It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Chuck Connors starring in “The Rifleman” as rancher Lucas McCain. Connors can really play a convincing cowboy. However, at the beginning of his acting career, he had to go to great lengths to convince producers that playing a cowboy is something he could do successfully.
According to MeTV, Connors spent the earliest years of his acting career playing roles that weren’t cowboys. Playing a cowboy, however, was on his radar.
“After two years in pictures, I had never been in a Western, and my secret desire was to be a Gary Cooper. I was tall, thin and looked like one of those guys,” Connors once said.
A few of his personal qualities, including the sound of his voice and his haircut, prevented Hollywood producers from seeing the future star of “The Rifleman” as a convincing cowboy.
“I had a Brooklyn accent, didn’t know how to ride a horse, and wore a crewcut that hardly looked western,” Connors also explained.
Chuck Connors Said the Horse He Purchased Wasn’t a ‘Real Good One’
In order to act more like a cowboy, “The Rifleman” star decided he needed something essential to the cowboy way of life. That, of course, is a horse. So, he decided to buy one. Approximately $50 later, Chuck Connors had his horse.
“It had a game leg. The wrangler wouldn’t sell me a real good one,” the actor also shared.
Next, he had to have somewhere to keep the horse. He also had to learn how to ride. This led him to rent land. On that one acre, he constructed a stable and a fence. “I fed the horse, watered it,” Connors also said.
His cowboy education also got underway. He taught himself to ride and how to act like a cowboy. “The Rifleman” star also began to change his hair and how he spoke.
“I worked on the accent and let the hair grow,” Connors recalled.
‘The Rifleman’ Star Chuck Connors Came to Hollywood from Professional Baseball
“The Rifleman” star Chuck Connors did not set out to become an actor. He actually started out as a professional athlete. He played for the Boston Celtics in the NBA. He was also a professional baseball player. He played for both the Chicago Cubs and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
However, his major league career was not meant to be and he ended up in the minor league. When it came to an end, his friends helped him land acting roles in films. Connors talked about their assistance during a 1961 interview with Rick Du Brow.
“Let’s not kid each other. I got into this (acting) business because I was a ballplayer, not an actor. My pals in the movie business — the stars, casting directors, and others — gave me a break,” the actor said.