"Dallas" is back (two-hour series premiere airs Wed., June 13, 9 p.m. ET on TNT), but don't call it a reboot.
"I think it's an upgrade," said Brenda Strong, who plays Ann Ewing, Bobby's (Patrick Duffy) new wife. "If you have one version of a computer program, this is the upgrade, the 'Dallas 2.0.' And you don't need an owner's manual because there's a lot of familiarity with this show."
Yes, even if you've never seen the original "Dallas" -- which ran from 1978-1991, garnering Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for best drama series and several nominations and wins in the acting categories as well -- this new iteration catches you up on all the Ewing family drama pretty quickly.
Still want a refresher or a quick prep?
"One sweet young journalist said to me, 'I never saw you on 'Dallas' because I wasn't born yet when it was on the air, but I know you from 'Step by Step,'" Patrick Duffy said with a laugh. "'But I watched this new 'Dallas' and got totally hooked.' That's what I want to hear -- that this show is relevant to somebody who has no sense of the history."
"That's important for the new audience, you know, the kids who haven't seen the original," said star Larry Hagman -- the J.R. of "Who shot J.R."" fame. "And kids for me is anybody under 60."
"Coming into this project and being part of the new cast, we really wanted to bring our A game, and we really wanted to impress Larry, Linda [Gray] and Patrick, to make sure to prove that we were value added," Jesse Metcalfe added.
"I grew up in Dallas -- my meemaw passed away when I was 12, and I know that she's looking down now going, 'Wow. Really? You're on 'Dallas, I can't believe it -- and you have to be that bastard's son? Why couldn't you be Christopher?'" Josh Henderson, who plays J.R.'s son John Ross.
I caught up with the show's entire cast, returning (Hagman, Duffy and Linda Gray) and new (Henderson, Metcalfe, Strong, Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo), to find out more about where we pick up, what's changed and how the new characters fit into the Southfork drama. They also dished about more original castmembers returning and favorite sparring partners. Keep reading for more soapy scoop on "Dallas" ...
The original castmembers are still a big part of the drama:
Larry Hagman: "You don't want J.R. reformed, do you? Become a preacher or something? Oh honey, playing a villain is like a license to steal."
Patrick Duffy: "Cynthia [Cidre] was adamant, when she was pitching this to us ... she said, 'You guys are not there just to attract an audience and then we're going to marginalize you. This show will not work unless you guys are integral to every part of it.' And she's been true to that. And I think it works because of that, and it looks seamless -- it's just natural that now there's this big, extended family of dysfunctional people."
Brenda Strong: "Cynthia, the writer and creator of the show, really wanted it to be balanced between the generations. It wasn't a decoy to get people to watch the show -- she really feels like it's more impactful if we have that weight of the older generation and the stuggles that are there. It's an homage to what happens in reality. In family drama -- you have generational differences, and there's stuff going on on both fronts that's equally as interesting. When you have characters that are aging and battling life-altering difficulties, that's drama. And being young isn't necessarily all that it's cracked up to be either. It's nice to have that juxtaposition of the old and the new."
Linda Gray: "TNT does drama -- we do juicy."
Where we find them today:
Patrick Duffy: "Bobby is in a good place, except for the first scene where he's told he's got cancer. Up until that moment -- which I think is brilliant writing for her to address the Bobby dying thing right away, as her little tongue-in-cheek button-push -- Bobby has been doing exactly what he wanted to do for the past 20 years. He trained himself to be good at business, but his heart was on the ranch. He is his mother's son. He wants to measure up to daddy, but the ranch meant everything to him, so he's been happy as can be on the ranch. Then the show opens with him getting this news, and what becomes important to him is family. Can anybody, with Southfork as the carrot, cope with this family? And he doesn't think anybody can. So he decides to sell the ranch. The whole first season, all the turmoil happens because he decides to sell Southfork."
Larry Hagman: "For the first seven episodes or so, he's his old self -- always planning something. But then he's running up against a wall with his son, because his son's getting pretty smart, too. He's making some mistakes, but I point those out pretty quickly. And the eighth, ninth and tenth episode is where it all comes together, and it is so bizarre. You think one thing, and then another thing happens, and then another thing happens, then that gets all twisted around. You've gotta really pay attention to this! You get up to take a pee or get a beer or something and you're gonna miss it. [Laughs.] It's a lot faster than the old one ... It's the last three episodes that make the difference ... the rest is all a set-up."
Linda Gray: "In the pilot, we don't know much about Sue Ellen ... she has one line, but it's like, 'What does that mean?' But I liked that. I flashed back to 1978 when my great line in that opening episode was, 'More coffee, J.R.' I think I said it twice. [Laughs.] So, to be honest, when I read this first script, I was like, 'Oh rats.' But it only got better from there."
And how the new characters play into the drama:
Josh Henderson: "John Ross has all of those characteristics that his father has, that people couldn't wait to see each week, 'What the hell is J.R. gonna do next?' I knew that portraying the son of J.R. was a big deal for the fans -- J.R. is probably the most infamous villain in television history. You can't just come in and just be some guy; you have to do something in the spirit of J.R., and you've got to be able to play ball with him. He's got a lot of resentment built up from not having great parenting through his life. He really respects the way J.R. did business and does business, because he demanded power and respect from his peers, and that's the only way John Ross knows how to do business. But he's also trying, if he can and if it's possible, to one-up his father. He thinks, in a sick way, that his father will actually respect him if he can actually outdo him. We both know that we can't really trust each other."
Jesse Metcalfe: "He's really up and down. At the core of Christopher is possibly these underlying abandonment issues that he hasn't really dealt with, and the fact that he feels less than, and he feels like he has to prove himself as a Ewing. That is really exacerbated by the fact that he's questioning if he's with the right woman. He still has feelings for the love of his life, and to add insult to injury, his cousin-slash-adversary is now sleeping with the love of his life."
Jordana Brewster: "I'm kind of like the moral compass. I'm the good girl ... so far. You never know what can happen. But I was watching some episodes with my husband, and I was like, 'Wow. Elena's cottage gets a lot of action!' I'm always opening my door to men. But she's very torn -- she wants to drill and she's aligned herself with John Ross, both romantically and in business, and yet she grew up with the Ewings and she's very loyal to Bobby, because Bobby was like a foster dad to her. I think that's a really interesting conflict. She grew up there, with the boys, as one of the kids, and yet her mom's the help, and they remind her of that every once in a while, which is frankly really rude. [Laughs.] So she wants to prove herself in her own right, but how far will she go to do that?"
Julie Gonzalo: "I play Rebecca Sutter -- Ewing, now -- who gets married to Christopher in the pilot. She's troubled ... she lost her parents when she was very young, so I think the only family she knows is her brother, Tommy. She's madly in love with her husband, and really wants to make things work with him, but her past gets caught up with her a bit, and you see her struggling with what the right thing to do is. There are a lot of twists and turns when it comes to Rebecca, so expect the unexpected with her."
Brenda Strong: "Ann is the contemporary and counterpart to Bobby Ewing. She is just as much from the heart; she has a moral fiber that is very similar to his. She's a little bit more savvy -- Bobby doesn't always allow himself to see what's going on, but Ann sees it all, and she is the first one to call a spade a spade. She's fiercely loyal and will go toe-to-toe with anyone that's messing with her loved ones, whether it's Bobby or Christopher or anyone that she considers family. She has adopted this family as her own and she's the matriarch -- she's the modern-day Miss Ellie. Those are big shoes to fill because Barbara [Bel Geddes] was such an amazing anchor to the family in the original series. That's what I aspire to be -- equally tough and loving."
Favorite sparring partners:
Patrick Duffy: "I love working with Brenda. I watched the first seven episodes, and when I saw us in scenes together, I became a third person observer and I said, 'They're great together! The chemistry -- it seems like they've been together for years.' And that's the magic that happens sometimes. And the relationship I have with Jesse, as an on-camera son, I had this instant protective, compassionate sense about him, onscreen and off. Then there's the fun part with Larry and Linda, which is just a walk down memory lane."
Linda Gray: "It's always been Larry. But now it's Josh, my son -- there's that mother-son complicated relationship. She sees him going a little bit too much toward the J.R. personality and wants to reel him back in."
Jordana Brewster: "Julie and I were just discussing how much fun our scenes are, because it's not like hair-pulling catfights -- it's adult catfights where it's all below the surface. They're very civil with each other, very sweet, but it's all brewing. And I've had arguments with John Ross and Christopher and they're both pretty fun to fight with. Jesse let me slap him a lot so I give him credit for that. And it wasn't a fake slap!"
Julie Gonzalo: "I had some juicy stuff with my brother, Tommy. Callard Harris is a fantastic talent, and I have some really fun things with him."
Jesse Metcalfe: "My intentions are good, but I'm right at the center of it all. My favorite sparring partner ... I spar with everybody. Christopher's kind of teetering on the edge for most of the first season. He's a little volatile -- he's arguing with his father, he's arguing with his stepmom, he's arguing with his fiancee and with his ex-girlfriend, he's arguing with his cousin. I love working opposite Josh, and I love the John Ross-Christopher stuff, and it's easy for us because we've known each other for like 10 years, and we've been competitive with each other in real life. We've been adversaries then friends, then adversaries then friends again, so we brought a lot of that history to the relationship on the show. It's fun."
Josh Henderson: "I had fun with the Marta character because she's so crazy -- she really is nuts. And Jesse and I go way back, so that was fun to go back-and-forth with him. What's fun about John Ross is he has everybody in my pocket ... or so he thinks."
Larry Hagman: "Cliff Barnes, of course. I miss him, but he's been on the show enough to cause some trouble, that's for sure."
Brenda Strong: "Oh boy ... it's a toss-up between J.R. -- because Ann and J.R. definitely lock horns -- and a new character, my ex-husband Harris Ryland played by Mitch Pileggi. He was definitely a rival worth sparring with."
More familiar faces returning:
Patrick Duffy: "You know that Charlene TIlton [who played Lucy Ewing] comes back for a couple episodes, and Steve Kanaly [who played Ray Krebbs] and Kenny Kercheval [who played Cliff Barnes] come back for a couple. Cynthia was asked this a few months ago and she said, 'I will tell you that any actor who has had a part on "Dallas" and is still alive, the option is out there and they can come back.' So anything's a possibility -- if it would service the show, any of those characters could resurface, as long as that character is still alive."
Larry Hagman: "So many have died off ... I don't even know who's still alive! Cliff Barnes was the perennial nemesis, for sure, and a great fall guy because he always lost. Always."
Brenda Strong: "We have a revisitation of someone that I worked with in the original series -- I actually had a kissing scene with Ken Kercheval in the original 'Dallas,' and Cliff Barnes has a recurring part on this new 'Dallas.' But we're not kissing! I'm not playing the same person now, so I don't have to go back there. [Laughs.] But he was definitely a snake in the grass then, and he's a snake in the grass now. Some things never change!"
"Dallas" two-hour series premiere airs Wed., June 13, 9 p.m. ET on TNT.
Tell us: Are you excited for "Dallas" 2.0? Which original characters would you most like to see return?