Wright King once brought all his sons onto Gunsmoke
The same episode was a family affair for one of the stars, too!
Wright King might be better known to Western fans for his role as Steve McQueen’s sidekick on Wanted: Dead Or Alive, but it’s clear that Gunsmoke also holds a special place in the prolific actor’s heart.
King first appeared on Gunsmoke in the show’s first season, and memorably featured on the famous TV Western a total of eight times.
It’s likely that his fourth episode was his personal favorite appearance.
For "Little Girl," both King and Gunsmoke star Dennis Weaver each brought their three real sons into the 1961 episode.
Weaver’s boys are called Ricky, Robby and Rusty, and King’s kids are Meegan, Michael and Wright, Jr., who went by Rip. In the episode, all six boys played sons of King’s character.
Of the pack, all of Weaver’s boys continued acting, while only one of King’s sons, Meegan, followed in his dad’s acting shoes.
In the episode, King plays the head of a large family that Matt Dillon tries to place an orphan in, and it’s a fitting role for King, who was the kind of dad to his sons who liked to take care of everything, including building the house they lived in.
In 1960, King moved his family into a house that was too small, and then added on four new rooms, not by hiring out help, but by grabbing a hammer and nails and getting down to it.
"I’m doing it all myself, board by board," King told the Jefferson City Post-Tribune.
That same year, King had his big break on Wanted: Dead Or Alive, when he was cast as a series regular.
The star of that show Steve McQueen said that at the age of 33, King had hundreds of acting credits to his name and was the perfect addition to the show because he had become an extremely talented actor.
"Wright King brings to our series an unusual ability to portray in full dimension a young man seeking to find the delicate balance between financial satisfaction – the reaping of a bounty – and the upholding of law and order by bringing criminals to justice," McQueen told The Daily Capital News in 1960.
In his career, King appeared in TV shows and movies from 1949 to 1978, retiring to a quiet life with his longtime wife June after just shy of three decades acting.
While some of his biggest fans likely remember him best for his eerie Twilight Zone episodes, it was Westerns that got him the most attention, and to get those parts, he had to fall back on using the Oklahoma accent he’d foolishly buffed away when he originally moved to New York.
"I thanked God for my early horseback riding on the farm and that old Okie accent that I could drag up on a moment’s notice," King once said.