Pernell Roberts, star of Bonanza and Trapper John, M.D. has died at the age of 81, CNN is reporting. Roberts appeared on Bonanza for six seasons as Adam Cartwright, from 1959 to 1965, before leaving in a dispute with the producers. Apparently old problems died hard. A statement released by the Roberts family lawyer upon his death again referenced the conflict:
Accustomed to freely moving from part to part, now being in a wildly popular show, without costume changes, about three grown men living at home with their father, he found did not hold much creative interest for him.
On the set of Bonanza, he protested the use of all white crews and guest stars, finding some support but never enough to satisfy his sense of outrage.
Later years found Roberts appearing as M*A*S*H character Trapper John in Trapper John, M.D. from 1979 - 1986. A medical drama set in the present day, it followed the character's life as the head of surgery years after his service in Korea. Though no doubt bolstered by the success of the M*A*S*H sitcom, the show was technically a spin-off of Robert Altman's movie.
Married four times, Roberts was also visibly active in the Civil Rights movement.