‘Bonanza’: Dan Blocker Reveals How Long It Took to Shoot One Episode in 1965 Interview

by Mark Long

Hoss Cartwright, played by Dan Blocker on “Bonanza,” remains one of America’s most beloved television characters. In a wide-ranging 1965 interview with Texas Archive, Blocker discusses the show’s shooting schedule and other topics both personal and professional.

Long Seasons & Shoots

Many of today’s television shows have 12 or fewer episodes, but that was not the case with “Bonanza.” Over the course of 14 seasons, beginning in 1959, it averaged over 30 episodes per season. Filmed primarily near Lake Tahoe, Nevada, shooting for each season typically began in late May or early June and lasted 36-40 weeks.

As Blocker told Cactus Pryor, each episode took six days to shoot, but eight days total as the cast and crew had weekends off. An episode that began filming on Monday would be completed the following Monday. But there was no time to rest. Work on the next episode started the following day.

The days were long too. Blocker said he transformed himself into Hoss at 7 a.m. each day until 8 or 9 p.m. every night too. In the beginning, he said, it was hard to separate himself from Hoss. By season three, however, he had a clear enough conception of the character that it was no longer an issue.

Dan Blocker & Hoss Cartwright

Fans of Hoss Cartwright might find that character at odds with Blocker in the 1965 interview. Hoss was famous for being rougher around the edges than his architect brother Adam, played by Pernell Roberts. In contrast, Blocker is well-spoken and thoughtful as he discusses the show, being a “professional” Texan, and politics.

Blocker was a public school teacher in Texas and New Mexico before moving to Los Angeles in the 1950s to attend graduate school at UCLA. But his acting career took off, and the rest was television history.

Even though “Bonanza” ended in 1973 after an abbreviated final season following Blocker’s untimely death, Hoss Cartwright endures as an American icon. It’s well worth your effort, however, to get to know Dan Blocker too.