Morality tales have been around since the Middle Ages but the modern world had one of the most intriguing with the 1978 premiere of “Dallas,” which went on to win four Emmy awards. “Dallas” pitted Larry Hagman as greedy J.R. Ewing against Patrick Duffy as honest Bobby in a tale of brother against brother as old as the Bible — and this June that story is about to pick up where it left off.
J.R. came by his evil ways naturally. He was a chip off the old block. His father John Ross “Jock” Ewing, Sr. had been a ruthless oil tycoon who allegedly had swindled his partner out of the oil deal that made the Ewing family one of the richest in Texas — and he taught J.R. his devious methods of doing business. That left it up to Bobby to be the moral center of the family, who was always trying to do the right thing. But that constantly put him at odds with his older brother.
Funnily enough, Hagman, who will reprise his role as the scheming J.R. in the updated “Dallas,” premiering on TNT June 13 at 9/8c, doesn’t see his character as evil at all. When asked, he replies, “I think he is just a Texas business man. Is that evil? It’s just business.”
A true J.R. line if there is one. Of course, back in the ’80s, when “greed is good” was coined for the movie “Wall Street,” and the rich got richer, J.R. was considered by many to be just a good businessman. Eventually, though, he was made to pay for his machinations by losing the thing he loved most: South Fork, the family ranch.
Watch a Sneak Peek from the All-New “Dallas”:
As the new “Dallas” opens, Bobby is the owner of South Fork and he is considering selling it to a conservancy to preserve it — and that is not going down well with J.R.’s son John Ross (Josh Henderson), who has just discovered oil on the family land. So what is a boy to do? He calls on his father for help, and once again the family goes to war with J.R. against Bobby — and the rest of the family lining up accordingly.
That said, “Dallas” 2012 may not be quite as black and white as the original as the new generation begins to take over with John Ross painted as the bad boy and Bobby’s adopted son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) as the good guy.
“I think there is a lot more gray area in the new series,” Metcalfe says. “We have spoken a lot about Patrick having to adhere to a character that has been so well defined in the original series, but the more I think about it, Bobby has evolved. Even Bobby gets to branch out a little further. Sometimes Bobby’s motives can be questioned. In the old series it was a hard line of morality. It really was. And my character — Christopher — being cut from the same cloth, I definitely have that moral, ethical center that I was raised with, but I can be manipulative myself.”
Check out what the rest of the cast had to say:
Patrick Duffy: I think it is good vs. evil but not in a superfluous kind of way. It is really at the core of a family’s relationship with good and evil, which we all have equal amounts of — by the way. I think it is that dynamic battle within the family of who exhibits those characteristics at any given time and what is the dynamic created thereby. It is just a simple story about family relationships. We all have a little good, and we all have a little evil. It is which one is the most powerful at the moment.
Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing): I find that everybody is going to be a good guy and a bad guy and it will all meld together. I love the blending because as an actor, you don’t want to be one note. As a woman in the ’80s, Sue Ellen was a victim. In the ’80s, the show was written by men and the stars were the men. The women were the bookends. If J.R. did something bad, Sue Ellen would react. Now, women globally have changed and taken their power. This is my life: What am I going to do with it? I am not going to be dependent on the men anymore. I need to forge my own path.
Josh Henderson: I see John Ross as a guy who didn’t have the best upbringing. His parents were always feuding and pulling him away from each other. I think it affected him. Also, he grew up in this family who were passionate about oil and power. All he knows about business is how J.R. did business. I think he respected that. He admired the respect that J.R. demanded from his peers and everyone, so I think he is just passionate about oil and he really believes it is his birthright. He will stop at nothing to make that happen, just like J.R. did in the original. But now he has a lot of elements to fight and face and that includes his own father and mother, his uncle, his cousin and the love of his life Elena (Jordana Brewster).
Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing, Bobby’s wife): I do think it is a morality play. I think we do ask those questions: When is it right to do the right thing for the wrong reason? Or the wrong thing for the right reason? I think each of us as characters gets asked that. We have to make life choices that are sometimes not popular because they are difficult and complex. We are exploring all aspects of being a human being and that includes greed and power and loyalty and vying for your place in the world. It really comes down to how your character deals with those things as they arise.
Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Sutter, Christopher’s fiancée): I feel that to have a good show — something that will pull people in to watch every week — to get people invested it in, you have to have everything. You have to have the good and the bad. There are so many elements you need to make a good show. I think the balance on this show is good. You have your good characters who turn bad, or they turn good. They have their twists and turns and it works.
Watch a Classic Episode of the Original “Dallas”:
“Dallas” Premieres on Wednesday, June 13 at 9/8c on TNT.