M*A*S*H star Bill Christopher nearly lost his role on the classic military show after his first audition didn’t go the way he had hoped.
Christopher is perhaps best known for his role on M*A*S*H, where he played Father Mulcahy from 1972 until 1983. He also played the character on the show’s spinoff AfterMASH from 1983 until 1985. Christopher initially gained recognition for playing Private Lester Hummel on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. in the late 1960s.
And in a 2018 sit-down with The Hollywood Reporter, Burt Metcalfe, executive producer, director, and writer, said that they of the show nearly in a different direction after not being pleased with Christopher’s first audition. He admitted that Larry Gelbart, one of the driving forces behind M*A*S*H, wanted to get a different Father Mulcahy. However, Bill Christopher did manage to get another shot, though.
“We made the pilot with a different Father Mulcahy,” Metcalfe admitted. “He was the only performer Larry wanted to change. Bill was my great white hope. He blew the audition, though. Larry wrote in a specific rhythm and if you don’t adhere to it, you destroy the humor. I managed to get him another audition.”
Although Gelbart wanted to look for someone else to play Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H, Metcalfe insisted that Christopher was the man for the job.
“Larry said he wanted someone with natural idiosyncrasies,” Metcalfe said. “That was Bill. An interviewer told me once that Bill ‘is a man who likes to take an idea, and surround it with words until it surrenders.’”
Nonetheless, George Morgan wound up being the first man cast in the role. But his stint as Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H didn’t last past the pilot episode before Christopher took over.
Bill Christopher’s Career After M*A*S*H
After spending 20-plus years acting on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C, and M*A*S*H, Bill Christopher found roles elsewhere. He played in other popular television series such as Good Times and Murder, She Wrote. He also made several guest appearances on The Love Boat. And in 1998, he guest-starred as a priest in an episode of Mad About You.
Christopher also remained an active member of the theater. He toured the nation in the mid-1990s with Farr, where he performed Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple on stage. One of his last roles was as a priest on the hit daytime drama, Days of Our Lives.
Meanwhile, the M*A*S*H star dedicated much of his personal time to the National Autistic Society. It was a cause close to his heart as, his son Ned, was diagnosed with Autism. In 1985, Christopher and his wife, Barbara, wrote Mixed Blessings. The book details their life and experience raising Ned.