Patrick Duffy talks the return of Bobby Ewing on Dallas Series Premiere
The long running hit series Dallas returns on TNT this Wednesday, June 13th, for ten all-new episodes of thrilling drama and intrigue, starting with Episode 1.01: Changing of the Guard. We're celebrating the re-launch of this iconic and groundbreaking Prime Time soap with a series of interviews featuring the cast.
Second in our series, we speak with Patrick Duffy, who returns as legendary TV character Bobby Ewing, the role that made him famous.
Here is our conversation, where we chat about the old show vs. the new show, advancements in technology, and the likelihood that he will ever appear on Portlandia.
Did I overhear you say you are an Oregonian?
Patrick Duffy: Yes!
Do Fred and Carrie know this? Are you going to be on Portlandia when it returns for Season 3?
Patrick Duffy: Who? What? I don't know who that is, or what that is...
You live in Oregon and you haven't experienced Portlandia yet? You certainly need to!
Patrick Duffy: Is that a TV show?
Yes. And all of the most famous Oregonians have been on there. We need to get the word out. Patrick Duffy needs to be in Season 3!
Patrick Duffy: I have never even heard of that. I guess I am not a very good student of my own industry. That is not a good thing! Look, I was born in Montana. I lived 14 years in Seattle. I am a University of Washington grad. And I bought my ranch in Oregon in 1990. And that is where I have lived for the past twenty years. I love Portland. I like it way better than Seattle. To me, it's the perfect city.
That's exactly what the show is about. It embraces that particular love.
Patrick Duffy: Is it on a cable channel?
It's on IFC.
Patrick Duffy: I'll remember Portlandia. I'll just Google it, find it, and put it on my DVR. I'll watch it, and then I am going to call them up, and ask them why they've never asked me to come to work!
Maybe they don't know about your love for the city.
Patrick Duffy: They should! Those bastards!
I've heard a couple of different things from different people. Some of your cast mates think this new show moves a little too fast. Some think that an entire season of the original Dallas could fit into just one episode of this 2012 version. What is your take on that?
Patrick Duffy: In terms of plot? There is at least four or five episodes worth of old Dallas plot in just one episode of this new show. It's because of the compressed way that they shoot it. There are no empty spaces at all, in the show. You can't anticipate the old school method of shooting a show like Dallas. Which was made up of long, lingering master shots. Long, slow fade-ins at the end of every scene. That is valuable time. That is probably five to eight minutes of valuable airtime spent on the ambiance of old school television making. Now its so fast paced, they cram the subject matter so densely, I think, honestly, there are four to five episodes worth of plot in one new episode. Not a whole season. That is a bit facetious. But there are five or six episodes worth of subject matter that we cover.
So many shows have been influenced over the years by what the original Dallas brought to television. Is this faster pace the thing these shows have given back to Dallas. Is this the payback?
Patrick Duffy: Of course it is! The whole method of shooting television nowadays is akin to the viewership that watches that kind of stuff. It's a young audience that has grown up with this ever-increasing pace of the attention span. When you are holding that remote, which is not something we did in the old days...If you get bored, you are going somewhere else...And they know that!
My grandpa had a remote TV during the first run of the original Dallas. It sounded like you were pushing out condensed air...
Patrick Duffy: The clicker. That's what we would call those! The original remote controls, the ones that were around before Dallas...My parents got one of these remote controls...It had an air compressor inside of it, and you would press it down. It made that, "Phhhssssshhhhtttttt!!!" Noise.
Yes! That is what I am talking about...
Patrick Duffy: It was that sound that changed the channel on your set. But you only had four channels back then...Or three...Now a days, people are always holding that remote. During the commercials, they go to something else. Then they come back, if they are still interested. We have to keep their interest. So, television does that across the board now.
There is a real, unique artistry to the old show. Do you think that is lost forever?
Patrick Duffy: No. But now, what it does...It's used very judiciously. It really points up something. We used it as a standard...As a STANDARD! It was our scene shooting. Ever scene was that standard. Now, I would say that in every new episode of Dallas, there is only one moment that stands out as a dramatic moment. Because all of a sudden the pace just stops for a minute. And it's a deadening hesitation in the intensity of the show just for a second. And it really performs a function. If you did a whole show like that, you wouldn't get that at all. It's just a different era for filming. It's been twenty years since we were cancelled. Dallas was in that last period of old school television filming from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It's a new game now. I watch the cameras and the direction, and the whole way they are shooting these ten new episodes...And I directed thirty episodes of the original...I could no more assume I could direct an episode of the new Dallas now than I could in one year. I would like to try again maybe after one more year. Maybe I can dip my hand back in it. I just don't think it's in my comfort zone to attempt to direct one of these yet.
What about writing?
Patrick Duffy: I'm not a writer. Not in television. Not in that whole construct of writing something like this. I am good at re-writing, in the sense of perceiving something that doesn't quite work. Faced with a sheet of blank paper, I would go to bed with that same sheet of blank paper in front of me.
After having lived with the character of Bobby Ewing for so long, is there anything new to learn about him from some of the new writers that have been brought in?
Patrick Duffy: I don't think there is so much new. Other than learning patience, I don't know how much new I've learned about myself in the past ten or fifteen years, as opposed to just living the past ten or fifteen years. It's like watching your children grow up. If someone saw me fifteen years ago, and then went away, then they came back yesterday...They could list a whole bunch of things that they notice different about me. But I don't see it. So, I don't perceive that in the character of Bobby. It felt very seamless to come back as that character, as a sixty year old man.
Is it hard to find that guy? Or did you live with him long enough that he is always there at the surface?
Patrick Duffy: I think it is the later. When I created Bobby in the first place, it wasn't so far removed from me. I wasn't inventing something, like Larry Hagman did with the character of J.R. Who is so not who Haggy is as a person. For me to play Bobby? It was basically Patrick Duffy in boots. With a few billion dollars. Which wasn't a big stretch as a character development type thing. Now, it's not a big stretch to come back. I am sixty-three. Bobby is sixty. I don't know how that works. But, it's normal for me to play this character. And eerily easy.
No show has ever come close to living up to the cliffhangers and twists that you guys pulled off during your original run. Is there any pressure to repeat that?
Patrick Duffy: No. What there is...Cliffhanger might not be the right word...But there is a jaw-dropping surprise in every episode. Almost every episode ends with, "Oh my God, what?" Then you wait for the next episode to see the continuation of that revelation. What they are not going to try and do is out do anything we did in the past. They are not going to try, "What can we do that is better than 'Who Shot J.R.?'" That's not the kind of show they want to do. But the concept of the surprise and the cliffhanger? Oh, yeah! That is part of the fun! The fun is waiting to open the present on Christmas, even though it is under the tree for seven days. You could go over there and open it. It's your house, your wrapping, and you probably bought it...But you wait! Because that is part of the fun! I don't think you can ever top 'Who Shot J.R.?' You can't beat it. The whole thing, it can't be done. It would be a fool's mission to try. And it would be the biggest failure if you tried to do it, and it didn't measure up. So, don't set yourself up for that kind of thing!