Lorne Greene was ''a father figure'' to Michael Landon and Dan Blocker
The actor who played Ben Cartwright was everything we hoped he'd be.
There were only two actors in Bonanza's principal cast who remained on the series for each of its 14 seasons. As Ben Cartwright, Lorne Greene served as patriarch for the entire show. Michael Landon's Little Joe, Ben's son, stayed the course as well. Dan Blocker's Hoss left a year early, and Pernell Roberts saw himself out after just six seasons.
Greene's presence loomed large over the entire series, and his portrayal seemingly changed who he was. He was the forthright center of the Bonanza universe, and Greene commanded attention with his larger-than-life posture and dignified approach. As the series progressed, the line blurred between Ben Cartwright and Lorne Greene; each entity influenced and altered the other.
In a 1965 interview with the Modesto Bee, series creator David Dortort shed light on the ways the series shaped the actor.
"It's positively amazing to see how Lorne Greene has become Ben Cartwright in the past six years," said Dortort. "For example, he and Dan Blocker and Mike Landon used to fool around on the set, actors kidding together. Now, both Blocker and Landon, when they have problems, approach Greene and talk to him as if he were really their father.
"Greene's become a father figure to the cast. He's taken on, almost chameleon-like, the mantle of a Solomon. He's become a man whose opinion is worth listening to, a sage. It's difficult for any of us to determine where Lorne Greene ends and Ben Cartwright begins."
Dortort goes on to explain that, while this isn't exactly rare in Hollywood, where actors and characters often blend, Greene's warmth made him a very special example.
"There is an inexorable law of nature. After a while, we all become a part of what we play. The characteristics become integrated into our own personalities. Five days a week for six years Lorne Greene has been playing nothing but Ben Cartwright, and on Saturdays and Sundays he's been playing Ben Cartwright at state fairs and various rodeos.
"I never knew Lorne before Bonanza, and generally I don't traffic with actors, but Greene and I have become warm, personal friends, and I can tell you he's a fine, level-headed, substantial human being. I'm glad I picked him for the Ben Cartwright role."