Ken Curtis wanted to see Festus get into more fights on ''Gunsmoke''
Curtis thought fans would enjoy seeing Festus get rowdy.
Ken Curtis knew that he got into a good thing when he was cast on Gunsmoke. This feels almost like a given; the television series was borne of a wildly successful radio series, and by the time Curtis joined the cast, the series was already in its ninth season.
Curtis was well aware of his good fortune, and stated in an interview with The Times Herald, "I figure to stay with Gunsmoke as long as I can." He rationalized, "Any actor who leaves a show that has a part that's made for him is foolish." While Curtis expressed a desire to work in film later in his career, he confirmed, "My plans are to stay on Gunsmoke as long as they'll have me."
Curtis was only discontent with one singular aspect of his character during his time on Gunsmoke. In an interview with The Buffalo News, Curtis explained that he'd like to see Festus get a bit physical now and then and get into a few more fights on screen. He said, "The banty rooster must fight and get whipped. Fans like to see me fight, and they also like to see the sneaky side of Haggen."
He added, "It's an important part of the character."
Curtis had a connection to the character immediately, and his approach to the role was far beyond mental preparation. In an interview with the Copley News Service, Curtis explained that when he donned that dirty old costume, he felt right at home as Festus. He said, "The minute I get into those Raunch clothes that Festus favors and I put on that moth-eaten old hat, my grammar goes to pot. What happens, I begin to feel like Festus in those duds."
Whether he fought or not, fans were as warmly receptive to Festive as Curtis was. A producer of Gunsmoke, Norman Macdonnell spoke of the fan mail the show received after Festus arrived in the series to The Buffalo News. Macdonnell said that, of the letters they receive, "About 75% of it is favorable, the rest hate him, so we figure we've got a winning character."