How Much Input Did The Actors Have Over Their Characters?

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Kenny Coyote, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking of how awkward Cliff was in Dallas but actually he wasn't like that so much in the early seasons. As Dallas went on, Cliff became that way. He developed some goofy mannerisms. Do you think that was just how Ken Kercheval decided he wanted to play that character because he thought it was funny, or was he specifically told to do that?

    Other characters changed over time too in various ways. It seems like the actors did have some control over that but I wonder how much latitude they were given. Hagman claims he ad libbed 50% of his lines. He had a lot of control over his character. Apparently it was his decision to take J.R. in the direction his character went over the course of the serious. JR was very competent and successful when the show was at its most successful. The less competent and successful JR became, so went the entire show. It's pretty close to a direct correlation. You'd think Larry Hagman would have noticed that and corrected that mistake, wouldn't you? Even if he didn't I'd especially think his boss would have noticed it. Or was he given so much power that he basically didn't have a boss?

    I'd estimate the amount of creative control they had over their characters was probably related to their status - the highest paid actors had the most creative control. I don't agree with that policy though. Just because someone is a good actor doesn't necessarily mean he knows what is in the best interest for the success of the show.
     
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  2. Chris2

    Chris2 Soap Chat Active Member

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    I think Patrick also had input, particularly after his return (I remember reading that one of the condititions for his return was that Bobby be more proactive/aggressive, or something like that).

    I don’t think Victoria got much input, despite her importance to the show. For years, she has talked about how Pam got more and more virtuous as the series went on, and she was less happy with that material. Pam was particularly wimpy during her last season; can’t imagine that was done with Victoria’s input.
     
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  3. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Interesting thread, Kenny Coyote.

    I'm going to jump out with an answer that might surprise you. This thread made me think of Steve Kanaly.
    When the show became a big hit, Steve wanted a larger role. They created the storyline of Ray being Jock's son to cement his character as part of the family.
     
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  4. Clubsoda

    Clubsoda Soap Chat Active Member

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    It's interesting how people call Pam wimpy in her final season I would say insecure at times definitely but not wimpy she could still be very feisty that year.


     
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  5. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    On the contrary, JR was clever yet insurmountably self-destructive from the very beginning. Even Larry determined that "JR was a disaster as an oil man" and lost the family business over $2 billion over the run of the show -- and that was not just in the latter seasons.

    That's one of the reasons I didn't mind (in theory) JR becoming burned-out towards the end, as that's a slice of life, if only the show around him hadn't burned-out, too, turning slapstick out of creative laziness.
    They're both true. At home, Pam was relegated to "I-want-Jenna's-baby!" shrillness, but at work she was stronger than ever. I guess that's what Katzman generously saw as "balance" for Pam's last year.

    BTW: I've always really liked that scene between Pam and Jeremy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
  6. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Thst's an interesting point. The real problem was that it seemed to be being played for laughs.
     
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  7. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I'm referring to the way the show's overall success corresponded directly with the way JR was portrayed. When he was portrayed as a winner and as a man who was respected and feared by other men in the oil business, the show was either the most successful show on TV or the second most successful. He'd take huge risks like mortgaging Southfork and it paid off - it made the Ewings billionaires. Then right before his Asian oil wells were nationalized he managed to sell a 75% share of them to the cartel so they'd take the loss for him. It saved Ewing Oil from being ruined. So then the cartel realized what he'd done to them and they wouldn't do business with him anymore. He wanted to be able to do business with the cartel so to get back in their good graces he then took an even more crazy risk - he financed an overthrow of a foreign government and he got away with it!

    In the years when it seemed JR couldn't get away with anything anymore, when his schemes backfired on him, when he lost a third of Ewing Oil to the government and was on his way towards eventually losing all of Ewing Oil, "Dallas" itself was going downhill fast in the ratings. Every year that kind of stuff went on with JR's plans failing and him rapidly losing that aura of invincibility he'd once had, they lost more of their audience.

    There is a belief held by some that when a character was shown in an unflattering light, such as Pam's "I-want-Jenna's-baby!" shrillness", that it was something Katzman did because of his personal attitude towards the actor or actress but it's just not so. Katzman and Larry Hagman got along very well and were even friends. That's at least part of the reason why Katzman was given Phil Capice's job - because Larry Hagman was friends with Katzman but didn't like Capice.

    So if the way a character was portrayed was a reflection of how Katzman personally felt about the actor, you'd have to think Katzman must have hated Larry Hagman considering how unflattering the storylines involving J.R. were during the last four years of the series including storylines putting JR in situations that were so bad they were embarrassing - situations like JR being convicted of rape, being sentenced to 10 years on prison, being seen working in a chain gang and then being relegated to pulling a plow through the fields of the Harpers' farm - a job that looked like something that would typically be done by an animal, not a human being. Later he was captive in another type of institution - an insane asylum. Even if Katzmann had deliberately set out to have JR's dignity taken from him he couldn't have done a better job of it. As JR's life hit new lows, so did Dallas's Nielsen ratings.
     
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  8. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Jeez, some people really exist in a fantasy world --- even when it's about a fantasy world.
     
  9. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Life Is Just A Fantasy
    Can You Live This Fantasy Life?

     
  10. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Star

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    I did too. The funny thing is that her and Cliff´s relationship that year was totally in character for them, but all the other things (aside from re-marrying the Bobster, of course) were out of character and even belonging to another show (maybe "Falcon Crest"...).

    Pam wanting to "buy" Jenna´s baby? Not even talking to Ray in a single scene that year (after all Ray was sharing one of Bobby´s girls again...)? That would have been a scene I´d have loved to see...She didn´t either had a one-to-one scene with Parmalee though every other character did (even Sue Ellen and John Ross!!). She might have teased him about what happened when she arrived at SF as Mrs. BJE...

    I did love the comedic moments she had with both Cliff and Jamie (actually her friendship with the latter was a lot more believable than what she had with bimbo Afton...). Now that I think about it, I´d say that Pam didn´t have a single showdown scene with J.R., after all those amazing scenes (with or without slaps) that developed her character so much.

    I know I´m in the minority here, but seeing what they did with the rest of the characters that year (including Bobby and Miss Ellie), I still consider Victoria was lucky...I dislike that season so much and for so many reasons (the blurry look, wasting Susan Howard, Victoria and Barbara, the horrible clothes women wore, not to talk about a certain blond who should have stayed wherever she came from...) that thanks to this thread I´m reconsidering my opinion about Pam´s role that year.

    Thank you so much @Kenny Coyote for saving my day!!

    :love6::love8::love4:
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2019
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  11. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Victoria Principal answers that question here with wonderful Terry Wogan

     
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  12. Taylor Bennett Jr.

    Taylor Bennett Jr. Soap Chat Addict

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    don't know how much of it was explicitly her idea, but Donna Reed certainly wasn't encouraged to play Miss Ellie as an modestly dressed woman of the land like Barbara's portrayal.
     
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  13. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Star

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    Donna should have chosen the artistic name of "Dominee Ring"...No actor should be allowed to take a role and plan a lot of things to "improve" it (as said by her widower) and make it more realistic. It´s not a matter whether you like or not her portrayal, some things about her "transpired" into the screen...like her bouffant hairspray. The only thing she agreed to do was dying her hair to blonde. People often forgets these things when we talk about the two Miss Ellie´s (as if there were too...).

    [​IMG]

    Here is the real Miss Ellie waiting for the Fake one to walk out of the house so she could run over her...​
     
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