A ‘M*A*S*H’ Guest Actor Led NBC’s Casting in the 1980s

One M*A*S*H guest star landed an amazing gig with NBC simply because no one else wanted it, he claims. But, to put it more simply, he just seemed to always be in the right place at the right time while his career continued to flourish.

In the M*A*S*H episode titled The General Flipped Out, Alan Alda’s Hawkeye tells a young man who is headed into surgery that he will come out of his surgery just fine. He will even have an awesome scar in the shape of a “Z” like Zorro. The young man, guest-starring actor Dennis Erdman, isn’t altogether well-known outside of the business. But, for some time in the 1980s, he was the guy to see about any casting decisions at NBC.

An Unusual Rise To Success

In 1984, after attending a Broadway production, Dennis Erdman set out to become an understudy in a variety of productions. However, the production had a hard time filling the actual role. And, because Erdman was so eager for his understudy gig, he was asked to fill in.

“It was really by default – I took over the role,” Erdman says of his “big break” on Broadway. From there, Erdman was offered a directing position at a theater, which he also happily accepted. This, the M*A*S*H guest star says was another instance of being in the right place at the right time. According to the future casting agent, the theater was simply “scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find someone” when they offered him the job. Eventually, the NBC vice-president was calling Erdman offering him a position. And, Elderman says, this is how he became the manager of casting at NBC.

Dennis Erdman Gives Us the Info On How Casting Decisions Are Made

According to Erdman, his time working as the head of the NBC casting department in the 1980s was usually a pleasant experience. However, like any job, there were some not-so-wonderful moments mixed in.

“Most of the time at the network, you work with terrific people and terrific projects,” Erdman explains.

“But every once in a while, material comes along that’s insulting to anyone’s intelligence,” NBC executive adds per MeTV.

“You’ve got a producer who wants Tom Hanks and Teri Garr for the leads, and it shoots in Anchorage, Alaska, between November and March,” he adds. “And the universe of actors that a network is willing to go with to carry their shows is very limited.”

Dennis Elderman may have fallen into his role as the NBC executive. But, acting is probably the part of his career that he connected with the least.

“The reason I don’t act is that I couldn’t bring the character to life within myself,” the former M*A*S*H guest star explains.

“I always felt very uncomfortable, unequipped” he adds. “I’d watch myself on TV and think, ‘There are people who could do it better.’”

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