I’ve always been an Alec Baldwin fan—his ability to shape-shift through a variety of different roles astounds me. From portraying an ex-husband-turned-lover in It’s Complicated to his pinnacle role as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, and yes, his ability to turn utter frustration into moments of much-needed laughter while portraying our current president, it seems that he can do no wrong in the acting world—and, with his new book, Nevertheless, he’s giving us a first-hand insight into his personal world.
As part of the Curiosity Series by Chicago Ideas Week, Baldwin spoke for more than his allotted time slot on a variety of topics with Jessica Malkin, CIW’s CEO, illuminating his own character in addition to the characters he plays. I discovered he’s a life-long learner—he consistently encouraged the audience to forge a new path, and to not overthink things: “Don’t think about what you’re gonna be when you’re in college, just read the great books. When you get older, then what you’re gonna miss is the time to read.”
Baldwin has always appeared supremely confident to me; it never struck me that he’s actually deeply critical, of both the way he portrays characters and how he handles every aspect of his life. Every step he takes is deeply calculated, whether he’s deciding if she should take a particular role, or how he got into this business in the first place.
He ran the gamut of his life experiences throughout the talk, which discussed topics as varied as his sentiments on playing Trump and if they’d changed since he began—which after a long pause he uttered a decisive “no”—to how it was easy to play someone who was in love with Meryl Streep in Something’s Gotta Give (cue melting hearts everywhere).
We learned that at this point in his life, his priority is family—even if that means turning down top roles, ones that he’s always dreamed of. He made jabs at himself for initially scoffing at an offer to host a game show, then taking it when he realized he could set his schedule around his family. And that was the most important thing to him. He joked—though I hope this becomes a reality—that he will host a show that’s more lounge-style, where people can drink freely in a dimly lit atmosphere when he interviews actors. Alec, put me on the guest list, please.
We learned that his 30 Rock cohorts had become his family, and that he was so enamored with Tina Fey and her artistry from the moment they met. Through this show, he noted that he took on some of Jack Donaghy’s famous characteristics during its run, and he was his favorite character to play.
Alec Baldwin has had such a full life already, playing role after role that are vastly different from the next, and forging new standards for character acting along the way. It was a true joy to hear him speak with Malkin, as if he were addressing all of us as old friends. The main takeaway for me—though there were many—was whatever industry you’re a part of, give it your whole heart, and hard work, though it can take time, will always pay off.