Recognize her? Better sit before you learn her true identity…

Actress Joan Van Ark has had a long and very successful career in Hollywood but it is her role of Valene Ewing on the primetime soap opera Knots Landing that helped her made a name for herself and cement her place in the film industry.

Born on June 16, 1943, in New York City, New York, to parents who were not in any way related to television, Joan always knew she belonged in Hollywood. She started performing when she was still very young and during a performance in Denver she met the person who would influence her life and career a great deal, actress Julie Harris. It was Harris who persuaded Joan to attend the well-respected Yale Drama School. She even helped her get a scholarship, making Joan the second woman to enroll into the school at the time.

“She [Harris] wrote to the dean and asked him to meet me. Long story short, my parents drove me to New Haven, Connecticut, to meet the dean, who gave me a scholarship,” Joan recalled.” It was meant to be.”

After being part of the theater for some years, Joan turned to television. She appeared on television series including Temperature’s RisingSpider-Woman, and Days of Our Lives and even in one episode of Bonanza. Then, in 1978, she made several appearances as Valene Ewing on Dallas, which later turned into the most significant role she has ever played. As Dallas became a huge hit, the network decided to film its spin-off Knots Landing in which Joan reprised her role of Valene Ewing. In fact, Knots Landing was written before Dallas, but as producers needed to decided which show to work on they chose Dallas because they wanted a “big rich family” show. Joan was a leading character for 13 seasons in Knots Landing and it was her husband who persuaded her to accept the role. At the time she was offered to be part of the series, Joan was already working on two other projects.

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