‘Bonanza’: How Steve McQueen Ultimately Led to Mitch Vogel Landing Role as Jamie Hunter

by John Jamison

Fans of “Bonanza” know Mitch Vogel as Jamie Hunter, the orphaned son of Ben Cartwright. He didn’t appear on the show until its last few seasons, but he played a pivotal role nonetheless. And you may be surprised to learn that the King of Cool himself, Steve McQueen, got him the job.

Mitch Vogel had actually been on “Bonanza” as a guest star when he was 12 years old, but he wouldn’t join the cast as a regular until two years later.

“The thing that impressed me so much was that Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, and Dan Blocker were all so very nice to me,” Vogel told Jeremy Roberts in a 2017 interview. “They brought me pictures — which I didn’t ask for — that they signed to me. They made me feel so special.”

The same year he appeared on “Bonanza,” young Mitch Vogel made his film debut as Tommy North in the 1968 classic “Yours, Mine and Ours.” His work in the role caught the attention of Steve McQueen.

“The Great Escape” actor kept the boy in mind when he went to star in the 1969 Faulkner adaptation “The Reivers.” McQueen helped Vogel land the role of Lucius Priest, an 11-year old boy who tags along with his farm’s handyman on a road trip.

Mitch Vogel Gets The Call From ‘Bonanza’ Creator

“Fast-forward a bit, and creator-executive producer David Dortort had apparently seen me in The Reivers with Steve,” Vogel continued. “I got a call from David saying he would like to use me in one of his shows. At that time he didn’t know if it was gonna be Bonanza or The High Chaparral.”

David Dortort eventually decided that Vogel would be a better for “Bonanza.”

“David actually didn’t tell me that I was going to be a series regular. He kinda said, ‘You can come and stay with us.’ But it wasn’t a commitment at that point for a series,” Vogel said in 2017. “I guess David wanted to see how the character would resonate with people. Apparently, it resonated well. He officially asked me to join the cast not long after.”

And even though Vogel was only on the show for its last three seasons, he made the most of his time as Jamie Hunter.

Thanks, Steve McQueen.