As a young woman, Audrey Landers led a double life. During the school year, she studied psychology as a premed student at Columbia University’s Barnard College. But on school breaks, she guest-starred on many of the ’70s biggest TV shows, including Happy Days, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and The Dukes of Hazzard. It wasn’t long before Audrey found a home of her own on the nighttime drama Dallas, where she played the part of Afton Cooper for eight years.
In 2013, she reprised Afton for TNT’s Dallas reboot. “It was just a wonderful warm reunion, like slipping into an old pair of shoes,” Audrey, 65, tells Closer. “Afton has had such a great arc and basically grew up on the show. They had an idea of her daughter marrying J.R.’s son, which was just so clever.”
Audrey recently appeared in Viral Vignettes, a collection of comedy shorts with an all-star cast. Born out of the pandemic, the series raised money for the Actors Fund of America, which supports performing arts professionals in need.
How did you first get interested in acting?
“When I was about 3, my mother did a commercial. She brought me along, and I remember that I loved being on the set with her. It was just very exciting. It was something I always gravitated to after that.”
You were just 9 when you were cast in the daytime drama The Secret Storm.
“Yes, I am truly an antique! But it was very exciting. They wrote her eventually as a young girl who sang and played guitar.”
Is that how you began performing music?
“I actually started writing songs earlier. Like many young kids do, I was writing poetry full of angst. So [on The Secret Storm] I took one of my poems, learned three chords on the guitar, and that was my first song. It went over so well that it continued on the show.”
You also performed music on Dallas.
“It was the same story. Afton was initially only written in for two episodes, so I had a lot of good fortune to play her for eight years. She was not originally intended to be a singer. But ultimately, she became a singer who sang all the songs I wrote on the series.”
Your sister, actress Judy Landers, also became well known around the same time. Who began acting first?
“Judy followed in my footsteps. As a child, it wasn’t her interest. But once she wanted to do it, I took her under my wing and helped her get an agent. It was a fun and interesting time for us.”
In 1985, you co-starred in the big screen version of A Chorus Line. Was it hard to do those dance numbers?
“Yes. I was not a lifelong trained dancer. [Director] Sir Richard Attenborough told me, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get you a dance double.’ And I went, ‘What? I’m doing the quintessential dance movie, I’m not going to be doubled.’ I had a private coach at the rehearsal hall from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. And I worked with the cast from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And then I had the private coach again from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. I’m very, very proud of that whole experience and that I was not doubled.”
What else are you proud of?
“Well, there is no question that the best part of my life now is my children. They are caring, loving, brilliant and supportive. We are very close, and I feel really blessed that we have this incredible relationship.”
Were you together through the pandemic?
“Yes, for most of the pandemic we quarantined together in our Florida home. I’m so grateful for that time because it would not have happened otherwise with adult children at this stage in their lives. But we cooked together, worked out together and, as corny as it sounds, we played board games together.”
Did either of your sons follow you into show business?
“Daniel did. My boys are twins — opposite twins. Daniel has showbiz running through every pore in his body. Adam was exposed to all the same experiences, but he didn’t take a liking to it at all. He is very successful in the world of strategy and marketing.”
You’ve been married to their father, Donald Berkowitz, since 1988. What is your secret to a long marriage?
“We’ve had a long-distance relationship from the time we met in 1983. It helps to have a relationship built on trust, humor and love. We try to spend as much time as we can together, but it’s not for everyone. When I speak to my kids about relationships, I say, ‘Please don’t follow in your parents’ footsteps.’ It’s worked for us, but it’s not something I would recommend as a lifestyle.”
What is your secret for looking so good?
“That’s nice of you to say. I think it’s a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude that counts most. I’m a vegetarian and have been for most of my life. I don’t kill myself working out, but I try to stay active.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
“I would tell her to stop being so insecure. Embrace the body and face you have. Embrace the opportunities and the people that love you and that you love. But it’s so hard. You know the saying ‘Youth is wasted on the young?’ It does have meaning now that I am older. I was insecure about the silliest things that are so insignificant when I look back.”
Do you think young women have it better today?
“I would say 90 percent of what we [regard as beautiful] is still unrealistic for us to achieve. But at least we have people in our court now telling us that we’re OK the way we are.”
How did you get involved with Viral Vignettes?
“Producer David Levin came up with the concept to do these short films via Zoom, since nobody was able to travel at the time. They evolved into a creative outlet for so many of us. I think that their goal now is to combine them into a feature. It’s a really fun commentary on the times we are living in, which will hopefully become another little pop culture blip someday.”