‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Why Jethro Actor Max Baer Jr. Described His Lucky Break as an ‘Accident’

by John Jamison

Sometimes, you happen to be in the right place at the right time. This was the case for Max Baer Jr., who found himself signed to a contract with ABC just moments after he considered acting for the first time. The son of a former world heavyweight champion boxer, Max Baer Jr. played Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies” from 1962-1971. But how he ended up there is a story of dumb luck.

That isn’t to say Max Baer Jr. didn’t deserve it. He’s a talented actor that became a fan-favorite on a classic sitcom. But by his own admission, his acting career began as a complete accident.

In an interview with “The Five Count” radio show, “The Beverly Hillbillies” star told the story of how he was first discovered.

“That was just an accident. I was at lunch at Warner Brothers one day. Somebody took me over there, a friend of mine. They saw me on the lot, and James Garner had just left ‘Maverick,'” he said. “And I resembled Jimmy a little bit because somebody from ABC saw me and thought I was him at a distance. So they asked me if I ever wanted to act and I said, ‘I don’t know. What does it pay?'”

Imagine meeting a friend for lunch, only to be approached by someone from a major television network asking about your interest in acting. Well, it didn’t stop there for Max.

“I think it was $250 a week, this was in 1960. So I said ‘Okay, I’ll try.’ And I went ahead and I did a reading for them. No screen test. I just did a reading for them and they signed me.”

It’s that easy, folks. You just need to bear a passing resemblance to James Garner.

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Before He Landed His Iconic Role

So Max Baer Jr. signed a one-year general contract with ABC. The network certainly got their money’s worth out of Baer as they had him playing roles all over the place.

“I did ‘Surfside 6′ ’77 Sunset Strip,’ ‘Hawaiian Eye,’ ‘Bronco,’ ‘Cheyenne,’ ‘Maverick,’ ‘Roaring 20’s,’ I did all those shows that they had over there at ABC at the time,” he said. “And that’s where I got my bones, so to speak. Because that’s where I learned a little bit about the camera and where to go and so forth.”

They were all small roles, but they prepared him for the future that awaited. After his contract was up, it wasn’t long before he landed his role on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” And to think it all started with a decision to meet a friend for lunch one day.