Dallas Actor Ken Kercheval, Who Played J.R.'s Nemesis, Dies at 83

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Ken Kercheval, the actor best known for his longtime role as Texas businessman Cliff Barnes on the CBS soap opera Dallas, has died. He was 83.

Kercheval passed away on Sunday, April 21, a spokesperson at the Frist Funeral Home in his hometown of Clinton, Indiana, told Deadline.

At this time, a cause of death for the actor remains unclear. Representatives for Kercheval did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Kercheval’s passion for acting began in 1954 when he dropped out of Indiana University after one semester in 1954 to accept the lead in a Terre Haute production of Kiss Me, Kate, he told PEOPLE in 1981.

He then studied drama for a year in California before heading for New York, where he met other young actors like Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Suzanne Pleshette.

Kercheval first bog show role was in the Broadway production of Something About A Soldier in 1962 and the Off-Broadway production of Berlin to Broadway in 1972, Deadline reports.

The actor then starred in several other productions, including The Apple Tree, Cabaret, Here’s Where I Belong, and Fiddler on the Roof.

RELATED: As the Ewing Family’s Foe, Ken Kercheval Is Edging His Way into the Driver’s Seat on Dallas

In 1962, Kercheval transitioned to screen and it wasn’t long before he became a staple in the television and film world.

On the small screen, the Indiana native made appearances on The Secret Storm, Kojak, CHiPs, Starsky & Hutch, The Love Boat, Matlock, Highway to Heaven, before landing the role of Barnes, the brother of Victoria Principal‘s character Pamela Ewing on the CBS soap opera in 1978.

The actor remained on the show until its end in 1991 and even had the opportunity to direct two episodes. In 2012, he reprised his role in the revival of the soap opera for two years, according to his IMDb page.

Speaking to PEOPLE in 1981, Kercheval noted how different he was in comparison to his iconic businessman character.

“Money, power and prestige are what Cliff Barnes aspires to, even though he sees that the Ewings live in misery,” he said. “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.”

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Besides Dallas, Kercheval also appeared on E.R., L.A. Law, Murder She Wrote, and Diagnosis Murder

As for the big screen, Kercheval’s credits include NetworkCorporate Affairs, The Seven-Ups, F.I.S.T, The Promise, and most recently in 2019, Surviving in L.A.

In his personal life, Kercheval faced a number of health battles. In 1994, he had part of his lung removed after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor also admitted to smoking 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes per day and being an alcoholic for 20 years, the outlet reports.

Kercheval was married and divorced multiple times. From those relationships, he leaves behind three children, Fox News reports.



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