Tune in to most any episode of “Duck Dynasty,” A&E’s wildly popular reality sitcom, and you’ll see the Robertson brothers with their long beards and camouflage clothing, while their wives sport perfect hair and stylish apparel.
But Jessica Robertson, wife of the youngest brother, Jep, wants to make one thing clear: Beneath the fashionable exterior, she’s a country girl at heart.
“I grew up going hunting with my daddy. My grandmother even hunted,” Robertson said recently in a phone interview from her West Monroe, La., home. “I grew up riding four-wheelers, climbing trees, playing softball.”
Robertson will be appearing in Raleigh on Sunday at the Southern Women’s Show. She’ll be sharing stories, meeting with fans and signing autographs.
She and other members of the Robertson clan are in high demand for public appearances these days, as “Duck Dynasty” has become a cult phenomenon. The show, which aired its third season finale Wednesday night, has been the top-ranked series on cable in recent weeks, besting shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” and attracting more viewers than many network shows.
Robertson said she thinks the show appeals to people because it offers a picture of an extended family that loves and supports each other, even as they joke and tease.
“The closeness and camaraderie that all the brothers have together – everyone’s so intrigued by it. They long for that,” Robertson said.
Wealth from duck calls
“Duck Dynasty” focuses on Duck Commander, a family-owned business that specializes in making duck calls used by hunters. Patriarch Phil Robertson created the duck call and started the company, which has made the family very wealthy. (Hence the “Dynasty” part of the show.) But even though they may have large homes, the Robertson brothers love hunting and fishing and proudly proclaim themselves “rednecks.”
Son Willie is now the Duck Commander CEO, and his brothers Jase and Jep are often shown working at the company. Then there’s Phil’s brother, “Uncle Si,” a Vietnam veteran who spouts non sequiturs and is rarely seen without his large plastic cup full of tea.
A memorable episode involved Jessica taking Si to the eye doctor for the first time in many years. He couldn’t remember where the office was.
“Si had no clue. He is blind as a bat,” she remembered.
So did that actually happen or was it staged for the cameras? Robertson explained that it had happened previously, then producers had them re-create it for the show.
“To form the basis for episodes, we tell them funny things that have happened,” she said. “They kind of take that and help us try to get the episodes to make sense.”
Think of it as a half-hour sitcom, using real people to recreate real events from their lives in what The New York Times has called it “one of the quirkiest, most enjoyable reality shows on television.”
The other thing that separates the show from some of cable’s other series that focus on Southerners is that the Robertsons don’t come across as hillbillies or slow-witted folk. They may live in small-town Louisiana, but they are educated, well-rounded and witty.
What you don’t see
Robertson is clear that the family relationships on the show are real. She and Jep have four children – ages 10, 8, 6 and 4. Phil’s wife, “Miss Kay,” really is a great cook and sometimes shows favoritism to Jep, the baby of the family. (Though Jessica jokes that this can vary. “It depends on the month or what’s going on who her favorite is.”)
Also, faith is very important to the Robertsons in real life and on the show. (Each episode closes with the family gathered for a meal, with Phil offering a blessing.)
But there are things that viewers don’t see. Though Si seems to be a bachelor on the show, he’s been married for years and has his own children and grandchildren.
But his wife isn’t interested in being on the show.
“She’s more of a homebody. She really doesn’t care anything about it,” Robertson said.
In addition to Willie, Jase and Jep, there is a fourth sibling, oldest brother Alan, who hasn’t appeared on the series. But like the rest of the clan, he works at Duck Commander and may be featured in future seasons, Robertson said.
He also doesn’t have the trademark Robertson beard. Robertson assures us that those are real – and she is happy with Jep’s.
“I prefer him with facial hair,” she said of her husband of nearly 12 years. “The last time he got rid of it, I was like, ‘Ohhhh, I don’t think you should shave.’ ”
Ogburn: 919-829-8987; Twitter: @thadogburn