Mike Farrell was B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H from 1975 to 1983. The series, which gave us insight into the difficulties of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War and how the surgeons and nurses used humor to deal with the grim realities, premiered on 9/17/72 and ended 2/28/83.
The series finale still ranks as the most watched television episode ever, with over 105 million people watching. The TV series is considered one of the best shows ever, if not THE best, so it was quite an honor to meet Mike. He, and the other members of the cast, made me laugh and made me think, providing poignancy and a not-so-veiled statement about the Vietnam War, which was still in progress when the show started.
He spoke on 11/2/08 in Austin at the Texas Book Festival and I got to hear him and talk to him afterward. He shared how he got into acting and delighted us with a story of one of the many never-ending gotcha pranks that the cast members played on each other. Mike still has that twinkle in his eye and a delight for life that made him the perfect B.J. on M*A*S*H.
The thing I didn’t know about Mike until I heard him talk is that he has been an activist for many years. He is the President of the board of Death Penalty Focus, a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment. As of 11/7/08, there have been 1130 executions since 1976 and 420 of those have been in Texas. Mike presented his talk in the Texas Senate Chambers, an irony not lost on him. He has traveled to several states and advocated on behalf of many prisoners on death row, has done countless documentaries and presentations, and on 2/3/98 even debated then Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox on a special MSNBC report on the execution of Karla Faye Tucker.
Mike has gotten involved in many international human rights cases and was the Co-Chair of Human Rights Watch in California from 1994-2004. Since 1979 he has been a spokesperson for CONCERN/America, an international refuguee aid and development organization. He has visited refugee camps in Asia and Central America, helped spread the word about what is going on there, and has been instrumental in getting help.
Mike has been involved in countless other issues, including Animal Rights, Environmental Issues, Rights of Children, Immigration issues, and Win Without War.
I went into that talk eager to meet Mike Farrell, the actor on M*A*S*H. Upon meeting him, I could see that he is a genuinely kind, caring person who seemed to delight in meeting each person who stayed to shake his hand. I came away from reading his book “Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist” inspired by the man. This is a true American hero.