Celebrity Then And Now
Joan Van Ark
Name: Joan Van Ark
Birthdate: January 1, 1970
Famous Years: 1966-Present
Currently Known For: Semi-Retired Actress
Networth: $10 MillionFamous For: Dallas, Knots Landing, The Young and the Restless
Joan Van Ark
Name Joan Van Ark
Birthdate January 1, 1970
Famous Years 1966-Present
Currently Known For Semi-Retired Actress
Networth $10 Million
Famous For Dallas, Knots Landing, The Young and the Restless

There are certain shows that television wouldn’t have been the same without, and in the 1980s, one of those shows was “Knots Landing”. The series was a spin-off of the popular CBS hit “Dallas”, and each series starred Joan Van Ark playing the role of Valene Ewing, which was the role of a lifetime for the actress.

Van Ark had been born under the big lights of New York City on June 16, 1943, but was raised in the much more subdued area of Boulder, Colorado. When she was just a teenager, Van Ark had the chance to interview actress five-time Tony Award winner Julie Harris, who told the young Van Ark that she should pursue acting at Yale University.

Van Ark was very impressive as a student, and became one of the youngest students to ever receive a scholarship, and one of only a handful that made their way through the program without even having an undergraduate degree. The potential for Van Ark as an actor was astronomical, and she started out on stage, dazzling fans and critics alike to earn her first Tony nomination in 1971 for “The School of Wives”.

Television producers noticed Van Ark’s talent and knew that they had to get her in front of a camera. With that, she landed on multiple television series throughout the early 1970s which included “The Judge and Jake Wyler”, “Temperatures Rising” and “We’ve Got Each Other”. Then, her biggest role to date would come in 1978 when she played Valene Ewing on an episode of “Dallas”.

The character was supposed to last for just one episode, but Van Ark was so perfect in the role that she remained a series regular. Producers even gave the character her own spin-off series, and “Knots Landing” was born. Van Ark would hold down the role for more than a decade, lasting 344 total episodes and a big success in the ratings (even ahead of “Dallas”).

In 1992, it was announced that “Knots Landing” was coming to an end, and Van Ark was the one that really put a stop to it, not the producers. “I could stay forever on the show and be safe,” she said during the announcement. “But three years ago I did ‘Night of the Iguana’ in Williamstown (Mass.), and I had a quote from Tennessee Williams taped on my mirror, taken from an essay he’d written on success.”

She continued, “It said, and I’m paraphrasing here: ‘Security is in the shape of a kidney-shaped pool in Los Angeles, where you sit waiting for your residual checks.’ I was in a comfortable spot on ‘Knots,’ and an artist should not be comfortable.”

Van Ark had actually planned to leave the show two years prior, but said that she wanted to cancel the show during the off-season where there wouldn’t be as much “fanfare.” She had also planned to move ahead with a new show on NBC called “Spin Doctors”, but the show wouldn’t be picked up. Instead, the rest of the 1990s saw Van Ark appear in several guest role spots (such as “The Nanny” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) while also performing on stage.

In 2004, Van Ark landed on television once again as a regular, this time playing Gloria Abbott on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless”, but found that she didn’t enjoy it as much as her long running primetime series. Van Ark explained that the producers were taking her character in a direction that she didn’t want to go. “I’m spoiled because of ‘Knots Landing’ where I had the blessing and joy of collaboration,” she said.

“We all got to contribute and collaborate (on the script). In daytime, there’s no such thing. (The producers) are wonderful, but it’s more or less their way or the highway. I felt like a visitor. It’s a nice place to visit, but I didn’t want to live there.”

Since leaving the soap opera, Van Ark has returned to mainly appearing on shows in a guest role, including “Channels”, “My Name is Earl” and “Archer”. She even appeared as her famous Valene Ewing character on the 2013 “Dallas” revival, though her only acting appearance since then (outside of a video game voice acting credit) was in the 2017 TV movie “Psycho Wedding Crasher”.

Talking about her one-off return as Valene Ewing, Van Ark said that she had wished for more than just one episode, but that she was “honored to contribute in any way possible because it’s the diving board of my whole television career at least, although I have done a lot on Broadway and theater, I owe ‘Dallas’ everything I got and I was thrilled and honored even though I must say it’s minimal.”

Through it all, Van Ark has been married to John Marshall, a former television reporter in New York City, and the couple has been married for more than 50 years. In 1969, the couple had their only child, a daughter named Vanessa Marshall that went into modeling and acting herself. At 75 years old, Van Ark certainly doesn’t rule out returning to television once more, but she’s taking her time these days to make sure she finds the right role.