Victoria Principal, left, and Ken Kercheval, co-stars of the popular TV show “Dallas,” in 1986. (Craig Mathew/AP)

Ken Kercheval, an actor who played perennial punching bag Cliff Barnes to Larry Hagman’s scheming oil baron J.R. Ewing on the hit TV series “Dallas,” died April 21 in Clinton, Ind. He was 83.

His agent, Jeff Fisher, confirmed the death but said the cause was being kept private by the family.

Mr. Kercheval appeared on “Dallas” for its full run on CBS, from 1978 to 1991, and returned as the oilman opposite Hagman for a revival of the prime-time drama that aired from 2012 to 2014.

“From the very beginning, Cliff would always get defeated by J.R.,” Mr. Kercheval once told an interviewer, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “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.’

“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.’ ”

Kenneth Marine Kercheval was born in Wolcottville, Ind., on July 15, 1935, and raised in Clinton by his father, a physician, and his mother, a nurse. He began making Broadway appearances in the 1960s in such shows as “The Young Abe Lincoln,” “The Apple Tree” and “Cabaret.”

His big-screen credits included “Pretty Poison” (1968), “The Seven-Ups” (1973) and “Network” (1976).

He made frequent guest appearances on TV series, stretching from “Naked City” and “The Defenders” in the 1960s to “ER” and “Diagnosis Murder” in the 1990s and 2000s. His last online credit is for the 2019 film “Surviving in L.A.”

In a first-person piece for People magazine in 1994, Mr. Kercheval detailed his arduous treatment for lung cancer and advocated that others quit smoking, as he was “99 percent” successful in doing.

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

— Associated Press