During season 4 of M*A*S*H, Mike Farrell joined the cast as B.J. Hunnicutt, a character meant to replace Wayne Rogers’ Trapper John. And filling the famous classic TV shoes was absolutely “terrifying.”
When Farrell arrived, the show had already built a strong following. Most years, it ranked in the top 10 most-watched series. And one of the reasons it did so well was because of the chemistry between the actors.
So when Wayne Rodgers left M*A*S*H, Mike Farrell had no idea what he was walking into.
“I thought maybe they’d all resent me for replacing their buddy,” he told Closer.
To make matters worse, Rodgers didn’t walk on good terms. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the star was furious that Alan Alda overshadowed him and got more screen time as well as better lines. So he abruptly quit.
The situation caused major drama on the set, too. The creators even sued Wayne Rodgers for breach of contract. But Rodgers won in the end.
Apparently, unbeknownst to the creators, the actor hadn’t signed a contract at all. The reason he didn’t was that everyone who worked on the series was obligated to a “moral clause” if they signed, which dictated how they could act. And Rodgers thought that was an archaic practice.
So the Trapper John actor was in no way bound to stick around. And he left a gaping character hole for Farrell to fill.
Mike Farrell Immediately Became a Part of the M*A*S*H Family
Nonetheless, the remaining cast members didn’t hold Mike Farrell responsible for the situation. Instead, they did the complete opposite and greeted him with a “welcoming committee” when he arrived for his first day of work.
Rogers remembers that warmth—which the actors still hold to this day—fondly. And he credits it for the show’s long-lasting success.
Max Klinger’s Jamie Farr expanded on the unity of that welcoming committee and shared that the crew stuck together till the very end.
The actors carved out their own special spot where they’d all “sit and run lines back and forth.” And while doing so, they’d bond by cracking jokes and pulling pranks.
For 11 seasons, the M*A*S*H worked closely together and even assisted with writing scripts and directing episodes. And the hard work created a story that has lasted for generations.
And when the series wrapped up in 1983, the fun didn’t stop. Everyone remained close, and they’re still friends to this day. Though the years have taken a toll on them.
“We lost so many of our family — Wayne, McLean [Stevenson], Larry [Linville], David [Ogden Stiers], Bill [Christopher], Harry [Morgan]. Everyone was a body blow,” said Loretta Switt. “But it’s still forever. We loved each other, and we still do.”