Ken Kercheval, actor

Victoria Principal and Ken Kercheval, co-stars of the TV-show Dallas.
Victoria Principal and Ken Kercheval, co-stars of the TV-show Dallas.
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The actor Ken Kercheval, who has died at 83, played Cliff Barnes in the seminal 1980s TV series, Dallas.

The character had apparently been modelled by producers on the late Senator Robert Kennedy, but evolved into something of a fall guy, bettered and occasionally battered by his nemesis, Larry Hagman’s scheming JR Ewing.

The series ran from 1978 to 1991 and at its peak was among the most watched shows in the world. Speculation over which character had supposedly killed JR became an international obsession.

Kercheval was also part of a series revival that aired in 2012 to 2014.

He made frequent guest appearances on other TV series, stretching from The Defenders in the 1960s to ER and Diagnosis Murder in the 1990s and 2000s.

Born in Wolcottville, Indiana, to a local doctor and a nurse, he went to Indiana University with the intention of following them into medicine, but instead majored in music and drama. He later studied at the University of the Pacific and, from 1956, at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City under the noted drama coach Sanford Meisner.

He made his Broadway debut in the 1962 play, Something About a Soldier, and later had the title role in the original production of Fiddler on the Roof.

His survivors include three children, , Caleb, Liza and Madison.