DALLAS — J.R. Ewing has returned to Dallas.
With Larry Hagman reprising his role as the conniving Texas oilman, filming is underway at locations all over the city for TNT’s new television series “Dallas,” which will also see the return of Patrick Duffy as J.R.’s brother Bobby and Linda Gray as J.R.’s ex-wife Sue Ellen, along with a new generation of Ewings.
And, of course, the spotlight also returns to the city itself, with its distinctive skyline rising from the prairie.
“We’re trying to give the show a real sense of place and Dallas has a real personality,” said location manager John Patterson. “It’s a city that does things in a big way. That’s part of J.R. and part of what we try to give the show — a sense of the city, which is big, very well done, shiny, new and looking toward the future.”
TNT has ordered 10 episodes of the series, set to air in summer 2012. Filming, entirely shot in Dallas, began mid-October and is expected to wrap in late January.
“There was just no way we were going to film anywhere else,” said executive producer Cynthia Cidre, who also wrote the pilot for the new series, which will be a “mix of the old world and the new world.”
The original series, which aired from 1978 to 1991, enjoyed popularity around the world as viewers tuned in to watch the scheming Ewing family. As the plot twisted and turned season after season, the series contributed to some of TV’s most memorable moments. After Bobby died in a season cliffhanger in 1985 after being hit by a car driven by his sister-in-law, the entire next season was revealed to have been a prolonged dream sequence when his wife wakes up to find him alive, taking a shower. The 1986-87 season then marked Duffy’s return to the cast after a yearlong absence.
And, of course, there was the cliffhanger in 1980 that left the whole world in suspense. The catchphrase “Who shot J.R.?” became part of the common vernacular as viewers waited to find out who had fired on J.R. When viewers tuned in for the answer on Nov. 21, 1980, the shooter was revealed to be J.R.’s vengeful mistress, who was also his sister-in-law. That episode was seen by more people than any program in TV history until that time.
“That phrase. I don’t think there’s a country in this world that you could find someone who doesn’t know what that is. And it all goes back to ‘Dallas,'” said Josh Henderson, who plays J.R. and Sue Ellen’s son, John Ross.
Henderson, who was born in Dallas and spent part of his childhood here, said that shooting with Hagman has been a little surreal.
“I find myself sometimes just looking at him sometimes going, ‘Wow, this is really happening. This is really ‘Dallas’ again and I’m really kind of family and kin to the J.R.,” Henderson said.
Hagman, who said returning to Dallas to film the legendary show again has been like “coming home,” says that this time out, the plots are even more complicated.
“Everybody’s double-dealing here. I mean everybody,” Hagman said.
The actors rounding the new generation are: Jesse Metcalfe as Bobby’s adopted son, Christopher Ewing; Julie Gonzalo as Christopher’s fiancé, Rebecca Sutter; and Jordana Brewster as Elena Ramos, daughter of the cook at the Ewing-family’s Southfork Ranch who grew up to become a geologist and is John Ross’ girlfriend and the former love of Christopher.
“Her alliance is constantly shifting,” Brewster said. “She’s a very fun character to play.”
For most seasons of the original series, two of the 10½ months of shooting were done in Dallas with the rest in Los Angeles.