One ‘Gunsmoke’ Star Played 7 Different Characters on the Show

by Joe Rutland
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When you think about Gunsmoke, then there are a lot of actors and characters to think about. The classic TV Western had a lot. Of course, the first one that comes to mind is Marshal Matt Dillon played by James Arness. Others included Amanda Blake and Milburn Stone over the 20 seasons it ruled on CBS. But one of them actually played seven different characters throughout the show’s run. It might surprise you when you find out.

‘Gunsmoke’ Actor Had Seven Different Roles on Show

This actor is best known for playing Festus on there. His real name? Ken Curtis. And he actually played seven different characters on Gunsmoke. Hard to believe, right? Well, let’s take a look and see how this all breaks down.

Let’s clear the air about this point. Curtis actually did play six different characters between 1959-1963. These were black-and-white episodes as Gunsmoke had not made the transition to color episodes yet.

Curtis was starring in a show titled Ripcord at one point. But it was canceled after two seasons. This left him open to join Gunsmoke as a regular in 1964. Yep, we know that he played Festus. It’s those other characters that we want to know about, too.

From Cattlemen To A Casanova, Ken Curtis Did It All

Among those other characters, Curtis played cattlemen, good guys, bad guys, a Casanova cowboy, and a Native American. Yes, he played all those roles on the classic TV Western. 

On his first appearance on Gunsmoke, Ken Curtis played cattle driver Phil Jacks in an episode titled Jayhawkers. We get more about these roles from MeTV. But he came back to appear as Brisco in Change of Heart. Then, in The Ex-Urbanites, he played a villain named Jesse. In Speak Me Fair, Curtis was a Native American named Scout.

Now we get another side of the Gunsmoke star here. Would you believe that he played a casanova named Kyle in Lover Boy? He sure did. But here’s a solid twist to the Gunsmoke episodes. And it was something that was actually not that unusual for TV shows in the 1960s to do.

Let’s say that you had a character like Festus. He’s loveable, rascally, and a close confidant of Matt. But we get an episode where Festus has an outlaw that looks just like him. In the 1972 episode Alias Festus Haggen, Curtis, according to IMDb, plays Festus as well as Frank Eaton. In other words, you get a two-for-one showing from Curtis here.

Let’s go back, though, to his first appearance on Gunsmoke. The episode was titled Us Haggens and we learned that Festus has a twin brother named Fergus.

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