‘Bonanza’: Who Was the Producers First Choice for Adam Cartwright Role?

by Thad Mitchell
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As one of the most iconic shows to ever appear on television, “Bonanza” has a robust fan base.

Running on air from 1959 to 1973, Bonanza covered 431 episodes in 14 seasons. Though it has been nearly 50 years since the last episode, Bonanza remains culturally relevant to this day. The show continues to air in syndication today to the delight of old and new fans.

The show’s storylines revolve around the Cartwright family, who live on a vast estate called the Ponderosa. Ben Cartwright, the family’s patriarch, has three sons by three different wives. The oldest son, Adam Cartwright, is a primary character on the show play by actor Pernell Roberts. The eldest Cartwright son is an architect and builds the ranch house that the family lives in.

It would be hard for Bonanza fans to imagine anyone but Roberts playing the role of Adam Cartwright. As hard as it might be to imagine, Roberts was not the first choice, according to Neatorama.

The first choice to play Adam Cartwright on Bonanza was veteran actor Guy Williams, who plays John Robinson in “Lost in Space.” Williams ended up picking another show to star in called “Zorro.” Though he didn’t take the part of Adam Cartwright, Williams would later appear on the show as Will Cartwright for five episodes. Williams was reportedly brought on board to the show as a backup plan should Roberts abruptly leave the show.

Bonanza Actor Criticizes Show’s Premise

Roberts allegedly had a great amount of disdain for the show and fought with Bonanza writers over his character’s actions. He tried numerous times to get out of his contract and leave the show and called the script “low brow.” Roberts also criticized the show’s direction, saying it was demeaning toward women and “glorified wealth in an era of poverty.”

Roberts left the series in 1965 after six seasons as Adam Cartwright and took up stage productions. With Roberts leaving the show, Bonanza writers wrote in a mention of Adam being “out to sea” in a later season.

Though he appears in guest-starring roles in more than 60 television series, Roberts’ Bonanza character is what he is most known for. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 81.

Outsider.com