Loretta Swit thrived under the pressure of M*A*S*H

"I guess it's the only profession that has ever given me security," said Swit.

Being on eleven seasons of any sitcom is difficult enough. But being the female lead in a Korean war set serio-comedic sitcom about army surgeons scrambling to save their patients? Now that’s pressure.

Nobody was on more episodes of M*A*S*H than Loretta Swit. Along with Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce, Swit’s Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan was in 251 episodes of the beloved series. Over the course of 11 seasons, the show relied on Swit to shake things up, ensuring M*A*S*H never felt like a “boys’ club” for too long

Some might buckle under the demands of a role like Houlihan. The schedule alone would be enough to scare off many a would-be star. But for Loretta Swit, that very same schedule was something on which she relied. For her, acting provided a much-needed stability, and steadied her throughout the show’s run.

“I guess it’s the only profession that has ever given me security,” Swit told the San Francisco Examiner in 1973. “I thrive on pressure, and TV is pressure.”

She continued, “I even create my own pressures and deadlines.” But what of the times away from set? Surely M*A*S*H didn’t film 365 days a year for its 11-year run. “On the weekends, sometimes, I miss the hectic schedule of M*A*S*H. I don’t like vacations. They take me away from my securities, and I don’t like that.”

Loretta Swit seemingly felt her best meeting the requirements of a challenging TV schedule. That’s great for fans, too, because we can’t imagine anyone else on our TV screens as Margaret Houlihan on M*A*S*H. Critics agreed: Swit was awarded two Emmys, one in 1980 and again in 1982, for her role on the legendary show.

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