The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For the many cast members on M*A*S*H, the prospect of bigger stardom elsewhere may have seemed like a perfect pasture. It’s no surprise that a few actors within the ensemble left the show to seek their fortune elsewhere. By 1977, Larry Linville, Wayne Rogers, and McLean Stevenson had all left the show. An oft-cited reason for the departures was the tremendous shadow cast by Alan Alda’s stature in the series. “Hawkeye” Pierce got all the best lines. So, with a few seasons of a hit show on one’s résumé, the grass might look greener on a different show. Like seasons, people change, and so did the opening credits on M*A*S*H.
Father Mulcahy, M*A*S*H‘s resident priest, had crises of confidence, sure, but never crises of faith. He may have questioned his efficiency, but he was unwavering in his service. William Christopher, the actor who played Mulcahy, was similarly steadfast in his role on the show. Where other actors left in search of a brighter spotlight, Christopher stayed put.
“I must say that I enjoy the show and the part,” Christopher told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “And I have never contemplated leaving. I think I’ll stay on as Father Mulcahy for as long as the show lasts and as long as they want me.”
The conscious effort to be presently content is especially satisfying with the benefit of hindsight. His co-stars that switched up for other options came up short. Although the actors that left worked fairly consistently in the following years, none of their work came close to the magnitude of starring on M*A*S*H. Christopher undoubtedly made the right decision for himself.
“When an actor begins his career,” he said, “he always has great ambitions. I know that was the case for me, from the time I decided to be an actor. I think that was in the third grade. I would read plays and I was certain that I could play any part and every part in the play.
“But the older you get and the more experienced you get, the more your ambition contracts. You realize what you can do and what you can’t do.”
As for William Christopher? He could play Father Mulcahy, a much-needed beacon for grace amidst the horrors of war. Christopher was compelling in the role, funny when he needed to be and always believable.