Everything old is new again. Therefore, it should
come as no real surprise that thirty years after the world was rapt
with speculation about "Who shot J.R.?" that Dallas is coming
That's right, TNT is returning to Southfork Ranch to
bring us the new adventures of those high-living and back-stabbing
Ewings. Dallas was the ultimate TV representation of the
"greed is good" decade: a glitzy world of powerful men, beautiful
women, big business, big aspirations, big emotions, big
double-crosses, big hats, big hair and big shoulder pads.
In case you spent the decade in a sensory
deprivation tank, Dallas was the story of the Ewing Brothers,
J.R. (Larry Hagman) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy) who tussled over their
family business and their family homestead. Accompanied by their
beauty queen wives Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and Pam (Victoria
Principal), the Ewing boys rode herd on the Texas business world and
broke quite a few laws and commandments in doing so.
The new Dallas has many of the original cast members
- Hagman, Duffy and Gray are all series regulars and other original
series cast members like Charlene Tilton, Ken Kercheval and Steve
Kanaly pop in periodically for cameos. Of the major characters,
only Principal is apparently not coming back, and that is because her character
was killed off in the later years of the original series.
Still, the character was dying in the original series, but never was
pronounced dead, so don't totally write off a surprise appearance.
However, the war for Southfork has been passed down
to the new generation of Ewings, John Ross (Josh Henderson) and
Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe). With their gorgeous significant others
(Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo) the cousins take up the tussle
for family and business supremacy.
We recently were lucky enough to speak on the phone
with four stars of the new Dallas - old hands Patrick Duffy
(Bobby Ewing) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen) as well as the young bucks
Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher) and Josh Henderson (John Ross). We even
had a cameo appearance by old J.R. himself, Larry Hagman, who stated
"I've been thrown out of better places than this," when Gray shooed
him away from the phone for interrupting the interview.
How do you feel that the new
series is different from the old one? And in what ways is it the
It took a diamond and polished it. What can I say? It's magic. It
was magic in 1978 and it's got a little 2012 fairy dust sprinkled on
it. It's just wonderful.
Josh Henderson: I like
Linda Gray: That was
a good answer.
Iíd say itís a more contemporary version of the original show. I
donít think weíve changed what made the original series great. The
show still centers around these major themes of family dynamics,
greed, loyalty, love and betrayal. Weíve just updated it. We made it
modern and definitely socially relevant to the times. In addition to
that, we added some new characters. Obviously, Christopher and John
Ross were established in the original series, but you get to see the
type of men that these two children have grown up to be. We also
introduced the character of Elena Ramos, who is one side of the love
triangle between me, Josh Henderson and Jordana [Brewster]. Sheís
the daughter of the Ewing housekeeper. She definitely wasnít a part
of the original series. Then we also have my fiancťe, Rebecca
Sutter, played by Julie Gonzalo. Itís a great marriage of the
original show and the original cast and some new cast members.
The difference also is - just technologically speaking - television
is done so differently now that if we tried to duplicate the
old-school Dallas I think it would be slow in appearance and
in substance for a modern audience. So with the technology that we
have with high def cameras and the new way of directing television,
[it] is so dynamic and so intense in terms of the pacing. The
scripts reflect that also. Theyíre much more condensed. We get maybe
four or five episodes of an old Dallas in one episode of the
new Dallas. All of these things I think contemporize the old
show, but we maintain the honor that [new series showrunners]
Cynthia Cidre and Mike Robin feel towards the show. That hasnít
changed. I think thatís what will impress old viewers as they look
at the new Dallas. Itís so much similar to what they were used to,
but itís done for a contemporary audience. We think we got the best
of both worlds, and weíre hoping that everybody out there is going
to agree with us. (laughs)
It's everything that made the original so great and so magnetizing
that people had to run back to the TV every week. They really did
well transcending that into the new generation of Dallas. For
me and the cast, our main goal is to satisfy the original fans of
the show, give them what they want, give them what they've been
missing for 21 years. Hopefully some of the younger generation can
bring in the younger people. I think as long as they give us a shot,
they'll truly, really enjoy the show. What's great about this one is
that you don't even have to have ever seen the original to really be
able to hop on board with these storylines. That's how good the show
is. My little sister is 21 in college. She knew of Dallas,
but obviously she was too young to have seen the original. She's
seen the first couple of episodes and she is just blown away and in
love with it. I think that we can really span generations. We just
want the fans to be satisfied. We really want them to be happy.
I think that when it first began, there were a lot of people that
didn't know quite what it was. Was it a nighttime soap opera? What
was it? I think that it was all about timing. I always go back to
that. In television historically, there's always been shows that
were perfectly timed. I Love Lucy was at a perfect time.
There were a lot of doctor shows, now there's a lot of reality
shows. I think that in 1978 it was a perfect time for something
bigger than life. People wanted to see something big, like oil -
like the movie Giant. They wanted to see people with money,
they wanted oil and big shoulder pads and cars and all that stuff.
They wanted to see family dynamics. The original fans were connected
to what happens when you have all that money and you have all these
problems. It's dysfunction at its' finest, so I think people were
initially drawn to all of that. They saw the business dealings of
J.R. Ewing, which attracted a lot of the men to the show, so they
thought, "Wow, look at this guy. He's a bad guy and we like him,"
right? That was confusing at first to people. It's like, "Wow, we
really like that guy. He's really doing all these ridiculous
things." Then they loved the way that he treated his wife, because
then they could feel sorry for Sue Ellen and then be beating up on
him. Then the intrigue started and it was all about the water cooler
- people were talking about it the next day. There was a groundswell
that happened and it just built and built and built so that it was
just a magnet so it attracted everybody. This is just a continuation
of all the people that had all of those things fulfilled. Again, to
me it's all about timing. It's another perfect time.
What was it like to hear the
news that they were recreating the show? And did you ever see it
coming back as a series?
Patrick Duffy: No, because
I didnít think that anybody knew how to do it as a series again. The
real brains and heart behind the show is our executive producer,
Leonard Katzman, and he died. [There were] All of these other
attempts to write scripts and to promote a movie or a television
show that fell so far short of what the original concept was. I
didnít think anybody had the ability anymore. Then Cynthia Cidre
wrote a script and it was submitted to Larry and Linda and myself.
It was phenomenal. The pilot script for the show had everything even
better than I would say half of the original Dallas scripts
that we got. So from the moment, the three of us read it we were
onboard. It was the first time I ever thought it was a possibility
of returning as a series. We filmed the pilot. I was sure that we
were going to series. I was sure we were going to do this show. Iím
still as optimistic that itís going to go for years and years,
because the quality of it is so satisfying, having done the show for
13 years to see how well it can be redone again in 2012. I would be
more than happy if this were my swan song.
Linda Gray: I've known
these crazy boys for 35 years. And it gets better and better and
better every year. We started out, we all had families and on the
show there were deaths and divorces, and births, and all kinds of
wonderful things that happen in normal families, but this was our
Dallas family. And now we're grandparents, all of us, and we are
about five years old, the three of us. So we hang out, we laugh, we
love, we're just connected at the hip and here to make this show
absolutely magical, and I think it is.
Was it like returning home in
Linda Gray: It was. I use
the word seamless, because it seemed as if we had shot this about a
month ago. Nothing was different. Dallas, the city had changed, and
grown and become more art conscious. They have a beautiful art
section. And everything about it is enhanced. So, you know, we're
just quite pleased about the way it all came about.
As younger actors did you know
about this show at the time? Were you familiar with the older one?
Josh Henderson: I was
yeah. I'm originally from Dallas, Texas. I was born there so it was
a very popular thing for my family. My memaw - my grandmother -
Dallas was her favorite show. She always said, "being from
Dallas, Texas you go to church and you watch Dallas." That's
what you do out there. So it was definitely something that I knew
of. I was a little too young to remember actual details of the show,
but I definitely knew of how big of a deal it was as a child.
What was it about the show that
really captured you and made you say I want to be apart of this
Jesse Metcalfe: It was the
writing. It was the pilot episode, that initial script that I read.
To be honest, and I think this probably speaks to our critics a bit,
I was a bit hesitant to even audition for the new Dallas,
because I wasnít sure remaking such an iconic show was a good idea.
With the wave of remakes and reboots of various different shows over
the past five years, itís really been a trend. Most of which werenít
very successful. I was definitely hesitant. But after reading that
pilot episode I was like, wow, this is really good story telling.
The characters are really well defined and complex. And I was like,
wow, I think I want to throw my hat in the ring. You know, Initially
I auditioned for the role of John Ross. There was some interest
there, but they ended up going with Josh Henderson, who I think is
perfect casting for the role. They came back to me for Christopher
and I was even more excited for that role. I think the thing that,
you know, really pushed it over the top for me was that Larry,
Patrick, and Linda were going to be a part of the new series, which
I think is completely necessary. I donít think weíve couldíve done
the new series without the original cast members. I mean, I know we
donít have all of them, but at least the big three, as we like to
You can tell that Larry Hagman
still has so much fun with the role of J.R. What's he like to work
with in that role?
Josh Henderson: Well for
me, when I found out that I was actually going to get to play his
son, [it was a] huge day for me in my life just because I know how
big of a deal the original was. I just couldn't imagine the amount
of fun that I was going to get to have playing John Ross - playing
ball with the great J.R.. He has this energy that just takes over a
room. It can be overwhelming and it made me step my game up. I had
to, to go toe-to-toe with him a little bit. At the end of the day I
am his son, so I knew that there was never going to be a dull moment
with him. And I can tell you, we go through a great journey in
Josh, your character seems to
have a lot of his daddy in him, as it were. On kind of a cross,
back-stabbing, and plans on top of plans, and -
Josh Henderson: There's a
lot of layers, huh?
Did you get any tips from Larry
on how to play more of the dastardly side of John Ross?
Josh Henderson: The first
thing he ever said to me when we were on set was, "Enjoy the ride."
He literally just said, "Have fun. Enjoy the ride." I mean, with
this show, Dallas does bring a whole new ride to your life
and I think what made the original so special was that Larry, Linda,
Patrick - the original cast - they truly had fun and they really
like each other. When that happens, you can trust your coworker or
the actor that you're with in the scene more, meaning that you can
go deeper with the characters to make a better TV show. So he really
just said, "Enjoy the ride," and they have embraced the new
generation unbelievably. They just made us feel so comfortable from
day one. I guess they had a lot of trust and faith in us as the new
generation. Us being so comfortable, them making it so comfortable
really helped the entire dynamic of the show and the character
relationships and everything else.
What are some of the storylines
that you can tease this season?
Linda Gray: Now it is the
perfect timing. I'm always about timing. I think Dallas
originally started at perfect timing in history, and how its now
perfect timing again when both Christopher and John Ross are
grown-ups. They each have their own values and their own focus on
where they want to go with their lives, and with whom. There's
obviously a rivalry, and this competition. There's all these
wonderful things that one would expect from the show. There's a love
triangle. So it takes all of the things that were with the original
show and it just kind of amps it up. There's a little cayenne pepper
thrown in here. So we're just taking what it was and amping it up a
little bit. A lot.
I was just wondering if Sue
Ellen might come in there maybe tip things a little bit or maybe
push John Ross on.
Josh Henderson: John Ross
is really trying. He's at a pivotal moment in his life where he's
trying to really make his presence known as a businessman. He only
knows one way to do business, and that's how he's seen his father do
business. It might not be in everyone's mind the best way, but in
his mind it's the only way, and he knows that it gets stuff done. In
his mind, he learned from the best. At the end of the day he doesn't
have a great relationship at this point with either of his parents.
He kind of feels like he's on his own. I know that he at some point
would love to be able to confide with his mother, but he just
doesn't really. He's not comfortable with that as of right now,
where he's at. He's really kind of trying to do things on his own
and put his foot down and put his footprint in this whole Ewing
legacy. He definitely is somewhat like his father and I know his
mother is now at the point where she's kind of trying to give him
some advice and hoping that he'll listen, I guess.
Sue Ellen seems to be a very
supportive character as well as when it comes to Elena helping to
try and help him find oil but then it seems she's interactive with
the other characters on too much of a whole yet and I was just
wondering, what might her role be as we go on in the series?
Linda Gray: She's got a
wonderful arc to the entire first season. I say first season because
I'm totally convinced that there'll be several more. So first
season, she has a wonderful arc. She starts off a little small in
the beginning and goes through the usual trying to be supportive to
her son. There's a lot of motherly guilt there. She's a very, very
powerful woman. She's a powerhouse this time. So it's an interesting
character for me to play because it's an entirely different Sue
Ellen. For an actor, that's the great part. You can play it for 13
years one way and then all of the sudden, we have a new woman who's
transformed and emerged into a really fully-blown woman and she's
very powerful. It's great to play that.
Iíve seen the first seven
episodes and Iíve been really impressed. Among those first seven do
you have a favorite scene that youíve done or favorite moment from
the first few episodes that you could each talk about?
Jesse Metcalfe: I probably
have a favorite moment from every episode. Itís really difficult for
me to pick just one scene. The fun thing about this show is that
itís a magnificent ensemble. Every single day you get to work with a
different actor. I love working with all these different actors on
the show for different reasons. But Iíd say, from the pilot episode,
my favorite scene would have to be the scene where Christopher
confronts Elena about possibly betraying him and about the email.
[And] Patrick and I have had a number of really strong scenes. I
donít know, what do you think, Patrick?
Patrick Duffy: Well itís
interesting to me, because several of my favorite scenes didnít make
it to the show. Thatís whatís interesting: that these scripts are so
compact and so intense. And every scene is so brilliantly done. You
finish filming and you think I canít wait to see that. And then itís
edited out. Because, you know, you just canít put everything in each
episode. It still exists somewhere; especially when it comes out on
a DVD there will be additional scenes as an ancillary side to the
DVD. So they will exist at some point. You have to as an actor let
that go. I had a scene with Jesse in a barn, which they only kept
the lead in scene to that. They eliminated it. And it was one of my
favorite ones of that episode. But over the years Iíve learned to
let those feelings go and just enjoy what I see. Most of my new
scenes that I have with my wife, with Brenda Strong, are really
satisfying, because that to me is the big test. To find someone who
would be the new Mrs. Bobby Ewing is a tough decision that casting
had to make. It was a tough role for somebody to accept and Brenda
is so good and I feel like when I watch us on camera anymore that
weíve been married for 20 years. Thereís just an ease that we have
with each other that makes those particular scenes very enjoyable
for me. And I like being a father. So every time I work with Jesse
itís another level of satisfaction.
Will you or any of the other
cast be at the TNT Upfronts Event in New York City in the next
couple of weeks?
Patrick Duffy: Everybody
short of the family dog is going to be in the TNT Upfronts.
Have you been able to take any
souvenirs, like your Stetsons on the hat from the show or anything
else that you're really going to remember from your time?
Josh Henderson: I
definitely took home my cowboy boots that I wore all season. I
became accustomed to those. For me it was just about coming back
home. I'm originally from Dallas, Texas. So I got to come back and
shoot the show that put this city on the map, which was just a huge
honor and a blessing for me. When it comes to memorabilia from the
show, I think the main thing I wanted to take were my boots. I
didn't want to take the hat, because I thought I would not travel
well with it and ruin it, so I left the hat there in Dallas.
How has Southfork changed over
Linda Gray: Well, it's
become a big business. I mean, every tourist who's ever come to
Texas wants to go to Southfork. I think it's their number two
tourist attraction. So it's very interesting to drive down that
driveway at Southfork, because it brought back so many memories - so
many years spent there. It's still small. People are always
surprised at how small it is. But then on film, they made it look so
big and expansive. You play the theme song and that's a character.
You look at Southfork - that's another character. Those were all the
characters that embraced the whole series. So they give you what you
had before and it's just a bit enhanced.
This show really has the
potential of hitting both audiences of the original and brand new
people who have never seen it before. What does it offer both sets
of people that you really want them to know now so that they tune in
on June 13th?
Patrick Duffy: Weíve been
approached over the years both to be in a show, or how do we feel
about redoing Dallas, or movie versions that didnít even
involve the original cast members and they all fell so far short of
even approaching the original show that I didnít think it was
possible to do. As Jesse said, once I saw the script, and Larry and
Linda saw the script and read it, we realized not only was it
possible but it could end up being better than the original -
because of the timely nature of how the scripts were written and
what we could do with technology now. So the three of us got onboard
and Iíve not been disappointed in a page, a paragraph, or anything
since the original pilot episode. So Iím onboard as long as they can
squeeze another year out of this old horse.
Linda Gray: I think that it
will bring our global audience to the new show. There'll be kind of
a lock on that one. What will bring them to the new part is that
they'll see the extended family. They'll see our children grown up.
They'll see their focus in life. They'll see which business they
have decided to go into. They'll see a love triangle. It's the
expansion of the original show. It still has the same family, but
the family has grown and it's expanded. There's still the same
rivalry and greed and all this craziness that went on in the first
series. It will continue, so I think that you're in for a great