Did you know that Walker, Texas Ranger and Matlock have a connection? One star appeared as a regular on both television shows.
Clarence Gilyard is the man who appeared on both television shows. He starred as private investigator Conrad McMasters. His character acted as the right-hand man to Ben Matlock (portrayed by Andy Griffith) in the drama Matlock. He starred in the legal series from 1989 through 1993.
Gilyard originally replaced Kene Holliday in 1989 due to Holliday’s serious drug and alcohol abuse. For Season 7, the television show moved from NBC to ABC, which also meant that the production moved from Los Angeles, California to Wilmington, North Carolina. He moved to North Carolina but just a year later, left to audition for the CBS pilot, Walker Texas Ranger.
Shortly after his time on Matlock ended, he joined the cast of Walker, Texas Ranger. He appeared as James “Jimmy” Trivette. Jimmy was the partner of Cordell Walker (played by Chuck Norris). He starred on the show from 1993 to 2001. Gilyard was later featured in the 2005 made-for television film based on the series, Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire.
Clarence on ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’
Clarence Gilyard almost didn’t take the role of Jimmy. He was actually working on a television pilot that he was going to sell to CBS. “I was about to sign a contract for a pilot for my own television series, but my agent said, ‘Hey, you should probably look at this [part for Walker, Texas Ranger],'” he told Get TV. “Chuck had made a deal with CBS for 13 episodes on the air. And I figured, you know, 13 checks versus one check.”
Gilyard understands why the show means so much to so many people. In fact, he had so many personal relations to his character that it’s quite a surprise that the character was written prior to his audition for the role.
“I’ll tell you what it is. People are living a lot longer, and television in the home can still be a family event,” he explained. “It’s a family pastime. And Walker, even though it was moving into a high-action genre, was still a family show. And essentially, we were a family [on the show] and people allowed us into their homes. They liked our family, the chemistry was there. Chuck did a pretty good job putting together a family.”
His Time on ‘Matlock’
His first legendary role before Walker, Texas Ranger was on Matlock. The role of Conrad McMasters came to Gilyard when he was considering leaving television. His agent said that Andy Griffith was looking for a co-star for his upcoming show. The casting directors narrowed it down and flew Gilyard to New York to do a screen test with Griffith. Griffith flew in from North Carolina to personally hand-select his new co-star.
“I was really nervous because I had revered him as a child,” Gilyard told Cadillac News. He watched Griffith on television daily and was admittingly nervous for the screen test.
“Obviously, it all worked out great. I owe my career to him,” he said. “I think, because he really started to mentor me over those four years, to be quite honest with you.”