Burt Reynolds was best known for his big screen roles in films like Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, and Boogie Nights. But the Oscar-nominated actor actually started his career on TV when another wannabe actor, Rip Torn, got him a TV job that required him to be set on fire. From there, Reynolds started to moonlight as a TV stuntman.
In 1962, Reynolds was cast on Gunsmoke, playing blacksmith Quint Asper for three seasons, and by 1970 he landed a starring role on the police drama, Dan August. But even as a leading man, Reynolds doubted his acting abilities, he told Entertainment Weekly.
“I was supposed to run into a burning building and run out with a baby,” Reynolds told EW of a Dan August scene. “It was so hot when I got in there that there was this melted piece of s*** that was supposed to be the baby and there was no way out. The door was gone. So I jumped through the window and hurt my shoulder. It was stupid macho bulls***, but I did it because I wasn’t sure if I was good enough as an actor.”
Reynolds went on to prove his acting prowess on the big screen, but he never forgot where he came from. In addition to a later, long-running sitcom role as Wood Newton on the 1990s sitcom, Evening Shade, Burt Reynolds made dozens of TV appearances and surprising cameos throughout his career. In fact, TV fans never knew where Burt Reynolds would pop up.
Twilight Zone — In 1963, Reynolds appeared on The Twilight Zone episode “The Bard,” playing Rocky Rhodes in an episode about an inept screenwriter (Jack Weston) who uses black magic to get William Shakespeare (John Williams) to be his ghostwriter.
Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour — Reynolds did the sketch comedy route in a 1972 Sonny & Cher Show sketch, “The Vamps,” in which he played a serpent who tried to tempt Eve (Cher) to get Adam (Sonny) to take a bite of the forbidden apple in the Garden Of Eden.
Match Game — Reynolds crashed Match Game in 1974 during the height of the Gene Rayburn-hosted game show’s popularity — and his own. The actor, who was doing some filming “across the hall,” surprised Rayburn and the contestants because he wanted to say hi to “Charlie,” aka Match Game regular Charles Nelson Reilly.
Golden Girls – Reynolds shocked The Golden Girls by turning up as Sophia’s (Estelle Getty) date at the end of the 1986 episode, “Ladies of the Evening.” In the Season 2 episode, the girls won three tickets to the premiere of Burt Reynolds’ new movie and passes to the after-party. But when Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy stopped for a drink on the way to the premiere at a hotel bar, they inadvertently ended up at a brothel. Sophia snagged the tickets and headed to the movie premiere alone, where she mingled with Burt and his entourage. The next day, Reynolds turned up at the house to pick up Sophia for a date and deliver the most iconic jokes in Golden Girls history: “Are these the roommates you told me about? Which one’s the slut?”
Beverly Hills, 90210 — Reynolds saved the day in the 90210 episode, “She Came in Though the bathroom Window” when he turned up at the Peach Pit as part of an auction prize. Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) gushed that he met the actor years ago when his mom did a cameo on Smokey and the Bandit, and Reynolds slyly replied, “You’re not my son are you?”
King of Queens —Reynolds reunited with Kevin James’ Doug Heffernan on the CBS sitcom, playing his former high school football coach, Mr. Walcott, in the episode, “Hi, School.” Reynolds delivered one of the most hilarious lines in the episode when he dryly told the former man on campus, “Pull your pants up, Heffernan.”