Jesse Metcalfe on ‘Dallas’

The former “Desperate Housewives” performer talks about becoming Christopher Ewing and bringing “Dallas” back to TV.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

“Dallas” has been updated for a new generation. That means not only have the Ewing kids grown up, but they’re also addressing current issues in the oil business.

Jesse Metcalfe plays Christopher Ewing, the adopted son of Bobby Ewing. In the new series, Christopher is exploring alternate energies as a way to get out of the oil business. When we spoke to Metcalfe, he had some deep thoughts about bringing “Dallas” back to life for a new generation.


CraveOnline: How juicy was it to start with the question of an e-mail sabotaging your wedding, then go from there?

Jesse Metcalfe: It’s incredibly juicy. It’s very informative because it really speaks to the character and what ultimately he’s going through for the entire season. He’s really in conflict. He’s in conflict in the romantic arena, he’s questioning if he’s with the right woman and obviously also there’s a certain amount of pain because the love of his life is now with his nemesis and cousin John Ross.

He hasn’t really had a closure on that relationship but it’s just one of the many emotional stressors that Christopher is going through in the first season. Oftentimes he’s really teetering on the edge. He’s going through so much. Also dealing with his abandonment issues and also dealing with his at times desperate need to really prove himself to his father and assert himself as a man in the Ewing family hierarchy.

CraveOnline: Is there any hope for Christopher and Elena?

Jesse Metcalfe: Well yeah, there’s always hope. There’s always hope. Without revealing too much, I think it’s safe to say that a person’s first love is never too far from their heart and your first heartbreak always seems to cut the deepest. Those scars people generally live with for a lifetime so there’s a lot of power in that. It’s a difficult thing for Christopher to let go of.

CraveOnline: Does it kind of rewrite history when he learns it didn’t really happen the way he think it did?

Jesse Metcalfe: What if? That question is certainly posed. What can I say, I can’t really say more.

CraveOnline: What mouthfuls of technical jargon did you have this season?

Jesse Metcalfe: Oh my God, it’s endless really with the methane hydrates and the extraction process. All of the different scientific experiments I display in various different parts of the season. It’s a lot of new information definitely but that’s something I really love about Christopher.

I really love that aspect of the character that he’s brainy. He’s a really intelligent character and he’s incredibly ambitious. I like that storyline. It’s very contemporary. It’s very relevant. I just think it’s really important to the new “Dallas” really asserting itself as a contemporary relevant piece of television in 2012. I think there may be some question of that. There may be some doubt about the continuation, or as many people see the reboot of “Dallas” being relevant at this time. I think that’s one of the examples that it very much is.

CraveOnline: Would Christopher run the business well?

Jesse Metcalfe: Absolutely. Absolutely. Christopher, like his father, has a very strong moral compass. He’s a very ethical man and I definitely think ethics plays a large part in a long lasting successful business. I think when our ethics go awry, I think everything else follows suit. Look at the economic collapse and the Wall Street collapse and this recession.

What is it about if not greed and a lack of ethics. I think Christopher is the best choice in my opinion. So I think maybe the doubt that his father has in his strength or in his ability to manage Southfork in his absence is probably mostly informed by his own experience, the manipulation and the betrayal and the backstabbing that he experienced at the hands of his brother JR. He doesn’t want Christopher to go through that same thing. Maybe he doesn’t think he’s ready to deal with it. I guess that’s a whole other matter entirely and that’s why Christopher’s on this quest to prove himself as a man.

CraveOnline: How would you define the battle between Bobby and Christopher?

Jesse Metcalfe: I think it’s really a communication breakdown and also the fact that maybe that Bobby hasn’t seen Christopher in a couple of years when he comes back to Southfork. It’s basically Christopher feels like he needs to prove himself, maybe more than he actually does. I think Bobby has always seen his son as a very capable man. He raised him to be a capable man. I think he has his questions of if he’s going to be able to deal with the dysfunction of the family. It’s really more of a communication breakdown more than anything.


CraveOnline: Is the idea of playing Bobby Ewing’s son daunting to you?

Jesse Metcalfe: To me personally, no. I have been posed the question recently: do you find it to be a challenge to play the “good guy?” I definitely think stereotypically there are some challenges there, but I think that my character is so wrought with inner conflict and turmoil that it’s really not an issue for me. I have plenty to sink my teeth into.

As long as they keep writing for me, I really want the character to stay intelligent and at some points to be a step ahead. I think maybe in the past that was possibly the problem with Bobby, is that he always seemed to be a step behind. I want Christopher to have learned from his father’s mistakes. I want Christopher to have learned from the history there and to maybe be a smarter version of his father and also one that there’s a little more grey area with Christopher.

He doesn’t have such a defined line of morality. At his core he’s a very moral and ethical guy but I think he’s more than willing to fight fire with fire and manipulate, use manipulation to his benefit if he feels like it’s really good for the family.

CraveOnline: “Desperate Housewives” was such a popular introduction for a lot of people to you. How carefully did you plot your career after that?

Jesse Metcalfe: Well, it’s definitely important not to be stereotyped, but I think that my association with that show, although it is very prevalent, I’m identified as “Jesse Metcalfe from ‘Desperate Housewives’”and occasionally “Jesse Metcalfe from the film John Tucker Must Die.” But I really wasn’t on the show that long, so I consider that to be a compliment. I consider that to be a testament to the impact that I had when I was on the show. But I don’t think I ran any risk of being stereotyped or typecast.

I wasn’t on the show that long. Now if you want to talk about maybe the lighter fare that has maybe defined my career thus far, I would say that this role on “Dallas” is a great turn for me. It’s a lot more adult role, it’s a lot more complex role and it’s a leading role. It’s an important vehicle for me and it’s an important time. I really hope that the show is going to be as well received as I think it will be.

CraveOnline: What do you think will be the new question for this “Dallas,” like “Who shot JR?” was for the original?

Jesse Metcalfe: Wow, I have no idea because I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet. I can tell you nearly every episode that we’ve done in the first season, there’s a lot of cliffhangers, there’s a lot of twists and turns, there’s a few unexpected deaths. There’s a lot of great cliffhangers already but I think we need to establish ourselves as the new “Dallas.”

Maybe that’ll come in the third season if we get that far. I think we’ve got to get everybody invested first, everybody invested with these new characters specifically. And maybe the next generation, maybe the young cast can have our “Who shot JR?” moment, but I have no idea what it will be. Only time will tell I think.

CraveOnline: Would you have been hesitant to do “Dallas” if it had not involved the original cast?

Jesse Metcalfe: Yeah. I think I was hesitant to begin with. I wasn’t sure that remaking such an iconic show was such a good idea. With the wave of all these new remakes and reboots, most of which were failing, I was definitely hesitant.

But I think without Larry, Linda and Patrick, it would be a totally different show. I think the reason why this show works and why I think it’s going to be successful is because it’s a continuation of the original series. I think something gets lost in the translation when you remake or reboot a show because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There’s a reason why “Dallas” lasted 13 seasons and we’re cashing in on those same themes, those grand themes of loyalty and betrayal and greed and ambition, and keeping the show relatable about this dysfunctional family.