Robert Michael Morris’ passing on May 30 was a blow to the cast and crew of The Comeback – the show on which the 77-year-old actor played best friend and hairdresser to Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish. 

During a panel discussion today at the ATX fest in Austin, Kudrow paid tribute to the actor, as did EPs Dan Bucatinsky and Michael Patrick King 

“He died Tuesday and he called me on Monday,” King said. “The reason he called me was he wanted to let me know that he wouldn’t be able to make it to the festival, he didn’t want anybody to be disappointed. Actually, he said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it,’ and he died the next day.”

The biting comedic Hollywood satire seemed like a great fit from the get-go for Morris given that, King said, “He felt like someone who wandered in from a reality show.”

Bucatinsky called him “one of a kind,” adding that only Morris could have played the part.

Lisa Kudrow - The Comeback

Surprisingly, Morris’ audition for the show was his first. “He came into an HBO network audition for the first audition in his life,” Kudrow said, adding that he’d brought a necklace as a gift. “It was really sweet, I put it on and it felt really good …there was no debate.”

With nine years elapsing between the first and second seasons, Morris developed cancer before Season 2 began shooting. “We actually started the second season knowing he had stage 4 melanoma,” King said, “and he was uninsurable and HBO let us proceed anyway.” With the show being a parody of real-life Hollywood, “we played as close to reality as possible,” King said, and in the case of Morris that meant his character was also sick.

But being on set seemed to lift Morris’ spirits. ”It was like he was getting well as we went along,” Kudrow said, while King commented, “Every day was an amazing gift because it was seeing someone so happy.”

As for whether there would ever be a Season 3, given the extremely long break between the first and second, Kudrow told moderator Abigail Spencer, “It’s always a possibility. If this was a possibility, if this [Season 2] happened, then yeah.”

King pointed out that Peak TV is actually the perfect environment for Valerie. “There’s so much aggressive sales needed,” he said, “it’s like a perfect humiliation trap…TV is so desperate now, it’s finally caught up to Valerie Cherish.”