Hollywood Flashback: Mark Hamill remembers playing a Sitcom Cowboy before & # 39; Star Wars & # 39;

Before becoming Luke Skywalker, the actor starred in the 1974 comedy "The Texas Wheelers": "When the show was canceled, it was one of the biggest traumas of my life." I thought: I'll never get a part of that good again & # 39; ".

Before 1977 Star Wars put his career in hyperdrive, Mark Hamill was very good with episodic television work in such forgettable series as ABC The FBI and CBS & # 39 ; Manhunter . One highlight was the 1974 comedy The Texas Wheelers . He focused on a long-absent father who returns with his family in the rural area of ​​Lamont, Texas.

"The show was like a jarring response to [The Waltons] ," says Hamill, 66. "The scripts were amazing, and critics loved the show." Wheelers was created by Dale McRaven, who went on to launch 1978 Mork & Mindy and 1986 Perfect Strangers . The Hollywood Reporter called the show "a wonderfully constructed piece of family comedy." The sitcom premiered on ABC (where Michael Eisner was then VP of programming and development) against the newly released Rockford Files on CBS.

But Wheelers lasted eight episodes; Rockfor d lasted six seasons. " Rockford gave us a cream," says Hamill. "We never had the opportunity." However, Wheelers offered some pleasures. One of them was the ode of folk singer John Prine to smoke marijuana, "Illegal Smile", which played with the opening credits. ( THR called the choice of the song "a stranger"). And then there was the cast. Jack Elam, who had made a career playing wicked-eyed cowboy villains, was the father. Gary Busey, then 30, was Truckie, the older brother / high school drop-outs. And Hamill, 23, played the younger son, Doobie, who still attended Lamont High. (ABC seems to have been unusually tolerant of passing marijuana references.)

"When the show was canceled, it was one of the biggest traumas of my life," says Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker for the fifth time in Star Wars: The Last Jedi which premiered on 15 from December. "I was devastated, I thought: I'll never have such a good part again."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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