Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

TNT this afternoon rolled out the cast and producers for its new edition of Dallas that Turner programming chief Michael Wright referred to as “not a remake and not a reboot but a continuation of” the iconic nighttime soap that originally ran on CBS for 14 seasons (1978-91). “It will be as if the cameras were left on 20 years ago and everyone went on with their lives,” he added. While most of the cast has moved on, Larry Hagman (the notorious J,.R. Ewing), Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) all are back for the new edition slated to premiere next summer. The returnees looked fresh and ready to roll anew — even Hagman (the only cast member to appear in all 357 episodes of the original series) despite some much-publicized health issues. “What’s the best part? Work at 80 years old!” announced Hagman, dapper in a 10-gallon hat, “and doing a job I love with people I love.” Hagman added that except for the fact there about about 490 more channels now than there were when Dallas originally hit the air, things aren’t all that different now. “When Dallas was really hot, we were in a major recession,” he said. “People couldn’t afford to hire a babysitter and go out for the night. They had to stay in on Friday nights and watch something, and we were it. Now here we are again.” When it was noted that a generation of TV stars might owe Hagman a debt of gratitude for his onetime Dallas salary holdout, he quipped, “I think everybody from Friends owes me at least 10%.”

The three holdover stars have appeared in all of the episodes shot thus far, Duffy confirmed. “We’re going to try to toe the load as well as everyone else,” he said. Exec producer Cynthia Cidre stressed, however, that it was never anyone’s intent to use the three original stars as any sort of lure to draw people to the new edition. “We’re going to integrate them fully with the new cast,” she said, while saying she was uncertain as to whether Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing on original) could be returning with a role in the new Dallas. Many of the rest of the cast members admitted they were still in diapers during the whole “Who Shot J.R.?” phenomenon in 1980, including Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo. (Jesse Metcalfe of Desperate Housewives also co-stars.) Another co-star, Josh Henderson, admitted today that during his first scene with Hagman, “The first time he opened his eyes and looked at me, I almost peed my pants. There’s such an iconic feeling on the set.” However, Duffy said the weirdest part is it doesn’t feel as though two decades have passed. “It’s like I was hypnotized during one of those Las Vegas acts,” he admitted. “Like someone said I’d wake up and be clucking like a chicken. It’s like when they snapped their fingers, I started clucking like Bobby. It’s like we’re all Bobby and J,R. and Sue Ellen again and there’s been no time in-between.”

Cidre said that the producers decided at outset never to pretend that the original show didn’t exist. And fellow producer Michael Robin agreed it’s been honored. “Cynthia’s pilot script honored all of the elements of what Dallas was in the past,” he maintained. “The storytelling elements are similar in that there’s a big epic family conflict and interpersonal dynamic. We tried to make sure we brought it forward and freshened the story for a different generation. Those are the things that people love and expect to be in Dallas and we weren’t here to sort of take this into a whole new place. We’re honoring the past and freshening it for now. But the mythology of the original remains firmly in place.” Admitted Cidre: “I couldn’t have imagined trying to do this as a straight remake. A seamless time warp makes a lot more sense to me.”

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