Actor Ken Kercheval, who was best known for his role on “Dallas,” where he played J.R. Ewing’s rival, Cliff Barnes, has passed away at the age of 83. His hometown newspaper, The Daily Clintonian, of Clinton, Indiana, was reportedly the first to spread the news of his passing, which occurred on the night of April 21.
A spokeswoman for the Frist Funeral Home in Clinton later confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter, as did his talent agent. No further details have been given at this time, as the family was choosing to keep Kercheval’s cause of death private, the Associated Press reported.
“Dallas” ran on CBS from 1978 to 1991 — and was even briefly rebooted from 2012 to 2014 on TNT — and Kercheval remained dedicated to the franchise throughout both runs. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was one of only two actors who remained on the show from the pilot to the final episode, even joining the reboot cast in 2012.
Despite the fact that his character on the show was in the midst of a rivalry with one of the main characters, Kercheval rather liked playing the role.
When asked in an interview with the Dallas Decoder, back in 2012, if he liked Cliff Barnes from the beginning, he responded, “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 always had to defend myself. If I did something that wasn’t quite right, it’s because I had to.”
Throughout the course of the series, Kercheval developed quite the fan base. Upon hearing the news of his passing, they took to Twitter to remember the actor and his famous role:
Twitter user @alannealottawa remembered him as “a total treat”:
Sad to hear today Ken Kercheval has died. A delight to interview him & @AudreyLanders a few yrs ago about the relentless yet self-defeating Cliff and Afton on Dallas. Kercheval was essentially all the things Cliff Barnes was not: funny, thoughtful, self-effacing & a total treat. pic.twitter.com/gNd2GhSm1V
— Alan Neal (@alannealottawa) April 25, 2019
Twitter user @tjabruscato17 pointed out that he will go down as a “hero” who “entertained millions” in his longtime role:
And Twitter user @TherealLiaHardy will remember the actors who made this her “all-time favorite primetime show”:
Saddened by the death of Ken Kercheval. He along with Larry and the others from that great cast made #Dallas my all-time favorite primetime show. I miss it and them. R.I.P. dear Ken. 😔
— Lia (@TherealLiaHardy) April 25, 2019
Even the actors who worked with Kercheval couldn’t deny his special gift as an actor, especially when it came to the role of Cliff Barnes. His arch-nemesis in the show, Larry Hagman, who passed away in 2012, described what it was like working with Kercheval in a 2009 interview:
“You never knew what he was going to come in with. He always knew the lines, but the delivery,” Hagman said. “It was always fun on each take, there was always something new … each one was just totally different from the other, off the wall. You felt like you were working with somebody who was listening to a different drummer. It was always wonderful … that character could have been so different and boring, but he really made it terribly interesting.”
See the clip from the interview at the 23-minute mark below:
In addition to acting, Kercheval even directed a pair of episodes of “Dallas” in the early 1990s, according to IMDb.
His acting career stretched back to the 1960s and included work in other classic series, like “The Defenders,” “Starskey and Hutch” and “Kojak.” After “Dallas,” he appeared several times in the series “Diagnosis Murder” with Dick Van Dyke.
The actor and his off-screen personality will clearly be sorely missed by many.