William Christopher's improv nearly cost him the role of Father John Mulcahy

Christopher took a big risk, and it did not pay off.

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution

It can be difficult to picture anyone except William Christopher (and René Auberjonois) in the role of Father John Mulcahy, however, there was a period of time when Christopher's place in the show wasn't set in stone.

The original series pilot was actually shot with an entirely different actor, and Christopher was only invited to audition when it was decided that the role should be recast.

Even at the audition, the role wasn't a sure guarantee for Christopher, as he told the Chicago Tribune. Christopher explained that, at the audition, he thought that he'd take a chance and do a bit of improv, but it wasn't well received by the M*A*S*H casting directors, as Christopher went against the script to write his own lines.

Luckily, promise was still seen in the actor, who was again offered an opportunity to audition, under one condition: No improvisation. Once Christopher was able to stick to the script, he won the role in no time.

Interestingly enough, while Christopher's desire to improvise wasn't necessarily welcome, the actor acknowledged that in real life, he and Father Mulcahy were actually slightly similar.

"I tend to say things like 'Oh dear me,' or 'My goodness' or 'Goodness gracious' because that's the way I talk," Christopher said. "If Mulcahy talks that way, that's fine. That comes easily to me."

Mulcahy and Christopher also share a desire to keep the faith, even if things look a bit worse for wear. "I'm a great believer in positive thinking," he said. "Things happen in the craziest ways. You have to be open and receptive to that possibility, and it will happen. That's sort of Mulcahy's attitude. He has faith that he will be able to find an answer."

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8 Comments

Suzies1952 6 days ago
Father mulcahy was my favorite character in mash
Avie 13 days ago
LIttle did Christopher, or the producers who discouraged his improvising, know that one day they'd write an episode in which Mulcahy spends a notable amount of time running around shouting the word "jocularity!"
Jon 13 days ago
On MeTV I've seen an appearance he made on Carol Burnett's show around 1972 where he & an actress did some improvisation.
Wiseguy70005 13 days ago
Why would he think improvisation would be welcome? Writers are protective of their words and usually don't take kindly to uninvited changes. He was lucky to get a second chance.
AgingDisgracefully 13 days ago
No elaboration on Headlined Improv.
In the MeTV Tradition!
Did he channel his Inner Jerry Lewis?
I doubt it, as he *got* the part. 😉
jmworacle 13 days ago
William Christopher was an underrated character in the show.
Wiseguy70005 jmworacle 13 days ago
William Christopher was an actor not a character.
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