Tuesday, August 06, 2013

"Dallas" fan shares his story of working on the set of the new show

It would seem like a dream come true, to work on the set of the reboot of a TV show you love. Alex Calloway of Midland, Texas, got to experience that firsthand, working on the set of the new "Dallas" at Southfork Ranch in Texas, and he was kind enough to share his story with BRBTV…

“Dallas” has been my favorite show since I started watching the reruns in college. As I collected the DVD's and several books on the subject throughout the years, as well as engaged in the online fanbase, my devotion to the show only increased. When they announced the filming of a pilot for a new show, I was of course thrilled along with the rest of the fan community. We had been waiting for a new reunion or revival show for years and when the news came it was like Christmas morning.

I applied to be an extra along with tons of other fans and did not expect to be accepted. When I heard they wanted me, well, words obviously can't express the excitement. When I heard it was to play a waiter at Christopher Ewing's wedding at Southfork, the real Southfork, I was even more thrilled. And when I realized this scene was going to have not only the new cast but Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Steve Kanaly, and Charlene Tilton, well, I knew it was likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I expected the greatest theme park attraction-style thrill of my life and, although I understand my experience as an extra was rare and not typical, it indeed did not disappoint.

As I headed down to a hotel in Plano, Texas, near Parker just outside of Dallas where Southfork is, it got even more exciting. I had visited before, been on the tour, but now I was going to be on the show. I still don't know how I slept that night.

When I got there the next day, early of course, and met the fellow extras, it became clear I was the only fan who had gotten lucky enough to do this for his first extra job. Everyone else was a professional, people who had done this many times and many of whom were also on the original. It was just another job to them, but they were extremely nice and seemed happy for me. I felt very grateful and blessed that I had somehow made it on to the job. As I got dressed in my waiter outfit and headed out from the dining hall and saw the ranch, the “Dallas” theme played in my head and images of the opening credits rolled across my mind. I knew it was going to be an incredible two days.

As I stood outside the famous ranch house by the garage and the grill next to it, just taking it in while remembering scenes from the show, out came Patrick Duffy in a tux and cracking jokes. The smile I had at the moment really was making my face hurt, it was so wide. It was like I had gotten to go back in time and be on the set of the original show; I truly felt like Marty McFly. I knew I wanted to try to meet Mr. Duffy and tell him how much I loved his work and the character of Bobby Ewing, not to mention “Step By Step” and his funny videos with the crab, but I was pretty speechless and knew I would have to wait till the end of the day anyway since extras are not really supposed to do that.

I took my orders and proceeded to look like a busy waiter carrying a tray of cups back and forth between tables as they filmed a scene with a helicopter arriving on the ranch to meet Bobby. It was eight different kinds of awesome to see that. Memories of that happening on the show time and again flashed across my mind as I continued to feel like I was in a time warp. As the day went on toward lunch, the rest of the actors began to show up for the scenes set before the wedding. Seeing Linda Gray, Charlene Tilton, and the new cast show up was a thrill in and of itself. I did my best with the instructions I had on where to stand to be near the actors and the camera. The idea of seeing myself in this first episode of the new “Dallas” was extraordinary, so I just decided to go with the moment -- I knew I might never get a chance like this again.

We broke for lunch and had some very good food, as though it had been made by Miss Ellie herself. As I sat there finishing up, in strolled Steve Kanaly, who was being very casual and relaxed, and I of course was once again excited as I had been all day. I headed outside to wait for them to tell us to go back to work and saw him again standing out there. A guy approached with his family who recognized him and they had a happy reunion right there outside the dining hall. As it turned out, it was Joe Duncan, the man who originally owned the ranch years ago before he sold it around the middle of the show’s run. Just the fact that I saw those guys meet again for the first time in awhile blew my mind somewhat.

Over the course of that day I boldly approached and met Josh Henderson, Jordana Brewster, and Charlene Tilton -- I felt very proud of myself as a fan. But when we headed out at the end of the first day I finally got my chance to meet Mr. Duffy. He and Linda were out in the parking lot and, despite being extremely nervous, I managed to approach them and introduce myself. Not only were they both extremely nice, but Patrick offered to take a picture. Naturally I had neglected to bring a camera. He said we should do it at the end of the next day, and I was just smiling from ear to ear. Once again, not sure how I slept that night but I did.

 Alex Calloway with Patrick Duffy.
Photo courtesy of Alex Calloway; please do not copy without permission.

The next day I played a chef, so I actually got to join the ranks of “Dallas” actors who played more than one role. I met Steve Kanaly briefly and watched “Dallas” history be made as Christopher got married. Finally, as the day wrapped, I managed to just barely catch Mr. Duffy and get a fellow extra to take this amazing photo I got with him. It was the icing on the cake of an incredible dreamlike life experience. As I drove away and pondered what the new show would be like, I knew that my career was likely to make it where I wouldn't get to be an extra again. I regretted also later on of course that I did not get a chance to meet Mr. Hagman as he was not in the scene. But the experience I came away with was an incredible one and I am still amazingly grateful that I got to do it and be a part of “Dallas,” all the while interacting with and meeting heroes who I had watched on TV for years.

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