Yesterday, the cast of Dallas spoke to TV Fanatic about their memories of Larry Hagman and how it felt on set working on the emotional farewell episode, “JR’s Masterpiece.” Aside from the flowing of tears, however, the installment also masterfully included oodles of great story...
Are Sue Ellen and Gary going to hit the sheets or just fall of the wagon together? Will Emma have pills AND John Ross as her new addictions? And what exactly does Bobby know about JR’s death?
Who better to fill us in on the big story decisions from this week than Executive Producers Cynthia Cidre (who wrote last night’s fabulous episode) and Michael Robin. Read on for excerpts from our exclusive Q&A...
TV Fanatic: I’m sure the whole challenge of taking the story from this point on was daunting. Where did you start?
Cynthia Cidre: Necessity is the mother of invention so we had never had a plan B for Larry’s passing just because frankly, when you have a plan B, you’re not fully committed to plan A. So we were always committed to plan A and then when he sadly passed on that Friday after Thanksgiving, we had episode 6 and 7 were pretty much set to go already and we adjusted them without Larry and then all the writers came in.
We didn’t want to throw away the season we had already planned because as a serialized show, this is extra challenging. If a cast member passes away in a show that’s not serialized, that’s a procedural, the shows are not tied together the way that these are and so we had to kind of re-engineer the next eight episodes and I think we did. I actually think that we saved the majority of it.
TVF: By the end of the episode, Bobby knows that Harris and/or Cliff are somehow involved in JR’s death. Is that just a tip of the mystery? How much deeper does it go than that?
CC: It’s going to go a lot deeper. It’s going to go, hopefully, to places you don’t expect. That is, you know, the masterpiece is that [JR] was working on something that involves those two and it’s now on the family to figure out the pieces of it and bring it to a conclusion in the last episode of the season.
Michael Robin: And also, Cynthia, she had a choice when Larry passed to do something like a simple remembrance of the character that the character just passed as you moved on the story or you could go do something elaborate which is the way that seemed fitting for J.R. and certainly for Larry.
TVF: Bobby has this piece that he’s not sharing with anybody. Will that play out throughout this season or even go into next season?
CC: We’re going to find out. I don’t believe in leaving audiences hanging. I think they need to be happy and satisfied. It’s like a meal. You know, you can’t put a delicious meal in front of them and then take it away before they can eat it so we will have all revelations by the last episode, but there will be repercussions to those revelations into the next season.
TVF: Sue Ellen drinking in the episode. Being a longtime fan, I thought it was so fitting but is that just a momentary slip or is that something we’re going to see more of?
CC: Oh, we would not be taking advantage of story if it was just a momentary slip. It was something we had planned all along. I don’t know if you watched the first episode. I think it was 201 of the season. She uncorks the bottle and then re-corks and we were sort of waiting for the appropriate moment and there seemed no more appropriate moment than J.R.’s funeral.
TVF: Is there going to be a Sue Ellen/Gary romance or some liaison? There were definite hints of that in the episode.
MR: Well, there’s more to come with that.
TVF: I know Valene (Gary’s estranged wife, played by Joan Van Ark) is coming which will of course make it nice and juicy if something does happen between them.
MR: I think you’re reading some tea leaves there so there you go.
TVF: With Emma now being at Southfork, I’m guessing Harris and Mother Ryland are not going to be happy with all that. Is there some retaliation coming on that?
MR: Neither Harris nor Judith are happy with the circumstances that currently exist so trouble is coming.
TVF: And Emma likes her pills, I’m figuring out. How big of a problem is this pill thing going to be with her? And then she also hooks up with John Ross.
CC: I don’t want to reveal anything, but on the case of the pills. I mean it’s never good but she does have a problem. Hopefully we will arc our way through that story. It’s also used in a positive way later on that she maneuvers around…and it’d be goofy not to use her with John Ross again. I mean, they’re both really fun.
MR: And hot together.
TVF: Fantastic scene with Bobby and Ann finally having that big blowup that’s been simmering. How difficult will it be for them to recover and move forward?
CC: They will arc to a recovery. There’s a few scars left from it. When we were shooting the first episode of the season, which was when Ann reveals to Bobby about the daughter and the kidnapping and all of that and Mike directed that and I was on set and I was watching it and that’s the first time I realized ‘Oh my God, there has to be a blowup about this sooner or later that she hasn’t told him’ and so we had it up in the writers’ room on the card. You know, when will it be appropriate for Bobby to blow up and again, this episode is one where everybody’s nerves are frayed and so in emotion so that was the right thing. But they will arc, but there’s also going to be repercussions that are coming about that.
TVF: Finally, you bring Pam’s name up again, which of course makes all of us freak out a little bit. Is there going to be a pay-off to that?
CC: There’s a pay-off. We don’t like to leave any threads hanging. And hopefully it’s not the pay-off you expect because if the audience is expecting it, we’re not doing our job. So hopefully it’s something delightful that when it’s revealed you’ll go ‘ohhhh, that’s cool.’
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.