“Dallas” heads to TNT next week, and one of the new stars of the rebooted series is a familiar face to primetime soap watchers – Jesse Metcalfe.
Playing Christopher Ewing, the adopted son of Bobby Ewing (the returning Patrick Duffy) and his first wife, Pam, is a breakout role for the former “Desperate Housewives” hunk, bound to make everyone forget about those shirtless TV romps with Eva Longoria.
Ambitious, environmentally-friendly, loyal, and with a lot of heart, Jesse’s Christopher is his father’s son.
It’s a meaty role for the actor, whose character juggles being in an oil family with his green-leanings, and his love for his fiancee Rebecca Sutter (Julia Gonzalo) with his feelings for ex, Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster). Oh, and there’s that cousin John Ross (Josh Henderson) to contend with, too.
Speaking with AccessHollywood.com about the smart and sexy new drama, Jesse said he knows this role (which fans can see in the two-hour season premiere on June 13 at 9/8c on TNT), is a big deal.
AccessHollywood.com: You’re so good in this. It’s your best work to date.
Jesse Metcalfe: It’s the best thing I’ve got the opportunity to do. It’s been a slow burn for me, I think. But luckily, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s great to have another big opportunity on television – to be a part of something that could be another huge television phenomenon, but this time, be a lead as opposed to a supporting character.
Access: You were doing movies and then you did ‘Chase’ for NBC. Did that whet your appetite again for TV? Or was it just, ‘Dallas’?
Jesse: I think if I were to speak honestly about becoming a part of ‘Dallas,’ I would say I had a lot of hesitation to audition. Even hesitation before I read the script, because I just think, I mean, remaking such an iconic show, is that a good idea?
Access: Because it hasn’t always worked.
Jesse: It hardly ever works.
Access: But they haven’t done it in this way.
Jesse: And that’s made all the difference. The fact that it was a continuation, the fact that the major themes and the tone of the show is still very much intact, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And obviously, we’ve got the right head writer on the job — Cynthia Cidra, [the show’s executive producer]. She created a script that was very true to the tone of the old series, but at the same time, contemporary.
Access: There are little hints of who your character was at a different age on the original show, and now we get to see him as an adult. How much of that backstory did you fill in yourself to play the role?
Jesse: All of it… They didn’t really give us a brief. There’s really not that much information about John Ross and Christopher from the original season. We show up as babies, and then we show up as toddlers. There’s not much there to draw from. The template was the pilot episode and there was a lot there.
Access: What did you fill in then? We see in the pilot he is a little bit green.
Jesse: He’s completely green. He comes back to South Fork after a two-year absence, developing this alternative energy patented in China.
Access: What did you imagine regarding this character’s back story? Do you think he went on a backpacking trip and met a girl who changed him?
Jesse: No, I kind of felt as though after high school, Elena and Christopher were going to get married and clearly that didn’t happen. He felt betrayed, he felt abandoned, which is very reminiscent of his abandonment issues over the fact that he was adopted and the only mother he’d ever known – Pam Barnes – abandoned him… I think he ran away to sort of forge a new life for himself, lick his wounds and also to find himself. And in that process, he came up with a long term goal and an idea of how to assert himself in the Ewing family hierarchy and how to be a productive member of his family, because I think Christopher puts family first, just like his father. He has a strong moral compass, and he really wants to protect his family, provide for his family and make his family and his father, in particular, very proud.
Access: What was it like playing ‘the hero’ type character (the good guy)? They don’t always win, but people relate to them.
Jesse: I think people relate to him because it’s not easy to be a hero. It’s not easy to make the virtuous choice and at every turn, Christopher, he’s feeling a lot of conflict. He wants to be true to the woman he’s chosen, but at the same time, he can’t deny the feelings that he has for his first love. He wants to be true to his father, but his ambitions are pushing him to succeed, sometimes by any means necessary. So, there’s definitely a lot of conflict in Christopher, and as an actor, that’s what we thrive on – either the conflicts on the page, or we find it.
Access: Did you and Patrick have to do a chemistry test?
Jesse: Patrick and I never had a chemistry test. We actually met at Larry Hagman’s condo in Santa Monica. He had a dinner for the cast, a sort of ‘break the ice’ dinner, and we all got to know each other, and everyone was incredible. And, of course, we saw each other again at the table read, but I think Patrick and I let our on-screen and off-screen relationship develop organically and I think we were really able to forge a really great relationship on and off set. I think it translates. I mean, the chemistry’s great on the show and I think that makes for a great show. I think there are shows that are long-running and successful, where some or all of the cast members hate each other… but I think it’s a lot easier to have an environment where everyone feels secure and supported to do the best work possible. I think that makes for a better show and I think that’s what we have with the new ‘Dallas.’
-- Jolie Lash