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From Dallas to Knots Landing

Joan Van Ark, an actress best known for her role as Valene Ewing on the classic 1980s television series Dallas, rose to prominence. Her role in the spinoff series Knots Landing, however, cemented her status as a household name. At the age of 80, Van Ark is still alive and happily married to her high school love, with whom she has a daughter.

In a subsequent interview, Van Ark admitted responsibility for Knots Landing’s eventual demise. She admitted that, although appearing in a single episode in the show’s 2012 resurrection, her most notable achievements occurred during its original run.

Growing up, Van Ark’s family moved to Boulder, Colorado, and this change of scenery played a pivotal role in her later career.

From a young age, Van Ark knew she wanted to be an actor. Her determination was solidified when she was not invited to the high school prom by the football team’s quarterback. Her parents, although unfamiliar with the film industry themselves, supported her aspirations and helped her along the way. Over the course of more than 50 years, Van Ark has enjoyed a distinguished acting career, gracing both film and television screens.

Van Ark’s acting career began when she was cast as the flower girl in a play after being passed over for another role. She enjoyed the experience and decided to take acting seriously. Soon, acting became an essential aspect of her life and passion.

Following a performance in Denver, Van Ark met acclaimed actress Julie Harris, who encouraged her to pursue additional acting studies. Van Ark was only the second woman to enroll in the elite Yale Theatre School and the youngest student to obtain a scholarship there.

Reflecting on those early days, Van Ark shared, “My parents took me to meet the dean in New Haven, Connecticut, after I wrote to him. He gave me a scholarship offer, which was predestined.”

Van Ark made her acting debut in 1963, playing The Miser at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. After a year at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., she traveled south to join the national touring troupe Barefoot in the Park. Van Ark made her Broadway debut and received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in The School for Wives in 1971. She has made cameo appearances on popular television episodes such as Temperature’s Rising, Spider-Woman, Days of Our Lives, and a noteworthy episode of Bonanza.

As the 1980s came, Joan Van Ark was still searching for her breakout role. In 1978, she had many guest appearances as Valene Ewing on Dallas, which led to her casting on Knots Landing.