Tonight, “Dallas” airs an episode over 30 years in the making: the funeral of J.R. “J.R.’s Masterpiece” is a moving tribute to both the iconic television character and the man who played him, Larry Hagman. In true ‘Dallas” fashion, there are both poignant moments and surprising plot twists. On the red carpet at Sunday’s PaleyFest celebration of the show, Linda Grey and Patrick Duffy, who were as central to Hagman’s life as their characters Sue Ellen and Bobby were to J.R.’s, shared their memories of their friend and revealed how J.R.’s death will impact “Dallas.”
Both Grey and Duffy were at Hagman’s bedside when he passed away. Grey recalled, “Patrick and I spent Wednesday with him, the day before Thanksgiving. Three hours with the three of us in a room. It was genius. We just talked and giggled and laughed and reminisced while he was in the hospital. Thursday was Thanksgiving, he was surrounded by his grandchildren and his son and his daughter. On Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, we got a call at nine in the morning. They said get to the hospital. He’s in a coma. We were all there to say goodbye.”
Duffy added, “I miss him not with sadness. I miss him with joy. I have yet to shed a real tear for Larry. Bobby sheds tears for J.R., but me, I have such great memories. Every time I think, ‘Oh God, Larry’s dead,’ I start to smile, because I start to remember my 35 years with him so I am not sad. But I miss his presence, make no mistake about it. One of the greatest parts of every day of mine going to work was getting out of my car and going to his room first.”
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Hagman’s death required the show’s writers to quickly rewrite the entire season. Duffy explained, “When he died, which was episode six, we had seven more episodes to do that had all been written. So the writers did a great job of taking the storylines, keeping everything they could possibly keep, and tweaking the other stuff, and trying to use footage that we had of Larry to make other episodes work until they did tomorrow’s episode, which they did unbelievably well. It’s crazy what they’ve done.”
Duffy has high praise for the funeral episode saying during the panel, “It’s probably the most brilliant piece of scriptwriting that I’ve read, whether it’s on this show or any other piece of television I’ve ever seen in the way that it resolves the problem with such dignity and respect and drama. I think every fan who has ever liked this show will think it is the pinnacle of ‘Dallas” writing and plot.”
J.R.’s death will impact the show’s younger characters as well. Jesse Metcalfe, who plays Christopher, reveals, “Each character in [the funeral] episode gets the opportunity talk about that defining moment where J.R. had a redeeming quality and really touched their hearts. What I love about Christopher’s moment is that it’s laced with truth and a bit of cynicism even in the end. It would have been so false after J.R.’s passing if Christopher had been, ‘He’s the greatest man ever and I always loved him.’ Christopher says, “One time he was there for me. His heart wasn’t all stone. But in the end he was J.R. like he always was.’”
The producers promised that viewers will learn who killed J.R. in the season finale. Said showrunner Cynthia Cidre, “Not letting the audience in on it would feel like making this great meal and then taking it away.” She added that, for now, Duffy is the only actor who knows who the killer is.
“Dallas” airs on Mondays at 9/8 on TNT.