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Can the Soaps Stay Afloat? : Larry Hagman Still Relishes Being TV's Oiliest Villain

September 28, 1989|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

"Linda Gray was my favorite female co-star," he said. "She was the greatest leading lady I've ever worked with. She was here for 12 years. There was a lot of electricity and a lot of subtle work between us. We would always find pieces of the story that weren't written into the script. She was the best (female co-star) so far in my life, but hopefully there'll be others."

As has frequently been the case with the series, three major characters have been added to the cast for this season. Kimberly Foster turned up last Friday as April Stevens' sister, the show's new femme fatale ; Michael Wilding debuted as an art dealer who will develop a romantic interest in J.R.'s wife, and Sasha Mitchell will soon be introduced as a man who claims to be J.R.'s 21-year-old illegitimate son.

Hagman, who since last season has been co-executive producer of "Dallas" with Leonard Katzman, is upbeat about this season's story and glad to be rid of some of his character's vulnerabilities that surfaced last year.

Apparently gone are scenes such as one last season when J.R., while traveling in Vienna, atypically rebuffed the advances of a glamorous European aristocrat who had been his former lover. The oilman's philandering had been tempered by his marriage to a much younger woman, played by Cathy Podewell.

"I thought that was kind of dumb, to tell you the truth," he said.

"Everybody says, 'What is the purpose of 'Dallas?' The purpose is to entertain. It's for entertainment and we don't do it for any morality plays or anything like that. We're here to entertain people," he said.

As for surviving so long on "Dallas"?

"I guess that makes me feel rich--and don't forget modest and smart," he said in his distinctive laugh. "Yeah, rich, smart and modest."

J.R. Ewing couldn't have said it better.

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