Jesse Metcalfe feels ‘lucky’ to be a part of iconic TV show ‘Dallas’
You would think Jesse Metcalfe would feel tremendous pressure playing a character in one of the most iconic shows in television history.
But the actor, who plays Christopher Ewing on the new “Dallas,” admits he was more skeptical going into his audition than daunted.
“I didn’t know if it was a good idea to bring back an iconic and quintessential 80’s show. I didn’t know how they were going to do to that. I didn’t know how they were going to make it contemporary and relevant,” Metcalfe tells CTV.ca during a recent press stop in Toronto.
After reading the script, however, he quickly changed his mind.
“They seamlessly segued from the original series and introduced these new characters in a way that was very realistic and plausible. I just thought the storylines were engaging . . . and I was like, ‘This is something I would like to be a part of.’”
Metcalfe, along with new castmates Josh Henderson (John Ross), Jordana Brewster (Elena), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca) and Brenda Strong (Ann), join original cast members Larry Hagman (J.R.), Patrick Duffy (Bobby) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen), in a return to the beloved series that originally aired from 1978-1991.
“It really is a perfect marriage of the original cast members and the new cast members. It really is an ensemble. The original cast members aren’t just supporting characters. Their storylines are just as strong as the new characters and really, it’s working wonderfully,” says Metcalfe.
The original “Dallas” was a primetime drama that centered on the wealthy Ewing family and their dealings in the oil and cattle ranching business in Texas. It also featured one of the most famous cliffhangers in television history, with “Who Shot J.R.?”
The new series has many familiar elements from the original – including the famous theme song – as well as just as much, if not more, backstabbing.
But do viewers really want to see more of the Ewing clan?
If the whopping June 13 premiere numbers are any indication – an estimated six million viewers in the U.S. and 1.9 million on bravo in Canada – they certainly do.
“You’re relatively confident that a large part of the original viewers are going to tune in because you really have that built in audience . . . but I definitely started to get a little nervous we weren’t going to find new viewers and that was really our responsibility, me and (the rest of the new cast) and to know that we performed incredibly well in that demographic, it was very validating.”
Even though returning to Southfork ranch was old hat for the original cast, Metcalfe says Hagman, Duffy and Gray didn’t dole out any advice to the newcomers – unless it was asked for.
“More than anything, they really lead by example. The three of them have a great relationship, they’ve been friends for 32 or 33 years and so I think the way they approached their work and the way they carried themselves on set, they don’t take a moment for granted, they’re incredibly professional and they’re very gracious on and off set so if anything that’s what I’ve learned from them,” says Metcalfe.
He says the mood on set is like a family, something he believes is important in order to have a long-running successful show.
“They’ve created an environment for the new cast in which we felt very supported and protected and free to do the best work possible and I think that’s why the show has been successful so far and will continue to be a success because we have great chemistry.”
Because he wasn’t that familiar with the original “Dallas” (his mom was a huge fan, however) Metcalfe had to go back and watch a bunch of episodes.
“I went back for a sense of tone and to understand how dysfunction this family was and how that affected my character and possibly how far I could take my character in certain respects.”
Just a young boy in the original series, Christopher is now all grown up. But the adopted son of Bobby and Pam (originally played by Victoria Principal, who so far has not announced her return), is still struggling to fit in.
“He’s incredibly ambitious as well and he’s very driven to prove himself and to his father and as a Ewing so I think there’s a lot more grey area with these new generation characters.”
Christopher also has his hands full in the relationship department with his old flame Elena and his new wife Rebecca, who as we saw during the premiere episode, is not who she appears to be.
“He’s under a lot of emotional strain. He never really had closure with his relationship with Elena and there’s still a lot of feelings there but he ends up going through with his marriage to Rebecca so it’s definitely going to be a central theme in the first season.”
Metcalfe, who won an ensemble SAG Award, along with the rest of the “Desperate Housewives” cast, for his role as a sexy gardener, can’t wait to see what’s next in store on “Dallas.”
“There’s so much history with this show and . . . I feel very lucky to be possibly part of another big show, another television phenomenon.”
“Dallas” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on bravo, with full episodes available online at bravo.ca. For more information visit http://www.bravo.ca/Shows/Dallas
About Sheri Block
Sheri Block has been covering entertainment for CTV.ca since 2008. In addition to covering Will and Kate’s Royal Wedding in London, Sheri’s highlights have included going on tour with “Canadian Idol,” being a stand-in on “Canada’s Next Top Model” and meeting Colin Farrell at the Toronto International Film Festival.Follow her on Twitter!