Front Row Features originally ran this interview with Larry Hagman and the cast of “Dallas” on June 11, 2012. In memory of Mr. Hagman, we are running it again.
By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—More than 20 years have passed since “Dallas,” one of TV’s most popular series, aired its final episode after 14 seasons. Now, J.R., Sue Ellen, Bobby, and their Texas millionaire broods are back for more backstabbing and bickering in a 10-episode arc, premiering Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TNT.
Larry Hagman, 80, reprises his role as the conniving Texas oilman J.R. Ewing, bringing with him a whole new collection of schemes and betrayals against his younger brother, Bobby (Patrick Duffy). Meanwhile, J.R.’s ex, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), has overcome her alcohol and drug addictions to become one of the most powerful women in Texas, with her eyes set on the governor’s mansion.
Hagman, Duffy and Gray recall reprising their iconic characters and bringing the beloved nighttime soap opera back to the small screen.
Q: Why did you decide to return to the show?
Larry Hagman: The work. How many people do you know are working at 80 and doing a job they love with the people they love? I’m a very lucky man.
Linda Gray: How many actors get a chance to play a character that you played 20 years ago and continue that? I don’t know many actors who get that luxury. For us, it was so exciting because we love, love, love the show. We love each other. We’re very, very close friends, and so that was a lovely continuation of the momentum we had started years ago.
Patrick Duffy: Larry, Linda and I had dinner with (executive producers) Mike (Robin) and Cynthia (Cidre) a year ago, and they laid out their respect for the original show and their determination to maintain that quality when the show is resumed, and they have been absolutely flawless in keeping that promise episode by episode.
Q: At the beginning of this new series, it’s revealed that Bobby has cancer. Patrick, are you only doing the first season?
Duffy: When I got the script, it came with a note from Cynthia, saying, “Don’t worry about the cancer.” Cancer is a very curable thing. And not to play on people’s tragedies, but to hook a character that has the sympathetic genealogy of Bobby with a premature possibility of dying is a great hook in a drama like “Dallas.”
Q: Are you all going to be on the show every week, or are the younger characters that have been introduced in the first episode going to take over?
Duffy: So far, we’ve been in every episode. The younger people have more stamina, and obviously, they have a function in the show, but we’re here, and we’re in every episode, and we’re performing the functions as we did in the original “Dallas.”
Q: “Dallas” was very much a show of its time. How are you being faithful to the essence of the original yet making it a show relevant in 2012?
Hagman: I think you’ve got to realize when Dallas was really hot, when it got going, we were in a major recession, and people couldn’t go out and get a babysitter and have dinner and go to a movie. They couldn’t afford it. So they had to stay in on Friday nights and watch something. And we were it, and here we are again.
Q: Patrick, you were involved in one of the most iconic moments in television, turning up in the shower after being “dead” for a season. Do people still mention it to you?
Duffy: People refer to it all the time, second only to the “Who shot J.R.” moment, of course.
Q: Will Victoria Principal return as Pam?
Duffy: I had a conversation with Victoria about this maybe four weeks ago. She called me. I was shopping in Dallas, in my little supermarket, and we talked about it. She said that she didn’t want to come back, but there’s always a “but.” She hasn’t been on camera, except for her makeup commercials, in almost 15 years, and she has no desire to (act again), she says.
Q: Larry, last year you disclosed that you had a treatable form of cancer. How is your health now and have you had to pull back on your workload at all?
Hagman: They gave me a little time off, but in this business, you can shoot three or four shows at the same time. My treatments are going along very well, and I’ve been fine. I worked yesterday. I had three major scenes, and they went very well too.
Q: Could you reflect on leaving the “Dallas” set in the 90’s and the first day on set of the new series?
Gray: I can remember that last day on the set, and if you said there was to be 20 years in-between, I wouldn’t have believed that because to walk back on set and back onto Southfork with my friends, was a seamless transition. It didn’t feel like an ending or a beginning. It was just like we seamlessly moved into the new series.
Duffy: It was like snapping your fingers, and we were Bobby, Sue Ellen and J.R. again with no interspersing time whatsoever in-between.
Hagman: It was like putting on an old pair of slippers.
Q: Did you imagine you’d be doing a weekly version of “Dallas” in 2012?
Duffy: I personally didn’t, and it was the heartbreak of my career because these are my two closest friends. I knew in my heart that we would never work together again, because the three of us, in my opinion, couldn’t come into a scene without everybody saying, “Oh, there’s J.R., Sue Ellen and Bobby.” And that hurt me. I really wanted to work with them again. So this is the best thing that could happen in my career and life.
Gray: This is a secret, but the original show should have been a sitcom because I laughed every single day that we were on the original set, and nothing has changed. Nothing. They are two of my dearest friends and I’m happy to be working with them again.
Q: Larry, can you imagine anyone playing the role of J.R. other than you?
Hagman: They were talking about John Travolta when they were going to do a (“Dallas”) film, and he would have been great. He’s a wonderful actor. I did “Primary Colors” with him, and he was wonderful to work with. He could play the hell out of it … but I’m better.