McLean Stevenson based Col. Blake on his father
Edgar Stevenson, Sr. was a real-life doctor!
Grounding a role in reality makes for a more immediate performance. Acting is a lie, but the most convincing acting is rooted in truth. Good acting resonates with viewers when the audience recognizes honesty beneath the mechanical falsehood of the show.
So, it's no surprise that some of our favorite characters in TV shows and movies are based on actual people. Norman Bates, Tony Soprano, and even Kramer are all modeled after real humans; you can feel that undercurrent of believability in each role. There's an authenticity to each.
You may not know, however, that M*A*S*H actor McLean Stevenson had a real person in mind when he developed his Henry Blake character.
In a 1991 quote from the Los Angeles Times, Stevenson details how he used his family ties to craft an authentic colonel.
"I was playing my dad," said Stevenson. "My father was a country doctor and was 80 years old when he passed away. I don't think my dad ever charged more than $1 for a house call and he couldn't balance his checkbook. He was probably the world's worst businessman."
Stevenson's father, Edgar, must've been doing something right. In addition to inspiring McLean's most famous role, he was also the reason his son joined the United States Navy, where McLean Stevenson served as a hospital corpsman from 1943 to 1947.