Patrick Duffy has paid tribute to “best friend” Larry Hagman who he still misses terribly a decade after the J. R. Ewing actor died.
Duffy played Hagman’s brother Bobby Ewing in glamourous soap opera Dallas about warring oil tycoon brothers. He was the show’s good guy heartthrob and foil to J.R.’s dastardly schemes and power plays.
It was a global hit which ran for 13 seasons from 1978 until 1991, spawned a made for TV movie in 1996 and a short-lived reboot in 2012.
While onscreen they were bitter rivals, off screen it was a different story with Duffy by his long-time friend’s side when he died on November 23 in 2012 from cancer.
Speaking to The Standard, the 73-year-old admitted: “It stuns me to realise that he has been gone that long.
“I met him for the first time in 1978 at the very first reading of the pilot of Dallas. I walked in and shook his hand then I came home that evening and told my wife ‘I just met my best friend’. And he was that for the entire time that I knew him, from that handshake until the day that I stood by his bed when he died. He was the closest, dearest friend that I’ve ever had.
“To be able to work with your best friend and not just him, but Linda Gray [who played Sue Ellen Ewing] to this day is a dear friend, we communicate on a weekly basis, to be able to share 16 years of your working life with those people that you’re that close to is a gift that I am eternally grateful for.
“Larry was an absolute crazy man, he was the gentlest creature in the world – he took care of everybody. He was a professional, there was never a bad day on set and he was never the prima donna mega star that he could have claimed to be by all rights.
“There was never a more popular, more well-known actor than Larry Hagman as J. R. in the entire world but he was the clown and my best friend and all we did was play games together.”
Duffy can currently be seen leading the cast in a UK tour of murder mystery Catch Me If You Can which arrives at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley from June 20.
Written by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, and directed by Bob Tomson, it is adapted from Robert Thomas’ 1964 French play Trap for a Lonely Man.
The plot revolves around the visit of a police inspector (played by Coronation Street actor Gray O’Brien) to a house in the remote Catskill mountains to investigate the disappearance of newly married Elizabeth Corban (Linda Purl).
But when Elizabeth suddenly turns up, her husband Daniel (Duffy) insists she’s not the woman he married as a series of twists and turns ensue.
Duffy’s return to stage comes 20 years after he made his West End debut in Art at the Wyndham Theatre and while relishing every moment, including starring alongside real-life girlfriend Purl, he says he knows people are coming expecting to see his Dallas alter ego.
“My whole life is basically built around the good fortune that I’ve had to be on the show Dallas,” said Duffy, who has also starred in TV shows The Man From Atlantis and Step By Step.
He added: “I go to bed and wake up every single day so thankful for the gift of having been able to be an actor and employed all these years.
“So when people on the street say ‘Bobby’ I turn around and smile. If they want to talk, I talk. If they want to ask the same three questions that I’ve been asked for the last 50 years, I’m happy to answer it again. It’s their first time and it just reminds me how fortunate I am.”
Despite so many fans eager to hear more of his tales, Duffy has vowed to never release a memoir.
He said: “The nice thing is I grew up most of my career before cellphones, before everyone had had cameras so we would go out for dinner as a family and we weren’t bombarded with paparazzi, it was a civilised celebritydom back in the 70s and 80s.
“So much of any celebrity is known of their lives, I have no secrets first of all so it’s not going to be a ‘oh my god I didn’t know that!’
“I’ve led a fairly boring life, from the time I was 24 year’s old I was married, I had children, I had a great career, but I was home every night for dinner. We didn’t do the Hollywood circuit in terms that 90% of my friends were friends from daily life and not in the industry so I really have nothing to say and the few things that I have that are personal.”
He added: “The few things that are personal will remain in my heart and not on a page.”
Catch Me If You Can starring Patrick Duffy, Linda Purl and Gray O’Brien is playing at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley from 20 - 25 June. Tickets start from £18 and are available to buy from the online box office.