Land, love, betrayal, lust — “Dallas” has it all for Cynthia Cidre, showrunner and exec producer of TNT’s reboot of the classic CBS sudser.
Yet Cidre was skeptical when she was first offered the job of reviving the Southfork gang. She’d never seen the original series, and her background as a film and TV scribe leaned toward moody character pieces (“Mambo Kings,” “Tara Road,” CBS’ “Cane”). But as she warmed up to DVDs of “Dallas,” Cidre realized the show had the elements she loves to work with, starting with a strong sense of place.
Cidre’s next-generation take on the Ewing dynasty has hit home with viewers, as “Dallas” bowed to a whopping 6.9 million viewers in its June 13 premiere. Now she’s grateful that execs at Warner Horizon Television refused to listen when she tried to talk them out of giving her the job.
Why me?: “When (Warner Horizon’s) Craig Erwich first approached me, I thought it sounded very peculiar to bring back ‘Dallas,’ and I thought I was an even odder choice for them to go to. I was fortunate that there was almost eight months from the time we first talked, because I had to work out a previous commitment at CBS. But he gave me the DVD box set of the first season and the third season, and the more I thought about it, the better the idea sounded.”
The Cuban connection: “The reason this feels so comfortable for me is because I’m Cuban. The songs I heard while growing up were always (ballads) in this genre. As we say in the (writers) room, there is blood on the page, a great deal of passion, a love that is incredibly and deeply felt. These are fights over concrete things: land, birthrights. These are very basic themes that I’m comfortable with.”
“Dallas” in 2012 makes sense because … : “The show has such a solid foundation. It’s the stuff of drama. It’s so hard to do a family drama if it’s always about navel-gazing. This show just has so much plot.”
Twists of fate: “One of the trademarks of the show is the cliffhangers. Those are hard to manage. Sometimes we work backwards (in writing scripts) to get to where we want to be. … When we did the final show, I took all the threads we had woven from the beginning and put them on the wall in my office. I tried to braid those threads to make sure they were all in the final show. I want people at the end of the season to say, ‘That was a great ride. Let’s come back next season.'”
Better living through chemistry: “The hardest part of getting a show (off the ground) is getting the writers room to work. The personalities of the writers are as important as their talent. We got very lucky with six writers who got along famously from the word ‘go.’ I walked in with some ideas that I had from the pilot. Within a week, we had all 10 episodes plotted. They had so many good ideas.”
The Stallone connection: “My agent tricked me into doing television. I wrote movies for 20 years; I was afraid to write a pilot. English is my second language, and I need to take more time with the language because I’m wired in Spanish. I thought TV was too fast for me. My agent (CAA’s Ann Blanchard) told me Sylvester Stallone wanted to pitch me on writing something for TV. I told her I’m not doing a pilot. She said ‘Just listen to him, say yes and we’ll never make the deal.’ I did and then went on vacation in Hawaii. When I came home, a friend said to me ‘Congratulations, I hear you’re writing a pilot for CBS.’ She faxed me the front page of Variety, and there was a story about me writing a pilot. I called Ann and she said, ‘Honey, I couldn’t reach you. I had to make the deal.’ It was the best thing she ever did. It changed my life.”