You may recognize Wayne Rogers from the hit TV series, M*A*S*H, but he has done more than play an army doctor on TV. Did you know that he is also a successful businessman and entrepreneur? Despite a lucrative career, Rogers not only continues to act, but is also currently a panelist on Fox Business Channel’s Cashin’ In. His new book, Make Your Own Rules: A Renegade Guide to Unconventional Success, is in stores now. Rogers spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Michelle Vaccaro about his days on M*A*S*H, why he left the show early, and what it takes to succeed.
TCC: Do you think that being previously in the armed forces helped you play "Trapper John" McIntyre, your character on M*A*S*H because he was also in the military?
WR: No, not necessarily. I think I have an understanding of what goes on in the military but I don’t think it really mattered though.
TCC: What was it like working on M*A*S*H?
WR: There was nothing unique about working on M*A*S*H. There was nothing unusual about that as it relates to any other movie, theater, or television experience. The thing that was unique about M*A*S*H…that was in the writing. I think writing was somewhat unique and the concept that in the face of adversity, in this case life and death, because that was what it was about, you can do almost anything, approaching the ridiculous as a defense against having to deal with that on a daily basis. And that’s the underlying truth…that people can behave outrageously because they are faced with an ultimate life or death experience constantly. That occurs in the military too…but it was in a mash unit they chose to do that.
TCC: Why did you decide to leave the long running show after only three seasons?
WR: Well, I had a contractual dispute with the studio. I never had a contract. It had never been finalized and I wanted it to be finalized. Actually, they did too…we just had a disagreement. When you do a movie or television show, you’re under what is called a deal memorandum. It’s generally about four or five pages. You know…you’re Michelle, you have been retained to play the part of XYZ, you will report to the studio on or about a certain date, you will be paid X dollars a week.…It’s rather simple like that and the all form contract will be forthcoming.…When the contract comes, generally it’s after you’ve completed…particularly after a motion picture contract, you’ve shot the film and it’s over. It can be an inch or two thick and by the time the lawyers get through with it, it could be another two or three months.…You’ve already done the job, spent the money by then so, by the time the contract got to me, it said all kinds of things I had not originally agreed to. We got into a dispute about a number of these things. That was how it happened and I was unwilling to compromise on certain things and they weren’t willing to compromise on certain things.
TCC: What was the major factor in that?
WR: Well, it wasn’t any one major thing. The thing that stood out in my mind was an old fashioned morals clause. It wasn’t a meaningful thing, but it was meaningful in the sense that.…You know in the old days in Hollywood you’d have to sign a seven year contract with the studio. One of the things in there was that, in the eyes of the studio, if your behavior was such to be immoral…undefined by the way…they had the right to suspend you. When you go back and look at some of the old days at Errol Flynn, for example, Jack Warner, suspending him for misbehaving…whatever that meant.…That was one of the things I would say. And there were a whole rant of things. I just remember that one as being particularly irritating.
TCC: Do you regret having to leave early on?
WR: No, not in the traditional sense, I don’t regret it. I missed mostly the people. Alan and I had a very good relationship and I missed having that experience.
TCC: Do you still talk to him?
WR: Oh, I see him all the time. Last week, two weeks ago in New York, yeah. We got along very well and I think I was quoted in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago saying that we had the same approach, mainly that we were interested in the work itself, not in the trappings of the work. Meaning all those things that kids go to Hollywood for, thinking their gonna be popular or a big deal, something for their ego or something. Alan and I were not like that. We were both mature actors. It was the work itself, the actual rehearsal was the interesting part of it.
TCC: Now how did you go from M*A*S*H to managing people’s finances?
WR: I didn’t. I had always been interested in the financial world. We live in a capitalist system. You write but you get paid for and if you didn’t get paid for it, I doubt you’d do it. So the financial part of the economic part of our existence always fascinates me. I was doing that before M*A*S*H, before I was acting, after I was acting, and while I was acting. One had nothing really to do with the other. I had to be one or the other. It reminds me. In this country you always ask, "Who are you and what do you do?" Somehow, that seems to define you. Plus in California, they also ask you, "Under what sign were you born?" But for the most part, that seems to categorize people and I know I’m not in that.
TCC: You seem to have a lucrative career in business. Why did you decide to continue to act?
WR: Because it interests me. The work itself interests me. It’s the work that’s interesting. Otherwise, it’s not the result. You get paid, yes, but the results are not interesting. It’s the work itself that’s interesting, the whole creative process. I've written a book, which comes out in February, and I describe this creative process both in business and in the arts. Whether you’re writing or painting or acting…whatever it might be…and I describe in detail the things that are parallel to each other, the common denominator to both of them. And that’s true in business as well as it is in the arts. A lot of people superficially see people who are writers, actresses, hippies who grow long hair, and smoke dope. That’s one side of the business. People in the artistic world think business people are greedy, money grabbing capitalists or right wing crazies. Neither one is true and there are common denominators to both. If each one had the intellectual ability to understand the other one, they would know that, but they don’t.
TCC: What would you say is an important factor in becoming successful?
WR: I don’t know that there is any one thing. I think your determination and your commitment to work and learn is probably the most important thing.
TCC: We are in some bad economic times. Do you see a break from the current recession any time soon?
WR: That’s a very complicated question. If you got six months, I could probably teach you a course and answer that, but let me give you what had occurred. Factually, certain businesses, not all, started to recover in the last quarter of 2009. Some businesses have lagged in that, most notably housing. That’s probably different reasons. The financial…but manufacturing, retail, and all those things have already turned around, they are no longer in a “recession.” The recession is, if you will, behind us in many senses. If you’re talking housing, jobs, then it’s still here. In the job part, that will continue because a lot of those jobs that were present three or four years ago no longer exist. In other words, people found they could run their business with less man power or they forced it. Some of those jobs will never return. Are we gonna have a chronic unemployment above five percent? We may. I don’t know that yet. I don’t know if that’s clear. So a full employment economy has to be redefined. It’s a very complicated question, but mostly the economy has recovered.
TCC: Do you have any tips on what our readers can do in this bad economy to save money?
WR: No, I don’t. If you mean save money, the abstract, that’s an emotional thing. You just have to be willing to do it. If you mean save money by spending it, if you’re going to buy something for less, that’s a different definition so I’m not sure what you mean.
TCC: Just tips on how to be successful.
WR: In saving money? That’s the emotional one. You have to be willing, to have the discipline to put aside a certain amount of your income every month and be willing not to spend it…not to cheat yourself, as it were, and you must have a purpose doing that, which means saving for my children’s education, or I’m saving for a trip I want to take, saving for some purpose or saving for my retirement, whatever that might be. If you have a purpose and the discipline, you can do it. If you don’t, you won’t ever do it. You know, psychologically are incapable of doing it…I mean they’re incapable of saving. They spend everything. Well, those people are doomed. No way you can give them a tip that will help them at all.
TCC: Your book comes out in February. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
WR: Well, yes, it’s what I said before. It’s a book about the free market. It’s a book about my experiences. It’s not a how to get rich quick book. It’s not a book about how you’re gonna be successful. It’s just an anecdotal honesty about my business experiences. I say this is "this is what worked for me, it may not work for you," but as an example of something that I’ve done that you may find lessons in. Take from it what you will. I also talk about, like I said, in this book, the creative process in this business as opposed to the administrative process. Entrepreneurs and people who start businesses and are good at it are people who bring to it a creativity, a willingness to look at it differently than anybody else has looked at it. So in that respect, if you’re willing to say…"Wait a minute, why should it be that way? It could be this way. Or why not?" So if you’re willing to ask those kind of questions constantly of yourself and of the process, those are the ways to find success of an entrepreneur.