Pernell Roberts Consulted A Doctor For His Problems With ‘Bonanza’


Since 1973, Bonanza enchanted viewers with a memorable quartet of Cartwrights, each with his own distinct personality and outfit. Pernell Roberts was an integral part of Bonanza‘s success formula in the early days but unlike show fans, he had such problems with the program he consulted a doctor.

The entire showrun saw Lorne Green and Michael Landon as Ben and Little Joe Cartwright, respectively, while Dan Blocker was big Hoss right until his death in ’72. Pernell had a main role as Adam for the first six seasons before departing in ’65, feeling chafed as an actor. Pernell felt he was confronted with so many burdensome compromises that he needed professional help — and, eventually, an escape.

Pernell Roberts chafed working on ‘Bonanza’ and spoke to a doctor

While Bonanza was a national sensation, Pernell had several grievances when it came to filming, a revelation he shared in interviews after his departure. “I was in the series for six years,” he shared with the Washington Post in 1988. “I fought with the powers about the scripts, character development, and other things. It got so I was upset the minute I arrived for work. that’s no way to live.”

The actor distinctly directed blame away from his co-stars, as well as from series creator David Dortort. “It wasn’t their fault,” he insisted. “It was mine. The thing became a real crusher, mentally, for me. I even went to a doctor for help.”


Despite going to this measure, Pernell still struggled, to the point where he even believed, “I don’t have the psychological stamina to last under artistic compromises over a prolonged period of time. I get hostile and vindictive. It wears me down.”

The actor eventually had to leave

Pernell also laid it out while speaking with The Daily News Leader. “I left Bonanza because I wanted to expand as an actor,” he explained. “Playing the same character week after week no longer was a challenge to me. The money, was great, sure, but I had to decide if I wanted just the money or a chance to prove myself as an actor. I chose the latter and found that almost everyone thought I was crazy.”

Leaving Bonanza left only so many problems in the rearview mirror, however, as Pernell found himself subject to typecasting. “I was being offered jobs,” he recalled, “but they were all parts like Adam Cartwright. I had to just sit and wait until something came along that would show a different side of me. I worked, but I wasn’t happy.”

Eventually, however, Pernell did find steady work as the title character of Dr. John McIntyre in CBS’s Trapper John, M.D. The show acted as a spinoff to the 1970 M*A*S*H film and ran for seven seasons, from ’79 to ’86.

Which series did you prefer Pernell Roberts in?