‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Max Baer Jr. Spoke on Getting Role Of Jethro Bodine

by Taylor Cunningham

When Max Baer Jr. went in to read for the infamous Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies, he was filled with nerves. But he was able to pull himself together and win the part after knocking back a couple of stiff drinks.

In 1993, the actor sat down to talk to Jerry Springer on Jerry in San Francisco. And he shared everything about his work on the classic TV show, including the fact that he wasn’t the creator’s top choice for Jethro.

When Baer Jr. first learned about the role, Buddy Ebsen was the only actor signed on to the series. And both he and Granny’s Irene Ryan were not top picks for future cast members.

As he recalled, the two sat around all day doing testing and being ignored while the producers had their eyes on other candidates. So Ryan decided to take him out for lunch to get away from the stress.

Baer Jr. was on unemployment at the time, and really down on his luck. The actor shared that he was only getting $54 a week and needed the job in a bad way. So Ryan bought him a few margaritas to ease his anxiety. And by the time they went back to the studio, they had loosened up a bit and were ready to kill their auditions.

But Max Baer Jr. hadn’t even begun reading for Jethro Bodine when he earned his spot on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Max Baer Jr. Figured out His ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Persona After Sharing a Few Margaritas with Irene Ryan

“I went to do my scene with Buddy. And needless to say that I was a little queasy, and I bumped into the door jam as we went into the cabin and I basically said as I turned ‘excuse me’ [in a deep southern, goofy accent].”

Somewhere between lunch and his audition, he had developed a persona for Jethro. And the producers thought it was spot on. And, the rest is history.

“In other words, my attitude was if someone came in and said, ‘Grammy got hit by a car?'” he laughed insinuating that the character was a bit thick and completely out of touch with reality. “I mean, he was like out there someplace…and sometimes I wonder if he ever came back.”

But unfortunately, the actor would later admit that he regretted taking on the part of Jethro. Because he made Jethro so memorable, he spent the rest of his career being typecasted.

“I couldn’t go into a producer’s office and say I wanted to play the part of a neurosurgeon or pilot,’’ he told Fore Magazine years later. “As soon as I came on screen, people would say, there’s Jethro.’’