Ken Kercheval, J.R. Ewing’s Bitter Rival For Entire Run Of ‘Dallas,’ Dies At 83

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Ken Kercheval, the actor who played Texas businessman Cliff Barnes for the entire run of the long-running TV series Dallas, has died. Kercheval died Easter Sunday in Indiana, but his cause of death is being kept private by his family, his agent Jeff Fisher told the Associated Press. Ken Kercheval was 83-years-old.

Dallas fans remember Kercheval and his character well. Alongside his bitter rival J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman), Cliff Barnes–the older half-brother of Victoria Principal’s character Pamela Ewing—was the only character to appear in all 14 seasons of Dallas, which aired on CBS from 1978-1991. Kercheval’s character was originally modeled on Robert F. Kennedy, but the character changed over the course of the hit drama’s run.

Ken Kercheval also played Cliff Barnes in the 1986 prequel Dallas: The Early Years, the 1996 TV movie Dallas: J.R. Returns, 1998’s Dallas: The War at the Ewings, and he most recently reprised his iconic role for TNT’s Dallas revival, which aired from 2012 to 2014.

While he was intertwined with the role of Cliff Barnes for 40 years, in real life, Ken Kercheval couldn’t have been more different from his character. In 1981, Kercheval told People he was nothing like the money-hungry Dallas tycoon.

“Money, power and prestige are what Cliff Barnes aspires to, even though he sees that the Ewings live in misery. For me, happiness is doing my best and trying to be helpful. Being a star and having money do not make for a happy person. I think I’ve learned the lesson, even if Cliff hasn’t.”

After his death was announced, some of Ken Kercheval’s Dallas co-stars paid tribute to him on social media.

Josh Henderson who co-starred with Kercheval on the Dallas revival, said it was an “honor” to work with him. Actress Brenda Strong noted that she worked with Kercheval twice. Strong played a one-night stand of Kercheval’s Cliff Barnes in a Season 10 episode of the original Dallas series titled “Cat and Mouse.” She also played Bobby Ewing’s new wife, Ann Ryland Ewing, in the Dallas revival.

In addition to his signature role on Dallas, Ken Kercheval logged appearances on Kojak, CHiPs, Starsky & Hutch, The Love Boat, E.R., L.A. Law, Murder She Wrote, and Diagnosis Murder. His final acting appearance was in the comedy-romance Surviving in L.A., according to IMDB,

While his acting career thrived, Ken Kercheval battled some serious health ailments over his lifetime. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Kercheval had part of his lung removed after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1994. The actor previously smoked up to three packs of cigarettes per day and battled alcoholism for 20 years.

You can see Ken Kercheval and Larry Hagman in a classic Dallas scene below.