‘Bonanza’: Adam Cartwright Actor Pernell Roberts Left Show After Major Clashes with Writers

by Keeli Parkey

The success of a television show doesn’t always mean that its actors are happy. This was the case on the classic western show “Bonanza” for actor Pernell Roberts.

Roberts famously played the character Adam Cartwright on the long-running show. Adam was the eldest son of Ben Cartwright of the family that lived on the Ponderosa. The actor appeared on “Bonanza” from 1959 until 1965, according to IMDb.com. The show stayed on the air until 1973.

Apparently, Roberts wasn’t happy with the show’s scripts and his displeasure reportedly caused him a lot of grief. He talked about that pain before his death in 2010.

According to an article by The Washington Post, Pernell Roberts gave up his role on the popular show for his “own good.” He also said that leaving the show was not for the purpose of achieving “a particular goal.” And while he wasn’t happy acting on the show, Roberts understood that other actors did enjoy working on “Bonanza.”

Conflict Over Scripts, Characters Prompted Actor Pernell Roberts to Leave ‘Bonanza’

Several things reportedly caused Roberts grief while he was playing Adam Cartwright on “Bonanza.” He wasn’t happy with the show’s scripts. He was also unhappy with how the show’s characters were portrayed and changed over the years. In fact, things got so bad for the actor that just being on the set was a challenge.

“I was in the series for six years. I fought with the powers about the scripts, character development and other things,” Pernell told The Washington Post. “It got so I was upset the minute I arrived for work. That’s no way to live,” he explained a year after leaving the show. “I don’t have the psychological stamina to last under artistic compromises over a prolonged period of time. I get hostile and vindictive. It wears me down.”

One of the things about “Bonanza” that annoyed Roberts the most about the show was the relationship between Ben Cartwright, who was played by Lorne Greene, and the three sons living on the Ponderosa.

Roberts talked about this with The Washington Post prior to leaving the show.

“Isn’t it just a bit silly for three adult males to get Father’s permission for everything they do? . . . I have an impotent role. Everywhere I turn, there’s the father image,” he said.

Michael Landon played Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright, one of the other brothers on the Ponderosa. The other brother, Hoss Cartwright, was played by Dan Blocker.

Lorne Greene Tried to Keep Pernell Roberts on Show

Interestingly, Lorne Greene attempted to keep the actor who played his television son from leaving “Bonanza.” According to the newspaper, Greene tried to convince Roberts that staying on the show would give him a level of financial comfort that would allow him to pursue his own acting interests.

Greene reportedly told Roberts to “stay with the series a few more years and you’ll be able to build your own theater. And you will be able to hire Tennessee Williams – or anyone else – to write a play for you,” the publication reported.

Obviously, Roberts did not follow that advice.