TV’s most beloved bad guy is back!
Still stirring up trouble in the Lone Star State 30 years later, J.R. Ewing’s as beguiling a scoundrel as ever, and – as the actor who originated him returns to the role for TNT’s relaunch of the classic nighttime serial “Dallas” – so is Larry Hagman.
The 80-year-old TV icon, who reunites with original co-stars Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, brings the same sense of malicious joie de vivre to the character that defined him in the 80s, and served as an inspiration to the show’s younger generation.
“It's amazing to watch Larry walk onto set, shake people's hands and make people laugh,” says Josh Henderson, who play’s J.R.’s son John Ross in the update. “As soon as they say 'Action' he goes into this character with his eyes. He's very intense and he commands your respect and attention. His energy fills the room and you can't help but just raise your game to really play ball with him.”
PopcornBiz drilled for the inside scoop behind Hagman’s return to formidable form at Southfork Ranch:
Was it easy to step back into the character?
Like an old pair of slippers.
When you were making the original show did you realize you were making something that people would still be fascinated by decades later?
How could you possibly? Prescience – how could you? There's no way of knowing how big it was, and it still is. If you think it's big in America you ought to go to Europe. My God – in Germany and France and places. They banned us in France for a year and they almost had a change of government for God's sake!
What's your favorite memory of the show when it was on fire?
Being the king. Being king is nice, and Ms. Gray was the queen. We were living like stars in the '20's. We could get a good seat in a restaurant. That's old, but you could get a good seat anywhere. I still can.
How welcome was this role when it came along? Were you starving to do a part that juicy?
I was out of work at the time. I got two scripts. One was 'The Waverly Wonders' which was a half-hour comedy, which I thought that they probably wanted me for because I've done comedy. And then my wife took the ['Dallas'] script in the other room. After five minutes she came out and said, 'Larry, this is it. Hands down, there's not one redeeming character in the whole show.' At that time there wasn't and it all filtered down to me.
Was there any hesitation to step back in to this role?
I said, 'There's only one thing I need: Patrick and Linda.' They said, 'Okay, you've got them.'
Why is the time right for the return of “Dallas?”
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.
What about this new incarnation will appeal to those who never saw the original show?
We have a younger group of people here, too, who are their age. These are not young actors with no experience. These kids are well-trained. They know what they're doing…I think that they're doing a great job, yeah. They're all so good-looking and beautiful and nice – and they have some issues, too, they'll tell you! 'Dallas' used to take a long time to get that story going. Boy, this one jumps right into it! They've asked us not to give a way too much because it is introducing five new main characters. So, I'll just skim over that and say that I'm having a good time and I like who I'm working with.
People are angry at rich, corporate types right now – is J.R. a corporate villain for the times?
Well, I don't know. They seem to be bamboozled by the rich corporations. He's a wildcatter. He's not one of these corporations. He's a guy that goes out and does it himself. He uses corporations and so forth, but he's not a big corporation.
Why is J.R. the perfect guy you love to hate?
Everybody has a jerk like this in their family – a father or brother, uncle or cousin. Everyone has that. That's what makes him so appealing: they can hate him. They know who he is.
How has the city of Dallas changed since last shooting there?
You wouldn't know there's a recession going on. They're building more buildings and it's going up like crazy. They're just flourishing down there, at least from what I can see. I'm sure there are a lot of poor people kicking around without jobs, but what I can see is affluence. A lot of [the crew] are guys that worked on it before. That's where it's fun, coming back to the family and their grandfathers, the grips and the cameramen and stuff like that. They're all old farts like me. It's wonderful.
What will a guy like J. R. would do in a world of alternative fuels?
Is there a new side to J. R. that t you're trying to bring out?
Well, I'm older. I'm playing my age. It slows you down a little bit, but I'm still as mean as always. Maybe a little meaner, because I've got more experience at it.
Best story where a fan treated you as if you actually WERE J.R.?
One time my wife and I were having lunch at The Mansion Hotel in Dallas, very posh and very expensive, and I could see out of the corner of my eye that there was a lady down there. I said, 'She's going to want my autograph.' I was preparing myself. She got in her walker. She must've been 80, 90 years old. She came over and said, 'You rascal, you! Treating Sue Ellen like that!' She took her handbag and hit me with it – and knocked me off of my chair. She said, 'Oh I'm so sorry. My husband died recently and he gave me this pearl handle six-shooter and I had it in my bag and I forgot all about it.' She hit me with his gun! That's the only time that I've had anything like that.
Have you ever thought of retiring?
Wouldn't it be great to do another ten years? I'd be 90 f***ing years old.
Can you see yourself doing this for that long?
Hell, yes, I do!
Do you feel like a kid again now that you’re back to work?
I ALWAYS feel like a kid again.