Kellye Nakahara, the actress best known for her recurring role as Nurse Kellye Yamato on the hit television series “M*A*S*H,” died on Sunday at her home in Pasadena, Calif. She was 73.
Her son, William Wallett, said the cause was cancer.
Ms. Nakahara, who was later known as Kellye Nakahara Wallett, appeared in 167 episodes of “M*A*S*H,” the acclaimed sitcom set in a mobile Army hospital during the Korean War. The series ran from 1972 to 1983 on CBS.
She was originally an extra on the show. But, she said in a 2016 NPR interview, her role grew after she became friendly with the writers and crew.
“I think I was in every scene,” she said, “because I put myself in every scene and nobody told me to get out.”
Her character, an Army nurse, had a secret crush on the womanizing surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda. In “Hey, Look Me Over,” an episode in the show’s 11th season, she revealed her feelings to Hawkeye and scolded him for ignoring her.
“For your information,” she told him, “I happen to have a fantastic sense of humor, a bubbly personality, and I am warm and sensitive like you wouldn’t believe. I also sing and play the guitar and I’m learning to tap dance. And on top of all that, I happen to be cute as hell.”
Mr. Alda was one of the writers of that episode.
“She began as a background performer and worked her way up to playing the lead in an episode I wrote for her,” Mr. Alda said in a statement to Fox News. “She was adorable and brilliant in the part. But you couldn’t beat what she was as a person, funnier and warmer and kinder than most people I’ve known.”
Kellye Nakahara Watson was born on Jan. 16, 1947, in Honolulu. Her father, George Watson, was an engineer, and her mother, Winona (Nakahara) Watson, was a sales representative.
Though she was best known for her role on “M*A*S*H,” Ms. Nakahara had a long list of other TV credits, including “NYPD Blue,” “Growing Pains,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.”
She also appeared in several films. She was a nurse in “She’s Having a Baby” (1988), a mysteriously murdered cook in “Clue” (1985) and a dog owner in Eddie Murphy’s version of “Dr. Dolittle” (1998).
More recently, she worked as a watercolor artist and had her own studio in Pasadena.
In addition to her son, she is survived by her husband, David Wallett; her daughter, Nalani Coleman; and four grandchildren.
Looking back at her role on “M*A*S*H” decades later, Ms. Nakahara recognized how important her presence had been to many viewers.
“I got mail,” she said in the NPR interview. “I still get mail. I have people coming up to me that say, as far as being Asian, you’re the first role model that I had of an Asian that wasn’t portrayed as an Asian, just as a person.”
She continued: “It took a long time, I think, for that to come around. I hope that it’s starting to change now. But I think it’s taken a long time.”