Buck Taylor wasn’t part of the original cast of Gunsmoke. But the actor has become a significant part of its legacy. The series – which began life as a radio drama – premiered on television in 1955, with James Arness as U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon. However, the road that led Taylor to Gunsmoke involves a path the actor very nearly walked down instead of success as a TV star.
Buck Taylor joined ‘Gunsmoke’ as Newly O’Brian in 1967
For nearly Gunsmoke‘s entire run, the show principally starred Arness and Amanda Blake. But around 1967, Taylor joined as a character named Newly O’Brien. Following Burt Reynolds’ Quint Asper and Roger Ewing’s Thad Greenwood, Newly was the latest in a series of acting deputies who played an ongoing role on the show. But this time, the character stuck around.
Newly was more than just a backup deputy. He also came in handy as a doctor-in-training, thanks to the tutelage of his uncle. After the character’s debut, Taylor remained a key part of the show until its cancellation in 1975. However, he was feeding another passion prior to the life-changing incident that turned its focus to acting.
Buck Taylor was forced to give up his dream of being a gymnast
In an interview with Bette Rogge, Taylor offered some insight into how his life led him to the role that would come to define his career. The actor previously pursued gymnastics and even hoped to compete in the Olympic Games someday. However, he did eventually turn to acting. That’s when something happened that he couldn’t have foreseen.
“I tried out for the Olympics, but I didn’t make the team. I think I worked out every day for about 12 years, very hard. … Then when I started acting, I did a couple of saddle falls, stunt work, and I chipped my shoulder. So I had to give up the gymnastics.”
Notably, Taylor never intended to be a stunt performer. But in the early days of his acting career, his gymnastics background lent itself to stunt work. Alas, that wasn’t the path Taylor was meant to follow, it seems.
Buck Taylor recently appeared on another hit Western TV series
Taylor appeared in a variety of Western-themed projects in the years since Gunsmoke ended. These include films such as 1993’s Tombstone, 2011’s Cowboys & Aliens, and 2016’s Hell or High Water. He also popped up in the TV miniseries like 1987’s The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory and 1997’s Rough Riders. He also reprised his role as Newly O’Brien in the Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge TV movie from 1987.
But Taylor’s most recent roles might also go down as one of his most popular. The iconic actor played Emmett Walsh throughout the first five seasons of Yellowstone. That Western TV show – which stars Kevin Costner – singlehandedly put Paramount Network on the map. And though Taylor has exited the series, Yellowstone likely introduced him to a whole new generation of fans.