DONNA J. PLESH
The People of
Old & New
TOP, From left: Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Brenda Strong.
BOTTOM, From left: Jesse Metcalfe, Josh Henderson.
"Dallas" revival mixes old
regulars with newcomers
By DONNA J. PLESH
Who says you cant go home again? If your names are Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, and your TV home for years was Dallas, well, welcome back.
The trio of stars from the 1978-1991 hit CBS nighttime soap are back in Dallas, the new series airing Wednesdays nights on TNT. Unlike CBS Hawaii 5-0, this is not a reboot, but, as the executive producers and cast say, a continuation of the original series.
Once again the ruthless rivalries between the oil and cattle-rich Ewing clan is gracing the small screen with--what else?--more scheming, secrets, love triangles and betrayals. With the Ewings of Southfork Ranch, some things never change, though 20-plus years have passed.
Along with the trio from the original series: Hagman as J.R. Ewing, Duffy as Bobby Ewing, and Gray as Sue Ellen, the second generation Ewings are represented by Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing, J.R.s son by ex-wife Sue-Ellen, and Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher, Bobbys adopted son. Jordana Brewster plays Elena Ramos, John Ross girlfriend, Julie Gonzalo is Rebecca Sutter, Christophers fiancee, and Brenda Strong is Ann, Bobbys wife. (Bobby's original wife, Pam Ewing, played by Victoria Prinicpal, died and so did April, his second wife, played by Sheree J. Wilson).
Lest you think this series just focuses on the new generation, think again. The original series threesome are major players in this continuation.
So far weve been in every episode, so unless Cynthia (Cidre) and Mike (Michael Robin, the executive producers) have plans that we dont know, said Duffy. Thats why we wanted to do the show--because were trying to tow the load as much as everybody else. The younger people have more stamina, and obviously, they have a function in the show. But were here and were in every episode, and were performing the functions as we did in the original 'Dallas.'
Executive Proudcer Cidre added, It was never the intent to use the big three as we call Larry, Linda and Patrick, as bait for the new show. It was really to integrate them fully with the new cast. And when you watch the show youll see that. There are occasional scenes where they may be separated, but theyre integrated in all scenes. Its not two separate storylines.
So, after 20 years, why did the big three decide to do the series again?
Work at 80. How many people do you know working at 80? And doing a job they love with the people he loves. Oh, yeah, Im a very lucky man, says Hagman, who says he is doing well after a cancer diagnosis last fall and subsequent treatment.
Gray also is pleased to be back working with her Dallas mates.
I think it is interesting because I was talking earlier about actors getting a chance to play a character that you played 20 years ago and continue that. I dont know many actors who get that luxury. And for us it was exciting because we love, love, love the show. We love each other. Were very, very close friends and so that was a lovely continuation of the momentum we started years ago, she says.
The times have changed in the decades since the original Dallas, but some things have not changed.
Says Hagman, I think you have to realize when Dallas was really hot, when it got going, we were in a major recession, and people couldnt go out and get a babysitter and have dinner and go to a movie. They couldnt afford it. So they had to stay in on Friday nights and watch something. And we were it and here we are again.
Producer Robin agrees with both stars, and adds: The script Cynthia wrote for the pilot just honored all of the intricate elements of what Dallas was in the past, and just basically weve dropped back in 20 years later. And a lot of the storytelling elements are very similar in terms of the way that you have this big, epic family conflict. The interpersonal dynamics and the interpersonal fights are in place, and weve tried to make sure that, as weve bought this forward and shes (Cynthia) freshened it with all these new faces that you see and also a different generation and watch the real generational fight within the family. Those are the things that people love. Those are the things that people expect to be in Dallas. We werent here to sort of take this [show] in some other whole new place. Its honoring the past. Its freshening it for now and I think making it really, really compelling with a remarkable group of actors.
Just who are the younger characters, what do they remember about the original Dallas and how do they feel about working with the big three?
Henderson was born in the fourth season of the original. Brewster and Gonzalo, were born in the cliffhanger Who Shot J.R. season, and Metcalfe was born the year the series premiered.
They [the big three], without a doubt, have set the tone for what the experience has been like on set. The three of them are amazing. I think Ive learned so much from all of them already as far as being very gracious actors, and just like having that kind of familial bond as far as the cast is concerned, says Metcalfe.
Henderson agrees. The history, it electrified the room and made me realize how amazing, how lucky I am to be a part of this. But its just they bring such a history and such, its just an iconic feeling in the room when youre working with them."
Brewster, who was born in Panama, says the original show had a huge impact on me. I think just the theme song is so iconic and being a part of something thats just a huge part of the culture is incredibly exciting.
Gonzalo, born and raised in Argentina, says her mother usually kicked her out of the room when Dallas was on-- in Spanish. It was a huge hit down there as well. I do remember the theme song clearly, and I do remember watching them [the actors] and they didnt speak English. Im honored to be part of such an iconic show that did spread through out the world, she says.
So really, did the big three ever think they would be back doing Dallas again in 2012?
I personally didnt. So this is the best thing that could happen in my career life, says Duffy.
I got a tear in my eye. Never let an opportunity go by, says Hagman.
And Gray? This is a secret, but the original show should have been a sitcom because I laughed every single day that we were on the set, the original set. And nothing has changed, nothing. Two of my dearest, dearest friends. Happy to be working with them again.
Besides the big three and the younger generation cast, Brenda Strong is another newcomer to the series, playing Bobbys wife. She is best remembered from the ABC
soaper Desperate Housewives, which in its early seasons also included Metcalfe and Henderson in the cast. Strong doesnt feel much of a connection between Housewives and Dallas.
I would say the only thing in common is the excellence in writing, and thats not to say the audiences wont love this show as much as they loved Desperate Housewives, but theyre very different shows. Our show [Dallas] is really pivotal around family drama and the relations and the epic themes of greed and betrayal. Desperate Housewives was very much set in a place. A lane, and it was not much family centric, she says.
The Dallas producers also plan to bring back some other original cast members in guest roles, including Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing) and Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs).
©2012 by Donna J. Plesh. The photos are courtesy of TNT. This column first posted June 11, 2012.
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