Wednesday, June 08, 2016
In praise of Alan Alda
MASH episode where Hawkeye was temporarily blind. It was our first MASH script, really launched our career, and I do believe it’s Alan reading of that speech that propelled the episode… and us.
The thing about Alan’s acting is that it is so natural. Effortless almost, but in truth it’s anything but. A lot of internal wheels are turning, but you’d never know it.
Many actors rely on their directors to help shape their performance. Alan is always gracious and works well with directors, but his approach is that if he can believe his character would say or do what’s on the page it’s his job to find a way to make it work. So 95% of the time he’ll show up on the stage and just nail the scene. He’s already worked out just how angry or tired his character needs to be.
Oh, and he’s a great comic actor. That’s a nifty little bonus. While writing MASH we always had to fight the temptation to give Alan every joke.
But wait! There’s more! He’s a terrific stage actor too. I saw him a few years ago in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS on Broadway and he crushed it.
His enormous success on MASH was a double-edged sword for awhile. He became the poster boy for sensitive caring men. Yes, it is possible to be too likeable (a burden I've had to bare as well).
But he managed to break out of that, playing a wide variety of characters, including villains and shitheels – and all just as convincing although he himself is not like any of these scoundrels.
In real life Alan is clearly a liberal, and yet in WEST WING he played a conservative Republican with such conviction he probably converted more voters than Hannity and Limbaugh combined.
As I mentioned in my review, I didn’t love the show but did love him. He made Archie Bunker seem like a Quaker. Words were coming out of his mouth that I had never heard him use. Sailors might blush. But as always, he spoke them with conviction and little fanfare. Alan steals scenes before you know they are missing.
It was an honor to work with him, a pleasure to watch him, and I haven’t even gotten to the part where he’s a fine writer and director.
What's a four letter word for "Mensch?"