The chemistry within the M*A*S*H cast leaped off screen. It’s one reason why the series will go down as one of the best in TV history.
And star Alan Alda said there was a tangible reason why the relationships between the characters seemed so effortless and authentic. The cast really never stopped interacting, even when the director yelled cut.
Alda looked back on M*A*S*H with Gabrielle Carteris, who was president of SAG-AFTRA during an interview in 2019. The group selected Alda for its lifetime achievement award that year.
And as an actor talking to an actor, Alda shared how the M*A*S*H cast worked on their craft. And they did so while having a terrific time.
“We didn’t do what a lot of actors do between shots,” Alda said of M*A*S*H. “We didn’t go over the lines a little bit then disappear into the dressing room while they light the set for a scene.”
Instead, Alda said: “We sat in a circle of chairs and made fun of each other for hours at a time. And just laughed. Played word games. Come up with stupid questions. Taking a poll — what’s your favorite ethnic food.
“People gravitated to it because it was so much fun,” Alda said of M*A*S*H. “But what would happen was, and why it was such an important acting lesson for me, that connection we established sitting in chairs as people, not as actors … We would go over the lines a little bit, but that wasn’t the main thing that was valuable to us. The main thing was this person to person, reading each other’s faces, being in the same moment together. When they called us to the set … we got there connected already. And sometimes we’d keep the connection going until the first line of dialogue. It looked like we weren’t disciplined, but it was a different kind of discipline.”
Alan Alda Played Hawkeye for Every Episode of M*A*S*H
Alan Alda played Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce on M*A*S*H for every episode, from September 1972 to February 1983. Plus, Alda wrote and directed episodes. And he won Emmys for acting, writing and directing. Now, that’s talent and dedication to a craft.
When Alda received the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on M*A*S*H and shows like The West Wing, Tom Hanks introduced him.
Hanks said of the iconic M*A*S*H star:
“A career is measured by different yard sticks,” Hanks said. “Quality being the first. There’s longevity, as well, but most important, I think perhaps, is how an actor’s choices reflect the time or the tenor of our troubled world and of our human nature. The actor we honor tonight for his life achievements is worthy then not just for his decades of work and praiseworthy credits, but for how he’s shown us all who we are and what we all can be.”
“He won then for what was called by some ‘the green show,’” Hanks said. M*A*S*H was witty, emotional, often hilarious, just as often groundbreaking and a must-see program every week for nine years longer than the Korean War actually lasted.”
And all that M*A*S*H success can be attributed to the goofy games the cast played when not acting.