During a 2017 interview, M*A*S*H actress Loretta Swit opened up about her career and the hit military sitcom that made her famous.
Swit played the role of head nurse Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the popular television show. She took over the part in 1972 from actress Sally Kellerman who played the same role in the 1970 movie M*A*S*H. But as the movie was adapted for TV, Swit took over the character, which ended up being a career-defining move.
The longtime M*A*S*H actress starred in the show for all 11 seasons of the popular 1970/80s show. From 1972 to 1983, it was one of the biggest shows on television, and still is since it’s been in syndication ever since it went off-air. Even though there are only reruns these days, the hit comedy-drama series still has a huge following among fans.
The Hot Lips actress didn’t know right away that M*A*S*H would become one of TV’s all-time greatest shows. However, Swit did recognize early on how special the series was.
“I don’t think you ever realize that,” Swit said to FOX News when asked if she knew M*A*S*H would be a classic. “But I will say that while we were shooting, even from the very beginning, we were aware of how very special it was. The symbiosis, the camaraderie, the love and respect we had for each other. And the material, to be blessed with those gifted writers, starting of course with Larry Gelbart. So you had to know that this was going to be an incredible experience. That it turned into a phenomenon – no. There’s no way we could have predicted that.”
‘M*A*S*H’ Actress Loretta Swit Explained Why Her Character ‘Had a Lot To Prove’
While speaking about the show in the same interview, Loretta Swit dove into the background of her character. She opened up about what made Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan tick. While answering questions about the famous role, she explained that her M*A*S*H character simply tried to live up to her parents’ expectations.
“The thing about Margaret was that she was living in the ‘50s. I don’t think ‘feminist’ was even coined yet,” Swit said to FOX News. “I think she existed before any kind of major movement took over… that’s what made her so spectacular.
“The character was ambitious,” the M*A*S*H star added. “She’s very strong, very passionate… She had a passion for life and saving life. [But] she had a lot to prove. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a general. And he always wanted a boy.”
Her father in the show is General Alvin “Howitzer Al” Houlihan who had to be proud of his daughter. She became the top-ranking woman in the 4077th. She also married a colonel, Col. Donald Penobscott of the 4077th. She may not have been a boy, but Margaret lived up to any and all expectations her TV father could’ve set upon her.