Ken Curtis didn't mind if he was typecast as Festus
Ken Curtis didn't care if he was known as Festus.
We can understand why many actors fear being typecast; Monotony can be grating on the nerves, and there's always the possibility that you'll be denied an interesting role because someone doesn't believe you as the character. Many actors spend years fighting to branch out throughout their careers in an attempt to escape the role they'll forever be recognized as.
But one person who embraced his character was Ken Curtis, who played Festus in Gunsmoke. When asked whether he felt he would be typecast as Festus for the rest of his acting career in an interview with the Associated Press, Curtis granted, "Could be" but added, "I don't care." He explained, "I've got no great ambition to do Shakespeare. I want to do what I can do best, and I think this is my cup of tea."
Sure to increase his appreciation for the role is the fact that Curtis was acting from a place of realism when he played Festus. The character offered some great additional comedy to the show, but some of the traits came from people in Curtis's life. He said, "He's a combination of people I've known all my life."
He continued, "Festus is from my part of the country, the dry lands of Southeast Colorado, the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, and part of Kansas."
So much so that was Curtis known as Festus that it actually affected his daily life. In an interview with United Press International, Curtis said, "I have to wear my best clothes off-stage. Otherwise, I'd be rousted by the police for being a bum. It's necessary for me to have a few days' growth of beard for the show, so I have to counterbalance my appearance as much as possible."
Of Festus, Curtis said, "He has a lot of dimensions. Festus may look like the world's biggest mess, but underneath it all lies a heart of pure gold brick."