"She was my hero. And these two episodes are the 'diamonds of Dallas,'" Principal told PEOPLE of late costar Barbara Bel Geddes, whose life events inspired the 'Mastectomy' episodes
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the 73-year-old actress, who played Pamela Ewing on the series, shared which episode of the beloved soap opera was her favorite.
“I continued to love working on Dallas for many years, but a special episode stands out in my heart: ‘Mastectomy,’ a two part episode,” she said, recalling working with her late costar Barbara Bel Geddes and the special bond they nurtured on the show.
Noting how their relationship included squeezing “cheeks” and adoring pet names like “little monkey face,” Principal revealed that Geddes had shared “deeply personal elements of her life” including the death of her husband and a double mastectomy following her breast cancer diagnosis.
“I first read the script for 'Mastectomy' and my response was fury,” she explained. “I mistakenly thought the producers and writers had plundered Barbara's personal story. I went to Barbara about it and she assured me that she was part of the decision and had even participated in certain aspects of the story and writing.”
Principal continued, “Her bravery and willingness to publicly shed light on a subject, that at the time, lived in the shadows, was an act of courage that gave me greater insight into Barbara's strength of character.”
“She was my hero,” she added. “And these two episodes are the ‘diamonds of Dallas.’ And that is why she won that Emmy!”
Bel Geddes, who played matriarch Miss Ellie Ewing on the seminal soap, died in August 2005 from lung cancer. She was 82.
During her interview with PEOPLE, Principal also shared how she “always believed that Dallas would be a hit” though the series began as a “slow build.”
“The a-ha moment for me occurred in early 1980,” she said of when she realized its impact. “It was my day off on a Saturday morning and I had decided to drive to Fox Hills Mall for a furniture sale, specifically a new sofa for my den. I drove to Fox Hills and arrived at the furniture store.”
The actress recalled how the “situation rapidly became unmanageable when people began crowding inside the store once she was spotted."
“The quick-thinking store manager locked both of us inside of his office and called the police,” she said. “They arrived, dispersed the crowd and escorted me to my car. Everyone in the crowd had shouted for an autograph and addressed me as ‘Pam’."
“The policeman also requested autographs and shared their enthusiasm for the show,” she added. “I drove home with a new, profound awareness of the popularity of Dallas and the recognizability of its characters — and without that new sofa!”
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All 13 original seasons of Dallas can be streamed on Amazon Freevee.
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