Alec Baldwin: Trusting his instincts
Before he came to Nyack to sit down with his friend Elliott Forrest in 2011, he gave me a few minutes to talk "30 Rock," and where his private and public lives diverge.
It seems like Alec Baldwin is everywhere these days.
Monday night, it was Broadway, as the Roundabout Theatre Company gave him the Jason Robards Award for Theatrical Excellence.
Tonight, it's TV, with Baldwin back on the hit NBC show "30 Rock" as Jack Donaghy, and radio, hosting "The New York Philharmonic This Week," on WQXR, FM105.9.
And Saturday, Alec Baldwin comes to Nyack.
He'll sit down for a conversation with Nyack's Elliott Forrest, another WQXR host, on the set of Nyack High School's coming production of "The Drowsy Chaperone."
The event — a chat about Baldwin's life and career — is a fundraiser for Forrest's ArtsRock and Nyack High's Arts Angels, a parents group that supports performing arts.
That's a lot of ground to cover, but Baldwin will have a lot to talk about, including his plans to leave "30 Rock" at the end of next season. The show just celebrated the taping of its 100th episode on March 10.
"If the show goes on without me that would be great, if that's what everybody wants to do," Baldwin says. "I know that I won't continue with the show after next year."
"There's other things I want to do," he says. "I don't want to talk about it until those things are more firm, but I certainly think that what I've been doing for the last few years, I'm going to be doing as little of that as possible."
Don't try to get an insight into Baldwin's life through the characters he plays. They are, he says, just characters. In other words, he's no Jack Donaghy, the raspy-voiced, one-step-ahead boss to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon on "30 Rock," which is wrapping up its current season. Jack is pragmatic, slightly paranoid and maybe a little loopy.
"I think that's a common thing that happens when you play a character on television," Baldwin says. "Because you're constantly tap tap tapping that character over the wire, so to speak, people assume that might be who you are, and then you're asked to do the same thing all the time. Who I am as a person, I'd like to think, is nothing at all like any character I've played.
"For me, in my private life, while I certainly can have moments where I'm self-seeking, I try to be as little like Jack as I possibly can."
Just when you think you might have him figured out, Baldwin shows up in unexpected places — on Turner Classic Movie channel alongside Robert Osborne, waxing sentimental about a classic film.
Try to peg him as just a movie star, and there he is on the radio as host of "The New York Philharmonic This Week," speaking with authority on Mahler.
If you tuned into the Oscars, you saw another side of Baldwin, as the voice of comic reason, counseling first-time hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco.
One of his next projects is the film adaptation of the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages," which will star Tom Cruise as an aging rocker. Baldwin plays Dennis, the man who opens the club. He laughs when asked if he would do a Broadway musical.
"I can't sing," he says. "But I would love to do a show on Broadway. I think I have a couple more plays I'd like to do before I completely move on in another direction. Whether they'll be on Broadway, I don't know. But singing is not one of them."
Baldwin looks at the 1992 Broadway production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" — he played Tennessee Williams' brutal creation Stanley Kowalski — as a turning point in his career, when he stopped being grateful just to be at the table and really took over a role.
"I said to myself, 'I'm going to trust my instincts. I know what I want to do,'" he says. "You've got to play the character you see and bring to the character what you have. I played him with a sense of humor, but also viciousness."
Last month, Baldwin got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but he says that's nothing that even entered the mind of a kid from Massapequa, Long Island.
"I had no fantasies whatsoever about the business," he says. "There were other things I dreamed about and that was not one of them. This is a business I fell into and as time went on, I really grew to love it.
"It's funny how the closer I get toward moving away from it the more difficult that is, because I really do like it now more than ever. It will certainly be an extraordinarily difficult thing to stop doing."