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Patrick Duffy talks season three of 'Dallas' without Larry Hagman

It didn't last long, but the Ewing clan came together at the end of Season 2 of "Dallas" to pull off what J.R. (Larry Hagman) called his greatest-ever scheme. For someone like John Ross (Josh Henderson), who is trying to follow in his daddy's footsteps, there wasn't a big moral dilemma to framing someone for J.R.'s murder. But for Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), who is our resident good guy, it was a bit out of his comfort zone, so Duffy feels that sending Cliff (Ken Kercheval) to prison for a murder he didn't commit, weighs heavy on Bobby's conscious.

The Ewing men: Josh Henderson is John Ross, Patrick Duffy is  Bobby Ewing and Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher for the third season of "Dallas."
The Ewing men: Josh Henderson is John Ross, Patrick Duffy is Bobby Ewing and Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher for the third season of "Dallas."

"Even though everybody in the world probably thinks Cliff needs to be in jail, I think the theme for this season for each character might be atonement for past deeds, " Duffy says in this exclusive interview. "We all as characters who carried out J.R.'s masterpiece have to atone for that, so I think it is hard to put one word on it, but that is a good word to start with."

On tonight's episode of "Dallas," John Ross goes to great lengths to keep his plans for Ewing Global moving forward, locking horns with Bobby in the process. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen's (Linda Gray) suspicions of John Ross' infidelity threaten to derail her alliance with her son. Harris Ryland's (Mitch Pileggi) surprise return creates concern, and, as a result, Emma (Emma Bell) enlists the help of her grandmother (Judith Light). Bobby and Ann's (Brenda Strong) investigation into Ryland's release from jail leads to a shocking revelation.

For more of what Patrick Duffy has to say about Season 3 of "Dallas" and continuing the series without Larry Hagman, check out the rest of the interview:

What is with the Ewings? They united against a common foe at the end of Season 2, but now that the danger is past, they are at odds again.

You expected what? This is who we are. As soon as you say that, I remember several times in scripts … I don't know if I've ever said it … but once in this incarnation, I think, Jesse [Metcalfe] said it, and several times in the old show, the old refrain is: We might be at each others' throats, but whenever anybody comes after the family, they come after the whole family. It is that kind of thing that when needed, everything gets put aside and we are united, and we rape and pillage until we win. Then the minute we've won, we are back to marking our own territory.

Bobby took a little bit of a walk on the dark side to fulfill J.R.'s final scheme, will that affect him going forward? He's always been the good guy.

It does affect him. We are on Episode 11 now, and I would say a good half of Bobby's time in terms of how I am dealing with the character this season is coping with what he did. Sometimes trying to justify it; sometimes knowing you can't. But keeping the secret and having to live with his frailties that he didn't think he would ever have to do.

I remember there was a moment in the final episode when I am with Brenda in a scene and Bobby said, "I couldn't tell you because I didn't want you to see me being J.R." That is one of the themes for the season, him finding his own dignity and sense of self-worth again. Not in a heavy and deep way. He doesn't get morose, but a lot of the things that happen, you have to filter through the fact that he has been down that road. He is Gandalf the Great, he is not Gandalf the White yet.

Larry Hagman was larger than life as J.R. How is Josh Henderson doing as John Ross?

Josh is doing remarkable. Just acting wise, he is doing everything the scripts ask of him. Better than anybody could imagine. What he can't be until he literally grows into those boots is he can't be a 50-year-old man with the life experience to be the kind of J.R. that Larry was. He, obviously, has to be what he is: a junior. That is what J.R.'s are, they're juniors. He is a junior J.R. right now. As the show matures, as he, even as a person, let alone as a character, gets older, he will become more and more that type of dramatic character. But as an actor, he is hitting every note. He is knocking them out of the park. I can't imagine another person pulling it off with the same panache. He is literally a little J.R. He is not a Mini-Me. He is in training to fill those boots.

You know, Larry started playing J.R. in his late 40s, so you can figure his life experience in his late 40s. Josh, Jesse, Jordana [Brewster], Julie [Gonzalo] and Emma [Bell] are all really young, so they are at the very beginning of being this adult power thing. It is a process. It is perfect for the show. It feeds well with the storylines of a young man trying to to measure up to what he thinks his father's expectations would be.

How hard is it to film without Larry?

It is not hard. The reason it is not hard is because he died mid-season last year. We had six episodes to adjust and to re-form our work habits around the fact that he wasn't there, go through the grieving period and the sense of loss. All of that was accomplished last year. By the time we ended, we were in a real dynamic work mode. We had done everything to shed the encumbrance of mourning. We were very respectful. Larry was my best friend. I love him today like I did then, but it is just a normal thing to go to work now…There is no sense of a cloud at any given time. Even when we are standing under his portrait in the Ewing office building, there isn't a quiet sense of reverence of remembering our buddy. Usually somebody is telling a raucous story about him. We just soldier on.

What have you learned anything from playing Bobby?

A tiny bit, I think. I must tell you over the years, I have had to answer the questions: How much are you like Bobby, and how much is Bobby like you? Bobby started the show pretty much being a good, normal person. He had a job to do, which was to be the good guy on the show. I didn't go to work trying to find that character. It pretty much fell off the truck for me, and I was able to scoop it up.

But, I think, the fact that I've aged -- I will be 65 this month and Bobby is that age -- they are playing him as a person who has matured and learned things and has confidence and patience, etc. By living my life, that is what I have done. I am a grandfather three times, almost four now. I've got a very quiet home life in the country in Oregon now. I have been married for 42 years. It is just pretty much we're the same person. I don't have the drama in my life, but in terms of character traits, it is really hard to divide the two of us.

Emma has turned out to be 180 degrees from what we initially saw. Will there be surprising drama with her and Ann this season? Will you get involved in that?

Yes and yes. Absolutely, there is going to be drama with Emma and I know when that happened. Emma came on the show and she was this sweet, innocent, almost victimized young girl. There were a couple of moments in a couple of scenes, where you saw something in her eyes when she was acting, and, I know, the producers and writers saw it, too, so they all went, "Oh, my God. There is more to this than we thought." So they started writing it, where it got to be like a country fair of invention, where they said, "Oh, she can do this! Oh, she can do that!" No matter what you throw at her, she can pull it off. She went from a sweet little girl who loved her horse to this really manipulative, great dramatic character. Any actress would give their eye teeth to develop that quickly in a part. This season she takes the paint off the walls!

With all the stress -- so many people are out to bring down the Ewings -- how is Bobby's health this season? No relapses from his Season 1 cancer?

I think it was [executive producer] Cynthia Cidre's brilliance that she did that. If we think back at all to the things that made Dallas popular, it was near-death experiences. Bobby did die. So, what better thing than in the very first season and the very first shot of Bobby was him getting the news that he had cancer and it was bad? It just rings every bell. The audience is tuning back in and they remember all of those moments. They remember him dying and they are totally hooked. So, we've rung that bell and we shan't ring it again as far as I know. Last season I was healthy; this season I am very healthy. I don't even sneeze this season.

"Dallas" airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.

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