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Return of Jed Clampett, "Beverly Hillbillies" Patriarch

Buddy Ebsen and Jim Varney discuss bringing the iconic character to the small and big screen

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Star Wars‘ Luke Skywalker learned from his Jedi masters the ways of the Jedi Knights. But where did their philosophy originate? Perhaps its conceptions of dignity, self-sufficiency, and honesty have roots in a 20th-century icon. The philosophy’s very name provides an answer: Jedi…Jedi…Jed…

Indeed, Buddy Ebsen and Jim Varney—the actors who played Beverly Hillbillies patriarch Jed Clampett on TV and on screen, respectively—found they had to seek their own innate Jed-ness in order to portray the man accurately. Here, they discuss their mutual pursuit of the true Jed.

EW: What are Jed’s essential values?
Varney: He knows who he is, and nothing is ever going to change that. You could put him in the middle of Timbuktu, and he would still live the same lifestyle. He is too far into his own being to be changed by anything around him.
Ebsen: The essence of Jed? Dignity—there’s that. A sense of humor. Friendliness. An instinct to trust people until they become untrustworthy.

EW: What values shaped Jed? Why didn’t he grow up to be like Jethro?
Varney: Jed is a more common-sense, down-to-earth kind of guy. He didn’t get his education from school. He got it from life.
Ebsen: He’s brighter than Jethro. He’s a natural man; he obeys laws of nature.

EW: A Zen kind of thing?
Ebsen: Perhaps. He knows you have to hunt and fish and supply your family with food. And he knows you have to have wingdings where everybody gets together and you have music and dancing and conviviality. And he knows that nothing is for free.

EW: What demons possess Jed at three in the morning? What haunts him?
Ebsen: Jed? I don’t think he ever wakes up at three in the morning.
Varney: I do—I think Jed is very heartbroken. He’s a widower, and I think he misses his wife a great deal. The great melancholy in his life is, he’s lost his mate.
Ebsen: Yes. But he accepts the divine inevitable and carries on.

EW: In Star Wars, the core of the Jedi philosophy was the dictum ”May the Force be with you.” What phrase would be at the core of the Jed philosophy?
Ebsen: Jed’s philosophy? ”Use it or lose it.”
Varney: ”Walk slow and drink a lot of water.”