Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Fans of the Dallas reboot on TNT will find out who shot (and killed) the iconic villainous oilman J.R. Ewing, and they won’t need to wait an entire summer to solve the cliffhanger. Exec producer Cynthia Cidre promised this afternoon during a Dallas panel at PaleyFest 2013 in Beverly Hills that the unknown assailant will be revealed at the end of the 15th and final episode of Season 2 in May, avoiding the possibility a potential outcry from fans such as erupted over the tease perpetrated by the AMC drama The Killing. To do otherwise, Cidre maintained, “would be like putting this great meal in front of (fans) and then taking it away.” The decision was made to kill off J.R. when the man who played him so memorably over a span of 35 years, Larry Hagman, died on November 23rd from leukemia complications at the age of 81. Hagman worked all the way up until his death, which came during the shooting of the season’s fifth episode. In the sixth episode script, J.R. is shot and killed by an unknown assailant, hearkening back to the original “Who Shot J.R.?” sensation in 1980. He’s murdered while on the telephone in a late-night conversation with his son John Ross (Josh Henderson) when we hear gunshots. The scene was made possible due to some editing tricks in post, exec producer Michael Robin confirmed today. “Cynthia and the post-production staff located all of the dialogue we had of Larry,” he said, adding that the staff did a brilliant job of editing in elements to make it all look seamless. Cidre admitted that “if only we could have shot Larry in a limousine saying generic things, we could have (kept him on the show) for years.”
Indeed, Hagman’s memory very much hung over the 70-minute PaleyFest session, transforming it into a loving tribute to the actor. Those present at the event had just screened the show’s seventh episode, premiering tomorrow night and entitled “J.R.’s Masterpiece”, that features J.R.’s funeral. Linda Gray, who has portrayed Sue Ellen Ewing in both editions of the series, called Hagman “an extraordinary human being” who “is here and will always be here.” She related a wrenching story about how Hagman’s daughter Christina sang the song “I’ll Be Loving You… Always” as her father lay near death, and how he had begun to sing it with her as the end drew close. “Two days later, I was driving home from the set and had the radio on,” related Gray, “and all of a sudden the song came on. And then two days after that, it came on again. It took my breath away. I’m like, ‘Larry, is that you?’ ” Longtime costar Patrick Duffy punctured the sentiment by quickly adding, “Just so you know, he sings dirty limericks to me.” Other stories of Hagman’s spiritual presence on the set followed from a panel that also included regulars Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, Julie Gonzalo and Brenda Strong. When the subject turned to the “Who Shot J.R.?” question and its reveal later this season, Duffy — who says he knows who killed him — called it “Probably the most brilliant piece of scriptwriting I’ve ever read”. And Cidre admitted that had Hagman lived, there was talk of he and Sue Ellen reuniting/remarrying. But now, we’ll never know.