Chesterfield-bound Hollywood stars tell of falling in love after bonding over Zoom calls during pandemic

Television’s Dallas star Patrick Duffy drove for 17 hours to meet his new girlfriend when the Covid lockdown lifted.

Sunday, 10th April 2022, 5:30 am

Patrick, who played Bobby Ewing in the smash-hit oil barons’ soap, and Happy Days actress Linda Purl bonded over Zoom calls before they met in person.

Ahead of their visit to Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre in the thriller Catch Me If You Can, the Hollywood stars opened their hearts about how they fell in love.

The actors had previously met in person two years before chatting online and kept in touch via a group text with mutual friends before the pandemic hit.

Patrick Duffy and Linda Purl in Catch Me If You Can which is touring to Chesterfield's Pomegranate Theatre from May 3 to 7, 2022 (photo: Jack Merriman).

Linda said: “Patrick and I began Zooming each other. We chatted one night for a couple of hours and it was like ‘Let’s do this again’. We found we had a lot of things in common and a lot of friends. Before long we were Zooming literally every night for two or three hours. He’s so smart, kind and intuitive, he writes poetry and he read me a poem that made me think ‘Gosh, there’s a lot to this kind soul and this beautiful human being’. One night he ended our chat with ‘Love you!’ so the next night I might have tarted myself up a little more than usual.

"One conversation led to another in a very Victorian way and after about three months of this, when lockdown lifted, he jumped in his car and drove from Oregon to Colorado. It was terrifying and we were both shaking like leaves but we took the leap and it’s worked out wonderfully.”

Patrick, who was widowed in 2017,said that Linda and he have an attraction, pull and compatability that leaves him in doubt that they would have got together without the help of Zoom. However, he said: “This was a great hands-off getting to know each other. There was never a time during the four-plus months that we were communicating that I ever had to think ‘Gosh, it’s our third dinner. Do I kiss her and say goodnight. But we got to know each other on such a deep level than when we did meet in person we’d covered all of that territory and we were ready for this relationship. I think we’d have been ready at any point but this way is perfect.”

The couple had fallen in love and were living together when they went to Canada to film a TV movie last year.

Patrick Duffy and Gray O'Brien in Catch Me If You Can (photo: Jack Merriman).

Linda said: “Canada was in heavy quarantine at the time but you were allowed to go in and out for work, although after arriving we weren’t allowed to step out of our room for two weeks. We’d just gotten together as a couple and thought ‘It might be a disaster if they lock us up together’ but we survived. Then we did the film together and thought ‘What if we have different rhythms?’ but it was so much fun working together. What was unusual, though, was walking to the set holding hands with a fellow actor.”

Now the pair are working together on stage for the first time, playing newly-wed husband and wife in the thriller Catch Me If You Can which is touring England.

Patrick describes the play as an Agatha Christie-style whodunnit where the mystery isn’t solved almost until the curtain comes down. The production presents Patrick with a mentally and vocally exhausting challenge as he never leaves the stage throughout.

He said: “I’ll be living like a monk for 22 weeks. I’ll go to the theatre, spend every ounce of juice I’ve got, then recuperate until it’s time to go to the theatre again. I won’t get to do as much sightseeing as I’d like but the beauty is that we’re in a new town every week and we’re driving ourselves so we’ll get to see a lot of the countryside.”

Asked about the one thing he couldn’t live without on the road, Patrick said: “LInda. Also, I’ve been a Buddhist for 50 years now and I practice every day so I carry a small altar with me. Wherever I am I set up my little Buddhist altar and I do my morning and evening prayers. That’s something I do no matter where I am, whether I’m in England, the States, anywhere. And I’m a minimalist when I travel. Give me a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts; if I don’t have to go to formal dinners or do interviews I could live out of a small suitcase.”

Catch Me If You Can, which also stars former Coronation Street actor Gray O’Brien, runs at the Pomegranate Theatre from May 3 to 7, 2022. Tickets from £25 (Wednesday and Thursday matinees) and £29 (evening performances). Go to www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk