Why did Gary Clarke leave The Virginian?

Gary Clarke portrayed Steve Hill for seasons one and two of The Virginian, however, his role was phased out when season two concluded, with no word on the reason for his departure.

The Virginian is an American Western television series that originally aired on NBC from 1964 until 1971. The series stars James Drury in the lead role, alongside Lee J. Cobb and Doug McClure, among others. The show is loosely based on The Virginian: Horseman of the Plains, a 1902 Western novel by Owen Wister, that Hollywood previously adapted for movies.

Gary Clarke portrayed Steve Hill in 45 episodes from 1962 to 1964. Steve was a good friend of both the Virginians and Trampas’. He was regularly getting Trampas in and out of his usual scrapes. The on-screen chemistry that Clarke and McClure possessed reflected the close off-screen friendship they had. Although Clarke was with the show when it premiered, he was being phased out of the show when season two concluded. However, he made a few guest appearances in season three, before leaving the show for good.

The reason behind Clarke’s departure has yet to be revealed.