‘Gunsmoke’: Leonard Nimoy Opened Up About Guest-Starring Before ‘Star Trek’

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Before he was known as Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” Leonard Nimoy had a surprising role on “Gunsmoke.” In a 2000 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Nimoy discussed his last guest-starring role before becoming a lead on “Star Trek.”

“The story as I recall,” Nimoy started, describing the episode, “was about an Indian fur trapper who was very good friends with a white man who also did the same thing and they often went trapping together.” The episode was titled “The Treasure of John Walking Fox,” the 29th of season 11, and Nimoy played the titular John Walking Fox.

“John Walking Fox’s friend was killed in a dispute in town, and “there wasn’t going to be any justice,” said Nimoy. “So, John Walking Fox comes into town and starts to drop […] gold coins […] word gets around town that there’s an Indian dropping gold.”

John Walking Fox gets two opposing groups to search for his supposed treasure, and the man who killed his friend is subsequently killed in a gunfight. There is no treasure, of course, and Nimoy describes the episode as “a wry way of getting social justice.”

Nimoy had his hand in many westerns throughout his career; he had guest roles on shows like “Bonanza,” of course “Gunsmoke,” “Wagon Train,” “The Virginian,” and “Rawhide,” among others. In film, he notably played the antagonist in “Catlow” opposite Yul Brenner.

In 2011, he jokingly recalled his western roles, “mostly playing Indians.” He said then, “Naturally, when I got into science fiction, I had to play an alien.”

‘Gunsmoke’: Dennis Weaver Once Shared the Inspiration Behind Chester

Dennis Weaver played Matt Dillon’s sidekick Chester Goode on “Gunsmoke” for nine years. When he auditioned for the part, he initially played it straight, but that wasn’t what the producers were looking for. So, he put on a thick Oklahoma accent and upped the comedy, which won him the role.

In an interview, Weaver once described the inspiration for Chester. He revealed that he was actually based on someone he knew in real life.

“And when [the showrunner] said humor, the light bulb went on in my head,” Weaver said. “I remembered in the University of Oklahoma, there was a kid from Okarche, Oklahoma. He had such a thick accent you could hardly understand him. And I used to imitate him at parties. And in New York, I used to get a lot of laughs imitating him with that accent.”

Weaver started to get the character after making that connection. Where he thought before that Chester was “inane” and “silly,” then “I started kind of getting a smile about it myself. I went in and read it with that accent, and they went right on the floor.”