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Think you have an idea who shot J.R. Ewing this time? Think again.
“My jaw dropped, literally,” he told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday at PaleyFest. “And I mean literally when [executive producer Cynthia Cidre] told me, I found myself with my mouth open, going, ‘Oh my God.’ I never in my strangest imagination would have manipulated the facts to be that resolution, and I’m so excited to see the reaction.”
The producers and writers of the TNT drama chose to do their own version of Dallas’ wildly popular “Who shot J.R.?” mystery from the series’ original run after star Larry Hagman died in November, only five episodes into filming the second season. Monday night’s episode will focus on the character’s funeral and also serves as a tribute to Hagman.
Duffy, who plays J.R.’s brother Bobby, revealed during Sunday’s Dallas panel at PaleyFest that he asked executive producers Cidre and Michael Robin to tell him who shot J.R. so he would know how to play certain scenes. While he can’t reveal the name of the shooter even to his “dearest friend” and fellow then-and-now castmember Linda Gray, who plays J.R.’s ex-wife Sue Ellen, he can reveal this: “It’s not me.”
For her part, Gray tells THR that Sue Ellen has a strong reaction to the news of J.R.’s death.
“It’s pretty powerful,” she says. “[The writers] wrote it very powerfully but still almost tender. That’s hard to do. You’ll see a different side of Sue Ellen, and a different side of [her and J.R.’s] relationship. You’ll see it all.”
[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]
In Monday night’s episode, Sue Ellen’s past demons resurface, as she turns to drinking again. (Viewers of the original Dallas will remember her struggles with alcoholism.) She also reveals that her as-yet-unopened letter from J.R. is his asking for another chance with Sue Ellen: “When I get back to Dallas, will you have dinner with me?”
Bobby, meanwhile, learns that J.R. was not in Abu Dhabi but in Mexico, working on several schemes of interest to the family, including looking for Christopher’s real mother, Pam (originally played by Victoria Principal, who has yet to appear on the TNT reboot), and trying to get revenge on Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), the ex-husband of Ann Ewing (Brenda Strong).
Meanwhile, Duffy also tells THR that his character must now re-examine his life without J.R.
“Bobby has to basically redefine his life,” he says. “His life was half of that relationship, half of the Bobby/J.R. competition. And without that, Bobby has to figure out who he is.”
Duffy says he’s not sure what the writers have planned for Bobby, but he notes the importance of the character to the show.
“Bobby is the only character that is the moral compass, so they can’t denigrate that,” he adds. “They can push it; they can mold it a little bit. But the audience has to know there’s one person that’s consistent. Everybody else can fluctuate, but Bobby always has to be there.”
As for Sue Ellen, her devious side has been coming out on occasion, with the character recently collaborating with her son John Ross (Josh Henderson) to take a bigger stake in Ewing Energies, much to the chagrin of Bobby and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe). Gray says she doesn’t know what the writers have in store for her character over the long term, but she does enjoy playing her when she’s scheming.
“Don’t you love it? I love Sue Ellen when she’s devious,” Gray says.
Dallas airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on TNT.
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