‘Gunsmoke’ Star William Wellman Jr. Explained How He Tried to Look Like a Cowboy to Get Cast

by Anna Dunn

Gunsmoke actor William Wellman Jr. tried to look like a cowboy in order to get cast. The actor had two small roles on the show. He played Roy in the episode There Was Never a Horse and then came back to play Private King in the 1962 episode called Wagon Girls.

Being on Gunsmoke opened up a ton of new opportunities for Wellman, who was just getting started when he got the part. But in order to do so, he wanted to really look the part.

“I thought ‘if I’m going to be a working actor. I’m going to be doing westerns. It’s the late 1950s and westerns are everywhere.”” He explained in a 2019 interview.

“So I went and bought a black hat and a black shirt and black jeans, black boots and a six-gun, you know, holster. I had these very posed pictures taken. And a few years later a director said to me ‘Bill. Stop taking those pictures around.'” He joked.

Whatever he did maybe worked, though. Because he did land the Gunsmoke role and a role on Half Gun. But he really was just getting started.

He’s best known for his roles as Charley in It’s Alive (1974), Child in The Born Losers (1967), And Charlie Evans in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (2007). But he has 88 acting credits starting in 1945 going all the way up to 2007. William Wellman Jr. is now 84 years old.

One ‘Gunsmoke’ Actor was an Experienced Horseback Rider

William Wellman Jr. did a lot to look the part. But some of the actors on Gunsmoke had some serious talent around horses. James Arness, who played Matt Dillon, did a ton of riding on the show but learned how to ride as a kid. He even rode in shows.

On the show, he rode a horse named Buck, and there was a pretty funny reason why Buck happened to get the role as Matt Dillon’s steed.

“When the occasion demands, I ride a horse in ‘Gunsmoke.’ Usually, it is a big buckskin gelding named Buck, chosen not because of his intellect, or his fidelity, but because he is very large and only a very large horse will fit me,” he explained in an interview while the show was still on air.

James Arness towered over almost everyone at 6’7. It’s the type of stature that demands a pretty big horse.

Arness passed away in Los Angeles in 2011. The actor previously held the record for the longest someone has played a character on a TV show as he played Matt Dillon for a faithful 20 years.