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Q&A: Cynthia Cidre - Dallas TNT

Dallas TNT Cynthia Cidre
By Colin Hunter September 12th 2012

Dallas TNT series show runner Cynthia Cidre took time out of her schedule to take questions from the fans on UltimateDallas.com


Ultimate Dallas - Hi Cynthia. Great to talk to you again. Thank you for taking the time to do this

Cynthia Cidre - My pleasure Colin. Thank you for everything you do. How did we do in England by the way?

Ultmate Dallas - Extremely well. The audience doubled in that timeslot for Channel Five which is amazing

Cynthia - Fantastic. Right. I'm so glad because here we are preparing the next season

UD - We opened questions up to the fans and we have tons and I mean tons. So I filtered them down or we would be here for a month. So I will just kick off


Looking back at Dallas season one what do you think worked well and is there anything you would have done differently?

Cynthia - I thought the combination of the older generation and the new generation in the same scenes worked well. I liked very much those were not parallel stories but very much integrated into each others lives. The only thing I might have done differently is that we really had very long scripts and sadly had to cut some scenes that were not plot orientated after we shot them. Because there was no time, it has to be 41 and a half minutes and so this season we are trying to write slightly shorter scripts. I end up watching a scene that I completely cut and I'm thinking why did I cut that, it was a beautiful scene but the story has to make sense and you end up cutting the scenes that are purely emotional rather than story driven.

UD - I understand those scenes are on the DVD

Cynthia - They are yes

There is such a rich history. So many characters. Is there anything you toyed with doing or planned to do but changed your mind?

 

Cynthia - I think in the pilot I was originally meant to bring Cliff back and he was going to be at the wedding but we didn't learn anything yet but I was going to have him at the wedding. There was no room for that, just no time. I wrote it in the pilot or in the outline and ended up cutting it out and brought him in a little later

The show is faster paced, quick cuts etc. What influences the look? Was it a conscious decision to move away from the original show with the big close ups etc.?

Cynthia - That is more directorial so Mike Robin and I did talk about it and I think audiences are more sophisticated and they are used to watching film that looks a little different to when Dallas was shot. Also the frame of a TV has changed from a 4x3 to a 16x9, when you did a close-up of a person in a 4x3 all you got was their head whereas in a 16x9 when up close you still get the landscape behind them. So forcibly it becomes less of a really tight headshot. But it's also a matter of we are shooting in Dallas, we want to show the location, the ranch, and things have changed. That looked a little dated with the big close-ups.

UD - and of course Rodney Charters is on board from 24 fame

Cynthia - We loved him, both Mike and I. I was a major fan of 24. We heard he was interested. He was literally the only DP we talked to and we had a phone interview with him and he ended the interview an hour later saying he would love to do this. We hung up and called each other and were like "Did Rodney Charters say he wanted to do the show?" He did it last year and he will be back this year. He is already back in Dallas.

Are there any plans to bring Pam backed played by Victoria Principal or end her by saying she is dead?

Cynthia - Not currently.

UD - Would you consider killing her off? Ending it finally to stop all the speculation.

Cynthia - Well many people feel like she is dead, so actually bringing her back would feel like we had to sort of excuse it. I talked to Larry and Patrick and they were like didn't she burn? Then after that didn't she have the plastic surgery and come back and say she was dying of cancer?

UD - Yes that was the last time we saw the character. She said she only had a few months to live and that was twenty five years ago so.....

Cynthia - Yes. I don't know. It's open and I'm torn about it. I'm torn about visiting her grave so that ends or keeping the hope alive. I don't really know. We don't really know what to do about that. Season two is pretty much laid out; I've pitched it to the studio and the network. We are done through the fifth outline and three scripts so we know where we are headed here. It's a fast moving train. We start shooting, Mike and I are going to Texas this Thursday and we’ll be there for three weeks.

UD - Gosh it's almost a year already since season one kicked off. It must be really full on

Cynthia - It is nonstop. It's not just this, it's the interviews, it's casting, we are setting up post production now, the editors are moving in, it's doing up the stories. I now have to actually produce the show in Dallas so I can't be in the room here, so I get the notes at the end of the day, so it's not until ten o’clock that I get back to my hotel room, then I have to read them. It is literally nonstop

In the original we never really got to see the catalyst moments that set characters like JR off on a path of badness. Would you agree that season one was laying the foundations                       and season 2 is  where it all kicks off?

Cynthia - I hope so. You know I think times change and audiences become more motivated. We set out season one and thought John Ross has to be the bad guy, DNA would say if he's JR's son he's going to be the bad guy but we don't want to have him fully formed as the bad guy, we want to see why. So season one was very much the production of John Ross to the light or the dark. Yes he was driven to prove himself to his father, the truth is if you look back at JR and Jock, Jock treated JR very badly and I think everything JR did was as a result of Jock. So this is no different from that. Of course love is going to purify him maybe until he loses the girl to his archenemy and he goes dead. I thought Josh did a beautiful job at the end in that last scene, he asked me, he said "I want to read the scene with a very flat low voice because I feel like something inside me has died" and I said that's exactly right. If you notice early on he's a really fast talker, Josh Henderson, his stepfather was an auctioneer so that's where that comes from, and the in that final scene with JR his voice is very different. He's now a villain born.

UD - I guess that's a difference with the original where characters were clearly good or bad, it perhaps lacked that level of complexity or ambiguity

Cynthia - I hope so again because otherwise you end up with something that's very black and white, a cartoon. You know there is a place for that too but I think the writers on our staff are more complicated themselves than that so they end up writing things that are more complicated. I always say the story is already big, there is no need to put your foot on the accelerator, you let the characters be human and ground them. Just keep the stories fun and soapy and delicious. It’s the stories themselves that are the soap part of it but the characters hopefully behave in a more grounded way.

Was it deliberate to have ambiguity around the couples? I was rooting for John Ross and Elena. Love them. Was I supposed to be rooting for Elena and Chris?

Cynthia - Ok this will answer your first question too. I had intended to keep Christopher and Elena apart and I thought that John Ross and Elena would elope at the end of season one. This really would’ve changed everything. Then I got to thinking about it more and more and I thought you know I've been promising Elena and Christopher since the beginning and I'm afraid we are going to have to deliver on that and so we changed the ending. You were supposed to like them, a lot of people did.

UD - It's interesting I think people came into this expecting to root for the good guy Christopher but ended up rooting for John Ross

Cynthia - He's a really cool actor too, people like Josh and he's handsome so it's easier. JR always played the villain in a different way

Can you give us a flavour of what to expect in season 2? Will the Barnes/Ewing feud be back in full force?

Cynthia - We could be heading there, yes (laughs). I think that's part of the DNA of the show. When I was plotting out the pilot two and a half years ago I asked about everybody I knew "If the show Dallas were coming back what would you want to see again?" and everybody said " I want to see the Barnes/Ewing feud" - so I had to pay attention to that from the beginning.

UD - It was interesting that the whole Rebecca reveal was at the end and it didn't start off with her in the mix.

Cynthia - It took the whole season for that to pay off but it was always in the works. I knew that Rebecca was Pamela Rebecca Barnes since I pitched it to them, a year before I wrote it. That was always part of it. The con with Tommy came up because I was afraid there was a lot of stuff online where people were talking about it and I didn't want people to be ahead of the story so I thought we'll just throw them off the scent of Rebecca being Cliff's daughter by giving them a different con.

UD - I think that worked.

Cynthia - Yes I think it worked.

UD - Julie Gonzalo was amazing. We asked her about it and she kept that secret very well hidden

Cynthia - When we send the scripts I love getting emails from the cast, like "Whoa I didn't see that coming". As fun as it is if you are going to fool them you know you are going to fool the audience.

Elena seemed quite feisty in the pilot but then seemed to become quite moral. Will we see more of the feisty Elena?

Cynthia - Yes yes she will.

Will Chris and Elena become the stable couple?

Cynthia - Yes they will but it's a show about surprises so we'll see. There's always going to be some curve ball coming at you for some reason.

We hear John Ross is going to have loads of fun this season. Does that mean he is going to sow his oats like his father? Is this going to be the sexy season?

Cynthia - We hope so yes, yes.

UD - We hear there is a Bachelorette party with John Ross

Cynthia - How did you hear that? There is one coming

UD - I read it. It's out there

Cynthia - That’s amazing.

UD - Does that bother you? That information is out there

Cynthia - No no. It's kind of fun that people care so much about it. I would have hated if people were ahead finding out about Rebecca because that was a fun reveal I believe worked. So I'm glad people did not know that. The stuff about the Bachelorette party is just one scene so not a big deal.

Any chance of a John Ross and Rebecca coupling?

Cynthia - Well we will have to see about that (laughs)

UD - That would be fun wouldn't it?

Cynthia - Yes yes. The actors love each other so we'll see. You only have to wait until January.

Is Rebecca going to carry the mantle for Cliff Barnes?


Cynthia - Well you know she is a Barnes and that feud is alive and well. Although she is carrying a torch for Christopher a little bit so I think she is still torn between whether to be her father’s good daughter or...our characters are all very similar, it really is all about getting your fathers love, that's what John Ross is doing, that's what Christopher is doing, that's what Rebecca is doing and to some extent so is Elena whose father died on that rig. She is determined to find oil and make a big name for herself in her father’s name. So all the characters are really out to prove themselves to their fathers.

Will there be a big juicy reveal when the Ewings discover Rebecca’s identity?

Cynthia - Yes there is a big juicy reveal but the audience is ahead of it so you can't make too much of it and you can't wait too long. Because otherwise it's boring for the audience because they already know it. So that has to happen fairly quickly.

UD - Great and I believe Ken Kercheval is back?

Cynthia - He is yes.

With Rebecca being Pamela Rebecca will we see Afton back in the next season?

Cynthia - Yes I would like to. So we will see and how if that works out. I have said it somewhere so her agent has been in touch. We do have a plot where it would be organic. It's not just somebody walking through a barbeque but where it would make sense for Afton to see her daughter.

Are other original characters are returning? Maybe Lucy or Donna?

Cynthia - We are hoping yes but I'm not able to tell you who. Last season it was all plotted out long before it airred so we didn't know how it would work. We didn't know if people wanted the old characters back, we didn't know anything so we really just stuck to Ray and Lucy but now this season we know people really like that so we are more able to look back and see who we can use organically and try to bring back at least in an episode or two. All these things are dictated by budget problems. You know you've got a budget with eight main characters and we introduce two more this season and you also have to bring back the old cast. You've got to pay them.

UD - We also hear there is a possibility of Donna Mills and Joan Van Ark appearing on the show

Cynthia - We don't know yet. We are thinking of all of them. There is a board in the writer’s room with everyone’s name that was ever on Dallas.

UD - Abby would be great. Lots of Knots Landing fans out there

Cynthia - I met her the other day. I met her at some event here in Beverly Hills, Joan Van Ark was here too and so was Michele Lee. I didn't meet Michele but I met the other two ladies and they were lovely.

We know the new characters of Drew and Emma are coming in season 2. Can you tell us more about them?

Cynthia - Emma is Ann's daughter and the other is Elena's brother. who has been long gone from the ranch, who left a while ago and he comes back as her loving but thrill seeking brother who grew up with the rest of the Ewings. We have not found him yet so I can't give you that.

UD - Are they the only new characters?

Cynthia - That's all we have. There will be other guest stars but regulars those are the two.

UD - I guess with Emma on board we will discover more about Ann's secret

Cynthia - Oh you will....oh you will. It's my favourite part. It's a fun ride. We've had that since the beginning and we could not fit it into season one.

UD - Yes because I believe there is a scene with Harris making a phone call to Ann's daughter which was not used in the season finale?

Cynthia - That's didn't make it. We thought it would be better in season two.

We didn’t see Sue Ellen as much as I hoped in season one? Was it difficult to fit her in not being married to JR.? Will it be easier now with 15 episodes?

Cynthia - I'm not sure how this happened, I think it was budgetary but she was not budgeted for every episode. So it wasn't as if we didn't want to use her, we love using her; we know her value to the show and know how much her fans love her. But she is absolutely a series regular next year so will be in all episodes. We budgeted for that, I asked for that.

What is the thinking behind Sue Ellen running for governor? Isn’t she more fun as a flawed character?

Cynthia - It was Linda's idea and I thought a good idea so we did it but we do like her as a flawed character. So we'll see what happens. We are not abandoning her flaws ok.

UD - We did hear one of her first scenes is something to do with her looking at a drink

Cynthia - How do you hear this stuff? I'm amused (laughs). It's fun, it'll be fun. Now I know what the fans love OK. We got lucky in that first season, I thought I knew, I didn't know, but now I know. So we are not going to ignore what the fans love you know.

Will we have JR and Sue Ellen together in season two?

I hope so. I like that.


I loved how you integrated the past with the original story about drilling on Southfork. How do you approach community?

Cynthia - We do research. No one on staff has seen all the episodes but separately we have seen all 357 episodes. So when we have a question we look it up, we have some good researchers. I always say if it happened in the old show its history, it really happened. We cannot change anything that happened and if there is a change it's a mistake. It wasn't something we meant to do, it just got past us. I think told you about the Cattle Barons Ball and the Oil Barons Ball. I picked the wrong ball

UD - Yes yes (Laughs)

Cynthia - It was a mistake and then Patrick came over to me after we had shot it and everything and said "What made you pick the Cattle Barons Ball instead of the Oil Barons Ball?" I said "What do you mean?" He said "We always used to go to the Oil Barons Ball". Oh my god he could have told me before (laughs)

UD - Well the hilarious thing is that nobody really had an issue with that because we all assumed they are not really into oil now

Cynthia - He is into cattle exactly. So it make sense anyway (laughs)

UD - Talking of continuity there have been some questions about that which I may have mentioned when I saw you in London.

Braddock is no longer mentioned. Is that deliberate?

Cynthia - I think we may well have forgotten that.

UD - Some may argue if you are shooting in actual Dallas it may seem odd to have a fictional place

Cynthia - They would really dislike it. They give us money and they want to advertise the city of Dallas. I missed that completely but I think even the film commission in the city of Dallas which has given us so many incentives would probably say "hey guys that doesn't even exist can't you just say they are in Dallas"

The reunion movies. Why were these ignored?

Cynthia - I was told not to use those. I don't think Warner Brothers owns the rights to them.

UD - Obviously Pamela Rebecca appeared in that and met Christopher and John Ross

Cynthia - Yep I have heard that but I have never seen it and I was told right up front as soon as I was offered the job not to use those.

UD - Personally I think that's a good thing

Cynthia - Yeah it would have changed everything (laughs)

UD - Well they were not all that great

Cynthia - That's what Patrick and Larry keep telling me "Thank god you didn't watch those"

UD - I think that's a good thing but some fans won't agree with me on that

Why does the interior of Southfork look so different?

UD - Was the change a deliberate decision or based on where you had to shoot the pilot?

Cynthia - Well I always wanted it to be updated because Bobby is married to a new wife, she has lived there for seven years and twenty years have gone by and I don't think anyone would want it to look like it did in 1984 but the fact the footprint itself is a little different is because we had to shoot in a practical location. There were three houses that actually made up the inside of Southfork that were real houses in Dallas and we had to match the pilot. I also think that house would be redone to match 2012

UD - I think some of the fans found it difficult because the interior structurally looked different. But hey you can knock down a wall or two (laughs)

Cynthia - Yeah exactly. She remodelled. If you visited the real Southfork that possibly couldnt be that house. It's tiny, you couldn’t shoot there.

Will we find out more about those intervening years with the characters? Like where Lucy has been or Sue Ellen. Or do we have to rely on the Facebook timeline?

Cynthia - I don't know. There is that whole Facebook time that two of our writers have done, that I thought they done a beautiful job. We might be able to do some webisodes or something I don't know.
It's all money related.

Thanks to Cynthia Cidre and all the fans for their questions.

Season Two of Dallas stars on TNT January 2013

*This page may be updated with further questions that were omitted due to time constraints. Stay tuned.

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