Mike Farrell played the role of Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H for a total of 179 episodes. He joined the series after Wayne Rogers, who played Capt. Trapper John McIntyre, departed at the end of the show’s third season.
Joining any cast after they’ve already seen success from prior seasons must come with some amount of pressure. And for Farrell, it did.
Farrell did an interview with Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1976 while on vacation in Hawaii. He said he was scared when he first took the role of Hunnicutt
“I was plain terrified,” he started. “It was a family that had been living together for three years, and I was the adopted son. And not only that, but I have billing over everyone in the cast except Alan Alda. So I was not only the new guy, but the new guy on top of everyone.”
Farrell joined the cast when M*A*S*H ratings were at a low, so a lot was riding on him being successful in the role. According to the actor, no one had ever told him a “satisfactory explanation of what makes a TV series go.”
“I figured all that had to happen was I’d be the guy who torpedos M*A*S*H,” he said. “Fortunately that didn’t happen.”
It turned out that Farrell’s fright wasn’t justified. Not only do we know how well-rated M*A*S*H became, but we also know how successful Farrell was in the role of Capt. Hunnicutt.
Farrell said he was surprised by how open and welcoming the cast was. With all of his success on M*A*S*H, he said he still didn’t consider it his break.
“I’ve had so many big breaks… but M*A*S*H is the biggest thing for me in terms of public visibility,” he said. “It’s my biggest step, I suppose.”
The pressure was high for Farrell, but he handled it just like a Captain would.