Like father and son: Jesse Metcalfe on how on-screen Dallas dad Patrick Duffy filled the hole left by his real-life father
21:37 GMT, 31 August 2012
When Jesse Metcalfe was first asked to audition for the role of Bobby Ewing's adopted son Christopher for the comeback series of Dallas, he said no.
'I was very sceptical,' he says. 'I thought, “How is it a good idea to bring back this 80s soap opera, and how is it going to be relevant to 2012” I couldn't get my mind around it. Then I read the script…'
Or, at least, I think that's what he says. It's not easy concentrating on anything in the gorgeous Jesse's presence – except for what a lucky so-and-so Eva Longoria was to cavort with him when he played her bare-chested gardener on Desperate Housewives.
Jesse Metcalfe with his on-screen adoptive father Patrick Duffy in the new, updated series of Dallas
He should cut a fine figure stripped to the waist mending fences at Southfork. Think Mr Darcy in chaps.
He's 33 and recently engaged to actress Cara Santana. Besides, we've already established where we stand. To Cara, he's 'Jess' without an 'e', whereas his mother calls him 'Jess-ee'. I've already slipped into his mother's pronunciation.
'It sort of defines our relationship. If you call me Jess things could get a little…' he teases.
'After reading the script I really thought they'd nailed it. The characters were so well-developed and interesting. They all have their emotional insecurities and I think that's what's at the heart of my character.
'Christopher was adopted, so ultimately he was abandoned by his biological parents. Because he's not a blood Ewing, he feels he has to work much harder to prove himself, to make his adoptive father proud.
Jesse Metcalfe, like his estranged father, has battled with alcoholism
'I used my own abandonment issues to get into the role. I'm estranged from my father and that relationship, as a young man, is incredibly important. It's probably responsible for the man I've become.
'I've had to learn most lessons the hard way. I never really had that father figure to look up to. I think that's the reason I'm so ambitious. I felt like I wasn't appreciated as a child so I wanted to prove my worth as an adult, as an actor.'
Estranged from his father Jesse has lobbed this hand grenade of a confession in from left field.
He's normally as prickly as a Texan cactus when it comes to speaking about his personal life, which, as he concedes, has led many of us to write him off as the 'lightweight young toy boys' he plays. It turns out, though, there's more to Jesse than meets the eye.
Born in Carmel Valley, California, his mother left his father, to whom she was never married, when Jesse was just three and returned to her home state of Connecticut.
'I had a relatively tumultuous childhood,' he says. 'My mother never married my father. She was married to and divorced from another man, then she married and divorced my stepfather and then, ultimately, they ended up getting back together.
'My father was in and out of my life. Your mum then has to take on both roles and, as much as she tries, she's never able to fill that role of the father figure. She can support and love and protect as much as possible, but you don't really get the male validation of a father figure in your life. There’s a hole you try to fill.'
Jesse Metcalfe and fiance Cara Santana and Jesse Metcalfe attend the Channel 5 Dallas Launch Party at Old Billingsgate Market in London last week
Jesse left college in New York where he was studying acting to appear on the daytime television soap Passions. Five years later he landed the role on Desperate Housewives. He was only 26 and the sudden massive celebrity was a head-spinning thing.
For a time he dated Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, but the relationship ended soon after he checked into rehab.
Eighteen months later, while hosting the World Music Awards in Monaco, he fell from a second floor balcony during an after-party and fractured his leg.
'That sudden fame was pretty intense. It certainly wasn’t something a small-town boy from Connecticut was ready for. It introduced me to a world of instant gratification and decadence I'd not seen before.
'Partying through your twenties is a rite of passage for some people, but if it continues the bottom line is, are you an alcoholic or not I ascertained through Alcoholics Anonymous that I was.'
Jesse Metcalfe rose to fame playing Eva Longoria's gardener in Channel 4's Desperate Housewives
He smiles a dreamy-eyed smile before pulling the pin on his second hand grenade.
'My father battled drug and alcohol addiction. Obviously my mother warned me it could have been in my genes, but I had to go through some experiences to get there and have an understanding that I was an alcoholic.'
Again, he smiles, but the confession is desperately sad. This is the same father who awakened his passion for acting at the age of seven when he took him to see the movie The Breakfast Club.
'Looking back, I could have used a mentor – a confidante to show me the ropes.'
And now Is there someone watching out for him
'Patrick Duffy [Bobby Ewing] could be my new mentor,' he says without an ounce of contrivance. 'We have a great bond. It's been very easy for us to slip into our roles as father and son because we have a genuine rapport.
'He taught me how to ride a horse. We spent a lot of time together. I spent time with him and his wife. He's very much like his character – a very gracious man.
'I really love sinking into this world of Dallas, this world of Southfork – growing up on a ranch and being this cowboy persona. I loved playing the scenes building fences with Bobby. It really pulls you into that Dallas world.'
As I'm sure this thoroughly lovely young actor will pull in a new generation of viewers, and not just to see him stripped down to his chaps.
Dallas, Wednesday, 9pm, Channel 5.
The new cast of Dallas, which is returning to television after 20 years away
The original cast of Dallas which hit TV screens in 1978