At first, Dennis Weaver considered the part of Chester Goode ''inane''

It took Weaver a moment to see the humor in Chester Goode.

First impressions aren't everything. Sure, maybe you're someone who has a sixth sense about this sort of thing, but mostly, it takes effort and time spent getting to know someone before you can truly judge their character.

For Dennis Weaver, the most time he was given to get to know someone like Chester Goode was about the amount of time it took for him to read the sides during his audition for Gunsmoke. According to Weaver's autobiography, All the World's a Stage, he was actually invited to audition for Gunsmoke by Bill Warren, with whom he had previously worked on Seven Angry Men. After an initial interview, Weaver explained that he was instructed to perform a reading of a Gunsmoke scene as part of his audition. For those not theatre-savvy, Weaver noted that "sides" in the industry were "just a little scene, not the whole script."

For Weaver, the reading was his initial contact with the character, but their first meeting was less than ideal. Weaver wrote, "Well, I went out and I looked at the sides. I've got to tell you, the character was so inane it was on the borderline of being really stupid." Still, Weaver was determined to perform the role to the best of his abilities. He continued, "I said to myself, 'With all my Actors Studio training, I'll correct this character by using my own experiences and drawing from myself. I'll read it straight.'" 

Unfortunately, while Weaver "read it straight" he had accidentally committed a total misreading of the character. Weaver wrote in his book that during the audition, he could tell that the director and producer weren't exactly pleased with the direction he had taken the character.

Warren told Weaver, "You know, Den, we were hoping for a little more humor from this character."

It was then that Weaver began to understand the character. Weaver wrote, "I said, 'Oh, humor. Listen, I think I know what you mean.'" He asked for a bit of additional preparation time, during which he decided to play the part of Chester Goode as a sort of imitation of a boy that Weaver had gone to school with previously. Moreover, while giving the character a second look, Weaver was able to see Chester Goode in a different light. He wrote, "It changed my entire psyche. My whole way of thinking changed - and it began to get a little funny even for me."

Not only did the reconfiguration benefit Weaver, but it benefited his audition as well. He wrote, "I ran back in and I read it with that attitude and that accent, and they went right on the floor. They could not contain themselves. They were laughing all the way through it! The change was unbelievable."

Obviously, we know that Weaver would later receive the congratulatory call informing him that he had gotten the role, to no one's surprise. However, the story just goes to show that you can't always judge a book by its cover.


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3 Comments

Pacificsun 2 months ago
This is such a great story, evident on so many levels. I love reading the industry jargon. The mechanics of trial and testing. Understanding that what seems to be such an obvious character portrayal. Came about with through thought and skills ( mixing serious with just the right touch of humor). "Chester" was such a beloved character in the day. My dad watched every single Western on television. And I can remember watching how much enjoyed the Gunsmoke ensemble. He was a very talented writer, and immediately recognized quality, thought and heart into presenting those storylines!

Great point of view in this article. Thank you so much MeTV Writer. We can learn a lot from reading these stories being offered lately!!
Snickers 2 months ago
Will always remember Weaver for his role in Duel. Good movie full of tension and terror as the unknown truck driver stalked Weaver's character.
Runeshaper 2 months ago
You can't always judge a book by its cover, indeed!
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