Executive producer Cynthia Cidre joined us at Ultimatedallas.com to tease the upcoming season finale – JR’s big secret and the death of a major character. Plus an insight into season 4 and the potential return of an original Dallas character.
Contains mild spoilers
First of all congratulations on a fantastic season. I think it’s the best yet. It feels you dug a little deeper under the skin of the characters this season, was that intentional? Will it continue?
Cynthia Cidre – It was intentional and it will continue. You probably don’t know what I did for twenty five years before Dallas but it surely wasn’t Dallas. I wrote very very dark, violent action movies. I was shocked when Warner Brothers called me about Dallas. Why me? I like both things. I like it to be as delicious as possible and fun for you the audience but I also like it to be real in some dark way. I like to do both and will again next season in a good emotional way for the characters. You must know we are teasing that a Ewing will die at the end of the season and the fallout from that will affect the entire family, so we will be dealing with more of that.
On that subject of a dead Ewing. So a Ewing character is definitely going out of the series?
Cynthia – A character is going out of it, yes. We like to surprise people and have them think about it and talk about it for a long time and hopefully you will be surprised. That’s all I can say.
The season finale looks amazing from the promo. Can you tease us a little on what to expect?
Cynthia – In regards to the finale what I can say is that they will play the penultimate and final episode together. What happens is there is a lot of personal jeopardy in these last several episodes,not just in fourteen and fifteen but in eleven, twelve and thirteen all have a lot of personal jeopardy to pretty much everybody in the Ewing family – and others. So I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to guess who is going to die. There are five or six characters who are in psychical jeopardy.
And there is a secret from JR’s past, is that fair to say?
Cynthia – Yes, absolutely. We shot two different endings for this episode, two different pieces of it. We have listed them and put something else in. It is going to be teased, something that is pretty big. It comes in two parts – one you will find in the finale, something that is from JR’s past and in the first episode of next season, 401, you will get a double whammy. Something from JR’s past that is so much bigger than you thought it was in the last episode. We actually pulled it out, we are only using a little bit of it because we are trying to keep the other stuff secret. We didn’t really shoot the ending until about ten days ago. We finished the episode today.
Wow. I thought you wrapped it all up a while back
Cynthia – Oh it was [mostly] but we just didn’t want anyone to find out.
It’s been fascinating to watch John Ross’s world start to fall apart. Is he going to rise from the ashes and become his father?
Cynthia – The whole theme of the season has been is he JR or is he not JR? Everybody keeps saying he is JR and he doesn’t want to be, he sometimes wants to do the right thing but he seems to have the DNA compulsion to not do the right thing. He has given that a lot of thought and he comes up with a conclusion that he tells Uncle Bobby in the last episode. That scene is completed and we made a decision and you will find out what it is. I can’t tell you what happens otherwise if will blow the ending.
Why the decision to revisit the McKay family as opposed to any other old characters – what was it about them that appealed?
Cynthia – I have to say there are some writers on the show who really lobbied for the Mckay family because Carter Mckay was the other Cliff Barnes in a way. It’s limited what we can do with Cliff Barnes now JR is gone and we keep looking. That doesn’t mean we won’t be exploring other families, believe me , it gets pitched all the time. We look up other characters from the past and see how the actors are doing, if they would be interested. So we do talk about bringing back old cast members all the time because we know that’s a thrill for people. The actress who plays Tracy will be coming back.
Oh into season 4?
Cynthia – Yes, we like her. You’ll see in this last episode she comes back and there is this really fun scene between her, Bobby and Ann. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Well she was recast from the original actress
Cynthia – Yes. We wouldn’t do it to the core group and we didn’t do it to Afton but sometimes if it’s more peripheral we are forced to do that.
Well Tracy was only in it for one season in the original series.
Cynthia – Exactly
Cynthia – But we are hoping to have another actress coming for season 4, I’m not going to say who it is, who may have two to three episodes. We did look her up and we think she would be great. So we are hoping to bring somebody back from the old show for the fourth season.
Nicholas is a great character and we want him to stay around but can the character be redeemed after killing off poor Drew?
Cynthia – I know it’s awful isn’t it? I don’t know if you know anything about Juan Pablo Di Pace but he is the nicest, sweetest, most decent kind generous person and we have given him such terrible things to do. I don’t know if he can be redeemed. We actually pitched making him a priest (laughs), like the Thorne Birds (laughs) but he has done such horrible things and he’s not finished doing them. When you watch the next couple of episodes you will see some other bad things that he does. But he also gets a bunch of comeuppance coming up.
There seemed to be a lot of parallels between the aftermath of Drew’s death and the aftermath of JR’s – the morgue identification scene, the military aspect of the funeral, the fact that one was a suicide disguised as murder and the other was a murder disguised as suicide – how much of that was consciously planned? How far in advance did you know Drew’s death would lead to the secret of JR’s death coming to light?
Cynthia – All things were planned about a year ago, none of them are an accident, we like those little weird parallels. Going back to JR’s death, which was the hardest thing we ever done because Larry died the day after ThanksGiving and we were back shooting that Monday. We had to throw away two scripts and come up with who killed JR and not redo what had been done before. How do you top it? Is it a limousine that blows up? Does he drown? Is he poisoned? So the great thing our entire room came up with was the only one who could get JR was JR – he was dying so he had his best friend kill him.
We did not want that to go away, we wanted that to continue, in the same way Jock did on the original Dallas. We don’t want to forgot JR so everything that happened and the choices people make – good and bad, so they betray each other or betray themselves, are all weirdly connected to JR. So when Drew is killed that’s connected to JR too because he had found out about it and is going to reveal it and that ruins Nicholas’s plan. So they [The Cartel] shoot him I thought that was phenomenal, I think Kuno did a really beautiful moment.
He had gone away for a few episodes, while he was away in Mexico his hair grew and so literally as he walked back we saw him with long hair and they were going to cut his hair off so he looked like he did before, we’re like “no he looks like Jesus, this is exactly the new character, don’t touch his hair” (laughs). So all of that was connected.
Elena has really come into her own this season. Was it always the plan to take Elena down this path and create a new blood feud?
Cynthia – The moment it was pitched at the end of season two I knew we had the season. I think it was Robert Rovner who said “How about that JR cheated her father out of land”, I’m like “That is our next season” and everything will hinge on that because that has blood on it.
Real feuds are not about losing money they are about pain and losing friends, family and love. Jordana loved changing her character from the goody goody two shoes to this person who lies and sleeps with John Ross to get JR’s letter. That letter kept coming back, we love that is was also connected to JR’s death.
We plan to continue doing that, we have a whole new pitch about that for season four. You asked me about that, what from JR’s past now comes back and that’s one of the cliff-hangers from season three that becomes a whole season in four. Something that he did he did in the past that shocks everyone who thinks they knew everything he could have done but not this. You won’t see this coming I promise, this is a really interesting thing we have been talking about for two years for JR. It didn’t feel right before but it feels right for this season. So we’re going there. It was a really good idea, in season one it came up.
It was up on the duck pond, the duck pond is this place on the wall where you have some crazy idea , it seems it could have traction so you put it up and you keep looking at it and think that’s ridiculous but one day it doesn’t look stupid anymore and it’s like “Oh this will work now”.
Can we expect a Christopher/Elena reunion?
Cynthia – I don’t think I’m giving away too much. Elena does finally understand that Nicholas isn’t the guy she thought and she makes a bold move, which I think will be surprising too, and it’s Christopher who helps her because they have had that bond since childhood. That’s one of the many many surprises of our last episode. It almost resolves itself by the end of episode fourteen but not really until the first act of fifteen is the final resolution. So by the first act it’s mostly resolved and then it’s consequences of people finding out who did what to whom and what lies and what betrayals and then you set up new stuff for next season. But Elena will surprise you, big time.
Christopher seems to have taken more of a backseat this season. What was the thinking behind this?
Cynthia – We had two seasons of business arguments between John Ross and Christopher and we also wanted to do less business and do stuff that was more personal. Given that he was divorced from Pamela and that he had got really angry at Elena and thrown her out of the hotel in Switzerland, we wanted him to have a romantic story. It couldn’t be Elena, it couldn’t be Pamela and so we still wanted him to be heroic without the business fights because we wanted to back off from some of the business.
Can we expect a guess the daddy story with Elena after she slept with John Ross and Nicholas?
Cynthia – Yes you can expect that for season four, I am saying that. We have some really fun stuff that you are not going to see coming, our whole motto is ‘Keep your head spinning and keep you surprised’.
I guess people are expecting the baby storyline (laughs)
Cynthia – Yeah I know but we are still going to surprise you about it. I know you are expecting it, why the hell poke a diaphragm on a giant screen on television (laughs). When we were done shooting it and then Rodney Charters who is our DP said “I wanna go tighter, I wanna go closer in on it and I wanna have it slow mo” and I go “Oh god I can’t believe we are doing this”, is this our high point or low point? (laughs)
So yes we would not have done that gigantically like that if it weren’t a set-up for something. But it may not be what you expect, that’s all I’m saying.
So where are you now with plans for a season 4?
Cynthia – A couple of things. There will be a time jump, which we have never done before but we wanted to challenge ourselves to do it because it’s exhausting to end every season and begin the next season three minutes later. We are going to have a six month jump from the end of three to the beginning of four.
All I can tell you about a pick-up is that they love us – TNT and Warner Brothers. They have invested quite a lot of money to keep us working, so I have written a sixty page bible for season four which is all fifteen episode broken [down]. We are being paid to write the first three episodes, that would by myself, Robert, Bruce and Aaron. We have been working since mid-July and we are hoping a couple of weeks after we air the last episode that somebody will give us a yes or a no. But they are continuing to pay rent for our stages, rent for our offices, the writers have been working for about nine weeks. TNT is going through a lot of changes, there is not even a head of the network right now so I don’t think anything is going to happen until there is someone making decisions.
Is that decision purely ratings driven or are there other factors?
Cynthia – Ratings and also the vision for the network, who the next person is and how he sees his network. Does he see Dallas sitting on that network or is it all about the Last Ship? I don’t know. This job is my life, it’s the best, most professional, smartest people I have known. We’re a family
Well we all have our fingers crossed and really hope the show returns and all will be good.
Cynthia – Thank you
We will be watching on the season finale on Monday and can’t wait.
Don’t miss the Dallas season finale on Monday 9/8c TNT
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