‘Gunsmoke’: How the Legendary Series Kickstarted Burt Reynolds’ Career

by Emily Morgan
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Before he passed away, Burt Reynolds fondly recalled his years working on “Gunsmoke” as the “happiest” of his life.

Before Reynolds appeared in iconic films such as Smokey and the Bandit or the hit show “Evening Shade,” a much younger Reynolds got his start on the western series “Gunsmoke.”

In 1962, Reynolds’ career would take off after Dennis Weaver’s made his departure from the show. With this, came the creation of a new character, Quint Asper. 

Before Reynolds auditioned with 300 other actors, he was a former football player at Florida State University.

However, Reynolds wasn’t new to the entertainment industry. He previously starred in Riverboat and appeared in classic TV shows such as “Perry Mason” and “The Twilight Zone.”

After a successful audition, “Gunsmoke” had a new addition, and fans fell in love with Reynolds and his character Quint. 

Reynold’s first appearance came during the episode “Quint Asper Comes Home.” The episode centers around Quint avenging his father’s unjust death. 

Burt Reynolds: ‘Gunsmoke’ Was The Happiest Period Of My Life

In an interview, Reynolds thought he was just brought on as a guest star, not as a regular appearing character. 

“Every actor in town loved doing the show, because it was a family and — now that I think back about it — I don’t think anybody in town, before or since, ever had the generosity of spirit that they had on that show in terms of being an ensemble group, where it was Kitty’s [Amanda Blake] turn or Doc’s [Milburn Stone] turn or Chester’s [Dennis Weaver] turn or whoever’s turn,” Reynolds said.

Burt Reynolds had recurring appearances for three seasons until he left the show in 1965. 

The beloved series aired on CBS for 20 years, and yet Reynolds’ relatively short period on the Western remains popular among fans of the genre.

During an interview, Reynolds said that being on “Gunsmoke” was “the happiest period of my life. I hated to leave that show but I felt I had served my apprenticeship. There wasn’t room for two leading men.”

After “Gunsmoke,” Reynolds traded in his cowboy hat for a detective’s badge when he starred in the series “Hawk” and the “Dan August.” 

After his time on “Dan August,” Reynolds landed the role of Lewis Medlock in the iconic 1972 film, Deliverance.

Outsider.com