Gunsmoke actor Dennis Weaver had a prominent career that the Western television show helped him build. He had further aspirations beyond the comfortable gig in Dodge City, but that didn’t change how passionate he remained regarding the show. Weaver once spoke with leading man James Arness about returning for a Gunsmoke secret spinoff that, unfortunately, never came to be.
‘Gunsmoke’ actor Dennis Weaver quit after season 9
Weaver played Chester Goode on Gunsmoke, quickly becoming one of the most beloved characters on the show. He joined the original cast alongside Arness, Amanda Blake, and Milburn Stone. They had instant on-screen chemistry that allowed Gunsmoke to reach the successful heights that it did. Weaver implemented a limp to make the character his own from the radio iteration of Chester, which ultimately was a factor in why he decided to leave after season 9.
However, Weaver left Gunsmoke for more reasons than that. He also wanted to spread his wings and flex his creative muscles in other roles. The actor felt that he starred as Chester for far too long and took the character in all of the directions that he could imagine. As a result, Weaver left the show more than once, often returning back to the reliable Western television show that offered good pay.
Dennis Weaver and James Arness wanted to make a ‘Gunsmoke’ spinoff
David R. Greenland’s book, The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television’s Greatest Western, included a profile on each of the actors, including Weaver. Producer John Mantley said that the production approached his agent several times to bring him back to the first made-for-TV movie, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge. However, they never came to an agreement. Meanwhile, Weaver initially said that he was never approached for the project, later changing his story that “there were some early discussions.”
Weaver remained close with his Gunsmoke co-star, Arness. They still talked about their time on the show, discussing the potential of igniting a project together of their own. Weaver and Arness wanted to do a Chester and Matt spinoff that took place after a time jump. This would allow the two iconic characters to look back at their lives “at the turn of the century.”
“It’s just kind of a transition for these two guys into the automobile age,” Weaver said. “We are what we are. I just think it would be wonderful.”
However, the project never took off, which is a shame because fans would have loved to see Arness and Weaver get together for one last Gunsmoke hurrah.
What did he do after he left the Western show?
Weaver found success after he left Gunsmoke. He starred on other television shows such as Kentucky Jones, Gentle Ben, and McCloud. He proved his ability to carry a story as the leading man, rather than the sidekick that he played on Gunsmoke. Weaver also played David Mann in Steven Spielberg’s Duel which continues to excite the filmmaker’s fans to this day.
Outside of acting, Weaver also enjoyed spending his time as a musician and an activist. He co-founded a charity food distribution service called LIFE (Love is Feeding Everyone) and worked to spread awareness regarding environmentalism. He even became the president of the Screen Actors Guild between the years 1973 and 1975.