TNT’s return to Dallas has a whole new collection of salacious secrets, schemes and betrayals on the steamy nighttime soap. This time, JR (Larry Hagman), Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) are joined by the next generation of Ewings, who take ambition and deception to a whole new level.
At the show’s press day, actor Patrick Duffy spoke to Collider about reuniting with Larry Hagman and Linda Gray, why he felt this incarnation worked when so many others over the years haven’t (including an “awful” script for a film that was to star John Travolta), how easily and naturally Bobby Ewing came back to him, that he feels this is the perfect progression for the character, the luxury of having to do less on the show, and how much fun it is to get to act out the confrontations between Bobby and JR. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
PATRICK DUFFY: Yeah, the very first day. And then, for the entire season, it was consistent. I haven’t had a moment of regret, or even second-guessing my decision to come back on this show for a paragraph of any script or a minute of any day on the set or a second with any one of these other actors that are now on the show. Larry [Hagman], Linda [Gray] and I knew who we were and we’re best friends, and the fact that we’re working together is a gift. But, now there’s this whole new group of people that are as much a part of our inner circle of family. You don’t pinch yourself ‘cause you know you’re not dreaming, but you think, “How fortunate am I, as an actor, to work for 13 years with my best friends, and now get a chance to do it all over again and meet these other new people.” I hear such horror stories of some working situations where it’s miserable and I think, “I’ve had nothing but good luck.”
Is it strange to be there with some of the original cast, but then also have some new cast members?
DUFFY: It’s not weird. I think it would be weird, if I was looking at a character named Sue Ellen and there was a different actress playing that part. That would be strange. I don’t know if I could adjust to that. But, that wouldn’t have happened because we wouldn’t have done the show. The fact that all the new actors are playing new characters, except for Jesse Metcalfe and Josh Henderson’s characters who were babies, so I don’t expect them to be the same people and who knows if those young people are even actors today. These are all new people that we’re learning about, so there’s nothing weird about it, at all.
DUFFY: Sure! It wasn’t insane that people wanted to try it, but I have learned, over the years, that nobody knew how to do it. I read some of the scripts of the previous attempts, even ones that didn’t involve us, as actors. It was going to be a movie with John Travolta, and I read that script and it was awful. Whoever wrote it, sorry, but you just didn’t get it. I knew people wanted to do it and I understood why they wanted to do it. It was a great thing. But, I slowly convinced myself that it really couldn’t be done. Nobody knew how to get it from an idea onto the page and then onto the screen. The three of us just thought, “It will never happen.” And then, we got this script and we read it and I was 100% ready.
Was part of that the addition of the new characters, so that it had a fresh feel?
DUFFY: For me, it was just the opposite. It wasn’t the new characters, at all. It was that somebody, for the first time in 20 years, got the voices of the old characters and knew how to write to JR, Sue Ellen and Bobby. That’s what convinced me. The other characters are being invented. What [Cynthia Cidre] had to do was channel something. I don’t know how writers do it, but I swear she was getting feedback from the universe about who these characters were and why, and she could put it on paper. Nobody had been able to do that before. The new characters are inventions of her and she’s a brilliant writer, so she can invent things, wonderfully. But, there’s a big difference between invention and finding the inner voice of people that are already established.
Did this character come back to you really easily, or did you do anything to prepare to play him again?
DUFFY: It was scary that it was so easy. It was so natural. I even told my wife, after the first day of work, that it was literally like I had never stopped. It was like I had taken a normal three-month hiatus and then gone back to work. I put on the boots, the jeans and the shirt, and walked onto the driveway of Southfork ranch and thought, “This is absolutely normal.” It was wonderful.
Who is Bobby Ewing now?
DUFFY: Bobby Ewing is the perfect linear timeline extension for where that character would be, 20 years since you saw him last. We always knew that Bobby, as much as he ended up being quite good at business, really was a rancher at heart. He wanted to be at Southfork. He wanted to continue the legacy of Miss Ellie and Jock, in terms of the ranch. He no longer is married to Pam. He was single, so I didn’t know who I was going to be married to. In the pilot, he celebrates his 60th birthday, so I gained three years because I thought he was 63. He’s the patriarch of the Ewing family. He’s assumed the mantle of Jock and Miss Ellie ‘cause they’re not longer there. He’s the grounding influence of the Ewing family, and that is logically exactly where he would be. That’s really where his heart was.
What’s it like to see him deal with having cancer?
DUFFY: He’s 60 years old and he is given a dose of what all of us are given, as we age, which is our own mortality. I go for all my physical check-ups, inside and out. As you get older, you need more things tested, and sometimes when they’re tested, they say, “Well, here’s the problem that a 60-year-old has.” Bobby was been given a very life-changing prognosis in the pilot that triggers everything that happens for the rest of the decision. He made a decision, based on this medical problem he has, about what to do about the entire Southfork-Ewing legacy. Based on that decision, the season was launched and everybody then started doing what their characters do best. The audience has to come to grips with the fact that Bobby is no longer that 35-year-old or 40-year-old guy that we saw last, who was the mover and shaker. He’s now the patriarch.
DUFFY: I think it’s the luxury of doing less. The nice thing is that the audience remembers the full 13 years, and Cynthia [Cidre] has established a really good system of knowing what’s happened over the 20 years. I get to play Bobby Ewing and do so much less now because everybody knows who he is. He can just give a look and they read into that look. People have all my background history. With the young characters and new characters, nobody knows who they are. Cynthia hasn’t written that history yet. But with Bobby, we know his history. If we haven’t seen it, it’s been spoken about. So, the luxury is not having to work so hard. Although, I work harder now, as an actor, because I respect it more than I used to. But, playing this character allows me to do less because so much of it is history.
Because Dallas is known for its great fights and confrontations between the characters, do you have a favorite confrontation from this season?
DUFFY: The most fun I ever have is having a confrontation with Larry’s character. Being my best friend, the fact that we have to be at each others’ throats all the time is so much fun. When I’m looking in his eye, right behind the JR eye, I see the Larry eye, and the Larry eye is looking at me and making silly, goofy faces at me. I love that. That’s just the most fun, ever.
Dallas airs on Wednesday nights on TNT.