The Dallas Decoder Interview: Ken Kercheval

Ken Kercheval

TNT’s “Dallas” just finished its first season with three big revelations: Cliff Barnes is Rebecca’s father (!), the mastermind behind her scheme (!!), and the owner of a really cool jet (!!!). Ken Kercheval, Cliff’s real-life alter ego, graciously spoke to me this week about his iconic character and what the future might hold for the Barneses and the Ewings.

So tell me: What’s it like to be playing Cliff Barnes again after all these years?

Same old, same old. I know this guy pretty well so it’s just like putting on the same set of clothes that you wore a few years back.

When the producers invited you to reprise the role, did they talk to you about the direction they were planning to take Cliff?

The only thing they said is that he had gone off and become very, very, very rich. Richer than the Ewings. That’s it. That’s absolutely all I know.

Cliff has done a pretty mean thing, using his daughter to get back at the Ewings – including his nephew Christopher. What do you think of that?

Damned if I know. I swear, I don’t have a clue. [The producers] are very, very close-mouthed about where they’re going with it.

Will you be back next season?

I will be. So far they only have four episodes written and I know I’m in the fourth one. I’ll be filming that at the very beginning of November, and then I go to England to do the Irving Berlin musical “White Christmas.”

Maybe you’ll get to work with Linda Gray again. You two always had great chemistry.

She’s always fun to work with. She knows what she’s doing. I think [the writers] should rekindle Cliff and Sue Ellen’s love affair.

Cliff in “The Last Hurrah” (Photo credit: Zade Rosenthal/TNT)

I think that would be great.

I do too!

You two filmed a scene this season that was cut before TNT showed the episode [“The Last Hurrah”] on television. Can you tell us what we missed?

There’s a scene outside the opera house where we’re walking along [and] I’ve offered [Sue Ellen] my financial support for her running for governor. And she says she has to turn it down. And I [say], “Why? Have you got a better offer?” And I just stop her and say, “J.R. is absolutely never going to change. Don’t bank on [him] because the man will never change.”

It’s a shame we didn’t get to see that. Hopefully when the first season is released on DVD, the scenes that were edited out will be included as extras.

Maybe. I never could figure out why they were cut. To begin with, the one scene was replaced by the birthing of that calf.

What did you make of that?

I thought, what’s that relevant to? I didn’t understand it. But, you know, it’s not my place to understand it. I think the writers are extremely clever. And I know that Cynthia [Cidre, the executive producer] told me that her team of writers sat down and watched every single episode that had ever been filmed of the [original] show. I said, “I hope they got paid well.” That’s a lot of work.

What was it like to film the airport hangar scene where Rebecca is revealed as Cliff’s daughter?

Cold. Very, very, very cold. But it was nice working with Julie [Gonzalo, who plays Rebecca]. She’s so good! Among the younger cast, she’s the only one besides [Jesse Metcalfe, who plays Christopher] that I’ve done a scene with.

You think highly of Cynthia Cidre, too.

She’s fantastic. Oh, she is one smart woman. She really knows what she’s doing.

If we can go back in time for a minute, you and Larry Hagman are the only actors who were regulars during all 14 seasons of the original “Dallas.” Do you have favorite scenes from the old show that stand out?

When I first reunited with my mom [Rebecca Wentworth, played by Priscilla Pointer], I think, is my favorite scene.

The “licorice scene” where Cliff tearfully offers his mother her favorite candy. I love that one too.

That was a powerful scene for me.

You also had one with Barbara Bel Geddes, where Cliff sits with Miss Ellie on a park bench and basically makes amends for the whole Barnes-Ewing feud.

Oh, definitely. I remember that scene very well because we almost never worked together. [Before filming] I went to her trailer and we were going over the lines and I said, “Well, right here, when I say this line, can you turn and look at me?” And she thought about it and said, “Well, I don’t think that would be right, Kenny.” So then when we filmed the scene, I delivered that line and she didn’t look at me so I didn’t say my next line. And so finally she looked at me. And when the scene was over, she said, “You dirty dog. I told you I didn’t want to look at you and you tricked me into looking at you!”

Barbara was my best friend on the show, off stage. My very best friend. She’d say, “Kenny, if you were just a little bit older or I was a little bit younger….”

When you were playing Cliff the first time around, did you like him?

Yeah, I did. I really did. I thought he was a nice guy too. J.R. was coming after my ass all the time, so I was always had to defend myself. If I did something that wasn’t quite right, it’s because I had to.

Well, now Cliff seems to have the upper hand. I’m looking forward to seeing what his next move will be.

I am too!

Share your comments below and read more interviews from Dallas Decoder.

Comments

  1. Congratulations for getting this great interview, Chris!

  2. Great interview! And just at the right moment, with allthe discussion goimg on. It seems that Ken Kercheval really doesn’t know where they are taking his character. Judging from the fact that Cliff will only be back in the fourth episode, it looks like Rebecca will be left to her own devices for a while… I’m definitely looking forward to it.

    • Thank you! Yes, Ken made it clear the writers play everything pretty close to the vest. He has a lot of respect for Cynthia and the whole writing team and he seems to really appreciate the opportunity to return to the show next season. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to ol’ Cliff!

  3. This is very well done! Nice job. I like how discussed both the new and old shows with him. I particularly like where he talks about working with Barbara Bel Geddes. That’s great stuff.

  4. Ken is a great actor.I think he should be a full time cast member.I loved the J.R. and Cliff fights. My self I never cared for Cliff with Sue Ellen. I hoping Sue Ellen and J.R get back together. I like Cliff with Afton.Cooper

  5. I really enjoyed reading this. Ken Kercheval is an excellent actor and a strong part of the enormous success of “Dallas”. I have to remind myself at times that Cliff Barnes is not a real person because Ken makes the character human. I apreciate his openness in answering your questions. I liked what he had to say about Barbara Bel Geddess and also the nice things he had to say about Jesse Metcalf, Julie Gonzalo, and Cynthia Cidre.

    I have to say whenever Cliff Barnes appears in a scene my eyes open up wide. Oh the memories when J.R. would show up in Cliff’s office or when Cliff would show up in J.R.’s. “Mr. Ewing, Mr. Barnes is here to see you” “Tell him to get the hell out of here.” The blooper of when the secretary’s voice says “Cliff Barnes is here to see you” and the cast that is in the office yells out in dramatic fashion “CLIFF BARNES!!!” From the episodes where Cliff believes he is John Ross’s father to the end where he takes over Ewing Oil and especially now with “Dallas” on TNT he is the best at what he does and adds so much to the depth and entertainment of the show.

    • Thank you! I love that blooper scene too.

      In the TNT season finale, when Cliff descended the stairs on his jet plane, I flashed back to Larry and Patrick sitting on J.R.’s desk, tossing their papers in the air and exclaiming, “Cliff Barnes!?!”

      I also agree: Ken is a fabulous actor and did a phenomenal job conveying Cliff’s humanity.

      Thanks for commenting Jumpsteady!

  6. Reblogged this on jumpsteady.

  7. I look forward to seeing Cliff but hopefully Ken learner his lesson about not letting spoilers slip out!

  8. Out of all the Dallas cast give interview, I like to read and or watch them. On the Dallas Fanzine site Ken’s interview is my favourite. Ken always gives a great interview and his real thoughts and opinions. Kudos to actually getting an interview with him, I saw him contact you on Twitter. Ken/Cliff was always and still is my favourite. Just wish he was getting a bigger role these days.

  9. Great interview!! Glad you had a chance to speak with him!!

  10. barbara fan says:

    thanks for a great interview and I love the fact that he and BBG were such great friends off camera, just wish they acted together more often as they were 2 of the best! BF x

    • Thanks BF! When Ken told me about Barbara Bel Geddes, you sprang to mind! I immediately thought, “BF is going to love reading this!”

      It sounds like Ken and Barbara were really dear friends. He seems to have many fond memories of their friendship. I wish they appeared together on screen more often!

      As always, thank you for reading my site and commenting. I really appreciate it.

      Chris

      • barbara fan says:

        ken wrote to me a few years back (as i wanted to do a BBG bio! huge task) and had a few wonderful stories about her – i loved the fact that they were so friendly as they didnt work together on a daily basis – he also vsited her in maine post Dallas and she had a pic of him on her bedside table
        I think she liked kenny!

  11. stefan karlsson says:

    If the producers of the new Dallas wants it to be better and more popular than it is, they should concentrate more on the classic actors on Dallas. I say bring back ´em all! I´m not too found of this new Dallas, I´m afraid. I love the old Dallas… Anyway, MORE OF CLIFF PLEASE! Thank you.

  12. Very happy to hear that he will be back on Dallas and can also do White Christmas in Manchester, then hopefully film some more Dallas next year. Great interview!

    • Thank you! Yes, I agree: I hope he returns to “Dallas” after “White Christmas.” The show is always better with Cliff.

      Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it!

      Chris

  13. The idea of Cliff using his daughter Rebecca to get back at the Ewings via his nephew Christopher must have sprung from “Dallas: JR Returns” the 1996 reunion movie where you will see that Christopher and Rebecca began dating then. So, even though, Cidre tells us to ignore the movies, you can see why we shouldn’t.

    • Maybe “J.R. Returns” will turn out to be part of the story after all. Perhaps when Christopher learns Rebecca’s real identity, he’ll say, “Oh yeah! Now I remember you! Didn’t we meet as teenagers?”

  14. DallasFan says:

    I love, love, love Ken Kercheval! This may sound odd, but I especially love his voice. To my ears, the way he manipulates it brings another dimension to whatever emotion he is playing. I’ve only seen/heard him on Dallas, so I’m curious as to how much is his regular speaking voice vs part of the Cliff character. Maybe he can give me a call sometime so I can get to the bottom of this!

  15. Poul Vestergaard says:

    More Ken Kercheval, he is Dallas actor.It is Bobby,Sue Ellen and Cliff from 1978 too now.

Trackbacks

  1. […] between Barbara Bel Geddes, and Ken Kercheval, who rarely interacted in the first 10 years. (Read Dallas Decoder’s new interview with Ken Kercheval, where he discusses this classic […]

  2. […] of Kercheval’s performance might be how he seems to avoid looking at Priscilla Pointer. When I interviewed Kercheval in the summer, he talked about another of his favorite scenes – this one with Barbara […]

  3. […] Returning favorites. Dallas Decoder readers will recall Ken Kercheval told us he’ll appear in at least one second-season episode. There also have been reports Audrey Landers […]

  4. […] to ask you to forgive me,” Cliff says. In an interview with Dallas Decoder, Kercheval fondly recalled his friendship with Bel Geddes. What a shame these two pros didn’t get more screen time together. […]

  5. […] Michael Preece was directing that episode — and wow, Michael is truly an actor’s director. And Ken Kercheval is really a wonderful actor. He was so real. It was difficult to hold in all those emotions as Pam […]

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