James Garner: Watch the Late Cowboy Icon Open Up About Starring on Western Series ‘Maverick’

by Madison Miller

The Western television show “Maverick” stood out against similarly themed shows like “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and “Daniel Boone.”

The reason being was “Maverick” had a lot of unique comedic overtones in every episode. The series was on television from September 22, 1957, to July 8, 1962. It starred James Garner as Bret Maverick.

The show really launched his career, despite starring in several movies prior to landing his role as Bret in the series. He played a poker-playing, free-spirited, and rebel-like character. The show created a new look for the “cowboy” character as an anti-hero instead of the typical hero image.

James Garner Talks About ‘Maverick’

The word maverick means an independent-minded and nonconformist person. For James Garner, playing a rebel character is something he was familiar and comfortable with. It was a role he understood.

The show was created by Roy Huggins and was based on an old movie script. Garner helped navigate the direction of the show and make it more appealing to viewers. A part of that was adding in good comedic elements.

“Roy was tough to deal with in that he had his opinion and there were no others. He was right a lot. Roy had his finger on the pulse of television … his talent was television, it was not in features,” Garner said in a Television Academy interview.

The first few episodes lacked that known subtle humor “Maverick” was known for. However, Garner and other cast members started “ejecting more humor.” Eventually, Huggins picked up on it and carried that theme throughout the show.

Garner said that by the eighth or ninth week of the show being on air, it was ranked as No. 1 in television. Fans remember the show in great detail because of Garner’s charisma and naturally comedic facial expressions.

“There’s a difference between humor and comedy. I don’t do comedy, I do humor,” Garner said.

Leaving ‘Maverick’ and Other Roles

According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Garner is one of the first actors to go public regarding his fight for net profits on a show. He was first suspended by Warner Bros. in 1960 because of a writers’ strike.

He fought back saying his contract was now void. The studio and Garner continued a battle that started in 1980 and lasted nine years. Garner claimed he had work-related injuries that kept him from working. Universal sued him because they believed he was on strike due to financial differences.

When he left the show, Robert Colbert became Brent Maverick, another brother to Bret and Beau. He looked extremely similar to Garner and producers hoped it would trick viewers into thinking it was Garner.

Besides “Maverick,” Garner was in a number of films like “The Great Escape,” “The Americanization of Emily,” “Grand Prix,” “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” and “Space Cowboys.”

Garner returned in the film based on the television series in 1994. He starred alongside Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson and played a lawman named Marshal Zane Cooper.

One of his last roles was in 2004 in “The Notebook.” He played Duke, the old man that is actually the main character Noah, years down the road.