Dallas Q&A: Josh Henderson Talks 'Naughtier' John Ross, His Memories Of Larry Hagman
“Dallas” rides back to TNT for Season 2 this Monday with a big, big premiere (and it’s not just because it’s two hours long and set in Texas).
There’s love (Christopher Ewing and Elena Ramos), political intrigue (Sue Ellen Ewing), an unexpected twist (Bobby and Anne Ewing), and courtesy of Josh Henderson’s John Ross Ewing, lots and lots of blackmail, scheming and double crossing under the watchful eye of Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing.
Although the return of the show will be thrilling for fans, there is also sadness. Larry sadly passed away over Thanksgiving weekend 2012 in Dallas, Texas, where he had been shooting the show, playing the iconic television villain.
Playing Larry’s TV son gave Josh a lot of time around the legendary star, and on Thursday, as he promoted the return of the show, the Dallas-born, Tulsa-bred actor shared his memories of the late star, and hinted at the supersized dramas ahead in Season 2.
AccessHollywood.com: We are excited for Season 2, although I imagine this is probably a hard day for you, having to talk about things?
Josh Henderson: Yeah, it’s been a hard few months for me, just a bunch of kind of big life moments. It’s OK. Talking about it at the end of the day is — at least I’m here in this situation to where I get to have experienced the things that I’ve experienced the last couple of years, so I’m very grateful.
Access: I’ve seen the two-hour season premiere and there are some great scenes with Larry. What was he like on set those days? His scenes are delightful.
Josh Henderson: Oh man, I’ve been fortunate enough to work a bunch in the last 11 years as an actor, but I’ve never really worked with someone like Larry Hagman. And I’ve learned more, not only as an actor, but kind of as a person, an appreciation of work and of the art, from him. When I met him, he was just this larger than life character. [Originally] I was full of anticipation knowing that I was going to get to work with him for what I believed to be many years to come and playing his son and growing… not only on a show like ‘Dallas,’ but in this relationship with J.R. and John Ross and I was just completely ecstatic. From Season 1, he got sick and he started to battle cancer… and through Season 2, he was probably… obviously in a ton of pain, and at the end of the day, I never saw him complain once. He was so happy at work. Smile on his face, cutting jokes, full of energy and I was in awe, every day.
Access: We know from many of his co-stars over the years, he had a reputation for pulling pranks. Was he still pulling them in Season 2?
Josh: Yeah, we were shooting a court scene and I knew that it was going to be a long day, so I brought one of these little Nerf dart guns and he came and he sat down in front of me in this court scene and in between takes, I just shot him in the back of the head, in his famous cowboy hat and I said, ‘A-ha! Who shot J.R. now?’ and he turns around and just kind of gives me this crazy grin. About 20 minutes later, I’m in mid conversation, I get hit right in the temple by a Nerf dart. I turned around, it’s him, and he goes, ‘Who shot John Ross?’ and that was four days before he passed.
Access: Just having fun.
Josh: Yeah, just on set, having a blast… cutting jokes. He would make these weird kind of like cow sounds in between takes. It’d be really quiet because if it was serious, he’d want all the background and the cast to kind of laugh and he would just make funny noises and keep everybody on their toes. Everything he did was just unique.
Access: I think a lot of fans saw him as the heart of the show behind the scenes. He was known as being a hard worker and he seemed very encouraging to his fellow actors like you. Is there a void on the set now or has someone else stepped up to fill that role for the cast?
Josh: No, no one could really take Larry’s place, but again, he was such a larger than life character that little things happen now, on set, or at the stages or whatever. His spirit, literally, will never leave us and obviously his trailer’s still out front. As long as we’re doing this show, he’s with us and so no one will ever take his place… Everything that I do in this character, John Ross, before he passed and now… I hear his voice. I hear J.R. saying, ‘Don’t screw this up,’ or ‘Way to go,’ or ‘Make me proud.’
Access: I remember interviewing you before the start of Season 1. You shared a story about your grandmother, your Meema, how “Dallas” was her favorite show, and how you imagined she was looking down on you going, ‘How are you on the show? I am so proud of you and why in the hell are you playing J.R.’s son?!?’ So I imagine you’ve probably thought about the conversations Larry and your Meema are having up there.
Josh: I completely thought about that. I can only imagine, because my Meema was such a vibrant and beautiful [woman]… she died young, she died of cancer as well, so I can only imagine. I kind of always felt her with me, I had a special bond with her and now that Larry has passed, I just think that they’re up there kind of cracking jokes and he’s making her laugh. It’s a really cool thought… I just feel so fortunate to have been able to work with this man for the last few years and learn so much from him and I’m gonna try to continue to grow into who J.R. would want me to be over the next few years.
Access: This season it feels like there is a shift, starting in the premiere episode, that really turns the focus to the young blood. Did it feel like the torch had been passed when you saw the very first script, which has such a big focus on John Ross and Christopher?
Josh: The end of Season 1 [for John Ross] was this crazy place of like anger and everyone’s my enemy and Season 2 picks up a month later and so I’ve kind of chilled out and I have a new plan to kind of fly under the radar a little bit and still use J.R., and obviously Sue Ellen, to help me achieve what I want to achieve, which is taking over Ewing Energies. But now that Larry has passed, it’s on a different level. Whether we wanted the torch to be passed or not, there’s a lot of weight on John Ross’ shoulders [later in the season] because he wasn’t quite ready to do it all on his own.
Access: Without ruining anything for viewers gearing up for the premiere, John Ross – from the show’s very first scene – has learned some new tricks. Fans will recognize some Marta del Sol techniques. How naughty is John Ross this season?
Josh: He’s definitely naughtier because in Season 1 he was always still thinking about Elena. He truly loved Elena, he cared for her, and he would do things, but at the back of his mind it was tough for him to do them because he really didn’t want to mess things up with Elena. Now, he’s got no one holding him back and he’s just literally on a mission and he’s willing to do anything. Also, he’s like, ‘Screw it! My heart was broken. I’m gonna have some fun and I’m gonna achieve what I need to achieve!’ And he’s gonna stop at nothing to get what he wants, which adds for some great storylines.
The two hour “Dallas” Season 2 premiere kicks off on TNT on Monday at 9 PM ET/PT.
-- Jolie Lash
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