Interview extra

Patrick Duffy, DallasAugust 22, 2012

Patrick Duffy, Dallas

Oozing money, sex and glamour, Dallas had millions hooked as the drama unfolded against the backdrop of the oil industry’s wealthy elite. Patrick Duffy reprises his role as Bobby Ewing, who suffered a turbulent relationship with his brother JR (Larry Hagman) in the struggle for control of Ewing Oil, as Dallas returns after 21 years with a new generation of Ewings at Southfork…

What’s happened since we last saw the Ewings?
At the end of Dallas after the 13th year, we had lost Ewing Oil to Cliff Barnes. Pretty much that’s all we know. Bobby’s son Christopher is returning from Asia and his basic idea is to get into the energy business, but new energy, a forward looking greener situation. John Ross wants to be a better JR than JR was, so he wants to go back. He wants to drill oil and become a powerful oil man, so we have the next generation of the conflict that I had with JR. Although 20 years have passed, we’re the same people. How would Bobby mature, how would Christopher mature? I’m in charge of the ranch. It’s been left to me by mama. JR really has no place to be, because he doesn’t have Ewing Oil and he’s really upset that mama didn’t give him the ranch. So here we go, it’s Dallas again!

Have the Ewings got more cut-throat?
One half yes, one half no. Bobby has raised his son to be more compassionate. JR has ignored his son, so by virtue of that he’s become even more rabid in his insatiable desire to succeed. It’s amped up versions of Larry and myself.

On the original show you were married to Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal), but you have a new wife Ann, played by Brenda Strong, don’t you?
I thought about it before I met her and I thought that’s the hardest job to come into on the show, of all of them, to play Bobby Ewing’s wife. She has huge shoes to fill in terms of the function of her character. Her character is written perfectly. It’s not an imitation of Pamela. She’s such a good actress. I’m the happiest actor.

Ann was married before, as Bobby was obviously. We’re making it up as we go along because it hasn’t been written as a plot. We’ve figured out that we’ve been married somewhere between seven and 10 years. She’s come from a divorce. We have her ex-husband in the final episode.

DallasAre you using anything from the original Dallas set for the new version?
Not from the interiors. Exterior wise it’s exactly Southfork Ranch. The very same building, same outbuildings, barns. It was very weird going back. It was strange, yet so natural. It felt so normal to go to work on the first day on the ranch, like I’d never been gone. From almost the fourth year of the show, the original owners sold it and it became a tourist attraction, and it got built up. There are angles we can’t film now, because there is a big party barn, where they have huge social functions, but it’s a money-making tourist attraction. The interior is modernised and I think the viewing audience will feel comfortable even though it’s new.

Has anything else changed?
The major thing for me is the technology difference between us filming Dallas in the Eighties, and a camera the size of a water glass to film Dallas now. I did a scene in a helicopter and the guy took his regular Nikon camera, took out one thing, put in a HD film chip and we had 14 minutes of film out of his little camera. We used to have a massive camera, and the guy not being able to hold it, before.

What’s interesting is that we're filming in Texas, so it’s the wide open range. Now you can do a close-up of a person, but you still get the scope of the Texas landscape behind them. We could never do that before. That’s very exciting, and I think it’s something that’s not lost on the audience today. They expect it. If we were to do old Dallas now we would disappoint them.

Did you feel nervous going back?
No. But I felt a little nervous until the second day of shooting as to what the show would look like.

I directed 40 episodes of the original Dallas, and realised I couldn’t direct this new version. It’s a different style of directing. I will be able to in a year from now. I will have learned the new stuff that’s made the show what it is and what makes it relevant to the time, but when I stepped onto the set the first day, I couldn’t have directed it if you had put a gun to my head. That’s interesting to me. I will direct in the future, absolutely. I like doing it and I think it would be comfortable for the cast if I did.

So how has it been returning to Dallas?
I’m old Bobby now. Not good old Bobby, just old Bobby! It’s wonderful, oh my God, it’s so much fun to be on the show, and the reason, if you ask Larry Hagman or Linda Gray, is because we get to be together again. Larry, Linda and I have been best friends for 35 years. And we thought we would never work together again, and now we are, and it’s such a gift. We love each other more than family members love each other. I get to go to work now and play with my two best friends. Even my wife and I talk about it all the time. It’s as important a relationship as my marriage, in the sense that it’s indefinable.

Are there any old rituals that you’ve returned to?
Well, Larry, Linda and I quite interestingly enough are the same kind of professional actor. We’re never late to the set, we’re always the first ones there. And when they say we’re ready for rehearsal, we are already there. We always know our lines. No one is ever waiting on us. We just have the same ethic about how to work. The really refreshing thing is that the younger cast came with that ethic. We set a standard, but they didn’t have to measure up, they came prepared. That makes it a wonderful work environment. It's as enjoyable and professional as the original Dallas.

What is it like being the older cast members now?
We have the four Js as the dynamic, energy, seething testorone kind of thing, and we are the elder statesmen of the show. It's interesting for me from the viewpoint of having worked with Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes as Mom and Daddy, and now I’m the patriarch of the Ewing family. I sit at the head of the big dining room table, that only Jim Davis sat at, and now Bobby is the father figure, the person they go to for advice. It’s very poignant for me to first of all have lived this long in the profession and have that job, and it's very emotionally satisfying. The one thing I wish is that the producer of the original Dallas, Leonard Katzman, who was a father figure and a mentor of mine in the business in real life, was here to see this.

It must be great for the younger cast working with the original Dallas cast.
They have said, yes. And quite honestly they weren’t alive when the show premiered, so they’ve had to do their research and find out what it is, but they know the mythology. They know the history, and they’ve got, in my opinion, the most pivotal characters in the show on a daily basis. I would enjoy it if it were me in reverse. I would definitely be thrilled. It would be like me going to work on The Rockford Files and have James Garner walking in. I’d be thrilled.

Dallas ended in 1991, but do you still get recognised?
Dallas is still on the air. It’s a show that has never really gone away. Although my hair’s a different colour, and a few things like that, whenever I walk the streets, no matter where I go, a large percentage of the people go, ‘Oh Bobby.’ That’s who they recognise.

Channel 5, Wednesday
Marie-Anne Hamilton

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