Alda may receive the lion’s share of attention for his role as Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce. But Farrell, as B.J. Hunnicutt, also was a big presence. The end of the show in 1983 had a great impact on him, too.
Decades later, Farrell can still feel the emotions bubble up inside him when he thinks of the final day of filming for M*A*S*H. He recalled the memories in a recent interview with MeTV.
“We went through this thing knowing this will be the last time I’ll ever stand here,” Farrell said of filming the final M*A*S*H episode. “This is the last opportunity I’m going to have to say goodbye to these characters.”
Farrell then stopped. He laughed, briefly.
“At one point, I think it was the director, who said I’ve never had to tell actors to not cry so much in my life. Stop. Crying,” Farrell said, as he paused to laugh more, but with a little mist in his eye.
Farrell said the director continued with his no crying instruction. “‘You’re letting the audience have the experience, don’t have the experience yourself.’ So we sucked it up and managed to get through it.”
But get this, the final M*A*S*H episode didn’t trigger the waterworks from some very grownup, adult actors. The filming schedule for the episodes weren’t in chronological order. So the final episode filmed was the penultimate one on the TV schedule. It was called As Time Goes By, with an original run date of Feb. 21, 1983. The cast filmed it Jan. 14, 1983.
Cast of M*A*S*H Buried Its Own Time Capsule
In the final episode, the M*A*S*H doctors and nurses gathered significant items for a 4077th-time capsule, honoring the number of the M*A*S*H unit. And like the characters they portrayed, the M*A*S*H cast really did bury their own time capsule. They gathered a bunch of show props and costumes and buried them somewhere in the parking lot of 20th Century Fox.
In another interview, Alan Alda recalled the massive media presence for the final time the M*A*S*H cast was filming. He said there were about 300 journalists packed in to commemorate TV history.
“And it was a really unnerving experience,” Alda told the Archive of American Television in 2000.
“There were tears and stuff,” Alda said. “Then there were all these people (saying) ‘what’s it feel like? What are you going to do next? Tell me about this?’ … We didn’t have the private moment we all looked forward to. It really was kind of an image that made the show so good. To us, it was a personal experience.”
Mike Farrell replaced Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntire) in the cast in 1975. And he also wrote five M*A*S*H episodes and directed four of them.
The final M*A*S*H episode was called Good Bye, Farewell and Amen. Remember the overhead shot of the rocks spelling out GOODBYE. That also was a Farrell touch.