‘Maverick’: Why James Garner Once Called Bret Maverick a ‘Reluctant Hero’

by Joe Rutland

For five seasons on ABC, James Garner played Bret Maverick on the Western show Maverick and it was different from others. The show would feature some humor within its serious storylines. Bret, if you recall, would not fit into other Western-type of shows at that time. He played the character much differently from, say, Chuck Connors’ Lucas McCain on The Rifleman. What’s so different about Garner’s role?

“It’s the anti-hero,” Garner said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “Everybody else was steely-eyed and, boy, straight-shooters and all that. Maverick, he didn’t want to fight, he didn’t want a gunfight. You know, he’d rather smile and laugh and whatever. And he, he was the reluctant hero, and that really kind of poked, gave us room to poke fun at all the others, you know. We did that in ‘Rockford’ later, too, the same thing really.” His later reference is to his 1970s private investigator series The Rockford Files on NBC. Garner played Jim Rockford in that show.

James Garner of ‘Maverick’ Had a Funny Reason For Liking a Specific Episode

Garner would reprise his role in a 1980s TV series simply titled Bret Maverick. The show lasted just one season. It did get two Primetime Emmy Award nominations and one Golden Globe Award. Still, the original classic TV series has its fans who love seeing the back-and-forth between characters. Another Maverick-Rockford connection happens as Roy Huggins played a role in creating both series.

One time, Garner offered up a reason for one Maverick episode to be his favorite one. The episode is titled Shady Deal at Sunny Acres. Fans apparently are all on the plus side when it comes to liking this one. They give this episode high marks in the IMDb world. OK, so why did Garner like this one so much? “I needed to get off my feet,” he said in his memoir. But the episode would have Bret never leave a chair and say very little. Who knew that having Bret sit and not say much would be a winning hand. Well, it was a very popular episode and remains one from the Maverick world.

Meanwhile, did you know that Jim was set to play a role on NCIS? Garner actually was the original choice to play Gibbs’ father. Sadly, tragedy struck as the famed actor suffered a severe stroke. It was a few days after a table read for the episode he’d appear in on the CBS show. Jackson ultimately would be played by Ralph Waite, who portrayed John Walton on The Waltons. Garner also was a mentor to show star Mark Harmon, also known as Leroy Jethro Gibbs from the NCIS world.