INTERVIEW: From Hollywood to Birmingham stage, a chat with Dallas soap star Patrick Duffy
Legendary 1980’s soap opera star Patrick Duffy of Dallas fame is coming to Birmingham to star in exciting mystery thriller Catch Me If You Can at The Alexandra theatre on 25 April.
Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby Ewing alongside Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in Texan oil soap opera Dallas, will take on a new acting role next week in Birmingham.
Duffy will star in a Broadway thriller – which is coming to Birmingham – called Catch Me If You Can (not the Leonardo DiCaprio film) by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert which first premiered in 1965.
Duffy and 1980’s Happy Days sitcom actress Linda Purl fly in from Hollywood to star alongside Corrie actor Gray O’ Brien in an exciting new production of the classic Broadway thriller.
Catch Me If You Can is a gripping mystery that keeps the audience guessing. The plot revolves around the visit of a police inspector to a house in the remote Catskill mountains to investigate the disappearance of newly married Elizabeth Corban. But when Elizabeth suddenly turns up, her husband Daniel seems surprised – and this is only the beginning of a truly baffling train of events, in which nothing is what it seems and no-one is as they appear. Will this extraordinary sequence of surprising twists and turns lead to a murderous conclusion?
Duffy took time out from his busy schedule to speak about his visit to the UK, his reflections on Dallas, and he also opened up about how he met his partner Linda Purl who stars as his wife Elizabeth in the play.
Is this your first time touring the UK? And what are you most looking forward to about it?
Yes, this will be the first time. I’m looking forward to travelling around the country, although this play is all time-consuming. I’ll go to the theatre, spend every ounce of juice I’ve got, then recuperate until it’s time to go to the theatre again. I won’t get to do as much sightseeing as I’d like but the beauty is that we’re in a new town every week and we’re driving ourselves so we’ll get to see a lot of the countryside.
How do British audiences compare to those in your American homeland?
I’m gonna get killed in America for saying this but British audiences are dedicated theatregoers. People in America tend to go to see plays and shows in places like New York, Los Angeles and maybe Chicago but it seems like everybody in the UK knows theatre. They know ballet, they know opera, they know dramatic theatre, musicals and panto so they’re well-tuned to the theatre experience. They’re not going in on a learning curve and I find that really wonderful. British audiences to me are the quintessential audience to play to or to play with, I should say.
What can audiences expect when they come to see Catch Me If You Can at The Alexandra theatre in Birmingham?
It’s different from the type of plays I did in school, in college and during my theatrical training. I did all the traditional things. We went through medieval morality plays through Shakespeare and the classics but I’ve never done one of these wonderful Agatha Christie-type whodunnits before, where the plot isn’t solved almost until the curtain comes down. And it’s great fun playing both sides of the character – the villain and the hero – until the audience finds out which side is the real one. I’ve never done something like this in front of an audience, especially a British audience, in my life before.
How would you sum up the character of Daniel Corban in Catch Me If You Can?
He’s Bobby Ewing with no morals.
Does the play present any specific challenges for you?
First of all it’s the rigours of it. I never leave the stage for the entire play and it’s exhausting but in an interesting way. Physically I’m not as exhausted as I am mentally and vocally. So I have to marshal my forces and live like a monk for the duration of the run, but that’s OK because it all serves the play.
Your co-star is also your partner Linda Purl. Have you worked together before?
We did a TV movie together last year (Doomsday Mom), which was after we’d fallen in love and were living with each other. But this is the first time I’ve been on stage with her and it’s frightening because she is such a consummate stage actress. She has such an amazing work ethic and such professionalism so when we got this job together I got cold feet at first. It’s daunting but also inspiring.
You became a couple after chatting on Zoom during lockdown. Do you think it would have happened under other circumstances?
I would tend to say, based on the almost two years we’ve been together now, that yes it would have because of the attraction, the pull and compatibility that we have for each other. All of those elements dictate to me that yes under any circumstances we’d be together, but I don’t know how long it might have taken. This was a great hands-off getting to know each other. There was never a time during the four-plus months we were communicating that I ever had to think ‘Gosh, it’s our third dinner. Do I kiss her and say goodnight?’ None of that played into it. I didn’t even know what her hand felt like. But we got to know each other on such a deep level that when we did meet in person we’d covered all of that territory and we were ready for this relationship. I think we’d have been ready at any point but this way is perfect. We’re two old ponies in the show now and we blend together extremely well.
You’ve done so much high-profile TV work in the likes of Dallas and Man From Atlantis but what have been your personal favourites over the years?
This sounds so trite but every one has been my favourite because they happened in sequence and always at the perfect time in my life. My first big job was Man From Atlantis when I was 25 years old; I was in good shape so I played a superhero. Then when I started Dallas it was much more what I had been trained to do on stage, playing the hero and the young leading man. Not only that but I worked with a person who on the first day of the read-through became the best friend I think I’ve ever had, namely Larry Hagman.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?
Linda! Also, I’ve been a Buddhist for 50 years now and I practice every day so I carry a small altar with me. Wherever I am I set up my little Buddhist altar and I do my morning and evening prayers. That’s something I do no matter where I am, whether I’m in England, the States, anywhere. And I’m a minimalist when I travel. Give me a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts; if I don’t have to go to formal dinners or do interviews I could live out of a small suitcase.
Catch Me If You Can will be showing at The Alexandra theatre in Birmingham from 25 April to 30 April