Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Interview: Larry Hama

As I approached the commentary track for Season 5's "The Korean Surgeon", I thought it would be a perfect time to have a brief chat with comics writer/artist/editor, musician, and actor Larry Hama, who played one of the two North Korean soldiers in this episode!

I read Larry's answers to my questions on the commentary track for the episode, but I'm also running our talk here on the blog as well. This interview was conducted on May 19, 2012:

AfterM*A*S*H: How did you get the job on M*A*S*H? The show was at the top of the ratings at the time, I can only imagine how many hundreds of actors tried to get an audition for that show!

Larry Hama: I was in LA doing the west coast tour of Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. Soon-Tek Oh, who was in a number of episodes suggested I get the Bessie Loo Agency on Sunset to rep me while I was in town (they handled many Asian performers in LA) so I went to talk to them and they set me up with an audition the next week. I did one reading and got the part. Apparently they had a hard time finding Asian heavies.

AM: All of your scenes are with Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff, and Jamie Farr. Do you recall any of the other cast being around the days you were filming? Did you get to meet any of them?

LH: I got to meet Alan Alda. He was extremely relaxed and friendly--a genuinely nice person who didn't seem to have any "star" attitude at all. Pretty much everybody involved with the production was that way. Very good vibes on the set!

AM: Did you talk much with Larry Linville between shooting? What was he like to work with?

LH: I got to talk with him a lot, since many of the shots were with him, Bob Ito and I in the Jeep. In order to do the shot before we kick him out, we had to back the jeep up around a bend in the road and wait for camera and sound to be ready. There were a lot of delays with aircraft passing overhead, so sometimes we were stuck there around the bend for quite a while, and we just shot the breeze. Larry Linville was a sweet and charming guy, and one of the most popular people on the set. Quite the opposite of what he played. I remember that Bob Ito asked me if I was auditioning for some new show that week, and when I asked him what the show was, he said it was a comedy about a medical examiner, and I thought "that will never fly." Bob went, and got the part of Sam on Quincy.

AM: Do you recall shooting any scenes that didn't make it into the show?

LH: No, they pretty much used what they shot.

AM: M*A*S*H frequently re-used actors for multiple roles, especially for Korean characters. Did you ever get the chance to try out for the show again?

LH: I went up to San Francisco to finish out the "Pacific Overtures" Tour, then went back to New York to start a rock and roll band and get back into comics, so I never read for another part on M*A*S*H.

Thanks to Larry Hama for giving us some insight into working on this episode of M*A*S*H!

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