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Dallas Season 3 – Josh Henderson, on another level to play JR’s son

On the season finale of Dallas last year, it was revealed that JR Ewing (the late Larry Hagman), who had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, had arranged for his own death in order to frame his longtime rival Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) for his murder. This information was disclosed at JR’s burial through a letter he wrote, by his brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy).

As Dallas Season 3 premieres, the Ewings appear to be united, but that doesn’t last long when Bobby is confronted by JR’s son, John Ross played by Josh Henderson, over the joint ownership of Southfork Ranch.

I spoke with Josh at a TNT party last summer about Season 3, his devious role as John Ross and the sudden, and unexpected, loss of Larry Hagman.

And for fans of the series, Josh is nothing like his role – he’s sweet, humble and gracious. Dallas Season 3 premieres on TNT on February 24th at 9pm.

You obviously didn’t see Dallas when it was first on, you’re way too young. Did you watch it before you started shooting it?

Dallas, 301 - Josh Henderson and Linda Gray
Dallas, 301 “The Return” – John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) and Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) ©2014 Turner Network Television

My family, being from Texas, always sat me down to watch the show.

I wasn’t born when it started, I was born in probably season four.

I would sit with my family and watch it, but I never really knew what was going on in the show, I was too young.

So I went back and watch a lot of the episodes just to get a vibe for the Ewings, the show, JR, Bobby, Sue Ellen, just to learn as much as I could about the background, the history, to be able to figure out who John Ross would be.

I’m afraid to ask, how are you like your character?

It’s funny, at the end of the day the only similarity that I have with John Ross is that I’m from Texas. Otherwise, he’s a billionaire oil kid, and I wasn’t even a thousand-aire, ever. He’s very conniving, intense and manipulative and I’m laid back, so I’m nothing really like him at all.

I’m pretty ambitious and I’m pretty competitive, but this stuff is on another level. So what’s cool about that is every day I go to work I get to play John Ross, I’m not playing myself.

I get to change into that John Ross suit and character and have a blast with it. And then as soon as I go home I go back to being mellow, because I couldn’t do that intensity all the time. It’s too much.

What can we expect this season?

Dallas, 301 - Jesse Metcalfe and Josh Henderson
Dallas, 301 “The Return” – Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe) and John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) ©2014 Turner Network Television

I have a feeling that I might start to deal with the reality of my father being gone. I think at the end of season two we had seven episodes after he actually passed where we were trying to figure out who killed him.

Also John Ross was getting involved with Pamela, she lost her baby, so he was there for her, there was a lot of distractions to try to take him away from that dark place, and I think season three the reality is going to set in and I’m going to get into a dark, dark place.

It seems like you’re taking over the mantle of JR. Is that daunting for you?

It is. Going into the show originally I really wanted to do the role justice, do the show justice, being from Texas. It meant a lot to me.

Being able to get to work with Larry and get to play ball with him in father/son scenes, was such a blessing for me. And when we lost him, I just didn’t expect it.

Not only did he teach me a lot in real life, just about the business and enjoying what you’re doing and letting that bleed through into your character, but also on the show my character was learning from him about the oil business and he was yearning for that father/son relationship.

When I lost him it was very real to me, and now I’ve just tried to do what I believe JR’s son would really do in life, not only reacting to losing his father but taking over that role as the head of Ewing Energies. So for me it’s a big deal, and I’m loving every second of it.

Did you know what the letter said until the end of Season 2?

Dallas, 302 - Josh Henderson and Julie Gonzalo
Dallas, 302 “Trust Me” – John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) intercuts to dance with Pamela Rebecca Barnes (Julie Gonzalo) ©2014 Turner Network Television

No, I didn’t know at all.

Did you go crazy wondering?

I did. The only one who knew was Patrick.

Did you go to Patrick and ask him?

Because John Ross didn’t know, I didn’t want to know either.

When the script came out I crossed that scene out, because I knew  it was going to be read at the burial. So I waited to really be able to live in that moment of what JR told John Ross. I wanted to listen to it, and it was such a beautiful moment that I actually liked that I didn’t know.

What a beautiful way to end [the story] for him.

It’s been reported that on the set when the lights dim for no reason everybody thinks it’s Larry.

Dallas, 302 - Josh Henderson and Julie Gonzalo
Dallas, 302 “Trust Me” – At there Southfork Ranch pool area John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) is accused Jof cheating on Candice by Pamela Rebecca Barnes (Julie Gonzalo) ©2014 Turner Network Television

He’ll never leave, his spirit is going to be on that set with us every day we are there. It’s just inevitable. When I have to talk about him, or think about him in the character and in the scene, I can feel it. It’s a beautiful thing.

Larry really was the spirit of that show, along with Patrick and Linda, and he’ll never leave us. As long as the show is on, JR will live on.

I asked Josh how he first found out that Larry Hagman had passed on. Click here for his reply

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