I recently spoke to Patrick Duffy about Man from Atlantis, the short-lived NBC TV series that’s being released via the Warner Bros. Archives collection. Though the sci-fi show didn’t last very long, it served as a springboard for the rest of Duffy’s impressive television career.
When we were done with Atlantis, I couldn’t help asking him about the classic primetime drama as well as the new Dallas series that TNT has ordered for the summer of 2012. Duffy will once again be playing good-guy Bobby Ewing, right alongside Larry Hagman’s J.R. and Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen. The preview footage and photos have generated a lot of excitement with fans of the original TV series and new viewers as well.
So, though Man from Atlantis wasn’t a successful TV series, the cancellation certainly didn’t hurt your career. You went directly into Dallas, correct?
Patrick Duffy: I was out of work — officially out of work — for seven days. I went straight from Man From Atlantis to Dallas. It came directly out of it because the producer of Dallas was producing a science fiction show of his own next door to ours at MGM when I was doing Man From Atlantis. That’s how he got to know me. And when he became the producer of Dallas and was developing it, he just called and said to my agent, and then eventually to me, “Here’s this part of Bobby Ewing, it’s yours.” I never auditioned for Dallas.
That’s amazing, especially considering that this was still very early in your career.
Duffy: Untested. But, this guy was an old television producer of the heydays of television. He actually spoke to my crew first before he ever approached me and asked, “What kind of a guy is he? What’s his work ethic? How much trouble is he?” You know, all of those questions. He went to my crew and, based on what they said, he had the confidence to say, “This part’s yours if you want it.”
And now, you’re back playing Bobby in a new Dallas series. Did you ever imagine that you’d play him again?
Duffy: I actually did not think I would be playing Bobby Ewing again. And over the years, more and more, I thought I’d never do it again. Over the years, scripts were presented and people would say, “Aw, we should do this again.” A script would be written and we would look at it and it would be atrocious. And then, the film was gonna be done without the cast, but with John Travolta and Shirley MacLaine and all these people. And I read that script because it was snuck to me, and it was awful.
And so, we literally thought we’d never do it again. And a woman named Cynthia Cidre, the most brilliant Dallas writer ever, which will be obvious when you see it, wrote a pilot script. And I read it, Larry read it, Linda read it, and it was fantastic. That’s why we’re here.
It looks like it turned out really well.
Duffy: It did. We went to the screening last night. The cast saw the pilot for the first time last night. It’s very exciting, I must say. It’s so exciting.
I haven’t seen the pilot but, from what I’ve seen in the preview footage, it looks like the perfect way to bring Dallas back — carrying on with the next generation but not forgetting the previous one. And the production values look outstanding as well.
Duffy: Well Trevor, you said exactly everything I would have said had you asked me the question. I’m serious. You saw exactly what I saw. All those things you just said, and the quality of acting of this group of young actors that are playing family members, castmembers, Ewing clan are going to help carry this show. I mean it’s just the perfect marriage of everything.
I know you’re in the pilot but, do you know to what extent you’ll be involved beyond that?
Duffy: Oh, Larry [Hagman], Linda [Gray], and I are committed for all of the episodes.
That’s great. And again, it seems like a really solid way to approach this new series.
Duffy: Yup. And it’s of necessity too. They’re smart enough to realize that what made Dallas successful, among many other things, was the fact that it’s a family drama. In other words, the family is always involved in the drama. You don’t need a ton of outside characters all the time. You don’t need, you know, the weekly villain or the weekly good guy, or the love interest. It’s all about family. So, you know, and they’re all Ewings.
Very complex characters with long histories.
Duffy: Exactly. So they have to have Bobby and Sue Ellen and J.R., along with Christopher, John Ross and the love interests that they have — and it’s Dallas the way you remember it, done in 2012.
Do you feel like Bobby has changed much since we last saw him in the War of the Ewings reunion movie?
Duffy: Well, he’s the patriarch now of the Ewing family, at the ranch. So he’s a combination of Jock and Miss Ellie. J.R. is not at the ranch. He’s elsewhere and Bobby performs that function. So, he’s matured twenty years since we saw him. And that’s the reality. We’ve all matured twenty years since last you saw us, and we just take up the family drama 20 years later.
Now, we know that Brenda Strong is playing Bobby’s current wife. Do you think that there’s any possibility that they might try to bring Pam (Victoria Principal) back since we never actually saw her die in the original series?
Duffy: I think the producers implied that she died, and unless there’s another shower scene — which I don’t know if we could pull of twice — I don’t think that character’s gonna return.
I have to ask you about the famous shower scene. I thought it was an ingenious and risky way to get you back on the series. Did you have any concerns when the idea was presented to you?
Duffy: Um, no, I didn’t. Because my wife thought it was a brilliant idea and because it was explained to me — both by my wife, and the producer when he told me about it — that it’s the only way that we could maintain the integrity of the character of Bobby and continue the show the way that Dallas was supposed to be. And so, I had no problem with it at all.
And the reason I probably had less of a problem with it was that I wasn’t there for a year. I had nothing invested in that year, you know, storylines, etc. Larry was not happy with the way the plots were going that year that I was off the show. He didn’t like the whole way that the tone of the show was starting to change, and that was because the producer, Leonard Katzman, was also off that year. And Lennie came back first, and it’s because of Lennie and Larry wanting me back that the whole ball got rolling to bring Bobby back, and then, “How do we do this and get rid of everything?” It was the perfect storm. Let’s just do a shower, it was a dream, and let’s do Dallas again.
Did you get kidded about it?
Duffy: No, that much and even if some fans were upset with it, the ratings went up. That means that essentially nobody left and a lot of people came back.
What do you think? Are you excited about the new Dallas? Would you like to see Pam return somehow?
Image courtesy TNT.