The death of Larry Hagman in late November, needless to say, caught his co-stars and colleagues on “Dallas” by surprise. But when the show started back up a few days later, everyone was on their A game.
“It was very hard. It was very emotional, and at the same time I think all of us understood that Larry would have been very upset if we mourned and we missed a beat and didn’t go back to work,” Brenda Strong, who plays Bobby Ewing’s (Patrick Duffy) wife, Anne, on “Dallas,” told Zap2it Sunday (March 10) at a Paley Festival event honoring the show. “… He celebrated work in a way that I don’t know any other actor [does] — he just showed up happy every day. So I know that he wouldn’t have wanted us to mourn him for too long.”
Executive producer Michael Robin says on the first day of shooting after Hagman’s death, the producers set up a microphone and let anyone who wanted to speak reminisce about Hagman. After that, he says, “Everyone just felt like, you know what? We have to do it really well to honor him and honor his legacy. …
“That’s probably one of the things you might see in [Monday’s] ‘J.R.’s Masterpiece’ episode, is the honesty in which everybody performed that episode. They were so connected to Larry at the same time they were portraying their grieving for J.R.”
The title of Monday’s episode, which Robin directed and showrunner Cynthia Cidre wrote, refers to a grand scheme J.R. was working on at the time of his death. Cidre says the plan will provide the engine for the rest of the season.
“What happens [in episode] 8 propels our main characters both plot-wise and character-wise through the next seven episodes,” she says. “By the time we reveal who killed J.R. in the last episode of the season, there will be ramifications to all of that which hopefully will propel the characters into Season 3.”
Cidre adds that viewers will “absolutely” learn who killed J.R. by the end of the season.
Hagman died as the “Dallas” cast and crew were finishing the season’s fifth episode. Cidre, Robin and the writers and post-production staff found a way to keep J.R. on screen through last week’s seventh episode by re-using scenes Hagman had previously shot by flipping the image and digitally changing backgrounds and J.R.’s wardrobe.
“Interestingly enough, the scene where J.R. gets shot, he was at Southfork originally,” Robin says. “We took him out — we rotoscoped him out of that, and put in the walls from the motel room in Nuevo Laredo, so it indeed looks like he’s in the space where he got shot.”
Hagman’s physical presence in the show ended there, but his long-time TV wife, Linda Gray, says he still has a presence on “Dallas.”
“He does, and that’s what we loved about him,” Gray says. “He was bigger than life, and [his legacy] will continue long after. He was just probably tired and said, ‘OK, kids, go on without me. But I’m never going to leave you.'”
“Dallas” airs at 9 p.m. ET Monday on TNT.