In seven seasons on Desperate Housewives, Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) has successfully taken on cancer, sexual harassment, her husband's amorous exes, a serial killer, a neighborhood child molester and a gold digger out to bag one of her boys. But could anything have prepared her for the arrival of J.R. Ewing on Wisteria Lane?
While Larry Hagman isn't actually re-creating his old Dallas sidewinder, this new character, Frank Kaminski, sounds awfully close. "He's a real pr--k, and I sure know how to play that," cracks the salty 79-year-old. "But this guy's a lot more blatant than J.R." Huffman echoes that sentiment: "While J.R. was a charming devil, Frank is just an incredibly abrasive curmudgeon like Archie Bunker. Lynette can't stand him!"
And for good reason. Calling to mind J.R.'s dysfunctional relationship with long-suffering alcoholic wife Sue Ellen, Frank has recently become engaged to Lynette's boozy mother, Stella (Polly Bergen), who Hagman hints "has something Frank wants." Beyond that, he's been instructed not to reveal another word about his top-secret two-episode guest stint, which may involve a wedding.
Prepping for his arrival on set, Hagman familiarized himself with the series by downloading a few episodes on his iPad. He found himself instantly hooked by the same soapy elements that kept Dallas thriving for 13 seasons. "It's more or less the same," says Hagman. "A lot of intrigue and inner-family warfare."
Hagman is still hoping to work out a deal with TNT to bring J.R. back to TV in a new Dallas, which would find the oilman confined to an institution in a near catatonic state. Should the deal work out, Hagman — fully recovered from a 1995 liver transplant — says he'd be game for "another 13 years."
The chance to slip back into J.R.'s Stetson would provide a welcome distraction from a turbulent personal life. Several years back, his wife of 56 years, Maj, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Nine months ago, Hagman made the heartbreaking decision to move her to an assisted care facility just five minutes from his Santa Monica condo. "It wasn't easy, but I couldn't handle it anymore," he confides. "It's a nice place and I see her every day, but she's losing herself, which is hard to handle for her. And us. You learn humility fast and how to cope with things you never thought you'd have to."
Desperate Housewives airs Sunday at 9/8c on ABC.
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