Dennis Weaver made a heck of an impression on “Gunsmoke” as the trusty sidekick Chester Goode, friend, and partner to Marshall Matt Dillon. In an old interview, Weaver revealed that the inspiration for his portrayal of Chester’s character actually came from a kid he went to college with.
During the interview, Weaver explained how he didn’t really get Chester’s character at first. “He was so inane, and I thought nobody could be this silly,” the actor explained. He shared that he thought to use “all of my actor studio technique and my method and all of that and I would correct that character. I’d make him real.”
After the “Gunsmoke” star read Chester’s part in a more straight and solemn fashion, the showrunners told him how they expected him to bring more humor to the role.
“And when he said humor, the light bulb went on in my head,” Weaver said. “I remembered in the University of Oklahoma, there was a kid from Okarche, Oklahoma. He had such a thick accent you could hardly understand him. And I used to imitate him at parties. And in New York, I used to get a lot of laughs imitating him with that accent.”
The “Gunsmoke” star asked for another chance to read the part. He went out into the hallway to practice again, and suddenly the “character started making sense.”
“I started kind of getting a smile about it myself. I went in and read it with that accent, and they went right on the floor,” Weaver shared.
The thick-as-molasses accent really makes Chester shine on the show. Weaver played him to perfection for the nine years he starred on “Gunsmoke.”
‘Gunsmoke’ Actor Dennis Weaver Confessed He Got Tired of Playing Chester
Dennis Weaver made his mark on the entertainment industry through several roles, including in “Gunsmoke” as Chester Goode. But after a while, the role dragged for him.
“If I’d have known I would do that [role] for nine years, I wouldn’t have picked a character with a stiff leg,” he said in a 1997 interview with the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette. “Try making a campfire with a stiff leg.”
The Los Angles Times included that quote in the actor’s obituary after he died in 2006 at the age of 81.
Weaver’s addition of the stiff leg and thick accent helped solidify Chester as a sidekick on the show. The main focus lay on James Arness, who played Marshall Matt Dillon. Weaver didn’t want to steal the spotlight from him, so he turned Chester into a slightly less central figure on the show. But his efforts as a supporting character managed to land him an Emmy Award in 1959 for “Gunsmoke.”