Liberal celebrity activist.
That's a toxic description to many people.
But Mike Farrell — best known as Hawkeye's straight man B.J. Hunnicut on the seminal TV dramedy "M*A*S*H" — embraces that role.
"I didn't give up my citizenship to be an actor," Farrell said by phone earlier this month in advance of his appearance at the Decatur Public Library to read from his autobiography "Just Call Me Mike." "We can behave like human beings and remember our responsibilities as citizens or shut up and sing. For me, the responsibilities of citizenship comes first. It's very evident the people who object most to celebrity involvement disagree with the celebrity's viewpoints."
Indeed, if you're expecting extended remembrances from his eight years on "M*A*S*H," this isn't that book. Farrell spends more time on his childhood longing for the approval of his dad, his personal growth as a human being and his fight for human rights in places such as Rwanda, El Salvador and Cambodia.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Q: Why did you decide to make this a cross-country driving tour?
A: I love to drive. And my wife loves taking road trips. And the book company doesn't have a lot of money to do a big publicity tour flying me from one city to another. This is a more reasonable way of doing it.
Q: What's it been like?
A: I never know what to expect. I always fear I'll walk into an empty store. So far, it's been really exciting and thrilling. The people are a combination of those who know me and care about the issues and those who know about "M*A*S*H" and Hollywood. It makes for an interesting mix of people. We do a lot of Q&A, and the discussions can get very juicy.
Q: What topics get juicy?
A: Periodically, it's the death penalty. It's the war. Views on torture. What we should be doing about Iraq. I try to be respectful of people who raise tough questions.
Q: How did "M*A*S*H*" impact your activism?
A: It just escalated everything. It made my own personality visibility rise. The people who did publicity really found it an interesting target of opportunity that I was into social political activism.
Q: So the publicity people didn't try to stop you?
A: Sometimes the marketing people got a little nervous, but the people at "M*A*S*H" were nothing but supportive.
Q: What did you learn working alongside Alan Alda all those years?
A: He's a wonderful guy. I don't know what I learned except seeing and experiencing his talent and generosity. Here's a guy who could have insisted the show was all about him. But he knew the point of the show was such that we all get the spotlight.
Q: You're coming to Atlanta, home to a true activist, Jimmy Carter. What's your take on him?
A: I think he's been a magnificent example of what a post presidency can be. He's truly a hero. He's been excoriated for his actions in the Middle East, but he's continued to move ahead and do what he thinks is right and I think is right as well.
Mike Farrell, "Just Call Me Mike,"
Decatur Public Library, 215 Sycamore St., Decatur, as part of the Decatur Arts Festival
7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Doors open at 6 p.m., according to the library'sWeb site.
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