GREENSBURG – Mike Farrell has left his mark in the history of television by playing the chap. Affectively pragmatic and often hilarious BJ Hunnicutt on M * A * S * H, and attributes part of that success to the opportunity to forge a second career as a humanitarian.
Above all, the work of the actor and social activist showed him the “fundamental dignity” in each person and led him to the conclusion that, universally, people seek – and should receive – love, attention and respect.
Farrell chaired the Greensburg Community High School Spring School in Chautauqua recalling his role in a valuable television series, the path he took to become an actor and his efforts to trot the globe to provide humanitarian aid.
John Pratt, GCHS teacher and main organizer of Chautauqua, said it took more than two years and 40 emails before the stars brought Farrell to the properly aligned Tree City, but the result seemed more than worth the wait. for a sizeable crowd in the school auditorium Thursday night.
That group heard about behind the scenes hijackings from the beloved drama comedy that ran for 11 seasons on CBS, how the cast became “a family” and kept in touch after the end of the series in 1983 and how M * A * S * H has challenged television conventions and has been welcomed by audiences around the world.
“What has become has been a social phenomenon, not only in the United States but around the world,” said Farrell of the Emmy-winning series.
Farrell recalled a trip to Southeast Asia during his time on the show where he was greeted and thanked because the series spoke of “peace and ways of stopping the war”.
M * A * S * H was a comedy-drama centered on the exploits of doctors and army officers in an army mobile surgical hospital in South Korea during the Korean War. At the time he was unique among the series in that he laughed skillfully in balance with realistic war scenarios collected from the authentic experiences of the Korean conflict and the Vietnam war.
The stars of the series have seen the show become a cultural milestone worldwide, although initially Farrell feared that his casting might be the ruin of the series.
“I feared it would pile up,” he said. “I would be known as the man who killed M * A * S * H.”
When he arrived on the set he was warmly welcomed by Gary Burghoff (Radar O’Reilly) and other cast members, who would have had a lifelong affection for each other long after the broadcast of the final episode. . In a few moments he knew he was far from being the “intruder” he feared he might be.
“It was just one after the other; they really made me feel welcome,” he said.
Farrell took on the role of Hunnicutt after the start of the Wayne Rogers series, which had played “Trapper” captain John McIntyre for the show’s first three seasons. Rogers’ character was popular with the public and worked so well with Alan Alda’s lewd captain. “Hawkeye” Pierce Farrell was initially suspicious that he would play the same character, or at least one written in a similar way.
When it was announced that he would play a character with strong personal beliefs that also represented loyalty to the marriage, Farrell was relieved and immediately at home.
Numerous cast changes did little to slow the show’s momentum, and as the series continued as hits and accolades, Farrell and other staff members found joy in the ability to write and direct episodes while modeling their characters when they deemed it appropriate. .
But the experience also shaped Mike Farrell’s life and his fame in the high-profile series helped him to weight important social causes around the world.
“I’m a better person for being on the show because of the things we talked about, the way we were able to deal with the problems …” observed Farrell.
Prior to the series, Farrell was already active as a humanitarian, but thanks to his notoriety with the show and his work with Concern America, he was able to help with rescue efforts in Rwanda, Somalia and Central America, among others.
“I have been allowed to experience the world that has expanded the sense of what is possible for a person,” said the guest.
Through that “extraordinary experience” Farrell saw the ability to recover the human spirit and learned that people from all walks of life “deserve to be honored regardless of how they behaved”.
Pratt said at the beginning that Chautauqua was founded on “celebrating diversity and greatness in each of us”, and Farrell praised the program for his work in enabling a small Hoosier community to listen to views from very people. outside the U.S. Midwest.
“It was really a very moving experience,” he said.
In particular, he indicated a group of religious leaders who spoke earlier in the day. Farrell called the program “quite wonderful”.
“It’s really about believing there’s something better we can do,” said Farrell.
The actor and activist also formulated several questions from the audience and detailed a variety of amusing anecdotes.
In one case, he convinced the stage members to suspend Alda’s bicycle far above the set, unbeknownst to the baffled star. In another, he and the other members were receiving a practical joke in a restaurant that left them a little embarrassed in the presence of the legendary director Sir Richard Attenborough.
Farrell had also once repainted David Ogden Stiers’ dressing room in orange and purple – or “salmon and puce” in the words of the prankster, who played Major Charles Emerson Winchester III from 1977 to 1983.
Farrell expressed his affection for his costars, most notably the late Harry Morgan and William Christopher.
He called the former “just a dear, dear man”.
“We all thought of him as a friend and a surrogate father,” he said.
Farrell is also not an avid observer of M * A * S * H, since the show “remains in memory” for him and is a reminder of special people.
“It’s hard [to watch] because these people meant a lot, “he said,” rest in my mind and heart. “
After spending several years playing an imaginary character in a very real environment, Farrell was also asked to comment on the current diplomatic tension between the United States and North Korea.
The actor asked for diplomacy and care in peacefully resolving the situation, which has intensified in recent weeks.
He indicated that care is at the heart of all good deeds and that some of the best moments in his life have come from helping others.
“The joy in my life comes from all these experiences and the opportunity to come out and share some with people like you,” he said to the crowd.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; firstname.lastname@example.org