Monday, May 31, 2010

Interview with... Mike Farrell.

When I started this blog it was purely to review movies I liked. Especially movies which may not have been all that well-known to the general public.
Hence the name, Straight 2 DVD.
As you know, since then I have moved into conducting interviews. I've been priviledged to interview some wonderful people previously.
I do not mean to discredit them, but this interview takes the cake.

Mike Farrell became a house-hold name on the TV series M*A*S*H as the humble, funny, charming family man BJ Hunnicut.
Please do me the honour of reading my interview with Mike and you'll come to know as I do, he's a fantastic person and all-round gentleman.
With some interesting things to say too!

1. What was it like to play John F. Kennedy in JFK: A One Man Show?

Playing JFK was the realization of a long-held ambition, so it was ultimately a wonderful feeling. However, when first approached by David Susskind, the producer, I was deeply intimidated by the prospect. David was very understanding, very supportive and very confident that I was the actor he wanted, so after much discussion I agreed with two conditions. I said I’d need to work with a good dialect coach to ensure that I had his speech pattern down correctly and I’d need for him to provide a wig-maker who could give me the distinctive JFK hairstyle. He agreed.

If took a lot of work, but with a terrific script and the great support of the director, Frank Perry, I think we turned out a piece that did credit to the man.

And, I will say, after the first screening a close friend of the President, a man who knew him intimately and had worked with him in the White House, gave me a wonderfully gracious vote of confidence and appreciation, saying it was the best portrayal of JFK he’d ever seen.

2. How did you feel coming into MASH, once the major characters had already been assembled?

They had not only been assembled, but had already worked together for three seasons, so I was thrilled at getting the job but scared I’d be regarded as an interloper, first by the cast and then by the audience.
Fortunately the cast was wonderfully welcoming and very generous and, months later when we went on the air, the audience was as well.

3. Did you have any say into establishing the character of BJ Hunnicut?

Yes. What I knew in the first interview was that I didn’t want to simply become Trapper John. I didn’t think that would work.
Fortunately, the producers agreed and said they wanted to fashion a new character who was married, had a child and intended to be faithful to them, not a womanizer like Hawkeye and Trapper. I thought that was great.

But we had to fill out the character together. They did it be learning about me and I helped by making choices as an actor and offering thoughts as they came up. It was a wonderfully collaborative adventure.

One example of what they picked up from me was BJ’s interest in motorcycles. I ride cross-country bikes and have for years. In fact, if I understand your address correctly, I once rode across your country - and back.

4. Providence was a great show. What was it like on set?

Thanks. I think so too. I’ve been very fortunate in the work I’ve been able to do. The show was a dream, for the most part. Melina is a wonderful, very talented woman, too beautiful for words but with her feet firmly on the ground. Paula, also beautiful, has a great comic touch and loads of talent. Seth also is a terrific talent. I always thought of Paula as a young Lucille Ball and Seth as a young Jack Lemmon. Concetta Tomei, who played my wife, is a pro who made me laugh as she complained about having to wear the same dress in every episode (because it was the one she was wearing when she died).

The producers, with one exception, were very hard-working, very involved and very supportive. The set was great fun.

5. How do you find voice-over work, as opposed to shows such as Providence, and Desperate Housewifes?

I’ve always enjoyed voice-over work, but I don’t do much of it. It’s a kind of closed community, it seems, and I haven’t had much luck breaking into it.

6. MASH demonstrated that shows which are known for comedy can also have a place in a dramatic setting. Which do you prefer, comedy or drama?

I like intelligent scripts. I’m not fond of the division between comedy and drama because I think life includes both. That means, for me, that any good show should include both elements. MASH certainly did, to its great credit. I think it’s fine to do a comedy, but I look for an element of reality somewhere in it. The purely silly shows don’t interest me.

7. Is there any event/charity/production you would like to bring to my readers' attention?

I’m involved in many social justice efforts, some here in the U.S. and some around the world. My current focus in the U.S. is the abolition of the death penalty, a barbaric punishment that I find it embarrassing, frustrating and infuriating that the U.S. continues to use. The organization I chair is Death Penalty Focus and your readers can learn about it by going to

For those who are concerned about other human rights concerns, I work with Human Rights Watch, the largest American-based human rights organization in the world. Information about it can be found at


Mike Farrell

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did conducting it. And honestly, I had a ball.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever get a chance to interview Mike Farrell. But it just goes to show you, if you want something enough, and are nice enough, anything can happen.

I sincerely thank Mike for all his time he has given for this interview.
Needless to point out though, didn't I tell you he was a nice guy? :)
As always, I wish you all the very best, and I look forward to any feedback I may receive in this regard.
What did you think of this interview? Please comment, or email me directly at
Until next time!

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