‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Creator Revealed the Traits That Set Max Baer Jr. Apart from Competition for Jethro

by Keeli Parkey

According to one of the people behind the famous sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the role of Jethro Bodine was one of the last of the main characters to be cast.

That person was the show’s creator and producer, Paul Henning. He talked about casting the beloved and funny series during an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. This interview was recorded in 1997. Henning passed away in 2005.

While in the process of casting the character of Jethro Bodine, Henning and company auditioned many actors for the role.

“Jethro: Max Baer (Jr.) was just one of the many fellows who came in and read for the part,” Henning said while recounting the casting process for the series.

Max Baer Jr.’s ‘Humor’ Helped Him Land Role on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

However, while he was just one of many actors, there was something about Max Baer Jr. that made him stand apart from the actors he was competing against for this role on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“But, Max had a wonderful humor about him,” Paul Henning said.

This humor was not necessarily obvious when one looked at Max Baer Jr. Or, so said the creator of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“(Max Baer Jr.) was a big man and, normally, would be threatening,” Henning said. “I mean, he was so powerful. But, he had this wonderful, silly grin that, you know, you couldn’t be afraid of him. He just … Your heart went out to him. “

According to “The Beverly Hillbillies” creator Paul Henning, Max Baer Jr. was just one part of a group of actors that the show needed to be a success.

“… we were so, so fortunate in casting. We got the perfect cast,” Henning also said during 1997.

You can watch producer Paul Henning talk about “The Beverly Hillbillies” below. His comments about the traits that made Max Baer Jr. stand out begin just after the three minutes mark of the video.

The casting of Max Baer Jr. as the character Jethro wasn’t the only casting story Henning shared. During that 1997 interview, he also shared details about the casting of other main characters on the show.

One topic of discussion was the casting of Irene Ryan as Daisy Moses. She was better known as “Granny” on the famous sitcom.

Turns out, it was Ryan’s experience acting in the theater that helped her land the role. Specifically, an experience while performing in Arkansas prepared her to play Granny.

“She said, ‘I was in stock company and we played a theater in Arkansas,'” Henning recalled.

This time in Arkansas gave Ryan insight into the character of Granny and people like her.

“… I know hillbillies,” Ryan said, according to Henning.