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Jesse Metcalfe thankful for conflicted 'Dallas' character


June 12, 2012|By Curt Wagner | RedEye

Jesse Metcalfe was born in 1978, the year "Dallas" debuted, so obviously he didn't watch the show during its original run. Now 33, he's starring in TNT's continuation of the iconic series as Christopher Ewing, the adopted son of Bobby (Patrick Duffy).

While Metcalfe is best known as the sexy gardener who slept with Eva Longoria in "Desperate Housewives," he's playing a more honorable sort in "Dallas," which premieres at 8 p.m. June 13.

Metcalfe and I talked recently about original cast members Duffy, Larry Hagman and Linda Gray, his initial hesitation to join the project and why his character isn't just a good guy.

Watch the video above for another interview I did with Metcalfe when he visited Chicago.

Because Bobby was the "good son" on the original, one could assume that is true for his son, Christopher?
I was lucky enough to have an incredibly conflicted character, probably one of the most conflicted characters on the show. Christopher is very much a chip off the old block. He has a very strong moral compass. He's incredibly ethical.

Unlike Bobby, who almost always does the right thing, Christopher is dealing with some personal issues that make him a lot more volatile, a lot more temperamental. I approach the character with a sense of great abandonment. Christopher is trying to find his place in the Ewing family hierarchy, and live up to his father--which is a tall order, because Bobby is so well respected. He really wants to make his father proud and prove to his father that he has the same strength of character and that he can be at the head of the table and run Southfork in his absence. 

All of that combined tends to make Christopher a bit temperamental. When you really want something from somebody and they're not giving it to you, it can create a great deal of conflict. That's what we see between Bobby and Christopher. Obviously underneath that is a great amount of love and respect, but on the surface they're at odds over some central issues within the story.

Do you think Christopher wants to live up to that standard, but he's more practical in that he realizes good guys always finish last?
Absolutely. Oftentimes Patrick talks about sort of being boxed in by playing the good guy. Often I've posed the question, do I feel like I have the same challenge? To a degree it can be difficult playing the good guy, but due to the great writing on the new "Dallas" I'm not really put into that position. Christopher has so much on his plate that literally throughout the first season he's teetering on the edge. I love that.

Were you excited to be on the continuation of such an iconic series? Or was it daunting?
Honestly, my first reaction was hesitation. I questioned whether or not it was a good idea to remake such an iconic show. With the wave of remakes and reboots of shows that have come over the last five years, most were met with a lukewarm response and failed quickly. I think I would have been ignorant to go into this blindly and not have those apprehensions.

And after you read some scripts?
I thought it was a great piece of material, whether it had the title of "Dallas" on it or not. I thought it was incredibly well written and I thought that it was something that I can definitely sink my teeth into as an actor. That was the hook for me. The icing on the cake was meeting Larry, Linda and Patrick and seeing their enthusiasm and commitment to the new series knowing that they had passed on so many other scripts for TV and film reincarnations. I figured if these three people who I definitely respected had given this project their stamp of approval, then that definitely furthered my commitment to be part of the project.

How has it been working with them?
It's been incredible working with them. They have a 35-year friendship and it permeates the new series. It permeates on set and it all just trickles down from them. It's been a very supportive and nurturing environment. I think it's fostered great work, but it's also fostered great relationships. I think that chemistry transcends on screen.

You mentioned their long friendships. I was wondering, as a young actor do you hope that is something that can happen to you?
Definitely. Oftentimes I'm asked the question, "What advice have you gotten from Larry, Linda, or Patrick?" They haven't really given us a ton of advice, because they've respected us as the actors that we are and as the young adults that we are.

But they really lead by example. Patrick in particular, playing my father, he just has such a grace and dignity on set. He loves every moment. He doesn't take a single day for granted. As a young actor who really wants to prove himself and wants to give a great performance every scene, he really is a calming influence for me. He really is a father figure for me, on and off screen.

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