At the time of Larry Hagman’s unexpected death on November 23, the Dallas team had five episodes of their sophomore season in the can that feature everybody’s favorite scamp J.R. Ewing. So after that most terrible surprise, executive producer Cynthia Cidre was tasked not just with mourning the loss of a television giant and friend, but also dramatically changing course on the fly. She had at her disposal an extra scene shot of Hagman that had been cut from an earlier episode and will now be inserted in episode 6. And then over three days she hand wrote episode 7, which will start exploring J.R.’s absence. “I never cried when I was writing,” says Cidre. “But the next day I started to type, and I started crying so hard I couldn’t even see the computer screen.”
The eighth episode of the season, slated to air March 11, will pay tribute to Hagman with a funeral episode for J.R. Joining the Ewing clan will be plenty of familiar faces from the original Dallas who will help honor an unforgettable man. “It will be funny and appropriate to J.R., but it will also be sad because his family loved him,” says Cidre. “As do the fans.”
Meanwhile much of her original plans for the 15-episode arc are still in place. The feuding cousins Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and John Ross (Josh Henderson) will duke it out for Ewing Energies. Now that Julie Gonzalo’s Rebecca has been revealed to Cliff Barnes’ daughter, say goodbye to her Season 1 mild manners and wardrobe of soft pastels. “She is a woman with confidence who went to business school and is going to run her father’s company,” says Cidre. Fans can look forward to a big story arc for Sue Ellen, as Linda Gray will likely appear in every episode, at Cidre’s urging. But will she fall off the wagon!? “If that ever happens,” teases Cidre, “it had better be for a really good reason.” And get ready for more slinky dresses and locked lips. “I don’t think we had enough sex on the show last year because we had couples, and couples can’t cheat if you want to like them,” says Cidre. “But now John Ross is the stud around town.” (John Ross will make his mark on a bachelorette party in the season premiere’s opening scene.)
In the meantime, everyone carries on—not so much grieving the loss of Hagman as celebrating his legacy. Says his longtime best friend Patrick Duffy: “On set if Linda and I are both sitting in chairs between scenes, I’ll reach over and just hold her hand for a while. As she will for me. We just sit and smile and think, ‘Gosh, that guy was our friend for 35 years. How lucky are we?’” Everyone has agreed that Hagman will stay No. 1 on the production call sheets for the rest of Dallas’ run. And his Airstream trailer will remain on set with a sign on the door that says “#1 is on hold.” As it should be. Says Duffy: “This is the house that Hagman built.”
The second season of Dallas will premiere on January 28 on TNT.