x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The Dallas star Jesse Metcalfe's spin on ping-pong

We chat with the Hollywood actor Jesse Metcalfe, who's in Dubai this week for the launch of SPiN in Dubai.

Jesse Metcalfe says ping-pong is going to be huge as people are getting bored with the concept of clubbing and are looking for something different to do when they are out. Jaime Puebla / The National
Jesse Metcalfe says ping-pong is going to be huge as people are getting bored with the concept of clubbing and are looking for something different to do when they are out. Jaime Puebla / The National

Dallas star, Jesse Metcalfe, 34, and his fiancé Cara Santana enjoyed a holiday in the UAE this month which coincided with the launch of SPiN in Dubai. Rebecca McLaughlin-Duane caught up with the glamorous couple over lunch at Alfie's in Jumeirah’s Emirates Towers in Dubai.

How are you enjoying your stay in the UAE?

Thank you, this is my third trip here and it’s Cara’s first time. It’s changed a lot since my first visit, I originally came out for the Dubai Film Festival years ago as the guest of one the Sheikh’s and we stayed at the Madinat Jumeirah. I was so impressed; I went to my room in a gondola and had my own private butler! Then I came back about five years ago during the recession and now things seemed to have bounced right back. Dubai is as busy as ever. It’s off to the races with all the development and infrastructure projects, and tourism seems strong again.

What do you like doing when you come to town, where have you taken Cara?

We’ve hit the beach and been hanging out at Zabeel Saray on Palm Jumeirah. It was gorgeous and we enjoyed the incredible spa.

Did you get a good scrub at the famous hamam?

We didn’t get scrubbed! [laughs] But we did go into the snow room and if you’ve never been in one it’s a room with a half foot accumulation of snow on the floor with icicles hanging from the ceiling. I would liken the concept to a cold dip after the sauna – which was odd but a cool novelty. Good for circulation!

The launch of SPiN is the main reason you’re here, are you a big ping pong fan yourself?

Yeah, I think it’s going to be huge because people are looking for something different to do when they’re out. The whole club concept is getting kind of old; spending a fortune, hanging out at your table and posturing for hours. I think the ‘niche-geek-chic’ thing is on the rise. We went to the Manhattan SPiN late one night and thought it was really cool. We don’t drink alcohol, so a lot of the time when we’d hang out with friends at bars or clubs and we’d be bored within an hour. But with a place like SPiN we’ve something to do.

So you stumbled upon SPiN, rather than Susan Sarandon urging you to try it out?

Yeah, we totally stumbled upon it and then we were invited out here for the Dubai launch.

Are you close to Susan?

Well, I actually have a funny personal story from when I was in college at New York University in 1998. I was randomly walking out of my dorm one morning and saw Susan! I had a friend in film school who was a huge autograph hound so I asked Susan for hers. I then ended up walking and talking with her for about seven blocks. I told her the story last night, I don’t think she remembered, but I think she thought it was charming.

We in the UAE are currently watching you in the new series of Dallas. How does it feel to step into Christopher Ewing’s shoes and did you watch the series as a child?

I didn’t. I remember it being on in the house, but the original series premiered the year I was born so it was a little before my time. I had to go back and do some research, watching as many episodes as I could, to get a sense of what made the show great. The new Dallas packs so much more story into each hour and the writing is a lot better, more complex. It’s a great opportunity for me - it’s my first real substantial lead role in a TV series.  My role [as gardener John Rowland] in Desperate Housewives was really just meant to be an insularly storyline that turned into something bigger. I was always a ‘supporting character’, it’s not called Desperate Gardeners after all.

In Dallas, you shared screen time with the late, great Larry Hagman, what acting wisdom did he impart?

He really led by example. He had an amazing way about him even the way he carried himself on set. He was a very serious actor, a consummate professional, but at the same time didn’t take himself too seriously. Obviously nobody’s embodied a character [J.R. Ewing] quite as he has on TV. Coming back to set, after he passed - given the charisma and sparkle that he had - a vacancy was left.

Was it ever intimidating to be on-set with him? Did he make you up your acting game? Oh yes, certainly. Larry, Linda Gray [Sue Ellen Ewing] and Patrick Duffy [Bobby Ewing] – all three made the new-generation characters definitely want to prove themselves and up their game. All three of them have been very supportive.

Jesse, does your commitment to the remake of the Dallas series allow you any time to pursue other projects?

The great thing about the cable series is that we’re only shooting 15 episodes a year, meaning we’re only working 6 months out of twelve. So, now I’m on hiatus and looking for the right project. I haven’t committed myself to anything yet but I’ve been reading 3 scripts a day. I’m a little more particular this time around and I’ve turned down a few things.

What might be your dream role?

I was trying to get the ball rolling on developing Oscar de la Hoya’s [retired American boxer] life story. Someone also recently told me I looked like Pete Sampras, so who knows, maybe I’ll do a tennis movie. I’ve always wanted to play Elvis too!

You’re well-known for your portrayal of the green-fingered help, John Rowland, in Desperate Housewives. Are you actually any good at gardening?

Ironically, I grew up doing landscaping. My stepfather owned a business in Connecticut, so summers while I was in high-school and college were spent working for him. It was almost training for my role in Desperate Housewives!

What do you sing in the shower?

I was singing something really catchy yesterday that was annoying Cara [laughs] but I can’t remember what it was. I might rap in the shower – maybe a little ASAP Rocky.

Are you currently reading anything interesting?

Typically, in any spare moment, I’m reading a script and some take a little longer to get through than others!

Do you have any phobias?

Cara: No, he’s fearless.

How did you get your middle name ‘Eden’?

From my parents [laughs]. I think my mum picked it out, and my parents just liked the way it sounded. They are spiritual but not very religious.

What’s been your most romantic gesture to date?

Cara: Jesse, I think I should answer that question! Jess is romantic on a daily basis which I think it’s why we have such a loving relationship. It’s not one grand gesture a year and 364 days of no romance with him. He continually does really thoughtful, sweet things.

Jesse: Babe, that is so nice of you.

Cara: Ah, but it’s true.

Jesse: Well here’s a funny little side-story for you. When we got back to the hotel room at Jumeirah’s Emirates Towers today, on the bed, there were two origami toweled swans with their beaks kissing, and all these rose petals scattered around. I walked in and said to Cara “What do you think?” and she goes “Oh my, did you do this?” But I just couldn’t take credit it for it despite the butler having tee’d one up for me.

Have you set a date and venue for the wedding yet?

Cara: Nope, not even close, not on the radar yet.

If you could change one thing about yourself Jesse, what would it be?

Jesse: Oh, wow… Babe, what would you change about me?

Cara: Haha! Oh my goodness!  Well, I would say that Jesse is such a creative, intellectual person and if…

Jesse: I’m probably too much of a perfectionist.

Cara: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say. I wish he could relax a little bit more as he’s always thinking about the next script, episode or project etc. It’s hard for him to switch off so that’s the only thing I’d change about him.

Jesse: There you are, that’s probably the most honest answer you could get.

When did you last cry?

Probably at a movie or on set - Season 2 of Dallas. They are not crocodile tears for me either. Some people can just turn it on but I really have to ‘go there’.

Is there a figure from history that you would like to sit down to dinner with?

Oh, I could give you the intellectual answer but if we’re sitting down to dinner….I would maybe like to hang out with the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin etc. That would be pretty cool.

Finally, tell me something people don’t know about Jesse Metcalfe?

Gosh, there’s so much that people don’t know about me…

Well, what might be one of the biggest misconceptions then?

There’s so many, that I don’t know where to begin. But I guess I just want to earn people’s respect as an actor in this industry and sometimes people will judge a book by its cover. It’s a curse of many a young, leading man. So to earn the respect of my peers and be considered great at what I do is important for me.

Catch Jesse in the current series of the TNT television series Dallas, available via select cable packages across the UAE.Visit SPiN at Wafi in Dubai. Call 043707707 or go to www.spindubai.com for more information.



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