Why ‘Bonanza’ Star Pernell Roberts Called His Dialogue on Show ‘Downright Disgusting’

by Michael Freeman

The Cartwrights on Bonanza were a close-knit family. Though they had their differences (as all families do), a selling point of the show was how they were always there for one another. Nonetheless, Pernell Roberts, wasn’t a huge fan of his character Adam’s dialogue, calling it “downright disgusting.”

A few years ago, Amo Mama shared biographical facts about Pernell Roberts. Among subjects like his personal life and relationships, his various roles and television appearances naturally made an appearance. Though his tenure on Bonanza lasted 202 episodes and six seasons, Pernell actually didn’t seem fond of the role. To quote him, Adam’s dialogue was “downright disgusting.”

“I had six seasons of playing the eldest son on that show,” Pernell once reflected. “Six seasons of feeling like a damned idiot, going around like a middle-aged teenager saying, ‘Yes, Pa’ ‘No, Pa’ on cue. It was downright disgusting – such dialogue for a grown man.” Additionally, he felt playing Adam made it so he wasn’t being taken seriously as an actor. Because he didn’t want to remain Adam Cartwright forever, he left and didn’t look back.

Unlike his brothers, Adam was a university-educated architectural engineer and was the eldest child. Considering his education and status, Roberts being upset Adam was always being subject to his father’s whims is understandable to a degree.

Nonetheless, Pernell Roberts’ fears proved unfounded, as he starred in many roles after Bonanza. He even received an Emmy Award in 1981 for his appearance in the medical drama, Trapper John M.D.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Had Choice Words for Pernell Roberts Speaking Poorly About ‘Bonanza’ in 2015

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, some criticized Pernell Roberts for his harsh words against Bonanza. Mary Ann actress from Gilligan’s Island Dawn Wells is one of them, slamming Roberts for his comments and his ego.

Back in 2015, journalist Herbie J Pilato interviewed Dawn Wells about her show, among other things. At one point, she discussed actors talking poorly about the shows or movies that made them famous. Setting her sights on Pernell Roberts, she let everyone know what she thought about him and his criticisms.

“Turn (the role) down then and give it to another actor,” Wells said. “I get really irritated. Pernell Roberts did Bonanza and talked horribly about it for years. Well, let another actor do it. You’ve got crew and craft service and writers and everyone depending on that show.”

Continuing, she mentioned it being an ego trip and it’s something actors have to be mindful of. “It’s such ego. We have to be careful about ego. It’s a craft. It was something that I was trained to do, I learned to do and I love doing it. But I’m not the best there is out there. There’s more to me than the character of Mary Ann, for sure.”