Patrick Duffy Talks Candidly About Why He Left The Original 'Dallas' And Why He Felt He Had To Return

We talk with Patrick Duffy about the original 'Dallas' series -- plus we throw some fun, rapid-fire questions his way (where he shared the disadvantages of getting naked at 65).
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original dallas cast

Patrick Duffy is a stud. There. I said it and I'm not taking it back.

For those less enamored, you know him as an accomplished actor who became a household name back in 1978 when he originated the role of Bobby Ewing on the CBS primetime soap opera "Dallas." He was also Frank Lambert on the ABC sitcom "Step by Step (1991-1998); Stephen Logan on the CBS daytime soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" (2006-2011) and currently enjoys his role on the sitcom "Welcome to Sweden."

Duffy, 65, reprised his role of Bobby Ewing on the new version of "Dallas" in 2012. The actor sat down recently with HuffPost Live to discuss the new season (which airs on TNT) among many other things going on in his life. Here's a link to that great interview. Meanwhile, back on the editorial side of The Huffington Post, we were thrilled to speak with him to discuss the original "Dallas" (why did he really leave the show?) -- plus we threw some fun, rapid-fire questions his way (where he shared the disadvantages of getting naked at 65).

I'm a huge fan of yours because I'm the original "Dallas" fan. I want to ask you questions about the original "Dallas" just because there are things I've always been curious about. One is, how easy or how hard was it for you to get the role of Bobby Ewing?

It was the first time I'd ever been outright offered a role without auditioning, reading or anything. It was basically handed to me by Leonard Katzman, the executive producer of "Dallas," who had known me by virtue of producing a television show in the next sound stage to mine on "Man From Atlantis" at MGM. When he left that show he was on and did the pre-production for "Dallas," as soon as my show was canceled, the offer came in for me to play the part. I never read for it.

Did you feel like you had died and gone to heaven when you got that role?

I did... I guess it was a job and I thought maybe I'd never work again after Atlantis was canceled. We did five episodes of "Dallas" and the five episodes were a gift from heaven, but certainly once they were done, we didn't know if it was going to go to series or not and we were all out looking for work again.

Actors are always thrown in the mix with other actors in the beginning of any series so when they cast Larry Hagman -- who played the quirky astronaut Captain Tony Nelson on "I Dream of Jeannie" -- in the role of the bad-ass J.R. Ewing, did you think, "What are they thinking?" He turned out great, but you don't know that in the beginning.

Yeah, you don't know that and I really wasn't a learned historian of television at that time. I certainly knew about "I Dream of Jeannie," but I was basically trained as a theatrical Shakespearean type of actor; ended up playing an underwater superhero, so I was game for anything. (Laughs) Pretty much none of us knew each other. I had met Linda one time before we sat down and read the pilot of "Dallas." I had not met any other of the actors, so we all entered that relationship completely open to everybody. I think by virtue of that and Hagman's personality, we became instant family members at the table reading of the pilot of "Dallas" and that actually continued on for 13 years.

I was devastated when they killed you off. Did you leave with the intention of never going back?

Yes, I did. I never intended to come back, which is why Leonard and I decided that the heroic death of Bobby was the best way to go, by saving a life and then dying.

Why did you leave?

I left because I had done the show for seven years. My contract was for seven years. It was obviously an ensemble show and I thought if it was ever a time at the height of the popularity of that show, that I might be able to launch into something that was more of a single, starring venue, that that would be the time to do it. I left the show and that did not happen -- typical Patrick Duffy business decision fiasco. I went back on the show because they asked me to and I realized that was the best place to work and I was back with my best friend.

Thank God you came back. Whose idea for the dream scene?

That was Leonard Katzman. My wife, oddly enough, had the same instinctual decision. When I said to her I think they're going to ask me to come back on the show, her first response was you can only do that if the whole last season was a dream. Then when I talked to Leonard, that was indeed what he wanted to do and so we went ahead and did it.

That was brilliant.

Got me back on the show. (Laughs)

How was your on-air chemistry with Victoria Principal (Pamela Ewing)? I liked the two of you together and was disappointed when she left the show.

Me too. We had great chemistry on the show and that just fell into place. It was the luckiest bit of casting, I think, that has occurred in a long time on television. Everybody was absolutely perfect for the parts they played. For a Romeo and Juliet basically subject matter for Bobby and Pam, we were absolutely the most comfortable two actors when we were working together. She had a wonderful sense of humor. We could just go crazy between takes and then get right back into the moment.

Did you try to talk her out of leaving?

At that point in the show, the show was getting longer and longer in the tooth and I understood because of what I had done, why people want to go. What everybody has to understand is she was starting what became, and still is, a huge second career empire as Victoria Principal's Secret and all that with makeup and health things. She knew what she wanted to do. She knew that she wanted to be Victoria Principal, not Victoria Principal/Pamela Ewing. When she left for a much more sensible reason than I had in year seven, I never try and dissuade anybody from leaving any show, because I think they're going to learn by it, if it's successful or if it's a mistake.

Priscilla Presley came in as your love interest, Jenna Wade. How did you like working with her?

(Laughs) I have been approached by more men in my career, looking at me like you are the luckiest son of a gun in the world and Priscilla is one of the reasons they say that. She was the softest person... She just personifies the perfect woman. She was wonderful. We obviously hit it off very well. It was a dream to have her on the show, it was an absolute dream; makes all of us pale in comparison. To come from that relationship with Elvis Presley and then just be the most down to earth, almost shy, self-effacing person, she was just absolutely fantastic to work with.

I've heard some rumblings that there might be a "Step by Step" reunion show. Would that ever happen?

I think that rumbling started on the social media because of "Dallas" coming back and it being successful. There's a lot of "Step by Step" fans out there, a lot of my Twitter followers are "Step by Step" people. I'm very close still to Suzanne[Somers]. She became my Larry Hagman for seven years when we did the show. The young people on the show are like my children. If the format was correct, I think a special could be done. To do a series, I'm not sure, but anything is possible. The point being, the work when we were doing it was so enjoyable that I can't imagine most of the cast not wanting to do it if it were offered again.

In your interview with HuffPost Live, you told Ricky Camilleri that you hoped you would live one day longer than your wife because you would worry about her being without you. That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard.

Oh, I'm glad you thought it was sweet. I thought maybe it would sound a little bit selfish that I wanted to live longer but it's actually how I truly feel.

Your wife is 10 years older than you. As a woman, I think that's wonderful. Has the age difference ever been a problem?

No, I think it's at times, honestly, it has been an adjustment period for my wife when people used to mention it over and over again. I think they were searching for a problem that didn't exist, and I think that was a bit frustrating for her. But anymore? No. That's another thing is you reach a certain age where there is no difference, that 10 years does not make an appreciable difference in how you look, how you act, what you can do, and what you can't do. We considered ourselves almost consistently as the same age, maybe not chronologically, but certainly physically and emotionally. We've never noticed the difference, to be quite honest.

What's the secret to your happy marriage?

I think everybody has their own secret, and there's not an actual formula. My secret is I had to learn how to acquiesce to a certain number of things without feeling like I was giving up, or I was owed something for it, and that was a big transition for me to stop keeping a tally book of, "Okay, I did this for you, and now you'd better do this for me," or, "I gave up this and didn't do that, so you owe me something." Once I got over that -- which is really sort of a juvenile way of looking at life: "Who gets the bigger half," -- then everything just became as easy as can be, and we started doing things, I would say, close to 100 percent of the time to make the other person happy.

What bad habit do you have that your wife wishes you would stop?

Whenever we travel to any place that speaks another language, I talk in an American accent of that language. It drives her crazy.

How many times have you been properly in love? (That's a Piers Morgan question, I love that question.)

All the time. Everybody I've been in love with, from my high school sweeties, to dating in college, I would say I was properly in love with all of them. Was I ultimately in love with them? Was I eternally in love with them? Probably not. That's why I'm with my wife now for 42 years, but at the moment, I think love, as a verb, is proper all the time.

What's your most obsessive-compulsive habit?

I'm kind of an obsessive-compulsive person. I fall into repetition and routine, possibly too easily. If I'm driving down the street and I happen to see a license plate, I'll repeat that license plate number in my head for minutes, and minutes, and minutes without realizing, "Oh, why am I doing that?" and then I stop.

Have you ever turned down a role that went to someone else that you regretted?

I've never turned down a role. I have not gotten roles by virtue of not having succeeded in the audition that went to people that became franchises, but once I saw who did them, I realized I couldn't have done it that way anyway. I read for "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and obviously didn't get it. But I've never turned down a role, except let's say I get asked to do "Dancing with the Stars," I guess if you consider that a role, but it's more of a job, it's not a role; I've turned down things like that.

What would you not do for a million dollars?

Appear naked anymore.

Did you do that?

A couple of times. I did this real small budget, low budget feature where I played a jazz saxophone player, and the opening shot was me getting out of bed with my bare rear end hanging out. When you're in your mid-30s, that's okay but when you're in your mid-to-late 60s, not so much. (Laughs)

Things droop, don't they?


When was the last time you told a little white lie?

Most of the answers I've just given you.

Well, okay, but I'm still going with those answers. (Laughs)

Okay. (Laughs) No, I think little white lies are valuable, especially if they contribute to someone's well-being and sense of self-worth. There was a great commercial on about Abe Lincoln, and Honest Abe never being able to tell a lie, and it was him standing in a living room, and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, who was quite a little round potato, says, "Does this dress make me look fat?" It just showed him like, "Uh, well, uh, uh, well ... " Those are moments when little white lies are self-affirming and appropriate. I fully intend to keep doing it and keep a 42-year marriage percolating along.

What do you consider the biggest waste of time?

Reality television.

Who or what is overrated right now?

I think the word "closure" is overrated.

If you're talking with someone who is boring you, how do you gracefully get out of the conversation?

Usually I look at them and say, "My God, I'm getting bored." What's interesting, and I learned this from my good buddy, Larry Hagman, is two things have to happen. You have to reach a certain age, and then you have to have a sense of humor about yourself, and maybe even a reputation, but you can actually say the most honest things, and have people laugh... I saw Larry do it for years where if something like that is going on, he could literally just say, "Oh, my God, I've never been so bored in my life." They'd laugh and he laughed, and then the conversation changes, and everybody walks away thinking that it was a great experience, and every once in a while you can do that. You reach a certain age and they don't take offense anymore.

I interviewed Carl Reiner last year when he was 90, and he said, "The nice thing about my age, you can tell the truth finally -- about everything."

Exactly. It's so true. I hope I get to that age and tell the whole truth. (Laughs)

Follow Patrick Duffy on Twitter: @therealpduffy

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