well at the cleaner’s either…
I’ve returned many times in the past, and I will again!
“What is your general feeling about the site, I don’t mean graphically, but
mostly about the content?”
Deborah: I love the site and I’m so honored by it! I really like the
content, and I appreciate the level of discourse. The positive comments I read
there inspire me to continue to pursue my career.
Erik: Pauline from the UK has several questions:
“Did you watch Dallas before you got the part of Mandy?”
Deborah: No, I didn’t watch TV at all.
“What was your audition like?”
Deborah: It was very scary, with Philip Capice, Leonard Katzman, and
Barbara Miller (the Casting Director) all there…
“How friendly were the cast when you started?”
Deborah: Very friendly, but it’s always scary to be the new kid in
school! But everyone was so nice, it was like a family.
“What was your very first scene on the show?”
Deborah: To be completely honest, I can’t remember!
“What was it like working with Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray?”
Deborah: It was wonderful! It was so much fun…
“What was it like filming the Oil Barons Ball and Rodeo scenes?”
Deborah: It was incredibly hot the day we shot the Rodeo scene – Dallas
in the summer! The Oil Barons Ball was the only time the entire cast was
together – you’d walk around and say, “Oh, are you part of the cast?”
“What was your favorite storyline on Dallas?”
Deborah: It’s hard to pick out a favorite, but one was where J.R. took
me to this fabulous condo, and Mandy’s exclaiming how beautiful it is. J.R.
says “This is yours, Mandy” and Mandy responds, “That’s wonderful, but I’m not
for sale!” and she throws the keys back at him! I loved that! (laughing)
“What was your least favorite storyline on Dallas?”
Deborah: For a part of one season, they had me constantly sniveling,
whimpering, and being generally weak. I hated that! Not a good role model for
“Were you disappointed when Mandy was written out of the show?”
Deborah: Heck, yeah! I was losing my work family…
“Were you aware of your popularity in Germany?”
Deborah: I was very aware of my popularity in Germany, and I’m still
popular there today. I shot that fun film with Thomas Gottschalk, and I really
enjoyed working with everyone there. One time I traveled over 3,000 km by car
on one trip – just a beautiful country…
“Have you visited the UK?”
Deborah: Yes, but I’ve never been to Buckingham Palace, so I have to go
“I think Christo's web site is a wonderful tribute to you, how did you hear
Deborah: Erik wrote me this great letter, so I checked out the site! I
was so moved and honored! I think he and Christo have done a wonderful job of
putting that site together, and I’m so grateful and appreciative! So I called
Erik up at home to thank him personally. Boy, was he ever surprised! (Laughing)
We ended up navigating through the site together over the phone…Erik, are you
Erik: Is it just me, or did it suddenly get very warm in here?
“What was it like to be a model?”
Deborah: It was hard work – I found it difficult to be animated in front
of a still camera, and it was hard to be that skinny! I just don’t have that
“Do you have any funny stories about the cast and behind the scenes on
Deborah: Well, as a matter of fact…(laughing)
On your birthday, practical jokes were the norm. You might get a barrel of
water dumped on your head during the 6:30 AM makeup session.
One time, I was in bed with Larry, doing a love scene, when this guy in a giant
purple gorilla suit jumped into bed with us! It was Peter Fonda – he’s one of
Larry’s closest friends…
But I got Larry back! We were shooting a scene where I was standing in front of
him in a robe, and as I dropped my robe, exposing my naked body (although I was
actually wearing a flesh-colored body stocking), the camera was supposed to pan
Larry’s smiling face. But when I dropped my robe, I was wearing a 9 months
pregnant belly prosthesis – and Larry, and the cast and crew, all broke-up
Phil Capice was backstage at the Miss USA competition of 1970, and picked me as
his choice for the winner – and 15 years later, he picked me for Dallas!
“Did you ever do any scenes with Barbara Bel Geddes, she's my favorite
Deborah: No I didn’t, but I did get to speak with her informally when
the Oil Barons Ball scenes were shot. A really great, wonderful woman…
“Did you ever hope that Mandy would marry JR, or did you think she will
always be the mistress?”
Deborah: I preferred her as the mistress! There’s more drama being the
mistress, where the characters are at odds…
Erik: Deborah, how do you feel about the negative comments directed at
yourself and other celebrities that are posted on websites and internet message
Deborah: Well, I guess it’s an inevitable part of being a celebrity –
sticks and stones and all of that. I couldn’t care less about what people I
don’t know say about me. But the pain behind it all makes me feel very sad: I
feel badly for people who are obviously missing something in their lives, such
that they feel the need to post those sorts of comments. You and I have
discussed some of these sites in the past, and you know I feel uncomfortable
having my name associated with that sort of negativity. It simply behooves me
to avoid situations like that.
I’m very happy with the level of discourse on the message board on our site. I
do feel that people should be able to express themselves freely, but there’s a
respectful and tactful way of doing that. To quote Thumper from Bambi: (high,
lisping voice) “If you can’t thay thumpthin’ nice, don’t thay nuthin’ at all.” (laughter)
Erik: That’s the first time I’ve ever heard Thumper quoted in that
Erik: A fan from Barcelona, Spain asks:
“I’ve always wanted to know if that scene at the mall from Season 9 (where
Mandy is followed by Sue Ellen’s incompetent detective) was a sort of tribute
to your movie Body Double (where a similar but hotter scene could be seen).”
Deborah: I really don’t know, but it’s an interesting thought…
Erik: An old friend from ODU, Mary Cutherell, hoped you’d remember her,
and sent you a message…
Deborah: Yes, I do remember her! It’s so nice to hear from you Mary –
thanks for the trip down memory lane!
Erik: Dino J Angelbuer had a couple of questions:
“What are your hobbies? What are your interests outside of showbiz?”
Deborah: I love to write, paint, take courses, do needlepoint, read,
ride horses, water ski, snow ski…I love to travel and see new places and learn
I like walking, running, hiking. Unfortunately, I also love to eat! I don’t
like cooking on a regular basis at all, but when I feel like it, I like to get
really creative in the kitchen.
I enjoy learning new things, decorating houses (especially with other people’s
money!), and helping people with their “look” which I develop based on their
winning characteristics, helping them feel better about themselves in the
Deborah: I have two cats: Shakespeare (“Shaky”), a male, and Ophelia
(“Fifi”), a female. We already mentioned Boo-Boo, my Mom’s Maltese – I’m always
dog-sitting him. I have a Beta (Japanese Fighting) fish named “Crazy Fish”
because he is! I also have a female cockatiel named Kona.
Erik: Roger & Rosie Bovard had these questions:
“During the Dallas episodes (and in certain pix) you wear a triangular
shaped diamond pendant that sits right at your neck.
Who makes it? How many carats?”
Deborah: I really don’t know who made it – I got it at the old jewelry
store in Beverly Hills. It actually has 6 diamonds in total – 3 small diamonds,
and 3 larger ones.
“Also, what exercises do you do to achieve such a great figure? What are
your diet secrets? How do you keep your beautiful mane looking so fabulous?
What do you use?”
Deborah: Thanks for the compliments! I like hiking and walking better
than running. I use exercises that keep me long and lean, combining Pilates,
yoga and cardio barre (which is like ballet). I rarely lift much weight
As far as my diet goes, I eat practically no starches, I keep my carbs in
check, and I eat relatively low fat. I eat organic food as much
For my hair, I try to use natural, good quality products that aren’t hard on
the hair. Occasionally, I use a really good conditioner. I also use olive oil,
mayonnaise, and avocado as natural conditioners from time to time. I find that
ever since I’ve lightened my hair, I have to spend more time on it – maybe I
should go back to my natural dark color as was suggested in the site poll!
Erik: A lot of posters basically implied “Lose the blonde!”
Erik: Jamie from Germany has several questions:
“What is your life outside of working like?”
Deborah: Very busy, very interesting and sometimes overwhelming – but
never a dull moment! I’m certainly never bored…
“What type of TV shows do you enjoy?”
Deborah: I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV, so I only watch shows
of special interest from time to time. I love 20/20, the discovery channel, and
“What is your real personality like? Are you anything like Mandy?”
Deborah: I’m very outgoing and a lot of fun, yet I can be shy around
large groups of people – I much prefer one-on-one. I’m also introspective,
overly philosophical, and very empathetic. I’m trying to elevate my personality
to properly reflect my higher self.
As an actress, you have to find yourself within a character, so I had to inject
my own personal qualities into Mandy. So I guess many of her characteristics
are also mine, but I’m certainly not manipulative like her, and I’m definitely
not a home wrecker! (laughing)
“What is your favorite childhood memory?”
Deborah: Going to the movies with my parents and eating popcorn! We had
big family gatherings, and I remember them fondly. Going to nature places…
“What inspired you to get into acting?”
Deborah: I was an only child, and I lived a lot in a fantasy world,
making up stories and acting them out, making up dances…I lived in my own world
“If you were not acting, what do you think you would be doing as a career?”
Deborah: I’ve always been interested in the medical field – at one time,
I was actually studying in preparation to be a doctor. I’m very interested in
nutrition and health in general. And of course, I’m passionate about writing…
Erik: Well, believe it or not, that’s it!
Deborah, on behalf of Deborah Shelton Online, and all of our members and
guests, we want to sincerely thank you for taking
the time to do this. It was really nice of you to give of yourself and your
time in this way.
Deborah: You’re very welcome! It was my pleasure, and I really appreciate
Let’s do this again some time…
Erik: Well, you know we’re going to hold you to that…