Recently, Farrell spoke with the Weekly's Brent Thompson about his latest endeavor as autobiographer. And while he is no stranger to life as a public figure, Farrell admits that Just Call Me Mike is his most revealing and personal project to date.
"After admittedly being reluctant to write it, it has turned out to be an extraordinary experience and I couldn't be more thrilled at the response to it," Farrell says, speaking by phone from his home in California. "On one level, it's old news to be in a situation where I'm being interviewed about a television show or motion picture, but this is different in that the book is about me and my perspective on things. My wife [acclaimed actress Shelley Fabares] and I were talking about this the other day. I'm not part of the cast of M.A.S.H. or Providence in this and I'm not part of a group that's trying to make a certain point. It's just Mike Farrell hanging out there. It's been very frightening and very anxiety-producing, but the response has been so loving and extraordinarily positive. A fabulous feeling of personal validation has come with the reaction to the book."
To date, Farrell has served as President of Death Penalty Focus and he has served on the advisory board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Farrell has also visited refugee camps and relief centers in Somalia, Bosnia and Kenya. He notes that some of his more controversial projects - namely the leadership roles in anti-death penalty organizations - place him on the receiving end of harsh criticism.
"I haven't developed the ability to not worry or not be affected by what the nay-sayers say, but I guess the depth of my feeling about the importance of the issues keeps me going. I get really nasty mail and e-mails - and sometimes phone calls - and confrontations in person, although those are rare. But what I try to do is inject a note of reason and make the attempt to communicate on some meaningful level to the people that are attacking me. Of course, it hurts when people say I care more about people on death row than I do the victims. That takes its toll, but you have to believe enough in what you're doing to keep going," he says.
Given the depth - and sometimes overwhelming nature - of the causes he supports, how does Farrell track progress in order to stay motivated in his efforts?
"Sometimes there really is no way to track them -you have to do it on an anecdotal basis. Other times, there are actual ways to see progress being made. On a broader level, the activities of the International Criminal Court are demonstrating that international human rights have reached a new level of acceptance and effectiveness. On a more modest level, visiting refugees whose wounds are being tended to by the work of caring people has that affect. Here in the U.S., the issue of the death penalty has become more widely and respectfully discussed and things are happening to penetrate the wall of indifference. Even public opinion polls show significant progress is being made. You have to have faith to counter the impact of all that terribleness has benefit," Farrell says.
Though Farrell discusses his acting endeavors in Just Call Me Mike, the reader learns that his celebrity status is a platform to assist the needs of others. Given the negative press that celebrities endure in today's media environment, Farrell's story of conviction and tireless activism is a refreshing read. But despite numerous projects both on and off-screen, Farrell is aware that he will be forever known as the strong-but-silent B.J. Hunnicutt.
"I'm so proud of the work we did on M.A.S.H. and I'm so proud of the impact the show had - I love it," he says. "It was very much a family and we formed long, meaningful relationships. I really admired the man B.J. was and I was so thrilled to be able to play him and be in that company. Everything about it was of benefit as far as I'm concerned. I consider myself to be the luckiest man in the world."