Monday, Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. ET
Alec Baldwin on Fatherhood, '30 Rock,' Politics and More
Monday, December 15, 2008; 3:00 PM
Actor Alec Baldwin was online Monday, Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. ET to discuss his life, his film, stage and television career, his blog and political activism and his new book about fatherhood.
The transcript follows.
Baldwin won an Emmy in 2008 for the role of Jack Donaghy on NBC's "30 Rock." Here's a clip, via hulu.com.
Baldwin has starred in many movies, including "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Beetlejuice," "The Cooler" "The Hunt for Red October" and "The Departed" and has been a frequent host of "Saturday Night Live."
Philadelphia, Pa.: You have written about improving your life with your daughter. Please do not answer anything too personal, yet I am wondering what your daughter's reactions were to your writing about her and did the process, as I hope, help bring the two of you together?
Alec Baldwin: It would violate a court order to discuss certain details of my case, but I would assume that my daughter has not had an easy time of it, everything being so public. Things between my daughter and I are fine.
Washington, D.C.: I was STUNNED by your character, Jack Donaghy's, redemption in this year's "30 Rock" Christmas special. I haven't been as moved by anything I've seen on episodic TV in years, let alone by a sitcom. Your facial expressions during Elaine Stritch's singing were subtle and still amazing. I was moved enough to reconcile with my mother on Friday, she had been putting me through the wringer this year, but if Jack can deal with his mother then my mother would be a piece of cake. I had to sit and listen to 10 minutes of her thoughts about my REAL motivation for doing so, but in the end, we worked it out. Thanks for a meaningful episode.
Alec Baldwin: I would guess that everyone sees a little bit of their mother in Elaine's performance, and we're very fortunate to have Elaine on the show, she's an incredibly talented woman. This fit of Elaine as my mother is a little too perfect actually and we look forward to having her on the show more often.
Chicago: Thought you would want to hear a compliment about your father. My dad grew up in Massapequa Park and always said his favorite teacher in high school was your dad. Thought you would like to hear that.
Alec Baldwin: Thank you, first of all. My Dad was a very popular school teacher in my home town and I hear a lot of kind words about my dad, who died in 1983. And now I hear all the compliments about my mother, with her breast cancer research fund, and all of that is very gratifying. So thank you.
Munich, Germany: I once heard that children of divorced parents have a higher chance of going through a divorce themselves. In the profile of yourself in the New Yorker, the term "Parental Alienation Syndrome" - when children are caught in the middle of feuding parents and damaged by one parent's propaganda about the other - was mentioned. In these cases it's easy to image children learning to mistrust loved ones. Did you take a look at this in your book?
Also in the New Yorker article were some of your thoughts on acting. What exactly do you mean when you encourage your acting students to "muscularize their lines"? If the goal is to project strength and weakness simultaneously, doesn't the muscularizing promote strength at the expense of weakness?
washingtonpost.com: Why Me? (newyorker.com)
Alec Baldwin: To answer the 2nd part of your question, to "muscularize" the delivery means, technically speaking, not emotionally, means proper command, diction, proper breathing, that I tend to stress more in the acting class that I teach.
Bennett Point, Md.: I polled my six children about their favorite "Thomas the Tank Engine" narrator and they rank you behind George Carlin and Ringo Starr. Do you consider them to be hard acts to follow?
Alec Baldwin: Yeah, it's never easy to follow people in any job when you're part of a series, and I was a great admirer of Carlin, and though Ringo Starr isn't known for narrating children's programs, I was a great admirer of him also.
Washington, D.C.: Alec,
Thanks for rescheduling your chat. As one Long Islander to another, what do you think about the Smithtown funeral home that's now selling MLB-endorsed team caskets? Will you reserve a Mets one for yourself?
Alec Baldwin: No plans to purchase any caskets just yet.
Austin, Tex.: I met you at a party during the first Clinton-Gore inaugural in '93. Any plans to attend Obama's?
Alec Baldwin: No, I'm not attending the inaugural. I went to the Clinton one in '93 and I think the only thing worse than navigating Washington during the inaugural is the Super Bowl. So I intend to stay home and watch it on television, and I'm sure it will be just as enjoyable.
Woodbridge, Va.: Alec, I just wanted to let you know that it is not the holidays for me until I watch the "Schweddy Balls" SNL skit you did with Molly Shannon and Anna Gasteyer. It just makes me giggle and is going to be tradition from now on. Thanks!
Alec Baldwin: I'm afraid that's going to be on my tombstone. Thank you.
New York N.Y.: Have you met many actual NBC pages? What do you think of the NBC pages you've met?
Alec Baldwin: Yes, I've met several NBC pages, and like anybody who is working in an entry-level job at a company, they're as polite as can be. I'm not sure I can verify this, but Jeff Zucker, the head of NBC, his wife Karen started as page, then worked for SNL. I can't confirm it, but I suspect she worked in the page program.
Washington, D.C.: Good Afternoon Sir, If confronted with the situation in which you were in a knock down, drag out bar brawl including Val Kilmer, Tom Selleck, and Phil Collins, who wins and why?
Alec Baldwin: Although I could never envision myself in the same room with those three people, I have to give it to Phil Collins. From what I've seen, he's pretty fast with his hands.
New York, N.Y.: I'll be going by 30 Rock in a few minutes. Does Jack Donaghy need me to bring anything up to him? Coffee? Bagel? Anything?
Alec Baldwin: Donaghy probably has plans for this evening so the only thing he would probably need is a fresh shirt and a bucket of ice.
New York, N.Y.: I like how when a real Donaghy became infamous, it was worked into the script. You seem to have very creative writers. Who does most of the writing for the show, how much is Tina Fey involved in the writing, and what is the background of any other writers?
Alec Baldwin: All of the writers are veteran television writers, of which Tina is the head writer, she's the creator, and the other head writer is Robert Carlock. All of them have strong backgrounds in TV comedy writing on shows like Friends and Will and Grace - Kay Cannon, Matt Hubbard, Jack Burdett, John Riggi, Ron Weiner.
Philadelphia: I once asked a biographer of Condoleezza Rice what she thought of your character's hinted romantic relationships with her, and the biographer replied that she thinks Secretary Rice is not aware of your show or the reference but that she would not have a problem with a TV show creating such a fictitious relationship. I am wondering whether you have since heard if Secretary Rice is aware of her affair with Jack Donaghy?
Alec Baldwin: I treat my communications with Sec. Rice the same way Donaghy treats his communications with Sec. Rice. They are confidential. But thanks for asking.
Bethesda, Md.: "We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is your fired."
You have had a very diverse career with many interesting parts. Loved your "Glengarry" monologue, "Cabin Boy," and I don't miss an episode of "30 Rock."
I think that one of my favorite movies that you were involved in was "Outside Providence." Not the most well known or talked about movie but excellent none the less.
Do you have any movies that you were particularly proud of that did not get the recognition that you think they deserved?
Alec Baldwin: I think doing "The Edge" with Tony Hopkins was probably my favorite movie, because of how much I worshiped Tony. I was really very happy to do that with him.
Washington, D.C.: I'm a fan of "30 Rock." One of my favorite sequences this year was the scene in which you and Tracey went into therapy and you pretended to be his father. Was there any point in rehearsing that episode when you thought to yourself "Wow, if this isn't viewed as funny it will be seen as ridiculously insensitive?"
Alec Baldwin: No. I mean, the purpose of the show was to kind of walk along that edge, and we think it would be disingenuous of us to pull our punches. Some of the most offensive things come out of Tracey's mouth. Our attitude is that we don't really worry about that. I don't think we've done anything on the show that's really over the line.
The genesis of that is that we were all telling stories about Redd Foxx and what we liked about him. That triggered the idea for that scene, it wasn't meant to be a putdown.
Richmond, Va.: How did you and your brother Stephen evolve to have such different political beliefs? Does this ever strain your relationship?
Alec Baldwin: It doesn't strain my relationship because I don't rely on my brother Stephen for any political advice. He obviously has his path that he's on and I'm not on that path. But he's my brother and I love him and I get along with him great.
New York City: I think the emotional health of children should be the primary focus of parents who are divorcing. When parents love their children, but choose not to stay together, the default scenario should be joint custody. Do you agree? Do courts agree? If not, how long before they do?
Alec Baldwin: This is a very significant issue. There are men who do not want joint custody, or meaningful custody of their children. It's been that way throughout history. Then there are men who do want meaningful custody, or even 50-50, and there is a growing number of them. And in those cases where the mother is going out the door to work also, how could you deny the father 50-50 custody? If the child is getting picked up at school by the nanny, what difference does it make whose nanny it is?
Where the mother is home and caring for the child, also during what they call the "tender years" period from when the child is born to starting school, I can see them rewarding more time to the mother. Once the child starts school, however, 50-50 custody should be the default position where men both want meaningful custody and qualify for it.
Bay City, Tex.: What is the hardest thing about being a father?
Alec Baldwin: Letting your child go out into the world. Children want independence, this is the way it's always been. The average child wants independence before they are really ready for it. Their eyes are bigger than their experience. They want to get out into the world and see what's out there and where they fit in. It's tough, you know your child is going to go out there and struggle and make mistakes. It's tough to watch your child grow and wonderful at the same time.
Vienna, Va.: Who is more attractive in person: Jennifer Aniston or Sarah Palin?
Alec Baldwin: Jennifer Aniston. How could it be otherwise?
Arlington, Va.: Alec,
Your Jack Donaghy may be the best character on television! I really enjoy what you've done with the role - especially the memorable therapy scene where you managed to play Tracy Morgan's character's entire family. So I have to ask - is Jack inspired by (or modeled on) anyone?
I always enjoy your work - thanks for chatting!!
Alec Baldwin: Jack is modeled on kind of a generic GE executive. We have a composite that the writer's have thought of. A lot of Jack is based on Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live and one of the producers of our show. In terms of aiming for success with as little guilt as possible, Lorne is the model. Lorne lives the life I wish I was living.
Durham, N.C.: Alec, I am a huge fan of "30 Rock." Best show on television. And you probably get this questions all the time, but do you think Jack and Liz will hook up?
Alec Baldwin: I sincerely doubt it, and I think the show is better off that way. Once they cross that line, all the tension goes out of those relationships. And I think the lesson we learned about both those characters is that they are married to their jobs and they are married to their work.
Washington D.C.: When you're playing Jack, do you think deliberately about what he wants in a given scene (or use other techniques) or is Jack more of an attitude that you can switch on and off? Thank you.
Alec Baldwin: That's a very good question -- in comedy you tend to think in terms of what's funny. You think in terms of character and story second. Sometimes what's funny is at the expense of what's real or what's honest. With our show we're lucky, they may write something and I'll say "he wouldn't say that," or "he wouldn't do that."
There are a lot of shows where someone can walk into a room and say something that's funny, at the expense of the other people in the scene. But that's not how life works. In life, you have to be careful about what you say. Take my word for it! Some of our episodes are broader than others, but we try not to say too much that's neither honest nor realistic.
Alexandria, Va.: Love your show -- think it's the best on television by far. How much influence do you have on the writing of each episode? The dialogue seems very natural, I am wondering if there is a lot of improv during the taping.
Alec Baldwin: We do some improving but not much.
Arlington, Va.: Alec:
A big fan. As a struggling computer salesman, I once had a sales manager shepherd all of his charges into a conference room early one morning, where he informed us "Remember, I could be like this guy," and then played that great "motivational moment" of yours from "Glengarry Glenn Ross." How many takes did it require to nail that incredible scene, and how much fun is it to watch that one every once in a while?
Alec Baldwin: I never go back and watch films that I was in. Sometimes they'll come on and I'll see them for a minute or two, but I never sit down and screen a movie I was in. But I'm glad for the response I get so often about "Glengarry." People seem to really like that movie, especially salesmen.
Galway City, Republic of Ireland: Thank you for your wonderful work on "30 Rock" and, amongst others, those few minutes of golden management advice in "Glengarry Glen Ross."
I enjoy your political commentary published on the Huffington Post although I don't always agree with the polemical tone!
On foot of these achievements, I wondered have you ever sacrificed an acting opportunity to your political beliefs?
Alec Baldwin: I would imagine there are some people who don't watch me in a film or on TV because of my political opinions, which I find strange, because there are people in my business whom I have severe disagreements with politically but I would never let that get in the way of watching a good movie.
New York, N.Y.: You were quoted as stating that kissing Jennifer Aniston was "painful." Is that quote correct and, if so, what did you mean by it? What was it like otherwise working with her? If kissing her is painful, please let me know as I will gladly serve as a bodydouble so you may be kept away from such pain.
Alec Baldwin: THAT WAS A JOKE! Kissing Jennifer Aniston was everything you might imagine it would be.
Charlottesville, Va.: What actor/actress that you've worked with has taught you the most? I really hope you say Sean Connery or Tracy Morgan...
Alec Baldwin: Julie Harris. Julie Harris played my mother when I first started in this business on "Knots Landing." And Julie gave me the greatest advice of all in life. She said "don't wish anything to be over, because to wish something to be over is to wish your life to be over." And she said that to me 25 years ago and I still remember it today.
San Bruno, Calif.: Alec: Do you have any advice for a guy who is about to get married?
Alec Baldwin: Although you may not be able to make your marriage the most important thing in your life all the time, you have to develop a way to, at the very least, make your wife think it is.
Silver Spring, Md.: What would Jack Donaghy think of Alec Baldwin?
Alec Baldwin: I think he would hire him, I think he'd put him on a television show and do business with him. He might even go golfing with him. But he would never go on vacation with him. I think it would be strictly business. Men like Donaghy never let their politics belief get in the way of a little commerce. And that is the one thing we have in common.
Thank you all very much for your questions, and I hope you watch the show, Thursday, 9:30s on NBC.
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