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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DALLAS: PALEYFEST 2013 by Marco Elorreaga

Dallas PaleyFest 2013 panel, March 10, 2013 at 1 pm 
Generations of fans came in throngs to the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills on the afternoon of March 10, 2013 to honor the show Dallas and the late Larry "J.R. Ewing" Hagman in a bittersweet panel that exemplified many of Hagman's personal traits: fun, humorous and full of life.

Many main cast members took time from the second season production to make appearances at PaleyFest, flying in from Dallas, in order to answer questions about the show, tonight's historical episode, and also to share their feelings about their late friend and cast member, Larry Hagman.

Anne Ewing herself, Brenda Strong, praised the filming of the episode, which also premiered in front of a packed auditorium.  "It was poignant, it was bittersweet, it was all of life rolled into one 8-day filming of some of the best and hardest things that we all have to face which is, you know, none of us get out of here alive."

Discussing how Anne Ewing has a daughter she never knew exited.
Strong continued, "The thing that was so extraordinary was the opportunity to honor Larry and to pay our respect, not only as a journeyman actor, but also as the icon of J.R., and to be able to, through our art, actually celebrate his life.  It was one of the best meta moments, where life and art blends."

Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy, who play Sue Ellen and Bobby Ewing, respectively, only had great things to say about the longtime costar Hagman.  Duffy, who says he lost his best friend, stated that he won't even miss him because he's already part of his genetic code.

Linda Gray remembering Larry Hagman

Patrick Duffy praising the producers and writers
Duffy revered the producers and writers concerning the handling of tonight's episode titled, "J.R.'s Masterpiece," exclaiming, "I've never worked with producers and writers that had a sense of respect, you know, still maintaining their position as the leaders of the production, but a sense of respect of what they were doing and I think this show personifies that."

He added, "It is so respectful of Larry and his influence in the terms of Dallas, which there wouldn't be a Dallas if it weren't for him, it also understand that this show is gonna go on."

Josh Henderson explaining what he learned from Larry Hagman
While the younger cast members didn't get to know Hagman as long, the loss wasn't lost on them.  Stars Jesse Metcalfe, Josh Henderson, Jordana Brewster, and Julie Gonzalo all shared what they learned from the veteran actor.

Henderson shared that "I go to work everyday and I have fun.  The first thing Larry said was you got to have fun.  As a Ewing but as my son, you have to enjoy everything you do. Whether you are backed into a corner or you are backstabbing, you have to enjoy what you do, and I do.  And I think it plays that I'm enjoying what I do and I learned that from Larry."

Jordana Brewster's on Elena thinking that the love triangle is over 
On filming the episode, Brewster stated it was "very somber, very sad" while Henderson added "it was real."  Although Henderson hadn't seen the episode yet, he continued, "I heard it's unbelievable. I was getting messages from people who saw it and they said that rarely do you see television that is this real, this raw and emotional, but also rarely do you even see film that makes you feel like this episode is about to make people feel, so to be apart of that, it's the best thing of my life."

And it was, the episode had people crying, laughing, and guessing what was going to happen next.  The biggest question of the night was again, after 33 years, "Who shot J.R.?"  Creator and Executive Producer Cynthia Cidre did promise that J.R.'s killer would be revealed by the end of the season.  Patrick Duffy teased other cast members that he already knew and said that "it's probably the most brilliant piece of script writing that I've read whether it's in this show or any other show on television that I've ever seen in the way that solves a problem with such dignity and respect and drama.  I think every fan who has ever liked this show will think it's the pinnacle of Dallas writing and plot."

Most of the cast members had not seen the episode yet, so it stirred a lot of emotions in them, especially Linda Gray, who had a excruciating emotional scene that will definitely have ramifications for the remaining season. She had trouble holding back tears when remembering him.

Because the episode still hasn't aired (will air tonight, March 11, 2012 at 9/8c on TNT), I won't go into too much detail about the episode, but it contains a lot of past cast members reprising old characters and real-life Dallas dignitaries making appearances.  There are powerful performances from Duffy and Gray as their characters said goodbye in their own way.  As they walked onto the stage, they received standing ovations from the audience.

The Dallas PaleyFest Panel 
A lot of the panel was reminiscing about Hagman, that even the moderator, Will Keck, from TV Guide Magazine, stated at the beginning of the panel that there was one chair missing on stage. A touching moment came when Gray shared that every time she hears "I'll Be Loving You, Always" she knows Hagman is singing it to her, to which Duffy interjected with the hilarious line, "just so you know, he only sings dirty limericks to me."

Another fascination of the night was how they were able to bring Larry Hagman into numerous episodes after his death in November.

Executive Producer Michael Robin said "Larry passed away when we were filming episode five" and continued, "Cynthia instructed the post production staff to find any scenes of Larry had not been in and also to locate all the dialogue that we had of Larry because were thinking we would construct a phone call." But that wasn't enough for the team who didn't want to cheapen it with mere parlor tricks.

Robin and Cidre went into detail on how they were able to pull off the cinematic magic by rotoscoping Hagman from one scene, placing him in a room that he wasn't in, breaking down walls in that room, rebuilding new ones, and finding a limo ride of him saying generic telephone lines to create scenes with J.R. Ewing actually having conversations with multiple characters and not losing the emotion Hagman conveyed in his acting.

Not everything was somber, though.  There were a lot of funny moments.  A hilarious bit was when Keck asked if he could have Henderson play a younger version of his character, John Ross, from a 1988 script, where he asked his mother, Sue Ellen, why she shot his daddy.  Henderson played it with full conviction, raising the pitch of his voice to capture of the essence of the child actor who played John Ross before.

"Why can't you guys write like that?" exclaimed Duffy at the end of the scene, calling attention to corny and cheesy scene just played out on stage.

Keck followed, "Before we go to the second one, I have to ask you, Linda and Patrick, what was it like acting with grown up John Ross and Christopher after you spent several years working with these child actors?" to which Duffy quickly cut him off, "It's about the same."

Then, it was time for Keck to pick on Julie Gonzalo, who plays Pamela Rebecca Barnes, who is currently pregnant with John Ross' babies.  When asked about it, she admitted to actually liking the pregnancy belly.  She said, "The only problem is that I really buy into being pregnant on set, so I'm always walking like a duck, rubbing my belly like my back hurts, and I'm constantly eating."

Julie Gonzalo laughing it up answering questions about her duplicitous nature
When asked if she knew she was a Barnes, she said she was told before the pilot. "You're Cliff Barnes' daughter, don't play it, don't tell anyone, it's a secret," to which Gonzalo gasps, "a bad guy?"  Except it wasn't much of a secret, the producers came to find out, since she told her costar Jordana Brewster a long time ago.

To this news, Cidre played it off, "Well, we thought she kept it a secret." Gonzalo defended herself, "It was just one person!' and Robin fired back, "That's how it starts!" as the crowd erupted in laughter.  Did you know she was Barnes all this time?

As the lights turned on, the audience was beckoned to ask questions.  A lot of adamant members, ranging in age and oddity, stood up or raised their hands sharing their crazy memories of the show that left some cast members dumbfounded.

One cited a specific scene during an Oil Baron Ball of the first season that had J.R., Bobby and Punk sitting around talking about the Tecopa Project with a picture of Johnny Cash in the back.  Duffy looked flabbergasted at the specificity of the question, having no recollection of that scene whatsoever.

One asked if they ever heard of "The Ballad of J.R. Ewing," which no one had ever heard of.  That didn't stop him from serenading Strong as he got her autograph at the end of the show.

Brenda Strong signing while being serenaded
Speaking of Strong, one audience member demanded her to stop calling Patrick's character Robert James Ewing, since it was well established that his name was BOBBY James Ewing in previous seasons!

A young woman in the front wore a shirt that said, "approved drilling site," which the male cast members seemed to enjoy and another  woman thanked Cidre for bringing back the show since her mom lets her watch the kissing scenes now.  Overall, these individual all shared the same passion of a show that spanned over decades.

This led to the most tantalizing question posed by the moderator: "Who has the freeze frame at the end of this season? " The theater filled with intrigued.  The cast OOOO'd in anticipation.  "Patrick probably knows," someone from the cast shouted.

And Jordana Brewster gets the freeze frame of this recap!
Cidre teased "There are two, and we dont know yet which will go last, but lets just say Jordana has a moment."  And with that, Dallas left us with another memorable cliffhanger.  

Here's to many more freeze-frames to come and one that will never fade away: Mr. Larry Hagman aka J.R. Ewing.  This one's for you.

This recap is in memory of Larry Hagman.  RIP, J.R.
What did you think of tonight's episode?  Tweet us at @popculturebeast with your comments!

Special thanks to Samsung Smart TV for sponsoring my coverage of PaleyFest 2013. Make sure to like Samsung TV USA on Facebook for an insider look at red carpet photos, video highlights, recaps from the day's events and more. Also, don’t forget to follow @PopCultureBeast on Twitter for live updates during the screenings and panels.

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