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When such stars as Tracy Morgan and Kate McKinnon take the stage at New York’s Apollo Theater on June 25 to tape Spike’s One Night Only special with Alec Baldwin (it’s a comedic tribute, but please don’t call it a roast, says Spike), they’ll perform before a backdrop of murals featuring the star by cartoonist and THR contributor Steve Brodner.
It’s the first One Night Only since 2014, and Baldwin — with his Trump parody on Saturday Night Live, box-office hit The Boss Baby ($491 million worldwide) and best-selling memoir Nevertheless — is the perfect focus for the returning franchise, says exec producer Casey Patterson. “It’s the year of Alec,” she declares, noting that Spike has pursued Baldwin, 59, for the tribute since its inception (past honorees include Don Rickles and Eddie Murphy). “It’s good fun with good friends, a lot of laughter, and some good-natured ribbing at his expense, which he’s fully prepared for.”
The timing for the special, especially with a star as relentlessly old-school as Baldwin, is also right for Spike, which will become the Paramount Network in 2018. Airing July 9, One Night Only will be touted as a “Paramount Presents” program. “When we talk about the legacy of the Paramount brand,” says Patterson, “it’s about those classic movie stars and great storytelling, the legends and lore of Hollywood.”
However, for all the talk about old Hollywood, the design aspect of One Night Only will fully embrace its East Coast roots — again a spot-on match for native New Yorker Baldwin. “We view this as a New York-centric franchise,” Patterson says. Bringing Brodner onboard to draw murals inspired by Baldwin’s career was a nod to famed Big Apple establishments like Monkey Bar and The Waverly Inn.
Of recruiting Brodner, she says, “Having a satirical illustrator on this felt great because of the political news around Alec.”
Indeed, Baldwin’s Trump impersonation made him a “dream assignment,” says Brodner. “He’s created a great space for people who have felt frightened, disenfranchised and without hope to laugh. It’s the soul of satire to be able to just get your arms around the thing that you’re most afraid of, and that’s what’s he’s done for people.”
However, Brodner made sure to look far beyond just Baldwin’s recent turn on SNL when it came time to put pen to paper. The murals stretch far across Baldwin’s 30-year career, including TV (30 Rock), film (The Hunt for Red October), theater (A Streetcar Named Desire) and even his most recent gig, hosting Turner Classic Movies’ The Essentials.
“I was trying to show range,” Brodner says. “Certain actors just play the same thing every time and very well, and he’s always doing something a little different.”
Likewise, that diverse body of work will be celebrated onstage during the special. Patterson says presenters will be selected to specifically represent different facets of Baldwin’s long career. “And then you have this big, hilarious, close-knit family,” she says with a laugh. “I would expect to see multiple Baldwins.”
A version of this story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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