Wayne Rogers

Wayne Rogers
Robert Gabriel / Los Angeles Times


Wayne Rogers
TV: South side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born William Wayne McMillan Rogers III on April 7, 1933 in Birmingham, Ala.
Died Dec. 31, 2015 of complications of pneumonia in Los Angeles, CA

Wayne Rogers was best known for his role as Trapper John on the hit show "MASH," a character he portrayed for only the first three seasons of the series, which went on to become one of the longest-running scripted programs in TV history.

When he left the show, his manager said it was not about money, but rather the shrinking size of his character's role — even though the Trapper John character had been a major focus of the original motion picture.

"The trouble stems from the fact that Wayne was supposed to have an equal costarring role in the series, and that just hasn't happened," said Arthur Gregory, when Rogers' departure was announced in 1975.

Rogers made a career out of seizing the initiative and doing the unexpected. He went to Princeton, intending to be a lawyer like many of his classmates. But he decided that the world was sufficiently supplied with lawyers already and instead signed on as a navigator on a well-traveled cargo ship.

Ashore in New York, he arranged to meet a theatrical friend in Brooklyn after a play rehearsal. Watching the rehearsal, Rogers now says, it occurred to him that it might be an interesting life. He asked his friend how you went about it.

"Acting is doing," Rogers said. "It's not speaking, it's behavior. It's something happening, even if you're only listening."

Rogers had a way of concealing a high degree of energy, efficiency and determination behind an affable and self-effacing manner, making happenings seem more happenstance than they were. He auditioned his way into the estimable Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and emerged as a well-trained actor, further polished by the daily discipline of a soap opera ("Edge of Night").

A roommate and close pal in the New York days was Peter Falk, who preceded Rogers to Hollywood and who inadvertently led him into a kind of parallel career as a business manager.

"I'd heard stories about business managers who lost their client's money," Rogers said. "My feeling was that if I made any money, I wanted to lose it myself, to be the author of my own demise. I may have a slightly paranoid nature, a fear of losing control of my life."

When a business manager separated Falk from some of his money, Rogers helped him get a good chunk of it back via a lawsuit. In time he began helping other friends. "It started little by little," he says, "as our lives got more complicated. Then one day I woke up and discovered I had several people I was responsible for, and I was doing it with my left hand as it were."

"This town is not as ethical as I would like it to be," he said. "I'm not saying I'm a paragon of virtue, but it's hard for me not to be honorable."

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