Daniel Roebuck finally felt like a star on Matlock

He even used his star power to get one of his best hometown friends a guest role!

The Matlock episode "The Haunted" is about a case where a patient gets accused of murdering her plastic surgeon, but it’s not Ben that’s defending the accused. It’s a case that’s among his sidekick Cliff Lewis’ earliest, and it becomes increasingly hard for Ben not to be a backseat driver and get involved on the case.

Playing Cliff Lewis was Daniel Roebuck, who appeared in 55 Matlock episodes after his character was introduced in 1992.

His casting came after Roebuck appeared as a doctor in Matlock’s first season, and Griffith reportedly became so impressed that he promised Roebuck to make him a regular.

It took five years before that happened, and in the meantime, Roebuck appeared on Matlock as two other characters, one a lawyer, the other a prosecutor. But eventually Griffith did come calling and make good on his word. That’s the way it usually goes when Griffith notices great acting.

When Roebuck’s episodes started airing, TV critics were amused by the "earnest aide who’s always been one sandwich short of a picnic," as one critic wrote in a Washington Post review that called Cliff Lewis "more like a new character and a half" on the show.

Before Matlock, Roebuck took part in an eclectic filmography, memorably appearing in major roles in 1990s movies like The Fugitive and TV shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation. But he never felt he got the star treatment until he walked on the Matlock set.

He felt so at home there that when a jury foreman role came up in 1994, Roebuck asked the casting director if the show would let one of his best friends from his hometown fill it, even though his friend had never really appeared on TV or in movies before.

The casting director took Roebuck’s word that Rod Gilson would fit the bill, and cast the newbie for the role with no audition.

By then, Roebuck’s character had shifted some, from the naïve aide to the more steady-handed sidekick, ready to take on his own cases. Roebuck described why he liked that character shift for Cliff Lewis in 1994:

"He’s going to be less naïve, more on the ball," Roebuck said. "It’s been nice playing that not-with-it character, but I’m enjoying dressing nicer and being smarter."

When his old pal Rod came onto the show, Rod said he got a taste of the star treatment that his buddy Dan had so enjoyed about his time on Matlock.

"It was a lot of fun being with Dan and meeting the people," Gilson told The Morning Call in 1994. "They really treated me like I was a lead. They really pampered me. And Dan said they treat everyone that way."

By the end of Matlock’s run, Cliff Lewis had become so central to the show’s story that the final episode of the entire series finds Roebuck’s character accused of murder. And we all know who he chooses to defend him in "The Scam."

After Matlock, Roebuck has continued acting on TV and movies, right up to today. He’s most recently been cast in the upcoming Munsters reboot as Grandpa Munster.

Watch Matlock on MeTV!

Weekdays at 10 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

20 Comments

Post a comment
Boriscat104 1 month ago
Wasn't Daniel Roebuck quite a chubby fellow in the first few Matlock shows where he played a doctor ? How did he lose the extra pounds to become the eye candy that he became?
Kenner 2 months ago
And then he started a business with Mr. Sears? 😀
Pacificsun 2 months ago
Nice story. I like how much depth the writer put into it. Thank you.
RobertM 3 months ago
I've always liked Daniel Roebuck--not to mention his father, Sears Roebuck.
LoveMETV22 RobertM 3 months ago
For your comic styling's:

I wonder though does he have any relatives that may have been part of the Sears& Roebuck Corp....LOL
PulsarStargrave 3 months ago
I lost interest after he became a cast member. No comment on his acting, I just wasn't into his character. His role was like Howard Sprague, Oliver, Great Gazoo and a bunch of other "Jump The Shark" characters that signal the end is near...kinda like when The Fugitive went to color or when nearly episode of BATMAN took place in the same black room!
Michael PulsarStargrave 3 months ago
He was a lawyer, but as I recall, his work with Matlock was mostly doing investigative work. So he took over from Tyler and Conrad.

What I found annoying was it brought in his father, "Billy lewis"
Jon Michael 3 months ago
Yes, and his dad was also Susan Ross' dad. Susan Ross was George Costanza's ill-fated fiancee on SEINFELD, who died from licking invitation envelopes w/ toxic glue. In a montage during SEINFELD's finale, Mr. Ross was seen buying a gun in case George got away w/ "criminal indifference".
Michael Jon 3 months ago
It's the same actor? I missed that. He's more subdued as Susan's father. And the father loved John Cheever very deeply.
MarkSpeck Michael 3 months ago
There was a third role for him...in Twin Peaks.

I don't remember his character's name on Twin Peaks, but the actor, Warren Frost, got hired for the role thanks to his son, Mark Frost, who was one of the main producers, along with David Lynch. Warren appeared on Twin Peaks at the same time he was recurring on Matlock, just as he started appearing on Seinfeld while on Matlock.

Also, Warren's daughter, Lindsay Frost, turned up on TV quite a lot in the late '80s and early '90's, starring in short-lived shows like Mancuso, FBI and Nightmare Cafe and guest-starring on shows like L.A. Law and Murder, She Wrote.
AndreaZ PulsarStargrave 2 months ago
I think Jere was the jump the shark character.
Runeshaper 3 months ago
The "one sandwich short of a picnic" had me cracking up! LOL It's cool that he got his friend a part on the show and it's a true honor to play Grandpa Munster.
MrsPhilHarris Runeshaper 3 months ago
Me too! That was a lol statement.
Coldnorth Runeshaper 3 months ago
One ant short of a picnic? One beer short of a six pack? Lol so many good ones
LoveMETV22 Coldnorth 2 months ago
Lol, there are: one card short of a deck, a few slices short of a loaf, and many others.
Michael 3 months ago
Wasn't his first role as Cliff ij the episode where Matlock and his daughter go to the beach so she can meet old friends. Cliff is there hoping to get a job with Matlock, but endsup sleeping in his car, and accused of murder.

Meanwhile, one of the friends is a hit man.
MrsPhilHarris Michael 3 months ago
Yes that was his first.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?