Mitch Vogel hit the child actor’s jackpot when he landed a role on the final three seasons of the western, “Bonanza.” At the time, it was widely known as the most popular television series and was commanding the ratings each night it aired.
When the show cast Vogel as Jamie Hunter, the orphan taken in and adopted by the Cartwrights, little did they know he would become a beloved fixture on the show for its final three seasons. According to Vogel, once he met his older, more experienced cast members, his nerves about being on the show dissipated.
“The thing that impressed me so much was that Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, and Dan Blocker were all so very nice to me. They brought me pictures — which I didn’t ask for — that they signed to me. They made me feel so special,” he said in an interview with Jeremy Roberts.
Several years earlier, 10-year-old Vogel began his acting career by appearing in stage productions of Tom Sawyer, Heidi, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz.
Mitch Vogel Books Gig of a Lifetime on ‘Bonanza’
He landed a part in the comedy Yours, Mine and Ours when he was 12. He starred alongside Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. The following year he played the role of Lucius McCaslin in The Reivers, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination as the Best Supporting Actor.
He would break onto “Bonanza” when he guest-starred in an episode titled “The Real People of Muddy Creek.” The episode premiered during the show’s tenth season on Oct 6, 1968.
“I actually did a guest star part on ‘Bonanza’ when I was 12 years old — two seasons before I officially joined the cast. I didn’t even have to audition for ‘The Real People of Muddy Creek,'” he added. “They just asked me to do it. Even though it was a small part, I had a great time being there. I remember being on the set for about two days.”
After wowing show creator David Dortort, the writers wrote Jamie Hunter’s part with Vogel specifically in mind. Vogel made his “Bonanza” debut as a castmember in 1970, in a season 12 episode titled “A Matter of Faith.”
“David actually didn’t tell me that I was going to be a series regular. He kinda said you can come and stay with us. But it wasn’t a commitment at that point for a series. I guess David wanted to see how the character would resonate with people. Apparently, it resonated well. He officially asked me to join the cast not long after. It was quite exciting to be asked to do something like that without having to audition or anything.”