TNT's 'Dallas' reboot draws a full house
PASADENA, Calif. -- The "Big Three" of Dallas, as a co-executive producer dubbed them, fittingly sat front and center Saturday during a highly anticipated interview session tied to the fabled serial drama's re-launch this summer on TNT.
Josh Henderson, who plays J.R. Ewing's bad seed son, John Ross, remembered the original Dallas as his grandma's favorite TV show during the 1970s and '80s.
"I guess I was born in like Season 4 or something," he said. "I literally would run around the TV and be told to shut up while they (his family) were watching it."
Henderson later was asked how it felt "to be slapped by the iconic J.R." during a clip shown to TV writers before the cast and producers took questions from a hotel ballroom full of TV writers.
"It was an honor, actually," he said. "And I asked for more takes. I told him, 'Just go ahead and hit me.' It's amazing to see them and their characters come back to life, and to be a part of it."
TNT initially has ordered 10 episodes of Dallas, with the completed first episode sent to "press tour" attendees several weeks before Saturday's gathering. Duffy's Bobby Ewing easily has the most screen time among the "Big Three." And his opening scene health scare (to say more would be a heavy-duty spoiler) fuels much of the action to follow.
Answering a question from locatetv.com, Duffy said the three originals are in every episode so far, with eight of the 10 hours already filmed on location in Dallas.
"That's why we wanted to do the show, because we're trying to tow the load as much as everybody else," he said. "The younger people have more stamina. But we're here and we're performing the functions we did in the original Dallas."
He then dubbed Hagman the show's "Obi-Wan" before co-executive producer Cynthia Cidre emphasized that the "Big Three" were never intended to be used as "bait for the new show . . . It was really to integrate them fully with the new cast."
Hagman, recently diagnosed with an undisclosed but treatable form of cancer, is mostly working half-days on the new Dallas. But he's still very much a key player, whether slapping Henderson's John Ross or spitting out dialogue such as "I hate to hit a man below the belt, but you know I will."
He re-booted himself as J.R. in order to "work at 80," Hagman said. "How many people do you know working at 80? And doing a job that he loves with the people he loves. Oh yeah, I'm a very lucky man."
Gray, who as Sue Ellen Ewing endured numerous indignities from J.R. before divorcing him, got a chance to slap him in the chops in a scene filmed the day before the cast headed West for Saturday's interview session.
Hagman blurted this out before Gray said, "Sshh, you're not supposed to say that."
"Oh, sorry, I take it back. Don't print that," he said before Gray rejoined, "But it was great."
The Big Three made several Dallas TV movies and then had a cast reunion special after the series ended its 14-year, 357-episode run on CBS in 1991. But Duffy said he never envisioned doing a weekly Dallas series again.
"It was the heartbreak of my career because these are my two closest friends," he said of Hagman and Gray. "And I knew somewhere in my heart that we would never work together again because the three of us 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 life."
"I got a tear in my eye," Hagman said, seeming to actually mean it.
"He woke up again," Duffy jabbed before Gray said the original Dallas "should have been a sitcom because I laughed every single day we were on the set. And nothing has changed. Nothing."
Well, there is the matter of shower scenes. Bobby took the most famous one in TV history in May 1986 after Duffy left the show a season earlier to pursue a movie career that never really clicked. Bobby supposedly had died in a fiery car wreck, with J.R. and wife Pam (Victoria Principal) among those gathered around his death bed. But the writers brought him back to life by having Pam awaken to find him happily sudsing. The previous season and its creative misdirections were then written off as Pam's bad dream.
That was then, though. At age 62, "I don't do showers anymore. That's these guys," Duffy said, pointing to Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe, who plays Bobby's son, Christopher, on the new Dallas.
By the way, Metcalfe was born in the same year the original Dallas premiered.
"They really bring the history," he said of Hagman, Duffy and Gray. "We're just kind of, you know -- I don't want to say 'the fresh legs' -- but we're the next generation. We're just carrying the torch, but they set the tone."
Henderson then upped the ante, recalling his first scene with Hagman's J.R.
"If you guys saw the pilot, you saw the scene where his eyes opened and he just looked at me. I don't want to say I almost peed my pants, but it electrified the room. It's amazing to see them and their characters come back to life."
Duffy said it's all been a "seamless transition" from the Dallas of old to TNT's new day.
"It was like snapping your fingers," he said. "And we were Bobby, Sue Ellen and J.R. again with no interspersing of time in between."