Atlanta-based TNT revived the classic 1980s night-time soap “Dallas” earlier this year, bringing back iconic evil oil man J.R. Ewing, played with uncommon zeal by Larry Hagman.
But partway through production of season two shot in Dallas, 81-year-old Hagman passed Friday from complications of cancer.
He absolutely loved playing J.R. again, joining Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy as part of the older generation working with the new generation. More than three decades after the classic “Who Shot J.R.?” episode in 1980, he came back on TNT with his signature cowboy hat and evil-looking eyebrows intact.
“It’s just like coming home,” he told me in an interview earlier this year before the revival debuted on TNT to big numbers.
He managed to get through last year’s first ten episodes despite being treated for an unspecified cancer.
“I’m doing good,” he said to me in June. “I seem to be doing good – in total remission.” But he wouldn’t reveal the type of cancer and the family statement released today didn’t say.
He said he had become a vegetarian and during treatment had lost 30 pounds. He said he hoped to keep 20 of those pounds off.
Deadline.com said Hagman has shot at least six episodes out of 15 for season two, set to return January 28, 2013. TNT may have to take a break from production to give writers time to reflect J.R.’s death, the story said. TNT says he will be in “several” episodes for sure and released this statement:
All of us at TNT are deeply saddened at the news of Larry Hagman’s passing. He was a wonderful human being and an extremely gifted actor. We will be forever thankful that a whole new generation of people got to know and appreciate Larry through his performance as J.R. Ewing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.
The “Dallas” reboot/revival acted as if 20 years had passed and the cameras just turned back on. J.R. began season one in a nursing home, catatonic and depressed, broken and broke. His cheating, scheming, nasty ways seemed to be over. But when he found out Bobby Ewing wanted to sell Southfork Ranch to a conservancy, he bounced back into action. He worked with his previously estranged son, John Ross, to get the deed back. He also spent time in Las Vegas trying to figure out what his arch-nemesis Cliff Barnes was up to. He came back when Bobby had a medical emergency.
John Ross teamed with his cousin Christopher (Bobby’s son) in a new Ewing company. But John Ross had J.R. hunger for power and paranoia. He asked J.R. in the first season finale to “teach me every dirty trick to take the company away from Christopher and Elena,” who was John Ross’ girlfriend (and Christopher’s ex.). J.R.’s response? “Now that’s my son, from tip to tail.”
Hagman noted, “He has a lot to learn. I become one of his great teachers — of all the wrong things.”
He said one big difference about the 2012 version vs. the 1980s version: it’s much faster paced. Back in the slower-paced days, “they would do lots of lingering shots. They’d pull in and pull back. Now, they just end one subject and move to another. They fit four or five themes in one episode now. It’s daunting for me to follow the whole thing.”