Jamie Farr started his M*A*S*H career as a day-to-day player on the show, as he didn’t have a contract until the character of Klinger was well-established.
Though he wasn’t yet a regular, the chemistry, intensity and fun atmosphere on set was a dead give away when he first stepped on set.
“What struck me was the quality of the show,” he told MeTV in a 2014 interview. “To see how everybody, the writers, the director and the cast had such great concern for the value of the property that they were doing… I marveled at that. A lot of times, you go on a set, you know, you’ll run into egos and people on the phone with their press agents… They were all concerned about the show.”
“Originally it was an ensamble,” Farr said of M*A*S*H during a 2011 interview with the Academy of American Television, meaning no one character was initially supposed to jump out more than the others. However, as any M*A*S*H fan knows, that wasn’t the case.
“As the show went on, Alan [Alda] became, as they say, the linchpin. He was very, very generous about the show, making sure that everybody [got their chance to shine]. As Burt Metcalfe used to say, ‘I got seven birdies I got to feed… sometimes I can’t do it in every show,'” Farr said while laughing.
Despite starting as an ensamble, M*A*S*H clearly had something going with Alda at the helm, portraying his historic character of Hawkeye Pierce.
“We were all very well aware of that,” Farr added. “Alan was very generous and brought so much to the show. His talent, his camaraderie and fun. That’s the other thing… There are certain people that you enjoy working with and you can’t wait to get to work. That’s what that entire cast had.”
Fun on M*A*S*H’s set was easy to find. Aside from the scripted jokes and funny scenarios, there was no telling what could happen behind the scenes. Farr said these situations didn’t happen from time to time, but that they were an every day occurrence.
“You’d go home at night and your sides would be hurting from laughing and you couldn’t wait to get up the next morning to go to work.”
Farr mentioned the show started out as an ensamble, but the natural spotlight began centering around one character perhaps more than others.
“Alan supposedly, quote, was the star of the show, so throned by CBS and 20th Century Fox. I don’t think he knew that was going to happen, but that’s the way it worked out. He made it so much fun to come to work.”