MASH’s Mike Farrell: His Good Life as an Actor and Dedicated Life of Activism

Story Highlights
  • Recipient of numerous humanitarian and activism awards.
  • Traveled to many areas ravaged by famine, human rights violations, and war.
  • Works actively to gain the abolition of the death penalty.
  • Has acted in many iconic television series.
  • Married to actress and singer, Shelley Fabares.
  • Proudest accomplishments are his two children.

Terre Haute starred Mike Farrell and Jim Parrack (best known for the television series, True Blood). In Terre Haute, I was amazed by Mike Farrell’s outstanding performance as the writer James (a character based on Gore Vidal). I met Mike after the play, and he introduced me to actors, – Noah Wyle and Terre Haute co-star Jim Parrack.

Mike Farrell and Jim Parrack in Terre Haute.
Mike Farrell and Jim Parrack in Terre Haute.

It was after sundown when Mike and I walked to a café nearby, a quaint little establishment with a musician playing in the background. We sat chatting over coffee, while I learned more about Mike’s remarkable life. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, Mike has owned quite a few different bikes and taken many cross-country road trips.

For years, Mike’s been an activist for peace, justice, and human rights. He contributes to making this world a better place. Mike uses his celebrity status for a worthwhile purpose. He is proactive in wanting to make a contribution and is the recipient of numerous humanitarian and activism awards. Since 1979, he has been the spokesperson for Concern / America, an international refugee aid and development organization. In this capacity he has visited refugee camps in Asia and Central America and disseminated information about Concern / America’s work worldwide.

Mike served as Co-Chair of Human Rights Watch in California from 1994 to 2004 and is now the Co-Chair Emeritus. He has travelled to many areas ravaged by famine, human rights violations, and war. Here are only a few of the trips Mike has made.

  • 1979- Refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border for Concern / America.
  • 1982- Refugee aid to Honduras and Nicaragua for Concern America.
  • 1983- El Salvador as part of a human rights delegation.
  • 1984- El Salvador and Nicaragua with human rights delegation.
  • 1985- Peace delegation to the USSR.
  • 1985-Back to El Salvador to  shoot a documentary about the people in the war.
  • 1986-Human rights delegation to Paraguay and Chile
  • 1988- Trips to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the Occupied Territories with the Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East.
  • 1990- Back to the Middle East (Israel, Occupied Territories, Jordan, Syria).
  • 1992- Trip to Somalia and Bosnia for the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees).
  • 1993- Back to Jordan, Israel and Occupied territories with the Christian Children’s Fund.
  • 1994- Member of a delegation to Cuba to investigate the need for humanitarian assistance to educational and medical programs.
  • 1995- Trip to Rwanda, also for the UNHCR.
  • 2004- Trip to Honduras with the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, as part of a campaign against illegal logging. This trip included a “March for Life” in support of a threatened priest and a stop in Nicaragua also about illegal logging.
  • 2018 – trip to Samoa to meet with government officials to promote the signing of the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) for the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
Mike Farrell has worked with many activist campaigns

Mike opposes the death penalty, preferring the alternative of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, believing as he does that we should never leave any human being without hope.* His activities in the anti-death penalty movement are extensive. Mike serves as President of Death Penalty Focus and is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He has debated and spoken about the issue on many occasions and continues to work actively to gain the abolition of the death penalty.

Mike serves on the Advisory Board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. An organization dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. He also works to support animal rights, environmental issues, the rights of children, Immigration issues, and much more. He served his country in the Marines.

Mike is also active with environmental activism, and periodically performs a one man show of ‘Dr Keeling’s Curve.’ Mike plays atmospheric scientist, Dr Charles David Keeling, and the play promotes and educates the serious impact of climate change. You can watch his full performance of the play, below:

WATCH: Mike Farrell as atmospheric scientist, Dr Charles David Keeling in Dr Keeling’s Curve.

Together with partner Marvin Minoff, Mike formed Farrell/Minoff productions in 1985. One of their productions is Patch Adams, which starred Robin Williams.

Mike Farrell, with wife Shelley Fabares

Mike is married to actress, Shelley Fabares. Shelley has a long list of acting credits, including being the star of ABC-TVs Coach. Shelley was also Elvis Presley’s co-star in three films, and she had a Number One hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1962 for “Johnny Angel,” which sold over a million copies. She was also in the Emmy winning drama, Brian’s Song (1971-72) where she played Brian Piccolo’s wife – a very famous and well-remembered role because of the awards the TV movie received – four Emmys. Piccolo was played by James Caan, and his best buddy was played by Billy Dee Williams.

Mike Farrell (left) with Alan Alda in a scene from MASH.

Apart from being well known for playing Captain B. J. Hunnicut in the television series M*A*S*H for eight seasons, Mike wrote and directed several episodes, earning nominations for Director’s Guild and the Emmy Awards. He played Dr Jim Hansen in Providence for five seasons and has guest starred in many iconic television series, including McHale’s Navy, Lassie, The Monkees, I Dream of Jeannie, Daniel Boone, The Bill Cosby Show, Bonanza, The Six Million Dollar Man, Murder, She Wrote, Matlock, and Desperate Housewives, Supernatural, to name just a few.


Mike Farrell with Misha Collins in a scene from Supernatural.

For his human rights and social justice activism, Mike was Recipient of the 2018 William O. Douglas Award, by Public Counsel, the countries largest pro bono law firm.  Below is an interview Mike did for Public Counsel:

WATCH: Mike Farrell Accepts Public Counsel‘s 2018 William O. Douglas Award

I consider Mike a wise and experienced man, and one of the best people to talk about how one can contribute. I asked Mike about his thoughts on contributing and making a difference:

Making a “contribution” is a difficult concept- for some because it implies giving or putting out effort in an altruistic way. I think the important thing for people to understand is that we’re all stuck on this planet together and whether we know it or not we’re all contributing. The question becomes ‘what kind of contribution do you want to make?

“If we choose to “stay uninvolved” with others, we contribute to the decline of some and the advance of those who want to gain and maintain power for themselves at everyone else’s expense.”

Mike Farrell attending the Hollywood Museum exhibition for former MASH co-star and Emmy Award winning actress, Loretta Swit in November 2017.

If we choose to “stay uninvolved” with issues outside our personal circle, we contribute to the opportunity for those who want to pillage the earth’s riches, pollute its climate and trash our way of life for their own advantage.”

So it’s important that every individual understand that she or he is responsible to some degree not only to himself or herself, but also to neighbors, to the earth, the climate, the growth or diminution of civilization, and, most of all, to the children and the future they represent.

Mike sincerely believes we all have an obligation to get involved and do what we can even if we can only contribute a little.

“We are all contributing in one way or another. We just have to decide if we want our contribution to be a negative one or a positive one.”

“A person who makes a contribution of any kind always gets back more than she or he gives.Mike Farrell.

Joe Faulkner with Mike Farrell

I also asked Mike if he had any advice for people who were thinking of getting involved and making a difference:

Yes. Do it. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic effort. That’s up to the individual. One can get involved with family and friends, with local efforts, with animals, with the elderly, with children, or one can do more and find ways to help out in the community, the city, state, country, or world. It’s really a matter of choice. But once a person gets involved a bit, he or she will see that it pays back in ways one might never have imagined. A person who makes a contribution of any kind always gets back more than she or he gives.

In what ways has making a contribution affected Mike Farrell’s life? He offers the following insight:

In more ways than I can easily describe. It has introduced me to love; it has made me a bigger, brighter person, a man rich in many of the most important ways.”

So what are Mike’s proudest accomplishments and his goals for the future?

My proudest accomplishments are my two children. My goals are continuing to work toward the creation of a world where we recognize and honor the value and dignity inherent in every human being.” Mike declared.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Mike’s memoir: Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist. It is a fascinating and enjoyable read and a revealing look into the life of a truly remarkable and inspirational man– Mike Farrell. Now also available as an audio book from Audible.

Giving makes us feel happy. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

Joe Faulkner

Journalist, health and life coach. My world exclusives have been featured in TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, CNN & more. As a former social welfare worker, I use a combination of counselling, health and life coaching skills, to help artists & others to live a good life. (See available programs on this website). As a journalist, I write stories to positively impact the reader, and aim to shine a spotlight on mental health, and have empathy through my personal mental health experiences. Check out the Mental Health resources section of his website.

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