It's been an emotional second season for TNT's reboot of "Dallas," after the death of iconic star Larry Hagman last November. And though Hagman's death was a blow -- and threw curveballs at storyline plans of the show's producers and writers -- even the most devoted fans would have to agree that the season has turned out to be deliciously dramatic, suspenseful, touching, and at times even funny … in short, a very successful and fitting send-off to Hagman and his larger-than-life J.R. Ewing.
John Ross and Christopher know bits of info about what J.R. himself called his "masterpiece," but Bobby knows even more, and at the end of 15 episodes that have seen J.R.'s funeral, Sue Ellen's return to the bottle, Ann's unlikely reunion with her troubled daughter, Emma, the introduction of Elena's brother Drew, the crushing death of Rebecca and Christopher's unborn twins, the coupling of Emma and Drew and John Ross and Rebecca, and, last week, the surprise Vegas wedding of John Ross and Rebecca, everyone will know everything there is to know about J.R.'s death in that Mexican hotel.
[Related: What Were J.R.'s Last Words to His Son?]
"Dallas" executive producer Cynthia Cidre talked to Yahoo! TV about what she calls two "very satisfying" hours in the season finale, how she kept the secrets surrounding J.R.'s death from everyone, including most of the cast and crew, and her plans to get the Ewings back under one roof.
Congratulations on a fantastic season, Cynthia.
Hopefully, you won't be disappointed by the last two [hours]. I think that they're our, other than ["J.R.'s Masterpiece"], they're really two good episodes. Everything just finally is resolved. They're very satisfying, I hope.
Will we be shocked by the resolution, or if we've been paying attention all this time, should we have sort of figured it out?
I would be surprised if people have figured it out. It's not outside the realm of possibility, but we tried to really come up with something that would be... (Gasps) Even if you have figured it out, it should still be quite emotional. But I'm betting you haven't. Not unless you cheated, by going through our trash. (Laughing)
Back in March at the PaleyFest presentation, Patrick Duffy kind of teased his cast mates that he was the only one, at that point, who knew the resolution of J.R.'s murder…
He was, yes, he was. They were all mad at him. (Laughing) Yes, they were envious that he knew.
[Related: See the 'Dallas' Cast at PaleyFest]
Is it true that some of them didn't find out until it was time to film the finale scenes?
No one [else] knew until they got the script. I think, only the actors who were actually participating in that scene, where the resolution comes, got the script. The rest of the crew didn't have it. We were shooting the scene, and it was like, '[Gasps],' because they didn't know. The truth is, our crew is so invested. We have 99 percent retention from the pilot, so it's a family. I know everybody. I know all of the gaffers, I know the best boy, I know his wife; the kids come to the set. It's a real family, so it's not like you have strangers on set that you have to be aware of, careful about.
Then we have a couple of secrets coming out for next year, and I've only told the actors it affects, because they need to then play the last scenes knowing something that the rest of the cast doesn't know. Now, there's like a whole new set of people who have secrets, and it's fun to watch.
There was actually gasping at the big reveal about J.R.'s plan?
There was! There was. There has always been that. It's like with Rebecca Barnes last year, with that reveal, which I thought everybody would have come up with. We told [Rebecca portrayer] Julie [Gonzalo] in auditions, before we made the pilot, only because if she didn't know that, what the hell is she playing? But nobody else knew.
Two of the biggest surprises, the best surprises, of the season have been Drew and John Ross. When we first met Drew, he was just kind of this angry, chip on his shoulder guy, but he's become such a great character, so much more vulnerable, especially with the relationship with Emma. And John Ross, I think, has become this amazing character that maybe we didn't see at the beginning.
He was overshadowed by Larry, by J.R., being there. Now he gets to step into those shoes and be, hopefully, delightfully villainous.
See how John Ross Ewing uses threats to get what he wants:
He is, and Josh Henderson has incredible chemistry with Julie. John Ross and Rebecca have become the not-goody-two-shoes version of Bobby and Pam … was it always your plan to have those two get together?
Yes, once there was the breakup with John Ross and Elena last year, we always knew that there would be something delightful about Rebecca and John Ross together. Plus, those two actors, they're just similar in personality. They're both funny, very humorous about everything. We just thought that they would have chemistry and be fun together. I wasn't even thinking of it as Bobby and Pam, [a] not-goody-two-shoes version. I was thinking more of a version of J.R. and Sue Ellen, that there was some version of that that would be delightful in Seasons 2 and 3.
[Related: Check Out Photos of Rebecca and John Ross]
Will we get to see John Ross and Rebecca living at Southfork, running into Elena and Christopher at breakfast, and all the tension that will bring?
I'm probably giving something away here, but I'm going to do it anyway. Everybody needs to be, when you're writing a family drama, a melodrama, a soap, any of these things where people need to constantly run into each other, and not make it seem ridiculous and a coincidence, really need to be in the same area, not in different buildings. However, there are only so many people, I think, who can live at Southfork. We were thinking maybe and now I really am giving something away here that John Ross now owns half of Southfork, of the land, so he gets to build a different house. Then they can still be on top of each other, but the house can look different, so it feels like they have their own home.
They can still all gather for meals, like on the original series, and at the pool, in the stables …
Yeah, they can still have breakfast together, and meals together, but they're just walking from one house to the other. We'll see. That's for next season. We'd have to build the staging, and that's a whole other investment. That is the idea, because there are only so many rooms in that house, you know?
And what's in store for Emma and Drew? They were both not the most likable characters, definitely not the warmest characters, when we met them, but as we've learned more of their backstories and seen them together, they've become a really likable couple.
I agree with that. It was a surprise to us too. Drew just really grew. Kuno [Becker, who portrays Drew], as his hair grew, he got more and more vulnerable and sweet. I really was caring for him. I think Emma, she really fits the bill in being delicious, lovable, sweet, but also a little bit of a vixen. They're both two of my favorite characters. And we have plans for everybody. We just can't keep growing, though, because otherwise you cannot write a 41-minute script with 12 leads.
The size of the cast has allowed you to really tell the stories of multiple generations of Ewings, though.
It was always meant to be, never parallel stories, but entwined stories, between the old generation and the new generation. I think the scenes work best when it involves both. I love anything with Bobby in it and John Ross, or Bobby and Christopher, or Sue Ellen and Elena. Now, with J.R.'s passing, it actually has opened the door for this alliance between Sue Ellen and her son, which I also enjoy.
Speaking of Sue Ellen, she's keeping it together after J.R.'s death, but she's also still drinking. Where is she headed?
It's unresolved, but I had promised Linda she will never be drinking Aqua Velva on the sidewalk. This isn't an oxymoron. It's a power move, let's say. I don't want her to be pathetic, but she is not back on the wagon.
Christopher was headed off to track down his mom, Pamela, last week. Does she factor into the finale or the future of the show?
She does. You will have resolution, actually, by the end of [the first hour of the finale]. You don't even have to wait [until the end]. So by the end of the first hour, by 10 PM Monday night, wherever you are and whatever time it airs, you will know.
Has it been tough, emotionally, to carry out these storylines that revolve around J.R. so much?
It has a kismetic, serendipitous, weird quality, in the fact that Larry was a really nice man, and very little like J.R. with the exception of the mischief in his eyes, which was very Larry. There's a parallel, there's like a weird parallel, of both the human being, who was close friends with all those [cast members], and the character, who had died at the same time, and then they're playing family of the man and the character. It's just very odd. Even when we were doing ["J.R.'s Masterpiece"] with the funeral, it was almost as if they were all at Larry's funeral, even though it was J.R.'s funeral.
A lot of this has been, I think, cathartic. In a way, it's not easy to play, but everyone has access to those emotions, because they're real. It's not like there was a contract negotiation issue with Larry Hagman, and he's refusing to come back until we figure it out, and we decided to kill him off and now they're all pretending that he died, which would be very different. There's a real realism in our filming of these episodes.
[Executive producer] Mike Robin and I had lunch with Patrick [Duffy] the day before yesterday, and there's something in our resolution of how J.R. died which I'm not going to tell you, but you will see on Monday that is very much, I think, what Larry would have chosen, in a weird way, had he been part of the plotting. I think there's a parallel in that, too. We just hope to honor him. He was just so lovely and delightful, and everybody had a great time with him.
He also seemed very enthusiastic about the show and about returning to this character.
Hugely, hugely. Which is why he worked to the end. He worked on Monday, he went into the hospital on Tuesday, and he passed away Friday. Literally. And nobody knew. I always get asked, "Well, did you know it was coming? Did you have a plan B?" It was like, "Uh, no."
Watch a J.R. Ewing retrospective:
When we find out this resolution in the finale, is it something that will carry over into next season?
We are a serialized show. Anything that is not completely resolved will carry over. The way we structured it is, and I think "24" did this too, is you resolve all your season's stories by Acts 3 and 4, and then Act 5 reloads for next season so no one can turn away. That's how we're doing it too.
Is Season 3 a go for sure?
I have no idea. As soon as you hear, let me know, please. (Laughing) All I know is that if and when it comes knock on wood I think [we'll find out] sometime after we air our last shows. I think that's just how it's getting done this year. I'm going to take my time off, and we hope to [start back up] in June. But I know nothing … I'm not keeping anything from you.
The two-hour "Dallas" Season 2 finale airs Monday at 9 PM on TNT.
- Larry Hagman