TORONTO – Victoria Principal has “no desire” to get back in front of the camera for the modern incarnation of “Dallas,” says Patrick Duffy, who together with Principal formed one of TV’s biggest super couples in the ’80s.
Duffy resumes his role as the principled oil man Bobby Ewing on Bravo’s sudsy reincarnation, which premieres Wednesday, along with original stars Larry Hagman returning as the scheming villain J.R. Ewing and Linda Gray as J.R.’s boozy wife.
But Principal, who played Bobby’s dutiful wife Pam, is notably absent in the pilot episode. What we do get is a new generation of greedy and backstabbing Ewings — namely J.R.’s now-adult son John Ross who has a bitter feud brewing with Bobby’s son Christopher.
Duffy said his former co-star hasn’t acted in any form for more than 10 years and that she told him she’s “very comfortable with that.”
“She has no desire to get back in front of a camera because she’s dealing with her empire, which is what she truly has,” Duffy said recently from New York, referring to Principal’s various business ventures, which include a lucrative line of beauty products.
“And that’s what she wants to be associated with. She purposefully … wanted to divorce herself from the Pam Ewing connection so that her entire industry would not be Victoria Principal/Pam Ewing products…. And that’s just good business.”
Still, Duffy said that’s not to say that Principal would never appear on the show. He notes that her character fell terminally ill at the end of the series, but left Bobby and their adopted son Christopher under unclear circumstances.
“I had to actually do research because I thought the character Pam died on the show but it was pointed out to me that she just disappeared,” he said.
“She sort of walked away to die peacefully but we never got confirmation. So in that sense … the potential is still there. It’s rather thin, but the potential is there.”
Longtime fans of the Texas drama know that anything can happen on “Dallas.”
Bobby himself was famously resurrected from the dead in 1986 after his character was killed off the previous year. In what became one of TV’s most famous plot twists in history, Pam wakes one morning to find Bobby taking a shower and realizes the past season — in which his death spun various storylines that suddenly evaporated — was a dream.
The storytelling trick sparked controversy among some fans, but Duffy still defends the move as “the only way to get Bobby back.”
“Dreams and being knocked on the head and it-didn’t-really-happen have been a favourite get-out-of-jail-free card for literary works for almost all of history,” he said.
“About four other shows, right after we did the dream, did their own dream to end seasons,” he added, pointing to the end of “Newhart” as one of TV’s best loved finales.
The new “Dallas” picks up 21 years after we last saw the Ewing clan. Family life is still centred at the sprawling Southfork Ranch, with Bobby now the family patriarch while older brother J.R. is in an assisted living facility.
The pilot revolves around Christopher’s wedding to newcomer Rebecca Sutter, but the celebration soon gives way to acrimony between Christopher and John Ross who battle over business, women and the fate of Southfork.
Bobby and J.R. step in to mediate the fallout, and Duffy said he’s pleased to say the show creators make sure the veteran characters are far from passive players.
“They definitely want to involve us because of the mythology of the show and how it works. I’m basically Jock and Miss Ellie all rolled into one,” he said, referring to Bobby and J.R.’s deceased parents, who ruled Southfork with a firm hand.
“We’ll never be relegated to sort of a cameo-type existence.”
Duffy said other old-timers expected to appear include Ken Kercheval, who played Pam’s half-brother Cliff Barnes, and Steve Kanaly as Ewing half-brother Ray Krebbs. Charlene Tilton, who played the flirtatious Lucy Ewing, also pops up later in the season.
“Quite literally any actor and any character, for that matter, who did not actually die … the option of those people and characters coming back is out there,” said Duffy, who followed his stint on “Dallas” with long-running roles on “Step by Step” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
“That option is always on the table because that’s what ‘Dallas’ was, ‘Dallas’ was that kind of show.”