Why This ‘Gunsmoke’ Star Struggled to Separate His Character From Reality

by Taylor Cunningham
why-this-gunsmoke-star-struggled-separate-character-from-reality

When Dan Blocker joined the cast of Gunsmoke in 1959, he made it a point to create the perfect persona for Hoss Cartwright. And he took the job so seriously that he spent years unable to separate himself from the character.

By sharing 13 seasons with the classic TV Western, Blocker was one of the longest-running actors in the series. And that came with years of hard work. But that hard work came at a somewhat unique cost.

During a 1965 chat with Cactus Pryor Interviews, Pryor recognized how connected the actor was to Hoss, so he asked if had trouble distinguishing Blocker from Hoss. And Blocker said he did, but luckily, only for a few years.

“There was a time, of course, that I did,” he admitted. “I think after the second or third year, I started finally to divorce myself from him. But in the early days of the series, when I was trying to find this character, when I was really working at it, then, of course, I got wrapped up in him, to the extent that I was Hoss Cartwright practically all the time.”

However, the Gunsmoke identity crisis wasn’t too jarring for Blocker. As both he and Pryor admitted, Hoss was a “pleasant fellow,” and more importantly, he was also genuinely content. So, Blocker was able to share that peaceful emotion for a least three years.

“We’re both happy men,” the actor said with a smile.

‘Gunsmoke’s’ Hoss Cartwright Was Based On Dan Blocker’s Real-Life Personality

But it wasn’t until the fifth season that Dan Blocker was able to completely remove himself from Hoss Cartwright. From that time on, he turned the character on and off as he filmed. And while he enjoyed his intense character study, he was happy to get back to life as normal.

“Once I knew the fella, he was indelibly stamped, then I could leave him alone and go get him when I wanted him,” Blocker continued. “And that’s every morning at 7 until 8 or 9 o’clock at night. And then I can leave him at the studio and pick him up the next morning.”

Unsurprisingly, Blocker actually played a larger part in creating Hoss than most people know. According to creator David Dotort, he actually wrote the role based on the actor’s real-life personality. So Hoss was literally made for Blocker.

“When it came to writing the part of Hoss Cartwright, I wrote it with Blocker in mind,” Dotort told EmmyTVLegends. “That was a great advantage because I knew his qualities as an actor.”

Outsider.com