ALVARADO – The text messages were coming through in a flurry to Tam Phillips' phone Wednesday evening. They were arriving so fast he couldn't respond.
He rose from his seat in a gathering at Sheriff Bob Alford's home to show everyone one of the texts.
“The Oscar goes to...,” Phillips repeated. Then he laughed.
“It's from the fan club,” Alford responded.
Minutes earlier he was in a barn scene with Bobby Ewing, played by Patrick Duffy, on the modern “Dallas” television series on TNT. Alford rewound the scene several times to check out their acting.
“Howdy,” Phillips' character says, although Phillips said it was a voiceover and he never got to talk.
Tolin Navarrete, also in the scene, adds, “Yes sir, Mr. Ewing,” but he says he never spoke either.
They are but a few of the Johnson County personalities that could be briefly highlighted during the opening series of the modern show, a remake of the series that originally aired from 1978-91.
Alford and about eight other locals, mostly folks he knows from horse training and ranching in Johnson County, were called upon one day out of about every two weeks this past fall to make the trip to Southfork Ranch in Murphy to film.
Or, as Alford puts it, to watch filming.
The perfect role for Alford would have been in the pilot episode. A sheriff arrives to serve papers to Bobby Ewing, but they didn't choose Alford for the scene.
“They go for young, good looking and trim,” Alford said.
He attributes those qualities to the means that led Navarrete and Phillips to appearances on the two-hour premiere episode of “Dallas.” Horse trainer Chad Eubank, who also previously competed as an all-around cowboy, breaks up a fight, plays a character named “Buck” and doubles for Jesse Metcalfe, who plays Christopher Ewing, during future episodes.
“I don't know what scenes go with what episodes,” Eubank said. “I just know I was in a lot of them.”
An opportunity to showcase horses he had trained, or built as Eubank puts it, led to more.
“I was really excited about that. You can look and say, ‘that's a horse I made who's a product of me,'” he said. “I didn't want to be on camera. I cared very little about being on TV. The more I was around, the more it seemed they wanted to put me on TV.”
They watched the pilot episode with their wives, and continually repeated that in none of the love scenes were they anywhere close.
“We were in the barn at this point,” Alford said.
“In the barn again,” Eubank told his wife, Kimberly, who recently gave birth to their second child.
While show directors and producers might disagree with his analysis, Eubank has called for inclusion of Alford on camera. He thinks he sees a perfect actor for a law enforcement role.
“I do think Bob would love to be on there,” Eubank said. “I think it is odd they would not let him play the part of a sheriff, knowing he really is a sheriff.”
“They want actors,” Alford said. “I'm not an actor.”
Dallas is returning to television after a two-decade hiatus. The “Who Shot J.R.?” episode remains one of the biggest TV moments in the history of North Texas viewing. The show is centered upon oil tycoon J.R. Ewing and the rest of his family, residing on the 340-acre Southfork Ranch, located just east of Plano.
It's a theme of Texas oil, love and money.
“There's scenes in there that I wish were not in there,” Alford said. “I do think it is entertaining. I think it will be a hit. I base that on the commitment I see by the actors, producers and crew.”
One scene in an upcoming episode was a breech birth by a heifer filmed in Alford's barn in rural Alvarado. It was the perfect opportunity to perhaps get Alford's wife, Marty, involved.
“She wants nothing to do with it,” he said. “She wouldn't be on TV for anything.”
Alford's position as Johnson County sheriff keeps him pretty busy, so he says there are times where he heavily depends on Eubank and others like Navarrete and Phillips to transport stock for the show. There was a day of taping where Alford asked Eubank to find some help. He suggested recent Joshua High School graduate Justin Massey, who has the ambition to compete in rodeo.
“I probably was not even born yet when this show aired the first time,” Massey said. “I had never heard of Dallas until they asked me to ride. I'm pretty hooked on the show now.”
He can be seen riding in the background of some scenes.
“They didn't let me speak,” Massey said. “They'd have to pay me more.”
He rode horses in some scenes with Navarrete, and then he saw him in the pilot episode.
“I thought it was cool,” Massey said. “I saw J.R., but I didn't get to talk to him. In one scene, Brenda Strong [who plays Bobby Ewing's wife, Ann] came over to our horses and talked with us for a while.”
Massey, an outgoing 18-year-old who was Joshua High School's homecoming king, says its an opportunity he wouldn't have passed, but he's not ready to pursue acting just yet.
“I just saw it as an opportunity to do something I never thought I'd be able to do,” he said.
One of the horses supplied by Alford came by special request. Patrick Duffy, who plays Bobby Ewing, wanted a specific horse. He remembered one James Stewart had ridden in Winchester ‘73.
“He liked the way the horse looked,” he said. “He looks good on TV, especially with Patrick riding him being as tall as he is.”
The horse measuring 16 hands in height is the star of the Alford household right now.
“I guess he's gotten some special treatment around here,” Alford said.
A secret from the inside of filming was shared by Eubank. He explained that few of the actors knew very much about horsemanship.
“They want to be good,” he said. “They take their roles seriously.”
Like Metcalfe. He visited Eubank's ranch for riding lessons during a break from filming. That made an impression on Eubank, he said.
He also quickly pointed out the kindness of Duffy.
“Every time he sees my wife, he gives her a big hug,” Eubank said.
The 15 minutes of fame any of those from Johnson County have managed to grab from the television series hasn't managed to make them ungrounded, according to Eubank.
“I don't remember a lot about the original show, but I remember the theme song,” he said. “It means a lot to me to even have a small part in it. I think Dallas is bigger than me or any of us.”