William Christopher once explained the influence of his religious family on Father Mulcahy

The M*A*S*H actor thinks his grandmother would've rolled over in her grave to see him play a priest.

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One of the most depressing episodes for Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H, "Dear Sis" finds the priest losing faith that anyone in the camp needs his guidance. At Christmas, of all times.

At one point in the episode, he vows to sob himself to sleep. Throughout the episode, Mulcahy writes a letter to his sister, a nun, explaining how broken he feels. He knows she can understand his unique struggles as a man of the cloth, and he feels lucky to have a woman of faith in his family.

For William Christopher, the actor who played Father Mulcahy, the notion of choosing a priest's life was always "a definite no," but that doesn't mean his religious family didn't try to push him in that direction.

In 1978, he told the UPI that the closest he came to taking the pious road was singing in the Wesleyan University choir.

"That's as close to becoming a preacher as I ever came," Christopher said. "I never heard the call."

This disappointed Christopher's grandmother, who was especially proud of a distinguished family member who was a Methodist circuit rider in the 1840s. This was Christopher's great-great-grandfather. Christopher's grandma saw the spirit of this ancestor's greatness in her grandson.

"My grandmother wanted me to become a clergyman," Christopher said. "She could not forget the circuit rider in our family tree. She would probably roll over in her grave if she knew I was playing a priest. But grandmother would have liked the idea of me in a clerical collar."

Christopher's wife Barbara, who once appeared on M*A*S*H to sing a duet with her hubby, was Catholic, and he said she served as his faith advisor while playing Father Mulcahy. He also did a ton of religious research for the part which made him feel "at home" in the role.

Christopher said throughout his life, people confused a stare he honed in acting classes as a coping mechanism for his stage fright with deep spiritual contemplation.

"People often believe I am thinking deep thoughts when I look off into space," Christopher said. "It's not that at all, but I don't like to disillusion them. What they mistake for a spellbinding, enigmatic stare is actually fright on my part. I put that stare to good use in improvisation sessions during acting classes. People thought I'd seen the light."

During those moments, Christopher said he wasn't spinning his mind's gears — he wasn't thinking of anything at all.

"I used the same stare on my teachers in school," Christopher admitted. "They believed I was deep into the subject they were teaching when actually my mind was as blank as a mind can be."

After he appeared on M*A*S*H, Christopher recognized a bit of his grandmother — who believed he would make a good priest — in the fans of the show who never saw him as anything but Father Mulcahy.

"People who watch M*A*S*H do approach me and ask if they can call me 'father,'" Christopher confessed.

"I tell them my name is William Christopher, but they can call me Bill," he joked.

Although he says he never would've chosen the cloth outside of M*A*S*H, Christopher wasn't completely ignorant to the qualities he had that would've made him a decent priest. He just said he lacked a fundamental quality of men of faith.

"Come to think of it, I do have some of the qualities for a good cleric," Christopher said. "I like people. I'm a student. But the trouble is I don't want to be a preacher, and that's the most important thing. Desire."

Channeling that desire is what made "Dear Sis" such a powerful episode. It ends with Father Mulcahy's determined generosity of spirit inspiring Winchester to become extremely charitable in the knick of time, saving Christmas. The episode culminates in a toast to the priest.

In a touching scene that leads to the cast singing about peace on earth, Hawkeye raises his glass to Father Mulcahy, "someone who's too modest, too utterly simple a man to know how much strength he gives us just by the decency of his life among us."

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35 months ago
Wasn't every actor on M*A*S*H Jewish?
LynCarceo 26 months ago
Is that a joke?
Wiseguy 36 months ago
He's played so many clergyman over the years, it was joked about on his appearance on Mad About You, where he played another priest.
lynngdance Wiseguy 36 months ago
What episode?
JHP 36 months ago
jocularity jocularity jocularity
AnnieM JHP 36 months ago
One of my favorite Father Mulcahy lines. Also, "She hugged the stuffing out of me!"
lynngdance AnnieM 36 months ago
Yes!! Definitely!! Hilarious!! 😆😆😆 one of my favorite episodes! Also when Hawkeye tells him “I’m sorry, I just never thought of you as a ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em kinda guy’” 😆😆
JHP AnnieM 36 months ago
so true - but William was so treasured in that show - so many lines he had that are stuck in my gray matter

but most of them were in scenes where he was in them


"this is Capt Pak - ROK ,,,,and this is Father Mulcahy - GOD"
15inchBlackandWhite 36 months ago
I always appreciated it when non-Catholic actors like Bill Christopher or Tom Bosley delivered respectful performances while playing Priests. I always hoped that if I were ever called on to play a Rabbi I could do as well.
Andybandit 36 months ago
Nice story. I like Father Mulcahy. He was a nice priest
lynngdance 36 months ago
Yay! Finally an article. About my favorite MASH character, Father Mulcahy! 😁😁😁😁😁
StrayCat 36 months ago
Father Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, my most favorite character on Mash. Apparently there are many who would agree.
lynngdance StrayCat 36 months ago
My favorite character too!
LoveMETV22 lynngdance 36 months ago
He is one of my favorite characters. Not too much (if any) controversy surrounding his role. On a side note- Thank you again for your quiz the other night. It was so much fun and your presentation was very professional looking in every aspect.
lynngdance LoveMETV22 36 months ago
I’m glad you had had fun, and thanks for such a big compliment!Thank you very much! 😃😃
MrsPhilHarris lynngdance 36 months ago
I missed a quiz! 😳
JM4415 StrayCat 36 months ago
You got his name right, but Hawkeye didn't in S7E14, "Dear Sis". He toasted and dedicated the Christmas song to, "Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy".
StrayCat JM4415 36 months ago
Actually, there were a couple of times the father's name was stated incorrectly, which i figured was an actor flubbing his lines. Obviously they decided re-shooting those scenes wasn't worth it.
KMT6600 36 months ago
Thanks Bill for playing that roll in M*A*S*H U did it well ! We need them at war time too Just like fighting people no more wars That's what we need !
JHP KMT6600 36 months ago
especially INSIDE the country wars
LoveMETV22 36 months ago
One of my favorite episodes was " Movie Tonight ", when the other M*A*S*H characters did Father Mulcahy impressions.
LoveMETV22 Moody 36 months ago
Thank You Moody . Much Appreciated.
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