When M*A*S*H returned for the fourth season, one of its biggest stars wasn’t there. Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John, was unceremoniously removed from the cast. And in his place was Mike Farrell playing Capt. B.J. Honeycutt.
It was a major switch, considering Trapper John was partners in crime with Alan Alda’s character Hawkeye. Rogers never gave an official reason why he walked away from the show, but Farrell has an idea. Professional jealously.
“I suspect it was because when he joined the show it would be a ‘twofer,’ that he and Alan would be equal in terms of their roles,” Farrell told Studio10. “But Alan is simply too strong a character, too bright a light. And I believe that Wayne began to feel it wasn’t the show he wanted to be second-banana in, and he moved on.”
Rogers, however, has always said he left because he refused to sign the network contract.
Despite leaving the show, Rogers and the rest of the cast stayed close until his death in 2015.
Rogers’ career didn’t suffer despite walking away from one of the biggest sitcoms in TV history. He continued to get great roles in film and television for the rest of his life.
Rogers Didn’t Want to Sign His ‘M*A*S*H’ Contract
“As you know, in the movie business, you get a deal memorandum. And, it’s five or six pages. … And in television, if you don’t last beyond the first season it comes after that too,” he said. “So, you get the contract in the middle of the first … and it weighs 50 pounds, or whatever it is. So, your attorneys look at it. Their attorneys look at it and they go back and forth about all the small (things).”
One of those “small things” was a morals clause that he felt were too vague and wrongheaded.
“Well, there were just some things we couldn’t agree on. For example, they had an old-fashioned morals clause. …” Rogers said. “And, the clause literally said, … something to the effect of if in the eyes of the studio you commit an act deemed to be immoral by whoever’s running the studio, then they have the right to suspend you or dismiss you – or whatever the consequences were. …”
Having such a broad morality clause felt like it would only give the network too much control over his personal life. Furthermore, he refused to sign and left the show.