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From Dana King:
I stumbled across a cable show the other night that was about what a hell hole MASH was to work on, at least for the actors and crew. How McLean Stevenson actually left because he couldn't take it any more (And I always thought it was for HELLO, LARRY), and Wayne Rogers constantly battling with Fox and CBS. Without betraying confidences, how much of that is true, and how much is sour graping after the fact?
None of it is true. And it’s why I refuse to be interviewed for these shows. In order to get viewers they fabricate all this “inside dish”. Here are the facts.
Most of the MASH crew worked the entire eleven-year run of the show. If they were so miserable they would have bailed for other shows. The economy was actually good back then and there were other shows to go to.
McLean was frustrated playing a supporting role and was receiving all these offers to star in his own series. So he left but not before serving the length of his contract. When people are really unhappy they want out right NOW. That wasn’t the case. And I know McLean was devastated upon learning his character was being killed off. I imagine he thought there might be some way for him to guest on future episodes somewhere down the line.
Wayne Rogers was also frustrated. Hawkeye and Trapper were supposed to be equal characters (Wayne was actually hired first) but Alan emerged as the star. Don’t blame the producers. Blame America. Wayne went off seeking starring roles. He also had issues with the studio over certain deal points and objectionable clauses in his contract. There is another facet of Wayne and that is he's a brilliant businessman. His investments and financial endeavors have earned him far more than he was making as an actor – even on MASH.
Wayne still participates in MASH retrospectives and even said if he had known the show was going to stay on eleven years, “I probably would have kept my mouth shut and stayed put."
MASH was a very happy set. But if the documentary showed that for an hour no one would watch. Better to just keep showing Kristy McNicols having drug problems.
And Joe asks:
How can you tell (or at least improve your odds) when an actor or actress will devolve into a complete PITA?
By PITA I assume you mean monster and not the bread. When casting parts you try to do your homework. Ask people who have worked with the actor before. In television there’s a pretty good grapevine. Nightmarish behavior gets around at the speed of “Send”. So heed the actor’s reputation.
Sometimes you’re in a pickle because you know the actor can be difficult but they’re also brilliant and no one else is as perfect for the part. Then you have to make the “Is this person worth it?” decision… otherwise known as the “Mandy Patinkin” decision . Often times you make a Faustian deal with the devil. Lots of people got rich thanks to Brett Butler and GRACE UNDER FIRE but half of them are spending it all on 24-hour care at the drooling academy.
If the actor doesn’t have a reputation and you just meet them it’s very hard to tell if they’re going to become a major problem. Actors can be incredibly charming when they want to be. But that’s the result of good acting.
At this point, I need to make a distinction here. There is a big difference between an actor who is a pain in the ass and one is just high maintenance. The latter has a slower process but he’s genuinely working hard to give you the best possible performance on show night. The pain in the ass is a primadonna, unreliable, disruptive force who makes everyone’s life miserable, and worse, doesn’t give a shit. He's also a justification for waterboarding.
I must say however, that these bad seeds are very rare. The overwhelming majority of actors are fabulous people who treat those around them with respect and kindness. I have even had actors in my home.
What’s your question?