‘M*A*S*H’: One Actor Fought for Character to Change, Took Brief Hiatus Because of It

by Matthew Wilson
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There are growing pains with every ensemble. One “M*A*S*H” star wanted their character to take on a more prominent role in the show. In fact, they even took a hiatus from the show as a result.

Loretta Swit played Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan for all 11 seasons of the show. But her tenure almost ended up much shorter. Swit grew tired of the way “M*A*S*H” portrayed her character. Initially, Houlihan was often the source of jokes on the show.

“The guys in control would say to me ‘It’s just an episodic,'” Swit told the Toronto Star. “And I would say ‘If you’ve got a long-run series then there’s always got to be room for growth.’ Of all the places you’d be inclined to grow, I certainly think somewhere you’re in danger every day. And healing people every day would be just the right place.”

Given its popularity, Swit realized that the sitcom could potentially run for a while. And she wanted her character, Houlihan, to get her fair due on the show. As the only female lead on the show, Swit believed her character represented women everywhere during wartime.

Loretta Swit Took a Hiatus From Her ‘M*A*S*H’ Character

But things didn’t improve for Swit after a few seasons on the show. During Season Four, the actor decided to take a short hiatus away from “M*A*S*H” and its war in Korea. Instead, she took her acting talents to the Broadway stage. She played in “Same Time, Next Year” as the lead. Her performance earned rave reviews from critics and audiences.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. “M*A*S*H” producers felt the loss of Swit and her character. They reached out to her to come back to the show and asked her what she envisioned for her character in the years to come.

“That’s when they called me up from the show,” Swit said. “And asked me how I saw the next season.”

Swit gave the shows’ producers her thoughts on the character. She mentioned that women during the Korean War were volunteers there, not draftees. “M*A*S*H” production agreed to Swit’s vision for her character and accommodated changes into future scripts.

“Remember this about the Korean War: The men were drafted, the women volunteered,” Swit said. “These were amazing women, brave, courageous and I was the head nurse in charge of all these incredible women. That’s what I wanted to be. And little by little we revealed that.”

Outsider.com