While he was known for his role as Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake in M*A*S*H, it allegedly took actress Vicki Lawrence to encourage him to even audition for the hit TV series.
In her book, Vicki!: The Truth-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, Lawrence wrote about convincing Stevenson to audition for M*A*S*H, even after he was allegedly reluctant to act in the show to begin with. Lawrence had been dating Stevenson when the auditions were happening.
“I’ll take credit for convincing Mac to do the pilot for M*A*S*H,” she wrote. The actress noted that Steveson was up for the part of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake. However, he told her he didn’t see how they could possibly turn that movie into a TV series. “I thought he was wrong. I remember going over to the William Morris Agency to pick up the pilot script for him, reading it, and telling him I thought I was going to be a wonderful series and he had to do it.”
Lawrence also shared that she took Stevenson to see M*A*S*H the movie version. She wrote that the duo ended up laughing themselves silly. That was when he knew he had to go for the role.
Stevenson was on M*A*S*H from 1972 to 1975 before moving to be a regular panelist on Match Game. He appeared on other TV shows including The Love Boat, The Golden Girls, and Dirty Dancing. In February 1996, the actor passed away after suffering from a fatal heart attack while recovering from bladder cancer. He was 68 years old at the time of his death.
McLean Stevenson Once Revealed The Exact Reason Why He left M*A*S*H
During an interview with the Los Angeles Times in the early ‘90s, McLean Stevenson admitted that he made a mistake in leaving M*A*S*H over being considered as the second star of the show behind Alan Alda.
“The mistake was that I thought everybody in America loved McLean Stevenson,” he told the media outlet. “That was not the case. Everybody loved Henry Blake.”
Fellow M*A*S*H star Loretta Swit also stated in an interview that Stevenson wanted to be the star of the show and felt that was difficult with the number of actors on the show. Swit even recalled the remark he made to her before he left the show.
“[He said] ‘I know I will not be in anything as good as this show, but I have to leave and be number one,’” Swit recalled Stevenson’s remark. Eventually, Stevenson said that the real reason behind his departure from M*A*S*H was because of “system problems” he had with 20th Century Fox.
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