Patrick Duffy Biography

PHOTO: Patrick Duffy

Born on St. Patrick’s Day to Terrence and Marie Duffy, Patrick was the elder of two children. His parents owned taverns in and around the small town of Townsend, Montana, and later, when Duffy was twelve, the family moved to Seattle, Washington State.

Keen to become a professional athlete, Duffy trained hard throughout his teens, even becoming a certified scuba diver. However, his involvement in his high school’s drama department led Duffy to apply to the Professional Actors Training Program at the University of Washington in Seattle. He must have shown some promising talent because he was one of only twelve people accepted from over 1,200 applicants.

After rupturing both his vocal chords during his senior year at college, Duffy worked as an interpreter for ballet, opera and orchestra companies in Washington.

Aged 21, Duffy met the love of his life, Carlyn, whom he met on a bus. Ten years his senior, Carlyn was a ballet dancer with the First Chamber Dance Company. She was also a Buddhist, and introduced Duffy to the faith, which he still strictly follows to this day. The couple were married in a Buddhist temple in 1974 and in the same year their first of two children, Padraic, was born.

After appearing in a few plays off-Broadway in New York, the Duffy’s decided to move to Los Angeles, with the hope that Patrick could stretch his acting career a little further. Things were difficult at first with Patrick driving a florist’s delivery truck between landing small roles in two TV-movies, including Hurricane (1974), starring Larry Hagman - whom he would work with again in Dallas - and The Stranger Who Looks Like Me (1974).

In 1976, his break came when NBC offered him the lead role in The Man from Atlantis (1976-1978). Although a relatively short-lived TV fantasy show producing just seventeen episodes, Duffy earned his name as gill-endowed, human/fish hybrid, Mark Harris. As the only survivor of the legendary sunken continent, Atlantis, the eponymous hero came ‘up from the ocean depths to turn his sea-world powers against the earth’s most evil forces’. So ran the advert at the time.

It was the sort of fantasy role that either typecast an actor for life or led to bigger things; fortunately for Duffy, the latter proved to be the case, but not without consequence. Running around barefoot for many of the scenes, the ‘dry land’ filming took its toll on Duffy’s webbed feet. As a result, he developed a condition called Morton's Neuroma, and in 1989, had to have an operation to cut out the swollen nerve endings. He is now left with permanently damaged feet and it has been rumoured that he often wears clogs to ease the pain.
 

In 1978, the Producers decided to cancel the show’s next season, allowing Duffy to audition for the role of Bobby Ewing on the prime-time series, Dallas. In what could arguably be the most popular show of the 80s, Dallas was most definitely the highlight of Duffy’s career. For eleven lucrative years, which saw him earn $75,000 per episode, Duffy worked alongside Larry Hagman, Victoria Principle, Barbara Belle Geddes, Charlene Tilton and Ted Shackleton.

Part of a wealthy Texas family in the oil and cattle-ranching businesses, Bobby Ewing was the dutiful son of Miss Ellie and Jock, the good husband and the all round nice guy, albeit sometimes a little naive. Bobby’s older brother, J.R (Larry Hagman) was perhaps the main star of the show: often caught up in dodgy deals and endless affairs. In the episode which saw J.R get shot, viewing figures in the UK peaked at 20 million!

"My concept of death is different from most people's because I know it is the most inevitable thing there is."

 

The days on the Dallas set were often fun for the cast. Duffy especially admired his co-star, Larry Hagman and they would often spend time together over drinks. It was not uncommon for Hagman to open a bottle of champagne during the 7am make-up call. He later had to have a liver transplant due to his excessive alcohol intake.

In 1980, the Duffy’s had a second child, a son called Conor, who would grow up to become an actor like his father. He has enjoyed small roles in American TV shows such as Arrested Development and LAX, and recently landed the role in a feature film, called From a Place of Darkness (2007).

Four years later, Patrick Duffy starred in, and co-executive produced the feature film, "Vamping". In it, Duffy plays Harry Baranski, a poor saxophone player who robs the house of a rich widow in a desperate attempt at getting some money. He ends up falling in love with the widow. He has been also been seen in such made-for-TV movies as The Enola Gay (1982) and Alice in Wonderland (1985), as "The Goat".

On the 18th November 1986, Duffy’s parents died, murdered during a drug-fuelled robbery at the couple’s Boulder Bar in Montana. According to the press Duffy did not shed a tear or express any mourning over their deaths. Duffy cites his religion and the teachings of the Dalai Lama as the calming influence that helped him deal with the pain in his own way. He is quoted as saying,

"My concept of death is different from most people's because I know it is the most inevitable thing there is. And because I believe that, people assumed a huge degree of lack of care and emotional commitment on my part.

I feel no separation. I feel as connected to my parents now as I did when I was able to call them on the phone. And twice a day (because we chant twice a day), I am connected and communicating and taking care of them, you know? But it took a lot of explanation for people who actually think the mourning process is part of the closure.”


After seven seasons of Dallas, even directing a few episodes along the way, Duffy voiced his desire to leave the series and pursue other ventures. So it was that on the last episode of the 1984-85 season, in a terrible car crash, Bobby Ewing was killed off.

However as the ratings dipped, with uninterested audiences switching over to the likes of Miami Vice, the Producers at CBS approached Duffy pleading for him to return to the show and made him an offer he could not refuse. But how were they going to bring Bobby Ewing back after killing him off? Duffy’s wife Carlyn had an idea, and the Producers jumped at it: it was decided that Bobby’s death and long - term absence would simply be a figment of his wife Pam’s imagination. It had all been a ‘dream’! The show lasted another five years, finally cancelling in 1991.

After Dallas, Duffy moved on to star in the TV movie, Daddy (1991), based on the best-selling novel by Danielle Steel. He then took on the character Jack Lambert, in another popular television series, along side Suzanne Somers, on the family sitcom Step by Step (1991-1998). He also directed 37 of the 160 episodes. During the series he also made time to star and Executive Produce two Dallas reunion movies, J.R. Returns (1996) and War of the Ewing’s (1998), respectively.

In 2001, Duffy took a voice - acting role in Family Guy, where he did a live action scene with Victoria Principal spoofing the infamous ‘shower scene’ sequence when Bobby Ewing comes back to Dallas.

Duffy has now left sunny California to live on the couple’s new ranch in Eagle Point, Oregon. But this move has not stopped him from working. Indeed 2006 was a very busy year for the actor and at the age of 60, he shows no signs of retiring just yet. Duffy starred alongside Stacey Keach (American History X, Pretty Woman), in a classic Saturday afternoon Western, called Desolation Canyon (2006). Then he worked on the American daytime soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful, in which he starred in ten episodes.

Also in 2006 he starred with Shelly Long in television movie Falling in Love With the Girl Next Door (2006), and appeared as a co-host, with Elle MacPherson and Ellen Croft, for an infomercial for Ellen's "Supreme Pilates".

With a TV career spanning over three decades, Patrick Duffy has not quite made it as an ‘A’ list star. Importantly, however, is that in all those years he has very rarely been out of work.

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