M*A*S*H's Gary Burghoff said Radar helped him find his inner child

"Radar is one of my favorite children," Burghoff said in a 1976 interview.

Gary Burghoff played the likeable, helpful and sometimes overly polite role of Cpl. Walter "Radar" O'Reilly on M*A*S*H for a total of 181 episodes. 

The teddy bear carrying Corporal became a fan favorite over the course of the show's 11 seasons because he came with a unique perspective, as well as a small hopeful smile. Something we could all get behind.

Burghoff may not have carried around a teddy bear in real life, but according to a 1976 interview with The Miami News, Radar was his inspiration on and off-screen.

Part of Burghoff's love for his character was believing in Radar's message in the show: embrace your inner child. Which, he truly did believe.

"Im lucky because I can express the child in me," he said. "That's where an actor lives. I can play at being a doctor, a priest, a criminal. I can laugh and cry. Actors can be emotional in public and people pay to see it."

During M*A*S*H's time on air, viewers watched Radar grow from a shy, polite character to the person who kept everyone in the 4077th together. We wouldn't imagine M*A*S*H's early days without him.

According to the interview, Burghoff couldn't imagine a world without Radar either. As the first actor to be cast on M*A*S*H, Radar became apart of Burghoff's character in real life.

"Radar is one of my favorite children," he said. "He's what I wish I could be. I wish I could always maintain that naivete and vulnerability. But I'd be a fool if I said I wanted to play him the rest of my life. One of these days, I have to grow up."

Burghoff said one of his favorite things that came from his role as Radar was being able to meet the fans, and connect with people outside of the show. 

"I don't think there's too many people around who believe you are the character you play. But I guess they do feel they can trust me because they know Radar isn't going to hurt them," he said. "Some actors people are afraid of. I'm not one, and I'm glad."

Burghoff left M*A*S*H after seven seasons, because he wanted to take care of his family and be a better father. One of the most Radar qualities we've ever heard.

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11 Comments

Mblack 16 months ago
I always liked him in "The Man in the Santa Claus Suit"
Pacificsun 16 months ago
A great angle for (another) MASH story! Nicely written, always enjoy the topics coming from the interview with actors. Wow, 47 years ago, the interview was such a snapshot in time. If it ran '72 to '83, the interview was '76, he was only 4 years out. With all the rest of his career waiting for him. He spoke of his family, didn't know he had one, or children. If that's the reason he left. They just ran the last 2 episodes of Radar leaving. And he was strikingly different, already, and for those two episodes. Meaning, when he was busy doing the job itself (like looking for the generator) that was one way he played the role. But the writers and he "aged" so quickly/drastically in those 2 episodes. IMO, maybe too stark a difference. No humor, wistful, nostalgic. I think they should've played it based on his own (most memorable) flashbacks. Instead, he just looked lost walking around. Not that the viewer didn't know why. Just that it seemed a waste of how he could've portrayed the event.

Definitely a story here, for the ardent fans!
LoveMETV22 16 months ago

A likeable character, with or without his teddy bear.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 16 months ago
True! And MASH definitely needed that naïve, coming of age perspective. He stood for all the young men drafted for a task well beyond their experience and expectations! A good role, and an interesting actor.

Fun graphic, love the dialogue balloons!
MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
Personally I preferred Radar when he was more savvy than childlike Like in the movie.
DEO1776 MrsPhilHarris 13 months ago
Came here to say that. Savvy Radar who mocked the system was far better than the animal loving childlike character we ended up with. It was a weird transition between seasons and I wished they didn’t do it…
Mblack 16 months ago
So he got a hardship discharge?
Pacificsun Mblack 16 months ago
It seemed they (producers/writers) had to come up with something forcing him out (emotionally). Even up until the last minute he was still undecided. Seemed like going back into the world at large, was as big a challenge for the character as being in the military itself. But (IMO) it was about losing his usefulness, and how people depended upon him. (Never saw the movie).
Mblack Pacificsun 16 months ago
I was making a joke. Radar went home because his uncle died and Radar was needed on the farm. A hardship discharge.

But Gary Burghoff said he left so he could spend time with his kids. A different hardship discharge.
Pacificsun Mblack 16 months ago
Took me awhile to get it, but after I read his wiki (and quotes) then it made sense. Essentially, that he didn't like the celebrity of recognition interrupting his private life. A very interesting individual (even before being an actor). While people enjoyed his character-personality, IMO as an actor, he was underappreciated in the day. Except of course he won an Emmy rightfully so. For his role he used a sensitive touch in terms of bringing out that character's personality. Mike Farrell's quote explains what that means.

Fellow cast member Mike Farrell tried to persuade Burghoff to stay on the show, citing the lackluster careers of former M*A*S*H regulars Larry Linville and McLean Stevenson after their departures.

Farrell later said, "Gary Burghoff may well have been the best actor in the company, it's always seemed to me. His focus, his ability to find those little gems of behavior that made everything absolutely true were a marvel to behold."[9]


link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Burghoff
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