He's lived the life aquatic, come back from the dead on Dallas and worked with Suzanne Somers without ever tripping over a ThighMaster. But can Patrick Duffy keep his TV-movie wife, Patty Duke, from throttling Shelley Long in Hallmark Channel's Falling in Love with the Girl Next Door (premiering Feb. 4 at 9 pm/ET)? TVGuide.com traded Qs and As with ol' Bobby Ewing. (Or was it all just a dream?)
TVGuide.com: I see that Patty Duke has been robbing the cradle a little bit....
With whom? [Laughs] With me? Nooooo.... we're sort of contemporaries.
TVGuide.com: Are you OK these days playing the father of the hot young chick instead of getting the hot young chick?
Well, it'd be ludicrous if I was getting the hot young chick. That's even more distasteful.
TVGuide.com: Harrison Ford would beg to differ.
Well, that's his lifestyle. My lifestyle is being here on the ranch and enjoying my life. No, I'm totally comfortable with the transitions that this industry allows us to do. And it allows men to do it easier than it allows women to do it.
TVGuide.com: Is it true that in 23 years of acting, you were only out of work for three weeks total?
In the first 23 years of it, yes. Going from Man from Atlantis to Dallas was one week, and then from Dallas to Step by Step was two weeks. But Step by Step was over in 1998, and from then on, amortizing my time off, I'm just about the same as every other actor in town. But that was a great 23 years, I must say!
TVGuide.com: Sounds like '98 musta been hard times, you in soup lines and such.
Yeah, that's when we started to tighten the belt, buying one loaf of bread again.... But no, I have a very fortunate magical kind of career.
TVGuide.com: Could that be because you're an Irish guy born on St. Patrick's Day?
Good luck happens to people who work hard for it. Sometimes people just fall into the honey pot, but I've consistently strived to create whatever good fortune I can get in my life and consistently strive just as hard not to screw it up once I have it! It's great to be able to do shows like Falling in Love with the Girl Next Door, which I think is entirely too long of a title. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: It's right up there with The Chronicles of Narnia.... Did your wife really suggest the dream idea for Dallas?
She didn't suggest it in the sense that they took her idea. I got a phone call from [Dallas costar Larry] Hagman saying that he wanted to "get together and talk," but we've been friends for too long, I could hear it in his voice. I turned to my wife and said, "They're going to ask me back on the show," and her rejoinder was "The only way you could go back is if that whole year was a dream." Then when I asked the producer what his plan was, he said, "Well, we're going to make it a dream." I thought, "How cool? Two of my favorite people had the same idea."
TVGuide.com: What's it like to be a part of such a seminal scene in TV lore?
First of all, Dallas had two moments like that, which is pretty unheard of "Who shot JR?" was iconic in its importance. The shower scene was, too, to a smaller degree. It's so cool to have that on your list of "what I did on my summer vacation" things. If there's one thing I've learned over and over again, it's how appreciative you must be A) to have a job at any given time, B) to have had three really wonderful jobs where I've never worked with a person I didn't like and C) to be a part of television history. If I did nothing else and I plan to work for another 50 years if I can how great is that?
TVGuide.com: Of course, in today's day and age, Bobby's return would have all been spoiled on the Internet.
[Laughs] Yeah, we were before all of that, so we could keep the secret. "Who shot JR?" and the shower scene were handled literally like spy movies. A courier went to New York with a locked briefcase before the national feed and spliced the scenes in like an hour before it aired. You couldn't do that now.
TVGuide.com: Have any of your subsequent roles ever paid "wink-wink" homage to the shower scene?
No, but we took the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" thing from Newhart, when they did their dream.... Often we sit back and go, "OK, you made fun of us when we did it, but look at how many people have decided it was a cool thing."
TVGuide.com: Is it safe to say we have seen the last of the Dallas reunion specials?
Duffy: Yes. I feel that after Barbara [Bel Geddes, Miss Ellie] died this year, it's not right to do it again, and I think everyone else is in agreement. I just spent a week with Hagman, so I know he's of the same mind.
TVGuide.com: Isn't there occasional talk of a big-screen version, starring, like, Bruce Willis as JR?
There is talk, but I haven't heard the final casting. It keeps going around and around. They're doing movies of so many television shows now, it seems inevitable.
TVGuide.com: I can see it now: "Jessica Simpson is Lucy!"
Yeah, well... anything is possible!
TVGuide.com: Do you have the itch to land a new regular prime-time gig?
Absolutely. To me, this is the best industry on the planet, and it's also the easiest way to work. It doesn't mean that the work is easy, but it's easy for me to do because it's so enjoyable. The fact that I'm not on a regular show right now makes me miss that process.
TVGuide.com: Mike the plumber could use a boss on Housewives.
[Laughs] All my friends who aren't in the business say, "Oh, you should do Desperate Housewives." Every time there's a hot show, everybody thinks you should do it.
TVGuide.com: Me, I'd like to see the Man from Atlantis as Aquaman's dad on the Smallville spin-off.
That would be a very nice wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of thing. I'm open to all of it. I am of the age now where I'm not going to be the swashbuckling superhero, and that's perfectly fine.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, tell me about Desolation Canyon, the other Hallmark Channel movie you did with Stacy Keach and A Martinez....
They phoned and said, "Do you want to do a Western with Stacy Keach?" I said "Count me in!" Stacy and I worked 10 years previous to that on James Michener's Texas. We really respect each other and we had the best time. It's one of those rare times that two old guys can be the leads in a thing. And we made a point never to say [in Desolation Canyon], "We're too old for this," the worst cliché line on the planet. It was nice to be able to say here are two guys in their fifties/sixties that can do old-man stuff and have a good time doing it.
TVGuide.com: You and Stacy don't, like, go sheepherding in the mountains and fall in love, do you?
Uh, no. It's not a Brokeback Mountain kind of thing although I do think he's a fine-looking man!