A press release describing the backstories of the characters was issued but abandoned before the series began shooting. Anyone who watched Laredo and then read tv anthologies or series guides will realize that most authors go no further than the outdated press release in summarizing Laredo for their books, leaving readers with descriptions of characters that bear little resemblance to the final product. For example, see the popular The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows by Brooks and Marsh; the otherwise excellent Riding the Video Range by Gary Yoggy and Television Westerns, Major and Minor Series by Richard West.
The press release version describes Reese Bennett (Neville Brand) as a former Union Army officer and deputy U.S. marshal with a strong sense of right and wrong, who at 18 brought the killers of his sheriff father to justice. His service in the Union army causes friction with other Rangers who see him as a traitor. Chad Cooper (Peter Brown) is described as a Boston native and graduate of West Point. He joined the rangers to seek revenge against the Mexican bandits who killed his comrades in the Border Patrol and the American gunrunners who armed them. Joe Riley (William Smith) was to be a cynical, worldly former gunfighter using the Rangers as sanctuary from the law. Captain Parmalee (Philip Carey) was a widower who lost his fortune in the war and lived only for his daughter and the rangers.
Little of the press release backstories survived the debut of the series.
By the time Laredo aired, not only did the boys have new clothes, they had new backstories. Reese Bennett was now the ranger with the less than law abiding past. Although he was no gunfighter, he was a braggart. He was easily manipulated by the other two and was frequently the butt of their jokes and schemes. He was described in one episode as a man who had broken every law on the books and in another as a man who could swipe an egg out from under a chicken without making her cackle.
Joe Riley became something of a handsome version of Bonanza's Hoss, gentle and affable until his strength was needed. His backstory had him raised by Indians after his parents were killed, a background that made him the best tracker in the rangers and handy at throwing a knife. He was not, however, a gun fighter. The fast gun label was given to Chad. Joe was no closer to the press release description of cynical and worldly than was Dan Blocker's Hoss.
Chad Cooper's birthplace was changed from Boston to New Orleans (without Peter Brown ever finding out he was originally scheduled to master a New England accent) Chad's Louisiana accent became particularly noticeable when there was a lady to charm. Chad was educated and frequently had a get-rich scheme. Chad became the one with the reputation for a fast draw although he was not a gunfighter in the negative sense.
Captain Parmalee's character did not change in demeanor from what we saw in the pilot. However, he lost the daughter he gained in the press release. There was never any hint of a lost wife or fortune.
The Laredo We Never Saw
(Press Release Backstories vs. Pilot Actually Aired)
Official Peter Brown Fan Site