Vicki Lawrence said that she was the one who convinced McLean Stevenson to do M*A*S*H
There's another thing that we can thank Mama for!
In the final episode of the third season of M*A*S*H, viewers were forced to confront the reality that they would have to imagine what the series would be like without Lt. Col. Henry Blake. However, it turned out that we might have had to imagine that reality much sooner than we realized. Apparently, McLean Stevenson was originally fairly reluctant to participate in the series at all. The rumor is that Stevenson originally auditioned for the role of Hawkeye Pierce, but after he didn't get it, he was persuaded to take the role of Blake instead.
However, Vicki Lawrence tells a slightly different story and proposes that it was she who convinced Stevenson to take the role; or at the very least, pushed him toward it. In her book, Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, Lawrence revealed that she and Stevenson dated for a brief period. The two were introduced by Harvey Korman, and Lawrence wrote that the two went out only a few times. Still, she said, "McLean was a lot of fun. It didn't take long for me to know I was crazy about him."
Still, Lawrence was also becoming acquainted with her future husband Bobby Russell, and she decided to stop seeing McLean to pursue a relationship with the former instead. Lawrence wrote, "So, after two dates I said I couldn't see him again because I was 'seriously involved,' but that I really liked him as a friend."
In fact, during their short-lived relationship, Lawrence said that she convinced Stevenson to consider taking the role that would arguably shape his career. She wrote, "I'll take credit for convincing Mac to do the pilot for M*A*S*H. He was up for the part of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake when we dated. He said 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 it was going to be a wonderful series and he had to do it."
Lawrence wrote that she also took McLean, who hadn't seen M*A*S*H as a film, to the theater where the two saw the movie and "wound up laughing ourselves silly." So maybe we all had to say goodbye to Colonel Henry Blake a lot sooner than we wanted to. However, without Vicki Lawrence, there's a possibility that we couldn't have gotten to see him at all.