Longtime Dallas star Ken Kercheval, who portrayed oil tycoon Cliff Barnes on the CBS primetime soap opera, has died. He was 83.
Kercheval began his career on stage, starring in a national touring production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and in the original Broadway productions of Mike Nichols' The Apple Tree and Harold Prince's Cabaret. However, his role as Cliff Barnes in television's smash hit series Dallas is the work that soap fans will most likely remember him for.
The University of Indiana alum joined the cast of the primetime soap in 1978 as J.R. Ewing's (Larry Hagerman) nemesis, and he stayed on with the series through its entire 1978-1991 run. In addition to directing two episodes of the show, Kercheval returned as Cliff for a 1996 Dallas reunion, the 2004 CBS reunion special, and for TNT's 2012-14 reboot.
Fans may recall that Cliff was repeatedly trounced and humiliated by J.R. -- which Kercheval revealed wasn't easy to play over the course of fourteen years.
"From the very beginning, Cliff would always get defeated by J.R. Finally, I went to [writer-producer] Leonard Katzman and said, 'I'm not sure exactly how to play this, because for this guy to keep coming back again and again, he'd have to have gotten a lobotomy!'" he shared. "I thought as an actor, 'How am I going to have an audience believe that this guy is not some imbecile who keeps coming back, [only] to get whipped?' I thought the only way is to add some humor to it, just to say, 'Dust yourself off, get up, and start all over again.'"
Some of Kercheval's additional TV credits include Naked City, The Defenders, Diagnosis Murder, Hotel, Starsky and Hutch, The Secret Storm, and the role of Dr. Nick Hunter on the now-defunct CBS soap opera Search for Tomorrow.
A spokeswoman at the First Funeral Home in the actor's hometown of Clinton, Indiana, confirmed the 83-year-old's death with The Hollywood Reporter, as did his talent agent, Jeff Fisher. Further details surrounding the actor's passing have yet to be released, but the Daily Clintonian newspaper reported that he died Sunday evening.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Kercheval was a two- or three-pack-a day smoker and had a part of his lung removed in 1994 after he was diagnosed with cancer. He also said on record that he was a "practicing alcoholic" for 20 years before he gave up drinking.
Would you like to leave your condolences for Kercheval and his family? What are some of your favorite memories of the Indiana native's soap opera work? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.