The untimely death of Larry Hagman in November, halfway through the filming of the second season of the new “Dallas,” has inspired a storyline for the TNT series based on the most-talked-about cliffhanger from the original series, “Who Shot J.R.?”
It was the shot heard around the world in 1980 as “Dallas” fans pondered the mystery all summer long — and happily J.R. Ewing recovered from his bullet wound the following November. There will be no such happy ending this time, as Hagman’s death, caused by complications from leukemia on Nov. 23, 2012, will be told in a “Who Killed J.R.?” story that was announced by Executive Producer Cynthia Cidre, saying that J.R. Ewing required a more dramatic death than natural causes.
“I have said to people that if Larry were alive and could dictate the rest of the season knowing that the character of J.R. was going to die, he would do it this way,” Patrick Duffy, who plays J.R.’s brother Bobby Ewing, told XfinityTV.com in an exclusive interview. “He wouldn’t want it all neatly wrapped up, he would want intrigue and loose ends and why did this happen? But he would also want to be idolized. He would want some heroism in there, as well as some derring-do and skullduggery.”
Duffy, who considers Hagman to have been one of his best friends, is sure that Hagman would be happy with the direction that Cidre is taking the series. And Josh Henderson, who plays J.R.’s son John Ross, agrees, adding that it is important to the fans to make his death significant.
“It is a sensitive subject and we hope that people will be satisfied with it,” Henderson exclusively tells XfinityTV. “It will also add an element to the show that will kind of continue J.R. being a part of it for a long time to come.”
That said, neither man feels that his character will be a suspect when the murder comes to light. Bobby wasn’t under the microscope the first time around, and Duffy is certain that he won’t be the second time either. “I think if [Cynthia] were to write something like that, there would be a power surge in the country as people turned off their televisions,” he says. “I can faithfully say, even if she wouldn’t want me to, that you can draw a line through Bobby’s name.”
And even though J.R. and John Ross had a cantankerous relationship, Henderson thinks it is impossible that he would be on the suspect list, but he can’t say for sure as different scripts are being handed out to different cast members.
“Patrick will get a script that I didn’t, so he knows things that I don’t know,” Henderson admits. “Actually, they want it that way because they don’t want the characters to know the future storylines. Everyone is going, ‘Who the hell did this and why did it happen?’… I don’t know who did it, so it will keep us and the audience guessing.”
Even though J.R. Ewing may be dead and gone, Larry Hagman’s presence is still very much felt. His name is still affixed to his half of the trailer that served as his dressing room on the “Dallas” set, which Duffy now says is “very lonely” without his friend.
The two had worked together for 13 years on the original show, and every day before they hit the makeup trailers to get ready for the day’s shoot, Duffy would visit Hagman and they would talk about what they did the night before and drink a glass of champagne.
“For the last year and a half I was able to do that again, which was an absolute treasure,” Duffy says. “Every day that we were both on set working, we would see each other first and then go to work. That is the part that I miss — the day-to-day.
It wasn’t as if we talked about anything profound. Sometimes we would just sit around and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ But it was the touchstone that made the day official.”
So now, in tribute to his friend, each day as he passes Hagman’s empty trailer, he gives a little knock on the door.
“I don’t expect him to answer it,” he says. “If I ever heard a “come in,” I would probably die of a heart attack, but it feels like the right thing to do. I am reporting in to him even though I won’t see him.”
Season 2 of the new “Dallas” premieres on Monday, January 28 at 9/8c on TNT.