Alan Alda’s first big TV moment was playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H. And decades after the iconic comedy went off the air, he’s still feels the impact of being part of the cast.
Alda said that because of M*A*S*H, he’s enjoyed a lifetime commitment of studying how we humans communicate with each other. It’s why the Alda, at age 85, does his own podcast called Clear + Vivid. Alda not only communicated via acting, he also wrote and directed. He’s still expressing himself in very modern ways.
And earlier this year, he invited two beloved cast members — Loretta Swit (Margaret Houlihan) and Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunicutt) — to talk to him about M*A*S*H and how they all learned to communicate as young actors. Back in the 70s, they sat around and had old-school, face-to-face conversations with each other. Now, as octogenarians, they still talk face-to-face, but via Zoom.
Alda opened the topic by throwing back to the good times they shared between takes on set. Alda said: “when we sat around like that, sat around in chairs, kidding each other, it contributed to better scenes.”
Swit immediately agreed. “We were always very connected.” Farrell chimed in “it helped me in life.”
All Three Actors Recall M*A*S*H Experiences in Rich Detail
And it should be noted that none of these three actors ever had a problem communicating. In interviews through he years, they’ve recalled M*A*S*H stories in such vivid detail. They didn’t need a third person to write their thoughts for them.
Back in 2018, the Hollywood Reporter did an oral history about one of TV’s all-time best comedies. And Alda wanted to document the way they communicated when they weren’t in front of the cameras. The camaraderie fans of M*A*S*H saw on screen in the 4077th wasn’t just acting.
“Most of the time, actors disperse and go to their dressing rooms between shots,” Alda said. “We sat around in a circle of chairs making fun of one another, having fun. Laughing. I’ve taken that with me whenever I do a play. For me, it’s the best preparation for performing on stage because you’re already relating to each other, listening and responding.”
Farrell recalled the first time he met Alda and how they had an instant friendship. Farrell joined the cast in 1975 as a replacement for Wayne Rogers’ Trapper John.
“When I found out I got the part, my agent told me Alan (Alda) wanted to have dinner with me,” Farrell said. “I said, ‘Oh, s–t, yes.’ I met him at a Chinese restaurant where we talked for hours. … It was one of the more extraordinary moments in my wonderful career. I thought I’d fallen into paradise.”
Swit also enjoyed some vivid recollections. “The first day we met, I can still visualize the room. I see where everyone was sitting. It was an important moment in my life. Everyone’s attitude was so fresh, positive and energetic about the project. We were all on the same page about what we were going to say.”