‘Bonanza’: Lorne Greene Explained His ‘Many Careers,’ Why He Believed in ‘Changing Careers’

by John Jamison

Lorne Greene is iconic for his role as Ben Cartwright on the classic TV Western “Bonanza.” Before he found major success in his acting career, however, Greene held a number of different jobs. It’s hard to picture him as anything but the beloved patriarch of the Cartwright family, but the longtime actor believed in the value of changing lanes.

“I have had a number of careers in my life. I believe in changing careers. And I’m at the point now where I’m going to do a little acting,” Greene said in a radio interview with Fred Pfeiffer in the 1970s.

“Bonanza” had already wrapped up by the time he gave this interview. And in it, Greene talked about why he thought it was good to change “careers” in regard to his role as Ben Cartwright and other potential TV characters that were being developed for him at the time.

“But I really don’t want to tie myself down to a television series, as such,” Greene continued. “Because then I couldn’t come here. And I enjoy this. I enjoy meeting with people like you, and like you, and the other people here, people who ask questions. Because that stirs the mind. That stirs the imagination- I’m sorry. And it creates energy and creates interplay of thought. And that, to me, is important.”

The ‘Bonanza’ Star Lists His Previous Careers

After listening to Lorne Greene’s deep, unique voice during his radio interview, his work history makes a lot of sense. It’s easy to believe that he was an accomplished Canadian news broadcaster before he got his start in Hollywood.

At one point during his life, it would have been Greene on the interviewer’s side of the microphone. And despite his passion for acting, he clearly had fond memories of his years in broadcasting. Or what they provided him with, at least.

“I enjoy acting. I love acting. And for 36 years I’ve been in the business. And I was a journalist,” Greene continued in his interview with Fred Pfeiffer. “I was head of news for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for 14 years- not for 14 years but I was in news in Canada for 14 years. I did your job, the kind of job that you’re doing now, which you’re doing well. And I’ve been on Broadway, I’ve been in motion pictures, I’ve done television…”

It’s easy to look at Broadway, movies, TV shows, etc., and lump them all together into a single “acting” career. But finding success in one of the fields is accomplishment enough. Many stage actors never branch out into the worlds of movies or TV, and vice versa. The fact that Lorne Greene did it speaks to the “Bonanza” star’s talent and his philosophy on careers.