Mike Farrell – Actor & Activist

Exclusive interview

Story Highlights

  • Activist for justice, peace & human rights.
  • Recipient of numerous humanitarian & activism awards.
  • Served his country in the marines.
  • Married to actress, Shelley Fabares.
  • Opposes the death penalty.
  • A best selling author.
  • Eight seasons as captain B.J Hunnicut on MASH.
  • Served on many organizations.

T  erre 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. 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.

Jim Parrack (left) & Mike Farrell in the play Terre Haute

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.
  • 1983- El Salvador as part of a human rights delegation.
  • 1985- Peace delegation to the USSR.
  • 1988- Trips to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the occupied territories with the Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East.
  • 1994- Member of a delegation to Cuba to investigate the need for humanitarian assistance to educational and medical programs.
  • 2004- Trip to Honduras with the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, as part of a campaign against illegal logging.

Mike opposes the death penalty, preferring the alternative of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 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 Farrell has worked on many activist campaigns.

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

Mike Farrell and 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 & Alan Alda in 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 in a scene from Supernatural. From left: Jared Padalecki, Mike Farrell, Misha Collins & Jensen Ackles.

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 Loretta Swit. 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

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.”

Mike Farrell has used the power of celebrity to make a difference.

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.

(This article was originally published November 2012. Updated July, 2018).

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Joe Faulkner

Founder & editor-in-chief.

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