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'MA*SH' Actress Kellye Nakahara Dies At 72

Gettyimages | Archive Photos
By Emily Reily

Nakahara Played 'Lt. Nurse Kellye' On 'MA*SH'

Gettyimages | Christopher Polk

Kellye Nakahara Wallett, who played Lt. Nurse Kellye Yamato on the hit sitcom "MAS*H," has died at 72 after a battle with cancer.

According to metv.com, it was her first acting role. She appeared in 167 episodes of the show over 10 years, from 1973 to the show's finale in 1983.

Originally from O'ahu, Nakahara moved to San Francisco, where she met her future husband, David Wallett. Wallett pushed her to try out acting.

Her Own Personality Was Infused Into the Role

MeTV writes that Nakahara debuted in the season two episode of "MAS*H": "Divided We Stand," and initially played "Nurse Number 1." It was Nakahara's first role.

MeTV continues:

"She worked out her nerves on set by doing silly things like tap-dancing to shake them out. The crew noticed her antsy antics and the next thing she knew, Nakahara told NPR in 2016, the character started being shaped to be more and more like her authentic self."

Nakahara told NPR, "One of the scenes is me tap dancing, and it was really hilarious because I would think I was tap dancing and trying to practice tap dancing – which was awful – in my boots all the time while waiting for a scene to start. And all of the things that I really was off-screen, they put into my character."

Her role grew from there.

'A Natural'

Gettyimages | Alberto E. Rodriguez

Actor Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce on the sitcom, also reminisced about Nakahara from those days.

"She began as a background performer and worked her way up to playing the lead in an episode I wrote for her. She was adorable and brilliant in the part.

But, you couldn’t beat what she was as a person, funnier and warmer and kinder than most people I've known. We all loved her on 'MAS*H,' and we’re all heartbroken to know she's gone. Kelley was a treasure."

"Nakahara was a beautiful person and a natural as an actor," Alda said.

'My True Ethnicity Never Even Came Up'

According The Hollywood Reporter, Nakahara's success surprised even her.

"Gene [Reynolds] and Alan [Alda] liked me. All of a sudden, I was being written in as Nurse 123 and then Nurse Able, Baker and Charlie. At some point, Alan said he couldn't keep calling me 'Nurse 1.' 'You're Kellye. Nurse Kellye.' "

She told the site: "I was the first Asian who didn't play one. I was just an American soldier, a nurse on the same level as everyone else. My true ethnicity never even came up."

Loretta Swit, who played Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, called Nakahara a "jewel, a treasure."

"She radiated sparkle and goodness and joy. The light that her presence brought will be deeply and forever missed," Swit said.

Nakahara, who also appeared in 1985's Clue and 1998's Doctor Dolittle, got married in 1967 and had two children. After the success of "MAS*H, Nakahara took up watercolor painting, and had a Facebook page based on that.

She died in Pasadena.

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