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Mike Farrell Biography


Home > Actors > F > Farrell, Mike > Biography


Birth Name: Mike Farrell
Born: 02/06/1939
Birth Place: Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA


Born in St. Paul, MN on Feb. 6, 1939, Farrell moved with his parents and three siblings to Hollywood when he was just two. There, his father worked as a carpenter at various Hollywood studios, which sparked his son's fascination with movies and television. Farrell attended Hollywood High School before joining the Marines for two years. Upon his return to civilian life, he worked at various odd jobs, including private investigator, before attending the University of California at Los Angeles and studying performance with acclaimed teacher and actor Jeff Corey.

Farrell's acting career began with small roles on television and in films in the mid-1960s, including uncredited turns as a hotel bellhop in "The Graduate" (1968) and a shooting victim in Peter Bogdanovich's harrowing debut, "Targets" (1969). Gradually his roles increased in size, and in 1968, he landed a supporting role on the daytime soap opera "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ). He left the show in 1970 to join the cast of the primetime medical drama "The Interns" (CBS, 1970-71), which preceded an ever larger role as the no-nonsense aide to city mayor Anthony Quinn on the equally short-lived "Man and the City" (ABC, 1971-72). This period also marked the beginning of a four-year contract with Universal, during which he appeared on several of their series, as well as Gene Roddenberry's speculative sci-fi TV-movie "The Questor Tapes" (1974), where he played a sympathetic scientist charged with helping to educate an android (Robert Foxworth) in the ways of humanity.

The following year, Farrell replaced Wayne Rogers as sidekick to Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce on "M*A*S*H," which marked his greatest exposure to a television audience to date. Hunnicut was as easy-going and even-handed as the actor who played him, but with a streak of madcap humor that made him a perfect right-hand man to Hawkeye. A faithful husband and dedicated family man - save for one ill-advised fling with a nurse - Hunnicut struggled openly with the separation from his wife and daughter, suffering from bouts with alcoholism and gambling as a result of that anxiety. He could occasionally throw a wrench into Hawkeye's nurse-chasing schemes, but was also relied upon by his friend and other members of the 4077th to provide a semblance of sanity in the chaos of their daily lives.

Hunnicut's storyline in the famed series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," underscored the character's essential humanity and sense of decency. Granted a discharge from the Department of Defense, he gladly boards a helicopter for home, knowing full well that his departure will throw the medical staff of the hospital in disarray. But when a request is sent for a new doctor, Hunnicut returns, despite the fact that his change of plans will cause him to miss his daughter's second birthday. His final scene in the show finds him breaching the difficulty that he and Hawkeye experience in saying goodbye to one another. As Hawkeye's chopper lifts off, he sees the word "GOODBYE" spelled out in rocks on the ground below, and Hunnicut watching his friend's departure from the seat of a motorcycle. In addition to his starring role on the series, Farrell wrote and directed several episodes of "M*A*S*H," which earned him Emmy and Directors Guild nominations. In 1980, he received a second Emmy nod for his acting in the legendary series.

After "M*A*S*H," Farrell continued to appear in television series and features, but also began exploring the role of producer. His first effort in that regard was the 1983 TV movie "Memorial Day," which co-starred his future wife, actress Shelley Fabares. Later, he partnered with Marvin Minhoff to form a production company which yielded several more TV movies, as well as the features "Dominick and Eugene" (1988) and the Robin Williams melodrama "Patch Adams" (1998), which was inspired by the actor's encounters with the real surgeon.

Farrell also became widely known for his political activism, which included support for Human Rights Watch and Death Penalty Focus, for which he served as president. In 1985, fact blended with fiction when Farrell - who was in Central America working with refugees from the war in El Salvador - was "pressed" into assisting with a successful surgery on a guerilla leader. In addition to his global concerns, Farrell was also a committed member of the Screen Actors Guild, serving as First Vice President of the organization from 2002 to 2005. He also served a three-year term on the Commission on Judicial Performance, which heard cases against judges in California. His stint on the state commission earned him the Donald Wright Award from California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, making him only the third individual who was not a judge or lawyer to receive the award in its 28-year history.

Despite his busy schedule, Farrell remained exceptionally active as a performer. He toured the country in "J.F.K.: A One Man Show," which was filmed for television in 1984, and later embarked on a similar tour with a show based on the life of famed lawyer Clarence Darrow. Farrell remained uncommitted to a regular series for nearly two decades, although he did provide the voice of Jonathan Kent, father to Superman, on several animated series based on the D.C. Comics character, including "Superman: The Animated Series" (The WB, 1996-2000). In 1999, he returned to regular series work with "Providence," in which he played the amiable veterinarian dad to star Melina Kanakaredes' lovelorn doctor. In 2002, he made several appearances on "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004- ) as the grieving father to John Slattery's Victor Lang, who was murdered by the ex-husband of his philandering wife (Eva Longoria Parker). In 1996, Farrell was given the Valentine Davies Award by the Writers Guild of America. He also received the Humanitarian Award from Women in Film in 1993.