Larry Hagman, 80, reprises his iconic role of evil oil baron J.R. Ewing on TNT's reboot of "Dallas" and says the new series, which he filmed while battling cancer, shows the female actresses displaying more "flesh" than seen on the original show.
The first installment of "Dallas" ran from 1978 to 1991 and was famous for cliffhangers, namely the "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline. Hagman is one of three returning cast members, along Linda Gray, who plays Ewing's ex-wife Sue Ellen, and Patrick Duffy, who plays his brother Bobby.
"My character now is alive and well and kicking and mean as always," Hagman told OnTheRedCarpet.com, adding that being on the new series was like "coming home."The cast filmed "Dallas" last year, while Hagman underwent treatment for throat cancer. He also changed his diet to become a vegan. The magazine Texas Monthly reported in its June 2012 issue that the actor's disease is now in remission. "Michael said that when you undergo radiation and chemotherapy, your saliva dries up and you can't spit," Hagman told the magazine, referring to actor Michael Douglas, who battled throat cancer in 2011. "He must know what he's talking about. He had stage-four throat cancer. I only have stage two."
Hagman has in the past battled several health problems. After years of heavy drinking, doctors discovered a malignant tumor in his liver in 1995. He underwent a liver transplant.
The actor said on the show "Access Hollywood" that it was not hard to film "Dallas" while battling cancer.
"I was in chemo and radiation and you didn't feel it then," he said. "You felt it afterwards. But I wasn't in any pain or anything like that."He said he never considered dropping out of the project, saying: "I'd made a commitment before we found out and when we found out, they made allowances for it. They gave me a lot of time off and so forth. I'm an actor. You gotta do it. You don't get too many chances at putting "Dallas" back together again."
The "Dallas" reboot premiered on Wednesday, June 13. Hagman said the show contains the "usual intrigue, backstabbing" and showcases "a lot more flesh" than producers could "get away with" on the previous series, adding: "The girls, anyhow. Thank God."
The female "Dallas" newcomers include actresses Julie Gonzalo, who peels off her shirt within about 10 minutes into the pilot, Jordana Brewster and "Desperate Housewives" alum Brenda Strong. Hagman's new on-screen son, John Ross, played by real-life 30-year-old Dallas native Josh Henderson, also stripped down for the show.
"He happens to have a washboard stomach, I think you probably noticed, in some of the ads, so they want to show that off as much as possible," Hagman said. "Thank God it ain't me."
Henderson also previously starred on "Desperate Housewives," which ended in May after eight seasons, as did fellow "Dallas" newbie Jesse Metcalfe. Hagman had a small role on "Desperate Housewives" in 2011.
In addition to his own health battle, Hagman has been taking care of his wife of some 58 years, Swedish-born Maj Axelsson, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and requires 24-hour nursing care. The couple has two children.
In 2010, in a bid to cut living costs, Hagman put their seven-bedroom solar-powered home in Ojai, California on the market and moved to a condo they own in Santa Monica, near Los Angeles, to be closer to her, Texas Monthly reported. His house's listing price is currently about $7 million. The couple's condo is worth $2 million and has two bedrooms.
The actor also auctioned off "Dallas" memorabilia, including several of Ewing's signature cowboy hats that he got to keep after the original show ended.
He has still sported his signature look at press events. Nowadays, he is also flashing a new Ewing staple, also seen on the show.
"The company gave me the Rolex, which I call a Texas Timex," he told OnTheRedCarpet.com about his gold watch. "It's just a little bling that he wears. Men can't wear much stuff and I don't like stuff around your neck or rings or anything so a watch you can get away with, I think."
Additional reporting by Chi-Lan Lieu, co-host of KABC Television's entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).