Dallas is bringing the drama back to fans this season, and TV Equals was happy to be able to talk to Patrick Duffy about this season, particularly how the show will handle the death of Larry Hagman, who played the deliciously evil J.R. Ewing. Dallas will be back on TNT Monday, January 28 at 9/8c.
Everybody’s excited for the return of Dallas. What’s it been like returning to one of your most famous roles?
Patrick Duffy: It’s very interesting because not many actors get to play the same role, the same character, as he ages 30 years. Actors will pay Hamlet, but they’re always playing that 20-year-old prince. To play Bobby Ewing initially at 30 years old now at 63 is an interesting job because you get to decide how he’s going to age, who he’s going to be, what kind of person did a 30-year-old end up being, and those are kind of fun things to play around with and Larry, Linda [Gray] and I have all gotten to to that, which is terrific. I’m enjoying it immensely, and the producers, the creators of the show–Cynthia Cidre and David Jacobs–have got a real finger on the pulse of how to make those characters age appropriately. So I’m having a great time, an absolutely great time.
Great. How do you think Bobby has aged over the years?
Patrick Duffy: It’s interesting. I think Bobby has an immense amount of patience now. I think, if anything, I think that’s what we learn as we age anyhow. That’s certainly what I’ve learned, [and] it’s reflected in Bobby. I used to be the firebrand, passionate, flag-waving crusading member of the Ewing family and that mantle now falls on Christopher [Jesse Metcalfe], who is basically my age when I was doing the originals. Bobby has become the patriarch. He’s become wiser…I think patience leads to all of that. He looks at the broad picture more often than not. He doesn’t get caught up in the angst and anger of the moment and that’s kind of where I am as ahuman being now…It only comes with age, I think.
Of course, after the first season, there was the unexpected death of Larry Hagman, and I send my condolences. I read that to deal with Hagman’s death, there was going to be another “Who Said J.R.” type of thing. What do you think about the decision to go that route?
Patrick Duffy: Well, first of all, I think Larry would have appeared 100 percent. If he could have orchestrated the rest of the season prior to his death, he would’ve figured out something like that. He would have wanted himself–a character of himself–talked about not only through this season, but through subsequent seasons. And the necessary way to that [is] not necessary “Who Shot J.R.”–the producers have been very clever about not trying to relive past glories–but to use the circumstances, however disconcerting they were at the moment, to augment the show, to make a better version of Dallas than we could possibly do…and we succeeded in passing our expectations…[W]e’re not going to pretend he’s not dead, we’re not to going to have him just disappear into the mist, into the miasma; we’re going to do what is honorable. We’re going to show the character of J.R. and how we do that and how dramatically we dramatically make it work for the show is something that Larry would not only approve of, but would insist on. I like it. I like it because I know Larry would insist on it.
How do you think the change will advance the drama?
Patrick Duffy: …[M]y goodness, the show moves so quickly and there’s so much drama and we get so much in a one-hour episode. This was a bit of a curve that was thrown at the production side of the show because they had the entire season already mapped out and, of course, it included Larry’s character. Without that character, they had to retool it to a certain extent, but it’ll go forward…The show had a life and a pace and a direction. That will continue. We just had to incorporate…the new circumstances. We’re not changing the whole thrust of the show to reflect J.R.’s death, but we’re certainly going to recognize that as a reality and then incorporate it into the existing storylines as best they can.
Why do you think this show has endured the way it has, from the ’80s until now?
Patrick Duffy: I get asked that question and I keep trying to figure out a better answer and I can’t come up with one, other than to say nobody really knows because if they really knew why, there would be many more of those shows out there and Dallas was just a remarkably unique, timely drama that not only was [popular] here in the United States, but somehow translated into every language, every culture. I’m not sure why. But those anomalies do happen and they become a part of history. We are now part of television history and the wonderful thing is that those fans never went away. When the Dallas show came back, they were waiting for it. They weren’t coming back, they were sitting there waiting for the train to pull up and 20 years later, here we are and they just settled right back in…I haven’t heard a complaint yet from an old Dallas fan as to what the show’s like, how it moves, who’s new on it, what the storylines are. They seem to be perfectly satisfied that they are now watching their favorite old show again. And we’re bringing a lot of new young viewers because of the brilliant new cast that we have.
If you could guest star on any other television show, which one would it be?
Patrick Duffy: That’s an interesting question…I’m not sure. I’d loved to have had a running part on the original Two and a Half Men just because I love doing situation comedy. I thought the original casting in that show was brilliant, the writing was brilliant. My wife and I watched every single episode of that up until Charlie left…Give me a four-episode on the Two an a Half Men, the old version, and I would have been happy.