Kellye Nakahara, who played Nurse Kellye Yamato in M*A*S*H and had a small role in the cult classic Clue, died on Sunday, her family told TMZ Monday. She was 72. Nakahara died after a short battle with cancer.
Nakahara was born in Oahu, Hawaii, but moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in art. However, she soon turned to acting and was cast as Lt. Kellye Yamato on M*A*S*H in 1973. She was on the show for its entire run, appearing in 167 episodes through 1983.
After the legendary series ended, Nakahara took only a few more guest roles on television and small parts in movies. She appeared in the 1985 comedy Clue and the 1998 version of Doctor Dolittle with Eddie Murphy. In 1999, she made her last appearance in front of the camera in an episode of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.
Nakahara married David Wallet in 1968, and they were supporters of the Ronald MacDonald House. They had two children. She is also survived by two grandchildren.
In a 2016 interview with NPR, Nakahara had nothing but fond memories to share from her days on M*A*S*H.
"I just was so thrilled to be on that set," she said at the time. "I loved the smell of the tents. I loved the people. So I would have a great time with the writers and talk to them and the crew, who I loved. And really, we became such great friends that I think I was in every scene because I put myself in every scene... and nobody told me to get out."
Nakahara was later asked if she realized how revolutionary her role on M*A*S*H was, as she was an Asian-American actress with a role that put her in a positive light.
"What she was to me was a genuine person who wasn't being looked at in the same way as the glamorous girls that were coming through the compound," Nakahara said. of her character. "And when she just stood up to Hawkeye and told him off, she made it clear that there's so much more to me than you think there is."
"And I got mail. I still get mail," she said at the time. "I have people coming up to me that say, as far as being Asian, you're the first role model that I had of an Asian that wasn't portrayed as an Asian, just as a person. And I think that was - it took a long time, I think, for that to come around. I hope that it's starting to change now. But I think it's taken a long time."
Earlier this month, M*A*S*H co-creator Gene Reynolds died. He was 96.
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