Before hitting the theaters as a Hollywood movie star with Smokey and The Bandit, Burt Reynolds found ground in the entertainment industry as a recurring Quint Asper on Gunsmoke's CBS television series.
In 1962, Dennis Weaver decided to leave Gunsmoke, one of the top tv shows in the country. The producers developed a new character for the show, a half-Comanche blacksmith named Quint Asper. Reynolds surpassed over 300 other actors to win the role.
He is first introduced in the series in the episode "Quint Asper Comes Home," as we find out he is trying to avenge his father's death. Marshall Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, takes a liking to the angry young man, and he appears in the next three seasons of the show. While three seasons is hardly a drop in the water compared to a 20 year run on CBS, this role remains as one of Reynolds' most renowned. He later said that being in that show was "the happiest period of my life. I hated to leave that show, but I felt I had served my apprenticeship, and there wasn't room for two leading men."
In an interview, Arness confessed that he believed the TV western kept Reynolds from using his best skills. "Of course, as we've learned in later years, one of his great skills is his comedic skill," Arness also said of Reynolds. "Of course, he was not able to bring that to the character at all. He had to be a very serious guy, actually, and he was playing a form of racial discrimination... He had to play that, so he couldn't really use his actually strongest point, which was his marvelous sense of humor."
The actor continued, "But, he was a wonderful guy to work with. We all became friends. He just fit right into the family group, and we had a wonderful time. He was there, I think, only a couple of seasons. And, then he moved on and, of course, went on to gigantic screen stardom, you know."
In an interview for the book Gunsmoke: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western, Reynolds revealed that "Every actor in town loved doing the show because it was a family and -- now that I think back about it -- I don't think anybody in town, before or since, ever had the generosity of spirit that they had on that show in terms of being an ensemble group, where it was Kitty's [Amanda Blake] turn or Doc's [Milburn Stone] turn or Chester's [Dennis Weaver] turn or whoever's turn. It was a great place for young actors to learn some manners and behave because, number one, Jim Arness [Marshal Matt Dillon] and Milburn wouldn't put up with it."
After Gunsmoke, Reynolds went on to star in the TV series Dan August and films like Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Boogie Nights, and The Cannonball. According to Reynolds' IMDB, he won 34 academy awards and received 31 nominations.