Alan Alda Talks ’30 Rock’, ‘MASH’ Reboot & Life As A TV Legend

Published 4 years ago by

alan alda 30 rock Alan Alda Talks 30 Rock, MASH Reboot & Life As A TV Legend

This Thursday, Alan Alda will be appearing in the holiday episode of NBC’s 30 Rock, reprising his role as Jack Donaghy’s father, Milton Greene. The episode, titled “Christmas Attack Zone,” airs tonight and is the last 30 Rock episode until the show returns January 20th, 2011.

In tonight’s episode, Alda is back to pay a visit to the Donaghy residence for Christmas. Jack (Alec Baldwin) is persuaded by Liz (Tina Fey) and Avery (Elizabeth Banks) to come clean about issues he’s keeping from his mother (Elaine Stritch) when she visits for Christmas. Jack’s parents don’t exactly get along, and the verbal jabs are expected to come fast and furious. Expect some great zingers from Alda, who is no stranger to the hilarious one-liner.

Alda’s career in television spans all the way back to 1958, where he appeared on the Phil Silvers Show. He is best known for his work on MASH, but has had memorable roles on the silver screen as well in The Four Seasons, Same Time Next Year, and several Woody Allen films such as Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Alda took the time to speak to the media in a conference call today, where the talented actor, writer and director discussed topics including his thoughts on the cast of 30 Rock, his near-death experience, his secret to being creative in today’s modern world, and some reminiscing about MASH… including his thoughts on a possible series reboot.

Although he admits to not watching a lot of television, I asked him which character currently on TV today does he most enjoy watching?

Alan Alda: “I love the guy on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David. He’s really created a Moliere character that’s so risky, it’s amazing you can enjoy watching that schmuck week after week. It’s delicious to see the mistakes he makes. It’s a little bit like Archie Bunker was, where he gave voice to attitudes and a temperament that you never saw before on television, but an even slier version of that.”

The topic of improvisation came up (Curb is known to be mostly improv), and Alda explained his thoughts on the unconventional acting method.

“I would love to improvise, and started out that way. I was always suggesting on the MASH set that we do some. We didn’t improvise a smidgen, every word was written. We did one show that was improvised; it was the black and white interview show. We improvised most of the speeches that were reorganized and punched up and written by Larry Gelbart. Many moments were done on the spot where the interviewer would have questions we’ve never heard before and we would answer in character.”

Throughout the interview, Alda was always gracious and at times very funny, delivering some one-liners with the trademark wit he’s known for.

Here are the highlights from the Q&A:

On comparing the MASH experience with 30 Rock:

“When I first went on 30 Rock, I had the same feeling about the group there then when we were doing MASH. Everyone knows where they’re going and what they’re doing… they’re unique personalities. They’re very tuned into one another, just like we were. It’s a different kind of comedy, but like us, they’re taking chances. They’re expanding to another kind of comedy, and the people who love it recognize how interesting and funny it is and I’m one of those people.”

On his near death experience:

“It was Oct. 19, seven years ago. It was the last interview I was doing on the top of the mountain in Chile. A yard of my intestine had to be removed and I came within a few hours of dying. I was glad to be alive in a way I had never been before. No matter how tough things get, that’s not so bad, because I was supposed to be dead by now. I’ve had seven wonderful years. When I get a chance to do something new, like write a couple of books and be on 30 Rock, it’s very exciting to me. I realize it’s something I wouldn’t have had. But that’s trivial compared to my grandchildren growing up, my daughters… I might not have seen that. I even enjoy complaining more.”

alan alda 30 rock2 Alan Alda Talks 30 Rock, MASH Reboot & Life As A TV Legend

On what he’s learned about himself in playing these roles:

“It’s very possible I wouldn’t have learned to get in touch with my emotions because of my professional obligations. Another, I don’t think I would have gotten up so early in the morning.”

On doing another comedy series:

“I like coming in and out of 30 Rock too much.”

On wanting to direct again:

“I’m glad it’s not me who has to worry about it… it’s one of the extra pleasures in life. So many people want to be directors, but I did that already and the experience itself is something I don’t want to do anymore. It’s a wonderful feeling of power, especially on a movie more so than a TV show, but I don’t think I need that.”

Continue to Alan Alda the changing landscape of television….

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  1. You frightened me at first lol thought they were actually making a MASH remake. MASH is one of the very very good shows from it’s era and shouldn’t be touched. It was just excellent television.

    Alda is a great actor, but as a person I can’t stand him. Something like this is fine, but to often he speaks on politics and every time he does I think a little less of him.

    Still good actor and will forever be remember for a brilliant show.

  2. Sorry for giving you a heart attack, Daniel.
    I agree that MASH is one show that shouldn’t even be considered for a remake. Was glad to hear he wouldn’t have any of that.

    Never met the man, but he was awesome during the phone interview.

    • Mark I’ll admit I should of rephrased that better. When I said I don’t like him I didn’t mean he was a mean cruel guy or anything. He is a kind gentle man with a big heart, but he has big mouth and is very preachy about things he doesn’t fully undersands and he tries to use his celebrity to brain wash people in to following his agenda which is against pretty much everything I stand for.

      Still I don’t mean to say he’s a bad man. I just can’t stand him politically and I let that effect my personal opinions of a person to much mostly with Celebs because they take advantage of the mindless publics attachment to them. It’s almost like forcing people because most celeb obsessed people really don’t do any research on anything they just listen to what guys like Tim Robbins or Sean Penn tell them.

  3. Great article. I didn’t realize that he had such a varied career and interesting life. Glad to read that he’ll be back on 30 Rock so I’ll have to DVR the show for sure tonight.

  4. Good interview , always admired him since the series , MASH , first began . I wonder if Alda knows about the series , House , and it’s star , Hugh Laurie , since the medical drama also had a couple of episodes that went beyond it’s usual format ?

  5. Between the film and the TV series, there is too much iconic history for both. No remake would match them and it would fail majorly!

  6. Always loved M.A.S.H., I’ve only seen a couple of films he’s been in, Same Time Next Year was terrific, and the other showed how good he is at playing characters who could be characterised as bastards. That was “And The Band Played On”, a film about the discovery of the AIDS virus, he played a character called Dr Galo, a character I found who was really quite despicable as he was all about self glory.

  7. M*A*S*H is my favorite all time TV show — still watch it every chance I get (one day when I have money, I’ll buy the DVDs.) I admit though, that I’m shocked with the country where its at with the war (remember that? that we’re at war? seems the mainstream media has all but forgotten)that they haven’t tried to emulate M*A*S*H in a modern setting for TV — but I’m not sure that a comedic setting would work so well for this war. For that matter, I think it was Alda’s insistence that they keep a reminder in every episode that made MASH so wonderfully done, so who knows, maybe it could work. But MASH itself should never be touched again.

  8. Hey what about Canadian Bacon when he played the president?

  9. I’ve heard rumors of a MASH movie remake that is already in post production, and is scheduled for release in late 2011. Not a word of it anywhere online but my source seems believable. Anyone else hear anything? There is even word of an Alan Alda cameo.

  10. Alan Alda is a lunatic who insults people’s children with his disgusting birthday changes aka there must be a better way for a surgeon to earn $413.50 a month.

  11. He’s probably collaborating with Bill O’Reilly and his humpty dumpty privacy invading spies.

  12. You owe an apology to a 17 year old girl and to all the families involved.. I doubt we’ll ever get that though …… Because you don’t have the guts……. Coward

  13. I will say that MASH is the funniest show ever put on television. The writers and actors were just fantastic. It’s unfortunate that the show has been used to take advantage of certain individuals personal lives. Shame on you