Pernell Roberts sued ABC for using an unauthorized clip of him in 'Bonanza'
"They asked for permission to use it, and I refused because they weren't going to pay me for it," Roberts revealed. "They used it anyway. What arrogance!"
Pernell Roberts did something that many actors are afraid to do: leave a popular series for the sake of his emotional health. There were a lot of speculations and rumors about why the actor chose to depart from Bonanza after six seasons.
Some of the press created bizarre rumors about the situation, and others thought Roberts was crazy for leaving a career-defining role. He played Adam Cartwright, the eldest son of Ben Cartwright, who was different from his younger brothers. Adam was educated and an architectural engineer.
With the significant success Bonanza saw, even after Roberts' departure, why did he sue ABC in 1979? Well, he told the network they did not have permission to use a clip of him in the show as promotional content, even though they owned the rights to the series.
In an interview with The Pittsburg Press, years after his departure, Roberts revealed why he left and what impacted his decision to sue the network.
"The Bonanza situation was not the most fulfilling of my life. I had to regroup emotionally," he said to The Pittsburg Press editor Barbara Holsopple in an interview in Hollywood. "I needed to get into a different environment for a while, so I concentrated on regional theatre."
Before he transitioned to television, Roberts was a stage actor, and the switch seemed challenging for the actor.
"I just didn't enjoy Bonanza anymore. My contract was up, and I left," he added. "It became joyless, boring, and predictable, and I had to get away. But I never said those things people said I said."
He did criticize the show in a manner that most people thought was harsh, but he believed that his words were twisted to fit a negative narrative.
With such strong feelings toward the western series, it makes sense that he was against his name, likeness, and image being used regarding the show. So when ABC asked if they could use a clip of him in their cowboy reunion show, When the West Was Fun, he said no.
"They asked for permission to use it, and I refused because they weren't going to pay me for it," Roberts revealed. "They used it anyway. What arrogance! What's why I'm suing."
It's not known whether he won the case or not.