Oftentimes, a character can become the overall embodiment of the person portraying them. Certain actors are forever known, and sometimes even called by the name of their on-screen character. This is not a new development. Older sitcoms like “Bonanza” had characters that are so well-known across the nation that the actors behind the roles grew used to being referred to as Cartwright.
Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright in the series, had to learn to separate himself from his character.
Dan Blocker and His ‘Bonanza’ Character
In an interview with Cactus Pryor from 1965, now on Texas Archive, Dan Blocker talked about his role on the show and how he is able to portray and distinguish from such a likable character.
He said that it took some time, but he eventually separated from Hoss.
“I think after the second or third year I started to finally divorce myself from him. In the early days of the series, when I was trying to find this character, was really working at it … I got wrapped up in him to the extent that I was Hoss Cartwright practically all the time. Once I knew the fella … then I could leave him alone and go get him when I wanted him. That was every morning at seven until eight or nine at night. Then I can leave him at the studio and pick him up the next morning,” Blocker said.
On the show, Blocker played the middle son named Eric, often called Hoss. It was a term for “big and friendly” that came from his Swedish mother. At the time, Blocker was about 320 pounds and about 6 feet 4 inches.
Unfortunately, Blocker died in May of 1972 from an issue that happened after his gall bladder surgery. Producers killed off his character on the show, who was rather young at the time. It was one of the first shows that killed off a young male character at the time. The show’s writers had his character drown while attempting to save a woman’s life.
He had gotten to play the lovable Hoss for 13 seasons before he passed away.
Similarities with His Character
His character was one of the favorites on “Bonanza” over the years.
However, off-set, Blocker was just as lovable. He was said to be the most likable cast member who caused the least amount of trouble during filming.
According to IMDb, he was known for being “gregarious and friendly to everyone.” His personality was uplifting and happy. His character, showcasing the stereotype of the “gentle giant,” created a lot of warmth and empathy that brought a comforting feeling to the series.
He made his debut acting in the TV show “The Sheriff of Cochise” in 1956 as a bartender. From there he would appear in several other TV shows and Westerns specifically before landing his role in “Bonanza,” which aired in 1959.
Despite being a huge television icon, Blocker always remained humble and grounded.
“Fame frightens me; it truly does, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting it. I feel like I have a tiger by the tail. I’m in this business for the money. I need money, like anyone else, because I want to give to my wife and kids a good home and a good life. It’s what any man wants to do for his family. Hell, man, I’m just an ordinary guy,” he once said.