Patrick Duffy interview
Patrick Duffy interview
Best known as Bobby Ewing in Dallas, Patrick Duffy is treading the boards across the UK, and is heading to Richmond and Guildford. He talks to us about touring, on-stage nerves, and the new love in his life
Iconic US soap Dallas had millions of us glued to our screens throughout its eighties heyday as we lapped up the drama of a glamorous, feuding family. Patrick Duffy was nice-guy Bobby Ewing, one of its most popular characters. He was even written back in after his character’s ‘death’, which caused viewer numbers to drop – rendering an entire series ‘just a dream’.
Patrick is inextricably linked to the character he played, even though the main series ended 30 years ago. But Patrick doesn’t mind a bit. “I get called Bobby in the street more than I get called Patrick, and I just smile. I love Bobby. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in my career.”
Patrick is currently touring in Catch Me If You Can, a murder-mystery, in which he stars with his new girlfriend, Linda Purl. “If it weren’t for Bobby, I wouldn’t be on this tour and quite honestly, by and large, people come to see Bobby in a play. When people come to see me at the stage door, they want me to sign photos of Bobby and of Dallas. Every single day I wake up with such gratitude that I was able to be on that show.”
When we chat, he is a few weeks into the tour, which continues until July. “We’re loving it. Linda knows the UK – her son went to school in Leeds. I’ve only been here a couple of times for work and usually based out of London so this is just a remarkable time because we’re driving to each of the venues so we get to see the countryside…”
“We don’t really have time to do the tourist stuff so we see a city by the gorgeous theatres that we play. Then, quite honestly, we get to know the people of that town by virtue of who’s waiting outside the stage door when we come out.”
The play comes to Richmond in April and Guildford in June. Patrick is looking forward to coming to south west London and Surrey, and will get a week off after the Richmond dates.
“We will be staying in London, and that’s literally the only free time we have so we’re trying to take advantage of every cultural event we can go to, and we will meet up with friends, do all that kind of thing because the tour is hard work.
“We do eight shows a week, Monday through Saturday, and then on Sunday morning we pack our suitcases, throw them in the car, drive anywhere from two to seven hours to the next location. We find our new apartment or room, unpack, collapse, get up the next morning and then it’s showtime. I’m collapsing in my bed every evening but I’m loving doing it.”
Catch Me If You Can is adapted from French writer Robert Thomas’ play Trap For a Lonely Man. Set in the 60s, it is a comedy murder-mystery, which Patrick likens to a cross between Agatha Christie and Mad Men.
“Linda and I are the only Americans in the play and the entire cast has to speak with an American accent which is such a blessing. If I had to do a British accent, I’d get laughed off the stage!”
Patrick, 73, and Linda, 66, are loving the opportunity to tour together. Says Patrick: “It’s wonderful on so many different levels. We wouldn’t have done this without eachother. It was too long to be separated.
“The fact that we work together, we come home together, it’s just the easiest way to deal with this type of schedule. And plus I get to hold hands and kiss my co-star, which I was never able to do for the past 50 years!”
It’s quite the love story. Patrick and Linda’s romance started via Zoom during lockdown, having been introduced via a mutual friend. They chatted continually for months and their relationship blossomed. Then Patrick made the long drive from his ranch in Oregon to her home in Colorado – they’ve been together ever since.
And they speak candidly about how they are delighted to have found love again – Patrick’s wife of 43 years, ballet dancer Carlyn Rosser, passed away in 2017, aged 78. Linda is divorced.
Linda found fame as Fonzie’s girlfriend in Happy Days, and then in shows such as Homeland, and has a range of stage credits to her name. She’s also an acclaimed jazz singer and will play The Pheasantry in Chelsea on April 22.
Patrick’s career has mainly been on TV, including comedy drama Step by Step. He admits he gets nervous before going on stage. “With TV, you get to fine tune every shot. On stage, you have to fine tune every moment. You don’t get a second chance and so your energy levels on stage are much higher. Your antennas are out, your ears are open, you’re ready for anything and everything…”
He points to a rather extreme case in point… “We were in Cardiff and a woman broke her leg during the intermission in the gallery. She couldn’t be moved as it was a serious break. We held the curtain as long as we could and then we had to continue on with the show. So we did the second act with the emergency crew’s lights beaming out from their helmets and their radios going back and forth to the hospital.”
On the less dramatic hazards of a live show, he says: “Every once in a while, one of us will have this brain vacuum and you forget a line. And if it’s important for the show, everybody on stage is mentally trying to figure out how we can get this back. We’re all trying to rescue whoever it is that dropped the ball that night, and believe me all of us have done it.”
“So yes I get nervous. It’s not like a ballet dancer – I’m not gonna fall down or not make a jump or something. But every night there’s a little question in my mind, ‘why did you want to do this?’ Then the curtain goes up, I get that flutter in my stomach, and off we go. The nerves are good. It means I care… I just don’t want to throw up.”
Patrick nearly went down a very different path for his career. He tells us: “I am a carpenter by trade. I apprenticed with my father and I was actually a good carpenter. I then looked at the next step from that, which would be design so my intention was to enter university in the School of Architecture. But then my high school drama teacher took me aside just before graduation and said maybe there’s an outside chance I could have some sort of career in the theatre, and that changed the course of my life.”
When the tour of Catch Me If You Can wraps up, Patrick is looking forward to going back to the US but has some mixed feelings. “I look forward to going home because my family’s there, I have two sons who have married brilliant wonderful women. I have four grandchildren. This will be the longest I have ever been without being in their company. And I miss them terribly. I am also looking forward to spending time with Linda in a non-work situation for a while where we can relax, socialise, go see friends. I have a home in Mexico so we’re hoping to go there for a few weeks of rest and relaxation.
“But I will miss is the routine of working here. And when I say routine, that’s not an arduous routine. It’s such satisfying work, stepping out onto the stage and having the interaction with the audience. I will miss that. So, honestly, it’s a good news bad news situation.”
Catch Me If You Can
Richmond Theatre, 11 – 16 April
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, 13 – 18 June