William Christopher, one of the stars of the groundbreaking television show M*A*S*H* died in his home in Pasadena on December 31, 2016 according to ABC. Christopher was 84 years old and died of non-lung small cell carcinoma, according to his son John.
Christopher was born on October 20, 1932 in Evanston Illinois. Despite being best known for playing a Catholic Priest, he was a Methodist in real life. He graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in drama in 1954. While in school he fenced and played soccer, and was a member of the glee club.
His career began in the mid-’60s with guest appearances on a number of television shows, including The Patty Duke Show, Hogan’s Heroes, and The Andy Griffith Show. He also made his film debut at this time, in The Fortune Cookie. Not long after, he landed a recurring role on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. as Private First Class Lester Hummel.
In 1972, Christopher auditioned for M*A*S*H* and ended up getting the role of kindhearted Father Francis Mulcahy, though he did not play the role initially. George Morgan played Father Mulcahy in the pilot episode only, then he was replaced by Christopher who portrayed the role for the entire 11-year run, and then continued in the part for two years on the spin-off AfterMASH. During his audition, Christopher decided to improvise, rather than read the piece given to him. When he was given the part, he was reminded to stay on script in the future. Christopher also had to learn to box to play the role, as Mulcahy was an amatur boxer.
Once his time as Mulcahy ended, Christopher continued to appear on various television shows, even giving his voice to a few episodes of The Smurfs. He also played religious figures a few more times during the later years of his career, appearing as a Chaplain on an episode of Mad About You and playing Father Tobias on 11 episodes of the long running soap opera Days of Our Lives in 2012.
During his life, Christopher gave much of his time to the National Autistic Society, in honor of his son Ned who is on the autism spectrum. He and his wife published a book about their experiences raising Ned in 1985 called Mixed Blessings.
Christopher leaves behind his wife Barbara and sons John and Ned. He will be missed.
R.I.P. William Christopher: October 20, 1932 – December 31, 2016