Gary Burghoff played the likeable, helpful and sometimes overly polite role of Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly on M*A*S*H for a total of 181 episodes.
The teddy bear carrying Corporal became a fan favorite over the course of the show’s 11 seasons because he came with a unique perspective, as well as a small hopeful smile. Something we could all get behind.
Burghoff may not have carried around a teddy bear in real life, but according to a 1976 interview with The Miami News, Radar was his inspiration on and off-screen.
Part of Burghoff’s love for his character was believing in Radar’s message in the show: embrace your inner child. Which, he truly did believe.
“Im lucky because I can express the child in me,” he said. “That’s where an actor lives. I can play at being a doctor, a priest, a criminal. I can laugh and cry. Actors can be emotional in public and people pay to see it.”
During M*A*S*H’s time on air, viewers watched Radar grow from a shy, polite character to the person who kept everyone in the 4077th together. We wouldn’t imagine M*A*S*H’s early days without him.
According to the interview, Burghoff couldn’t imagine a world without Radar either. As the first actor to be cast on M*A*S*H, Radar became apart of Burghoff’s character in real life.
“Radar is one of my favorite children,” he said. “He’s what I wish I could be. I wish I could always maintain that naivete and vulnerability. But I’d be a fool if I said I wanted to play him the rest of my life. One of these days, I have to grow up.”
Burghoff said one of his favorite things that came from his role as Radar was being able to meet the fans, and connect with people outside of the show.
“I don’t think there’s too many people around who believe you are the character you play. But I guess they do feel they can trust me because they know Radar isn’t going to hurt them,” he said. “Some actors people are afraid of. I’m not one, and I’m glad.”
Burghoff left M*A*S*H after seven seasons, because he wanted to take care of his family and be a better father. One of the most Radar qualities we’ve ever heard.