The Only Major Actors Still Alive From Bonanza

The Western is a genre that's mostly gone by the wayside in recent decades, as portraits of straight-shooting American heroes and uncomplicated "bad guys" have become less digestible to the public. While popular neo-Westerns (like "Justified" or the works of Taylor Sheridan) and perspective-changing genre breakdowns (like "The Power of the Dog," "Meek's Cutoff," and "Django Unchained") have made a splash in recent yers, the genre has mostly died out. Of the relics that remain, few are as prolific and familiar as "Bonanza," a Western series that ran for an impressive 14 seasons on NBC in the '60s and '70s.

As a long-running TV series, "Bonanza" was able to chart the change — or stubborn lack thereof — within the genre and the country, frankly addressing topics like racism and bigotry while also delivering regular laughs and a dash of melodrama to loyal viewers. The series starred Lorne Green as widower Ben Cartwright and Dan Blocker, Pernell Roberts, and Michael Landon as Ben's three sons. David Canary played ranch foreman Candy Canaday, while Mitch Vogel and Tim Matheson joined the cast in later years, playing an orphan and a rehabilitated ex-con, respectively. Over 50 years after the series' final episode aired, only the latter two actors are still with us.

Tim Matheson as Griff King

A former child actor whose presence on-screen began in the '60s with roles in titles like "Window on Main Street," "Jonny Quest," "Space Ghost," and "The Virginian," Matheson joined "Bonanza" in its final year playing parolee turned ranch hand Griff King. Since then, Matheson has continued working in film and TV, most recently appearing in an episode of the new "Quantum Leap" in 2023.

In the decades since "Bonanza," Matheson took on several memorable roles, including Otter in "Animal House," Dr. Breeland on "Hart of Dixie," Fred's father Brad in "Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated," and Vice President John Hoynes in "The West Wing" (a role that earned him two Emmy nods). Other notable projects Matheson has appeared in include Clint Eastwood's "Magnum Force," 1985's "Fletch," '90s rom-com "She's All That," and the 2019 "Child's Play" reboot. Matheson has worked extensively in the world of TV movies and popped up for guest spots in great shows like "The Good Fight," "Batman: The Animated Series," and "This Is Us."

In addition to acting, Matheson has also worked as a director, stepping behind the camera for dozens of episodes of TV shows beginning with the medical drama "St. Elsewhere" in 1984. He's also politically outspoken when the situation calls for it: when playing Ronald Reagan for a 2016 film, Matheson called Donald Trump a "very troubled, emotional mess" in an interview with USA Today. "I don't know if the man knows the difference between the truth or any of his voluminous lies," Matheson said. "He's a travesty."

Mitch Vogel as Jamie Hunter Cartwright

While Matheson kept acting after "Bonanza," child actor Mitch Vogel's last on-screen appearance came in 1978, just five years after the show ended. A fellow child star, Vogel's first major role was in 1968's Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda-led comedy "Yours, Mine, and Ours," where he played one of the blended family's 18 kids. In "Bonanza," Vogel played an orphaned teen who was adopted by the Cartwright family. He continued to be typecast in Westerns following the show's end, appearing in "Gunsmoke," "Little House on the Prairie," and lesser-known cowboy sagas like "The Quest" and "Here Come The Brides."

Vogel took a few roles — including headlining two Disney-presented TV movies and appearing in Steve McQueen's "The Reivers" — before acting in his final on-screen part to date, the hicksploitation film "Texas Detour." According to sites including Wide Open Country, Vogel left LA for Pittsburgh, where he started both a rock band and a family. While it's unclear why Vogel stepped away from acting, he spoke frankly about his mixed feelings on celebrity in an interview with the Star Tribune (per MeTV) when he was a teen.

"When 'Bonanza' isn't shooting I go back to regular school," Vogel told the Star. "Some of the kids, they don't know how to take me, seeing me on TV. They just don't want to accept the fact that I'm just a person. It gets kind of frustrating sometimes." He also explained that he worked in part to help take care of his family, including his grandmother, sister, and mom. According to Wide Open Country, Vogel now lives in southern California, where he is involved in music, church, and the occasional "Bonanza"-related event.