In order to keep my faith in humanity alive, I’d been approaching the recaps of Style Network’s Big Rich Texas with a naïve confidence that the show is heavily scripted. That made it less disturbing and helped me rationalize how I’ve been spending Sunday evenings.
But yesterday I spoke with cast member Leslie Birkland and as if telling me Santa isn‘t real, she hurled this one on me, “The show isn’t scripted, there’s an outline of where you’ll be filming but the words are all your own.” Then she told me that not only is the on-camera tension real, it’s worse than anyone can imagine.
If you’ve seen an episode or have run across some other Big Rich Texas off-camera drama, you know that by “tension” we’re talking about “Pamela Martin Duarte.” She’s mean, nasty and not the slightest bit apologetic.
Birkland said, “She’s not a nice person. I don’t say that often.” She paused, and then coughed it up, “There’s usually a redeeming quality you can find in someone but she doesn’t have a kind bone in her body. You only read about people with personality disorders like that but you never think you‘re going to meet one.” She described Duarte as having “no shame whatsoever” and “a grandiose ego like I’ve never seen before.”
Birkland says she expected the obvious downsides of being on a reality television show and knew up front that there would be a lot of bashing from people. But she added, “You don’t expect it to come from another cast member.”
I needed examples and that seemed no problem at all, Birkland got started, “Pamela said something on camera that was so horrific even the network couldn’t deal with it.” And according to Leslie, Style officials have told her it won’t be shown.
Setting the scene: If you’ve been keeping up, you know Birkland’s husband, Rick, died in a drowning accident in 2008. Though they were newly divorced at the time, she explained that they had been married for 20 years and “just never broke up, we were going to re-marry in December but he died in October.” She recalls the incident saying she was walking the dog and didn‘t see it happen but, “Rick was on the boat with the kids and they saw everything, it was terrible.”
Back to the part Leslie still can’t stomach: During filming, she was a dinner guest in Pam’s home, along with her date, A.J. the golf pro from episode 2. That’s when Birkland says Pamela started in on her rather aggressively with questions about her ex-husband. Leslie explained the tragic circumstances of his death and claims Pam responded, “Did you hold his head under water?”
So I spoke to Duarte about Birkland’s version of events. She did that evil little laugh viewers have grown accustomed to and said, “I don’t remember saying that but all of this hoopla is being made about her dead husband and they were divorced. It‘s all B.S.”
Pam, I’d know without a doubt if I’d ever asked someone about holding a dying man’s head under water. But that’s just me.
And as if that weren’t enough for one evening, Leslie said that Duarte also, “Started beating me down about properties I own, kind of indicating that I had been dishonest about my finances.”
Duarte, did you? Yep. She remembers that part, “She might have a few houses but I don’t believe they are mutli-million dollar homes, no I don’t believe it.”
Birkland told me her home in Seattle is on the market for $3.5 million and in a matter of seconds could produce statements from accounts showing she has well over a million in cash, separate from investments or properties. She added, “I really don’t think Pam can do that.”
Eventually the stress of Pamela’s unrefined party manners, mixed with Birkland’s aversion to confrontation, led her to request that she no longer film alone with Duarte, “There has to be another person in the scene besides me and Pam.” She added, “She’s just really scary.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, Pam advised me, “Be nice.” And seriously, this is the best I could do.
I’ve got more behind-the-scenes drama from Leslie, Pam and other cast members coming soon.