For a third time since it was conceived, TNT‘s new Dallas series will have to adjust its storylines to account for the absence of one of its signature characters, J.R. Ewing. And while the first two times the preparations turned out to be contingency plans that were never enacted, this time the show is forced to write off the villainous oilman following the death of the actor who’s portrayed the iconic character over the span of 35 years.
Related: R.I.P. Larry Hagman
Larry Hagman, who died Friday at age 81 from cancer complications, was in Dallas filming Season 2 of TNT’s Dallas. He had completed shooting a number of episodes — believed to be six — before his death, and will appear in the 15-episode Season 2 of the series, slated to premiere January 28. As of now things are fluid, and it is unclear how his passing will affect the production on the show, which was scheduled to resume following the Thanksgiving break. Extending the hiatus or scheduling one in the near future is a possibility so the writers can rework the scripts for the remaining episodes without Hagman and, more importantly, create a proper sendoff for J.R. The larger-than-life character was already at the heart of one of the most famous episodes of television as the November 1980 Dallas episode that resolved the series’ “Who shot J.R.?” cliffhanger remains the second-most-watched telecast of all time. J.R.’s farewell episode on the new Dallas will likely attract legions of fans of the iconic character.
Actually, Hagman almost didn’t make it to the Dallas sequel on TNT. J.R. had a prominent presence in developer/executive producer Cynthia Cidre’s original pilot script. But after months of a stalemate between Hagman and the project’s producer Warner Bros over money, Cidre wrote an alternative script that didn’t include Hagman, with J.R. represented only through archive footage from the original series. Fortunately for J.R. fans, the actor and the studio finally came to terms and that alternative script was never used.
Then last October, as Dallas was in the final stages of pre-production on its first-season order, Hagman announced that he had been diagnosed with what the actor described as a “very common and treatable” form of cancer. As a result, he was scheduled to only appear in the first three episodes plus the pilot. His future participation was in doubt and dependent on his treatment. Luckily, he was able to do all 10 episodes from the show’s first season.