‘Bonanza’: Hoss Actor Dan Blocker Revealed He Had to ‘Divorce’ Himself from Character

by Suzanne Halliburton

Bonanza was so big as a TV show that Dan Blocker conceded people often got him confused with the part he played. And by extension, so did his wife.

During an interview in 1965, Austin, Texas TV host Cactus Pryor even acknowledged that he’d referred to Blocker’s wife as “Mrs. Cartwright.”

Blocker smiled. “I’ve been called worse and so has she.”

And then Pryor opened the interview with a compliment within a question. More Americans identified with Hoss Cartwright than any other character on TV, Pryor said. Was there ever problem for the Bonanza star separating himself from Hoss?

Call Dan Blocker very self aware when it came to Hoss Cartwright and Bonanza.

“Well, not anymore, ” Blocker said. “There was a time that I did. The second or third year (of Bonanza) I finally started to divorce myself from him a bit.

“In the early days of the character, when I was trying to find him,” Blocker said. “Of course, I got wrapped in him to the extent that I was Hoss Cartwright all the time. But once I got him, once I knew the fella and he was indelibly stamped, then i could leave him alone and go get him when I wanted him.

“And that’s every morning at 7 until 8 or 9 o clock at night. Then I can leave him at the studio and pick him up the next morning.”

Dan Blocker Was Perfect as Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza

Dan Blocker played the perfect Hoss Cartwright, the affable middle son of Ben Cartwright. On Bonanza, Hoss’ real name was Eric Cartwright. Hoss was the nickname his parents gave him and what family and friends called him.

And as Dan Blocker showed in his interview, he was really aware of who he was as a person. In another interview, Blocker admitted that his size could be a positive and a negative, depending on the context. He was big his entire life, weighing in at 14 pounds when he was born. This Texan played football in high school and college. And if the acting gig didn’t pay the bills, he’d be a teacher, he said.

“Being big has its advantages,” Blocker said, “especially when you’re doing the rounds of the agents’ offices. They don’t forget you in a hurry. But it has its disadvantages, too. You’ve got to have a bed special made . . . mine is 7 feet long. You’ve got to be careful when you sit down. I used to wreck a couple of chairs a week in the studio.

“Weight is a problem with me,” Blocker said. “If I don’t watch it, it shoots up to around 300 pounds. It bugs me having to go on a diet but there isn’t any alternative. I remember breakfast when I ate a dozen eggs, two loaves of bread and drank two quarts of milk. Now I eat like a normal guy and I’m always hungry. If I had been a little guy I’d probably still be teaching school in Carlsbad, New Mexico.”

Blocker was an original Bonanza cast member. The show started in 1959. Sadly, Blocker died young, when he was only 43.

In May of 1972, Blocker was scheduled for routine gall bladder surgery. The filming for what turned out to be the final season of Bonanza was set to start within a few weeks. But a blood clot formed in Blocker’s lungs post-surgery, and he died of a pulmonary embolism.

It was difficult for Bonanza to go on after Blocker died. The season premiere mentioned that Hoss had died, but never said how. The grief was so overwhelming, it was difficult for the actors to separate themselves from their Cartwright characters. In the end, the writers mentioned that Hoss died a hero, trying to save a woman from drowning.

Check out more of this interview with Blocker.