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Jesse Metcalfe Shares Inside Stories from the New Dallas on TNT

Jesse Metcalfe
Jesse Metcalfe
Jesse Metcalfe stars in the new TNT drama, Dallas, a 2012 reboot of the iconic 1980s primetime soap that captured television audiences by the tens of millions with its portrayal of the wealthy Ewing family living on Dallas’s palatial Soutfork Ranch. A bitter rivalry between brothers J.R. and Bobby Ewing propelled an unending saga of business wrangling, infidelity and backstabbing among a family of oil tycoons living on a daily diet of excess and betrayal. Originally broadcast on the CBS Network from 1978 through 1991, the TNT network has elected to continue the Ewing legacy for a 21st century audience. Premiering on June 13, the new Dallas offers up a healthy dose of double-dealing action and focuses on the next generation of Ewing cousins.

If you watched the original series which dominated the 1980s television landscape, it’s almost certain that during the course of the series, you wondered how the offspring of J.R. and Bobby Ewing would turn out. In this new Dallas series, Jesse Metcalfe and Josh Henderson play first cousins Christopher Ewing and John Ross Ewing. Christopher is the well-intentioned, big- hearted son of Bobby Ewing, while Christopher’s ruthless and bruiting rival, John Ross, is the son of J.R. The feuding first cousins are played to perfection by Jesse Metcalfe and real-life pal, actor Josh Henderson.

For those who were glued to their television sets thirty years ago to watch J.R. Ewing wreak havoc on the lives of his business associates and long suffering family members, including little brother Bobby, the new Dallas series will be a thrill ride of nostalgia, with plenty of revamped backstabbing and ill-fated romance.

For younger viewers who know nothing of the question of the 1980s, “Who shot J.R.?” the new Dallas can easily be claimed as this generation’s must see primetime soap. Having two handsome young actors at the casts’ helm certainly won’t hurt among young female viewers. The series brings back veteran actors and original Dallas cast members: Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, with guest appearances by Ken Kercheval and Charlene Tilton. Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo play the love interests of John Ross and Christopher Ewing, each with their own agendas. Rounding out the new Dallas cast is Brenda Strong as Bobby Ewing’s new wife, Ann.

In this interview, Jesse Metcalfe shares his first impression of the pilot script for TNT’s Dallas, how he and Josh Henderson each landed their roles in the series and what it’s like working with Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy. He also reflects on his breakout role in Desperate Housewives and learning to appreciate each career opportunity that comes his way.

Jesse Metcalfe & the Cast of Dallas
Jesse Metcalfe & the Cast of Dallas

PR.com (Allison Kugel): Being that I’m a huge fan of the original Dallas series, I thought it was pretty cool that rather than do a “remake,” you’re really just doing a continuation of the original story. How do you feel about the way your writers approached the new Dallas series?

Jesse Metcalfe: My thought is, that is the only way it could have worked. I think the reason it hadn’t been revived sooner is because they couldn’t find the right formula to do so. Our head writer and creator, Cynthia Cidre, she understood the original tone of the series and really maintained that tone with this continuation. And [she] stayed on the original themes of loyalty, betrayal, ambition and greed, which are very classic themes. That’s in large part why this new series works. We also have a great mixture of the original series [and cast], and some new lifeblood has been pumped into the series.

PR.com: Some 21st century-based storylines are seamlessly mixed in.

Jesse Metcalfe: The new Dallas is very current and contemporary. They did that in part with a new young cast which I am very happy to say I’m a part of, and they also did it with plot points that are relevant. Specifically, the plot point that centers around my character…

PR.com: Focused on new clean forms of energy as an alternative to oil…

Jesse Metcalfe: Exactly, with developing alternative energies and moving the family business away from drilling. It’s very of-the-time, and politically and socially relevant. That’s probably the main concern that some of our critics have, and are going to have. Is it a good idea to remake such an iconic show? How is Dallas, that was so quintessentially 80s, going to be relevant now? And how are they going to find a new audience?

PR.com: I’m thirty-seven and I watched Dallas every week, religiously, when I was a kid. You’re thirty-three and I don’t know if those four years makes a difference (laughs), but what are your memories of the original Dallas from the 1980s?

Jesse Metcalfe & Josh Henderson in Dallas
Jesse Metcalfe & Josh Henderson in Dallas

Jesse Metcalfe: (Laughs) I think in this case there is a difference. My memories of the show are piecemeal, small fragments, really. My mother was a huge fan of the series.

PR.com: So what did she have to say when you got the role of Christopher Ewing?

Jesse Metcalfe: Every time I get a new job she’s excited, but she was incredibly excited with this show. My mother is my biggest fan, but she was just very intrigued and she said, “What character are you going to play?” And I had to explain to her that this series is about the feuding cousins as opposed to the feuding brothers, and that I was going to be the son of Bobby [Ewing]. She just thought that was so fun and exciting.

PR.com: Did the producers originally have you read for the part of John Ross Ewing, or did they always have you in mind for the part of Christopher?

Jesse Metcalfe: They did. Ironically, I was shooting another series in Dallas that was called Chase, on NBC. We actually didn’t get a full season. We did eighteen episodes and I got a call asking if I wanted to put myself on tape for the new Dallas. Initially, I was reticent. I was definitely critical of the idea. There’s been such a huge wave of remakes over the last five to ten years, most of which had failed. I wasn’t looking to come off of one show that was being cancelled and do a pilot that I thought had a great chance of being cancelled. But after I read the script and saw the strength of the writing, and how well developed and complex these characters were, I was interested. I had done an audition for John Ross and there was some interest there, and we were going to negotiate a test deal. But they decided to test Josh Henderson and they held on to him for the role. I think that’s just great casting and perfect. When they came back to me for Christopher I was thrilled because I really identified with that character even more.

PR.com: And Josh Henderson is from Dallas, Texas. Did he show you around and teach you about Dallas culture?

Jesse Metcalfe: I think that I more so showed him around town (laughs). He hadn’t lived in Dallas for a long time. I had been traveling back and forth to Dallas quite a bit before I even did the other series, because I had a good friend in Los Angeles who was from Dallas. I also went there for press for different things like Desperate Housewives. For me, Dallas is like a home away from home.

Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo, Josh Henderson & Jordana Brewster in Dallas
Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo, Josh Henderson & Jordana Brewster in Dallas

PR.com: You just sold your home in Los Angeles. Are you putting down roots in Dallas or are you just moving somewhere else in LA?

Jesse Metcalfe: You never know. First we have to wait and see if we’ve been picked up for a second season, and that should happen sometime in June. A lot of people feel that it’s a foregone conclusion, but I’m not one to… you know…

PR.com: I hear you (laughs).

Jesse Metcalfe: But it’s definitely possible. When we go back I am certainly going to look around and possibly buy something there.

PR.com: You and Josh Henderson were both on Desperate Housewives. Is it a coincidence that you both ended up on Dallas or was there a networking connection that came into play?

Jesse Metcalfe: It’s a coincidence, but it’s a happy coincidence. Josh and I have known each other for ten years and have been, sort of, in and out of each other’s lives. We both played on this charity basketball team together for a number of years, we both did a stint on Desperate Housewives, and now we both find ourselves on Dallas. We’ve been following parallel life paths [and] career paths, so it was very serendipitous that we both ended up on the same show. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know each other even better. The cool thing about knowing someone for ten years before working opposite them and having such a strong storyline with them is that you have quite a bit of history to draw on. We’ve definitely had moments in our relationship that have been competitive. We’ve brought that to the show.

PR.com: Have there been any really intense moments of contention between you and Josh, whether it was over a girl, or maybe a role?

Jesse Metcalfe: We did both test for the re-cast of the gardener role on Desperate Housewives (Jesse landed the role of John Rowland). Originally, when they shot the pilot for Desperate Housewives, it was another actor [in that part]. They re-cast the role and I ultimately ended up getting that role. But Josh was also up for that role.

Jesse Metcalfe & the Cast of Dallas
Jesse Metcalfe & the Cast of Dallas

PR.com: Speaking of Desperate Housewives, what did you learn from your time on that show that you’ve kept with you throughout your career?

Jesse Metcalfe: I’ve learned a lot of lessons over time as I’ve grown up and matured in this industry. The most important thing is to keep your private life private, as private as possible. Once you open that door and allow the media access, you give an inch and they take a mile. It’s also really important to enjoy the ride. You can’t take a moment of being a working actor for granted. There are so many people out there who want to act and who want to be a part of this industry, and who haven’t gotten that opportunity yet. I feel really blessed to have worked relatively consistently for the last thirteen years that I’ve been in Los Angeles. I’m at a stage in my life where I’m able to enjoy the life that I have, and to enjoy these wonderful opportunities. This is the first time I’ve really been in a position to enjoy every moment of being on this incredible show with an incredible cast.

PR.com: The Desperate Housewives finale is coming up. Will we be seeing a surprise appearance in the finale by your character, John Rowland?

Jesse Metcalfe: I won’t be returning to the show. That was such an incredible opportunity for me. I’ve never taken it for granted or belittled it. It really put me on the map and opened doors for me. It was such a fun time working with Eva [Longoria] every day, and the great relationship that we had. I’m very thankful for that time, but like all good things they come to an end. It was an incredible eight season run and I was lucky to come back in a couple of the other seasons, after the first season. But that chapter is over for me.

PR.com: Will you be watching the final episode?

Jesse Metcalfe: The finale is airing on Mother’s Day. I’m going to be in New York doing press for Dallas which is really exciting. And my mom, who lives in Connecticut, is going to come into New York. We’re going to have a beautiful Mother’s Day brunch and I’ll be spending the day with my mother. It’s doubtful that I will catch the season finale.

PR.com: Let’s talk about the veteran Dallas cast members who have returned for the new series. Do Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray talk about the good old days filming the original Dallas, when you’re on set?

Jesse Metcalfe and Julie Gonzalo in Dallas
Jesse Metcalfe and Julie Gonzalo in Dallas

Jesse Metcalfe: They definitely do. The great thing about Larry, Patrick and Linda is that they are such incredible friends. They’ve been friends for the last thirty-five years, they have a beautiful relationship and they really do care about each other. Speaking of not taking anything for granted, they don’t take a moment on set for granted. They truly love working, and that enthusiasm is contagious. A lot of people have asked me, “What advice has Larry given you? What advice has Patrick given you? What advice has Linda given you?” They’ve respected us enough as adults and as professionals not to give us advice on acting or on our careers. They’re not that presumptuous. They lead by example.

PR.com: They led by example with what qualities?

Jesse Metcalfe: When I was telling you one of the greatest things I’ve learned in my career is to enjoy the ride, it’s been hammered home even more by working opposite Patrick Duffy every single day. He has such a zest for life and such an enthusiasm, and it rubs off on everyone around him. He has an incredible sense of humor, and he’s the person who keeps everything light on set. He’s a calming influence for me as well. I’m a relatively serious actor. Patrick keeps me out of the headiness, especially with my character who, in this first season of Dallas, is under a lot of emotional strain and inner conflict. I was really carrying that with me throughout shooting the first season and he’s one of the people that hammered that point home for me to enjoy the ride and enjoy these relationships. Then there’s Linda who has an incredible spirit. She is just love and light all the time. And there is Larry who hasn’t missed a beat. He’s still delivering those J.R. one-liners just like he did in the original series. And the ironic thing about Larry is that he is nothing like his character.

PR.com: I was just about to comment on that. You beat me to the punch!

Jesse Metcalfe: J.R. is this contemptuous, manipulative, conniving bastard. And Larry is anything but that. He’s very warm, he’s very supportive and he’s a very deep and intelligent man. It’s ironic that he plays this tyrannical oil baron, and yet he’s a very dedicated environmentalist in his own life.

PR.com: He must be happy with the storyline about exploring alternative clean energies and questioning the merits of oil.

Jesse Metcalfe: He loves the storyline. I highlighted that particular story point because it is so important. I don’t think we could have a show in this day and age about drilling for oil, greed and depleting this world of its resources without the counterpoint to that argument. And it gives the show that much more credibility.

Jesse Metcalfe
Jesse Metcalfe

PR.com: Do you think the pilot episode of the new Dallas does a good job of setting the stage for viewers who have never seen the original show?

Jesse Metcalfe: Absolutely. That’s the reason why I got involved with this project, is that pilot episode. I think it’s brilliant. It sets up so many different storylines. It seamlessly segues from the original series into the new series. You don’t have to have watched a second of the original series to enjoy what goes on in the pilot episode. What is ultimately set up from the pilot episode pays off so brilliantly throughout the course of the series.

PR.com: Any one particularly funny moment on the Dallas set that you can share?

Jesse Metcalfe: Probably one scene that I was shooting with Patrick where Christopher is coming clean to his father about still having feelings for [his ex-fiancée], Elena (played by Jordana Brewster). It was a very emotional scene and it was shot in one of the barns on the Southfork Ranch. All throughout the scene, a cow was mooing while we were shooting the scene. Needless to say it was pretty difficult to get through the scene. Cut to take number 15 while we’re just laughing hysterically through this emotional scene. Someone finally comes up with the idea of taking the cow out of the barn and putting the cow somewhere else (laughs). That’s just one of the many challenges of shooting on a working ranch.

The two hour series premiere of “Dallas” airs Wednesday, June 13 at 9/8c on TNT.

Follow Jesse Metcalfe on Twitter @JesseMetcalfe and follow Dallas @Dallas_TNT.

Jesse Metcalfe Shares Inside Stories From the New Dallas on TNT


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