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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

smitten: an interview with "dallas" stars brenda strong & jesse metcalfe

 The special 2 hour "Dallas" premiere airs Wednesday, June 13 at 9pm ET/8pm CT

When you hear the theme song from the "Dallas" series you immediately think of Southfork Ranch, scheming, power and of course, that irrepressible force of nature--JR. That song and that force of nature are back with a premiere as big as the heart of Texas. "Dallas" returns to television in a new series on TNT that is every bit as delicious as the series you remember complete with original cast members including Larry Hagman (JR), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing and Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing). "Dallas" premieres Wednesday, June 13 in a 2 hour season premiere. 

Joining the cast are Brenda Strong as Bobby's wife, Ann Ewing and Jesse Metcalfe as the son of Bobby Ewing and his former wife Pam. The series picks up 20 years from where it left off. It's easy to imagine that these characters have been living their life offscreen for two decades and the cameras have come back to see what the characters are up to. I've seen seven episodes so far (from the presskit) and it is wicked fun! Last week we got a chance to meet Brenda and Jesse and we were instantly smitten.  Read on to hear more about who challenges who at Scrabble and who's loving Alabama Shakes.

The Happygirl: Let’s talk about Texas. You shoot on location. How has Texas been for you?
Jesse Metcalfe: It’s been great. 
Brenda Strong:  It has been extremely welcoming. The city commissioners and the entire city has bent over backwards to make shooting there a pleasure including opening up the old Southfork Ranch so we can shoot our exteriors there.
Jesse: The people of Dallas have been very welcoming too.  Texans are a prideful people and Dallas is something they hold close to their hearts and the fact that the series coming back and we are part of this series, we get a lot of love. 

follow brenda strong on twitter @brenda_strong
Brenda: As a cast we felt a congealing of authenticity just by being there through osmosis and having that skyline. Jesse and I got to be on a 600 acre ranch and ride horses. There is a level of the land building your character that you can’t get anywhere else.
Jesse: I think it is essential that we are shooting this entire new series in Dallas. Just as the city has evolved so has the show. It is a contemporary show. It’s as though the cameras weren't rolling for the past 20 years and they just turned them back on. 
HG: Was one of the reasons you decided to take these roles because Larry Hagman was attached to it?
Jesse: Larry, Linda and Patrick actually gave this incarnation their stamp of approval and that gave us all piece of mind to be part of the project.
Brenda: They didn't want to be involved if this wasn't something they could be proud of.  It s a big risk, you know? “Dallas” was such a part of the zeitgeist of the culture and they didn't want to go out with a fizzle. They ended the show and they had tried to piece  something together but they realized they didn't want to do anything unless it was high quality. When they got off the phone with each other after reading the script they each said “I’m in. Are you in? OK. Let’s do this.” That was the stamp of approval that made the rest of us think  “If they are willing to come back then we are willing to put our toe in and get wet.”
HG: It would have been inauthentic had you all appeared on the screen without them. Don’t you think?
Brenda: Yeah, I wouldn’t have done it without them. It would have been a caricature without them. No one would buy it. The characters were too beloved and people have them in their memory banks and anything but them wouldn't have worked.

download the "Dallas" theme song here
HG: I’ve seen 7 of the episodes so far and maybe it’s a little thing but I loved the opening credits with the “Dallas” music and sliding panels. It was very 80’s. For the fans of the  original series, it’s kind of comforting.
Brenda: Absolutely. Cynthia Cidere and Steve Robin paid very close attention to the fact that they didn't want to completely reinvent but keep the pillars of what made “Dallas” Dallas and then build a new house around that.
Jesse: There was talk in the early stages of coming up with a new theme song and that would have been insane.They did update the song a little bit. I was told that the drums in the original song had to be replaced because they were a little too disco. (laughs) A lot of the new buildings in Dallas are featured in the opening. 
Brenda: And the song. I didn’t realize how much a part of my awareness the song was but when I drove up to shoot at Southfork the very first time the song popped into my song. I hadn't seen “Dallas” in 20 years but suddenly (sings a little of the theme song) plays and I was like “Wow! That was really interesting!” (laughs) I think the audience may feel that way as well.
HG: What would you say to fans who loved the original series? What can they expect from the new series?

follow jesse metcalfe on twitter @jessemetcalfe
Jesse: They can expect what they fell in love with initially. The show is rooted in the themes that made the show a success-- ambition, greed, power, loyalties, betrayal. That is very much at the heart of the new series. I think their expectations will be met if not exceeded. Larry, Linda and Patrick are all on top of their game if not better than they ever were. They are more seasoned actors and they are so good in this new series. 

HG: You two fit in well with the rest of the cast. You have an easy feel. What did you do to get that family feel. 
Jesse: Larry hosted a dinner.
Brenda: I wasn't there. I hadn't been cast yet but you guys had a bonding. 
Jesse: We bonded. We bonded. (laughs) I guess you were the last one in. 
Brenda: The very first time I met Patrick, Larry was at the table read. Larry  set the tone. We went around the table introducing ourselves. Patrick was to my left and he said “Patrick Duffy, Bobby Ewing.” It gets to Larry and he says “Larry Hagman, icon.” (laughs) There was such an ease. We were family now. We mean business. They made us feel welcome from the get go. 

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Brenda: Patrick and I are playing words games Whirly Word and Scrabble. He was upset when we were shooting the pilot because I beat his twice at Scrabble and he said “That’s it! I’m not playing that anymore with you.” (laughs) But we’re like an old married couple sitting around playing Scrabble.  It is just an instant ease. It organically happened. 
HG: Did you watch the original series?
Brenda: I didn’t because Ann is Bobby’s new wife and she wouldn’t know the ins and outs of the Ewing family. I also wanted to have authentic surprise. I wanted to take the characters at face value. I didn't want to know every secret. However, I was on the original series. I was a one night stand!
HG: You are a good shot. You shoot a rifle well in the new series.
Brenda:  I am a pacifist at heart. I am a yogi and a granola eater but ironically I seem to play women who carry guns. In “Starship Troopers” I carried a gun through the entire second film. I never really shot a shotgun. That was new to me. I went out to the range and learned to respect the weapon. I was really surprised at how much energy and focus it takes.It was a new skill. 

HG: I know you both are physical. Brenda, you even did yoga here in Seattle. Is it important to you mentally and well as physically to work out? At the Happygirl, we look for ways to get our happy back. Does working out help?
Jesse: Yes, definitely. Yoga is more of a spiritual practice than weight lifting or running but I think all of those things aid in melting away the stress that you accumulate. 
Brenda: I like the way that you put that--about getting your happy back. The belief in yoga is that we are innately connected to joy and it is what is in the way of that joy that yoga releases. The idea is that you do yoga to return to the joy that should be yours.  So, I like your motto. 
HG: What do you think drives people more” Money, Sex or Power?
Brenda: (laughs) I think it depends on the person. Some people are ambitious. Some people find power through sex. Money can mean freedom or prison. It depends what you align yourself with. I think all three are themes that run rampant through our show and any character at one time could be balancing on one of those. What runs you, Jesse?
Jesse: Probably power, my ambitions. Most of my energy goes into following my dreams and desires as far as my career is concerned. What makes life enjoyable?
HG: I like what JR said in one of the upcoming episodes-- “You’re not given power, you take it.”
Jesse: Or strongly go after it. Take can mean taking something that doesn’t belong to you. I think there is nothing wrong with having a strong drive and being an ambitious person. Everything in moderation. 
Brenda: These things can be addictive. I like that there are things being said that people start to think about. Thematically this family represents the common struggles most families go through. Maybe not at this epic level but I think every family member struggles for your place in the family. Does someone love you more than they love someone else? Vying for what you feel is your rightful piece of the land, property or the love of your parents. These are common themes.
Jesse: A lot of the storylines in the first season I actually drew from my own experiences. Every family has a certain level of disfunction. I think that is why this show is beloved because everyone can relate to it.
Brenda: As Linda said beautifully “We are a functioning dysfunctional family.”
HG: What make you happy?
Brenda: Music, adventure, travel.
Jesse: Music, nature, humor. I love to laugh
Brenda: Flowers make me happy. Friendships. Daffodils.
HG: That’s a happy flower. 
Brenda: I have strong memories of being a little girl picking daffodils from the field. 
Jesse: Isn’t that a weed? (laughs)
Brenda: Yes! (laughs)
HG: Jesse, for you is it about playing music?
Jesse: I like anything that transports me or makes me feel something. The thing I love about acting is that it is incredibly cathartic. Every actor has a burden or inner conflict that your can pour yourself into and through that  kind of get past whatever issue you have. I love bringing myself to my roles. Music inspires me. Movies me happy, music, nature. people, I love to travel, laugh. 
HG: Happy song?
Brenda: All I have to do is put on anything of Adele’s “21”.

HG: Isn't that sad, though?
Jesse: I generally like music that’s about heartbreak. (laughs)
Brenda: There is a Florence and the Machine song that makes me really happy too. 
Jesse: You know what is a great album?  “Boys and Girls” by Alabama Shakes. Have you listened to that one? It’s by a new band. It’s very bluesy, soulful. It’s a very happy album.

HG: Brenda, Jesse, thanks for a great chat. Best of luck on the ranch!

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