‘Dallas’ Show Cliff Barnes Actor Ken Kercheval Dies at Age 83

‘Dallas’ Show Cliff Barnes Actor Ken Kercheval Dies at Age 83
Ken Kercheval aka 'Cliff Barnes' attends the 30th Anniversary Reunion of the TV show "Dallas" at South Fork Ranch, Texas, Nov. 8, 2008. (Peter Larsen/Getty Images)

Ken Kercheval, best known for his role as the oil tycoon Cliff Barnes on the hit show “Dallas,” has died. He was 83.

A representative with the Frist Funeral Home in Kercheval’s hometown of Clinton, Indiana, confirmed his death with Variety magazine and The Hollywood Reporter. However, the representative didn’t provide any further details.

Kercheval’s character was the rival to Larry Hagman’s character J.R. Ewing, on the show. According to TheWrap, they were the only two cast members “to appear on ‘Dallas’ for its entire run, in a total of 342 episodes from 1978 to 1991.”

He returned to play Cliff in the 1996 TV movie and in the reboot on TNT, which lasted from 2012 until 2014.

Previously, in 2002, Kercheval told the Dallas Decoder that he “really did” like his character despite his flaws.

“I thought he was a nice guy too. J.R. was coming after my [expletive] all the time, so I always had to defend myself. If I did something that wasn’t quite right, it’s because I had to,” he said.

When he was asked about playing Cliff in the reboot, he said it was the “same old, same old.”

“I know this guy pretty well so it’s just like putting on the same set of clothes that you wore a few years back,” Kercheval said.

“From the very beginning, Cliff would always get defeated by J.R.,” Kercheval once said. “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 said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“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.'”

Kercheval said that over the years “Dallas” viewers often asked him when Cliff was “finally going to get J.R.” His answer, delivered with all sincerity—”This Friday night!”—got them to tune in and watch every time.

“He was one of those guys who was going to be the next James Dean,” said David Jacobs, the creator of “Dallas.”

Ken Kercheval aka 'Cliff Barnes' and Audrey Landers aka 'Afton Cooper' attend the 30th Anniversary Reunion of the TV show "Dallas"
Ken Kercheval aka ‘Cliff Barnes’ and Audrey Landers aka ‘Afton Cooper’ attend the 30th Anniversary Reunion of the TV show “Dallas” in Texas, Nov. 8, 2008. (Peter Larson/Getty Images)

Early Life

Born in Wolcottville, Indiana on July 15, 1935, Kercheval was raised nearby in Clinton. He attended Indiana University and majored in music and drama. Later, he studied under Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.

According to TheWrap, he also acted alongside Dustin Hoffman in a 1959 off-Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley’s “Dead End” before making his Broadway debut in 1961’s “The Young Abe Lincoln.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kercheval appeared in Broadway productions of “The Apple Tree,” “Cabaret,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

He also appeared in films including “Network,” “Rabbit Run,” “F.I.S.T.,” “Pretty Poison,” and “The Seven-Ups.”

His first television role came in 1966, when he played the first Dr. Nick Hunter on the CBS show “Search for Tomorrow,” according to TheWrap.

Celebrity Response

“Dallas” co-star Kevin Page wrote on Twitter, “R.I.P. to my co-star on the Dallas series, Ken Kercheval. Now cracks a noble heart.—Goodnight, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” (Hamlet, Act V).

Gospel singer and reality star, Tina Campbell, wrote on Twitter, “RIP Cliff Barnes actor Ken Kercheval. Hope you and JR Ewing are butting heads again somewhere in the great unknown.”

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