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Beginning this weekend, ABC will start spending its Sundays With Alec Baldwin.
Earlier this week, the network ordered a nine-episode first season of the hourlong interview show, which includes a post-Oscars sneak peek featuring sit-downs with Jerry Seinfeld and Kate McKinnon. When the talk show returns with more episodes later this year, Baldwin is eager to line his guest list with other pop culture newsmakers, be it in Hollywood, science, arts or politics. And in a bid to differentiate the interviews that he does from myriad others in TV’s increasingly crowded landscape, the Emmy-winning actor will allow them to stretch beyond 20 minutes and, if possible, avoid making his series another stop on a promotional tour.
Baldwin spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about those on (and not on) his wish list of guests as well as his support of Woody Allen, the demise of his MSNBC show and his future as President Donald Trump.
Let’s start simple. Why this, why now?
The idea of doing a TV show was never really that attractive to me — because when we do the show for radio, it’s one kind of reality. The minute you put a camera on people, they change. Then I decided that maybe if we did a limited number [of shows] — I’m not [Jimmy] Fallon or someone who’s gotta do 200 shows a year and you’re on five nights a week for 40 weeks — we’re exempt from that kind of pressure. Why don’t we try it and see if we get people who are more camera-ready? I wouldn’t mind interviewing Jennifer Lawrence or somebody if we could find an angle that was different or fresh.
What would that look like in a market as saturated as this one?
It’s longer, and it’s not a pre-produced segment on the couch of a talk show — which is nearly always promotional. The watchword for me is “origins.” I like to talk to people about their origins. How did they grow up, and how were they primed for this kind of work? How did Jerry Seinfeld become Jerry Seinfeld? I think that’s inspiring for artists and performers. I want to get people on there who are political figures and talk about their origins, too. I know everybody says [Barack] Obama is somebody they’d like to talk to. [David] Letterman had him on. But I’ve got a whole other set of questions.
What would you ask Obama if he were on your show?
I’d ask him about the crushing weight of the presidency, psychically. All of a sudden you, as the president, you have no choice but to give orders where, directly or inadvertently, people will die as a result. Going to war, droning here, bombing there. What was that like for you emotionally? What was the range of emotions you felt during that presidency? I’m not looking for their kind of predigested answers they give through a publicist. I’m very interested to know what it was like. I know what a selfish bastard I am, in terms of not wanting to do anything I don’t want to do, and, so, my God, what’s it like to give years, eight years of your life, in this form of service?
You tried a version of this for MSNBC a few years ago. What did you learn from that short-lived experience that you’ll apply here?
One of the difficulties, and there were a handful of very serious difficulties when we did the show at MSNBC, was that I had a news producer. They assigned the guy to me, Jonathan Larsen, who got fired from Steve Kornacki. They basically said to me, “Here’s this guy. We have a contract with him. We have to stick him somewhere, so he’s your producer.” I don’t want to say he was turned off, but you could tell he was wholly unfamiliar with the world of entertainment. He was constantly saying to me, “Well, in the news division, you’re not allowed to do this.” He was always this kind of a traffic cop, telling us what to do and not necessarily helping us get where we wanted to go. I got parked at MSNBC to work out the kinks of the show before we were going to be moved to NBC. We were looking for a slot at NBC, but then the show died an ugly death. MSNBC was a horrible marriage and just a really bad experience.
You mentioned Obama earlier. Who else is on your wish list of guests?
I’d like to talk to Stephen King, Al Pacino, [Robert] De Niro, [Jack] Nicholson and [Dustin] Hoffman — people like that. Oh, and [Bruce] Springsteen. He’s here in town doing his show [on Broadway], and I want to know why. I mean, “You’re one of the most famous figures in music history. You’re rich beyond belief. You’re not 35 years old anymore. What the hell are you doing doing eight shows a week?”
And what about who isn’t? The interviews that you don’t want?
Without singling out anybody and hurting their feelings, who are people who can’t talk for an hour? Some people can barely make it through the six minutes on the couch. That’s an eternity for them. And who are the people who have the microphone pretty regularly and make good use of it? We don’t do them because they’re available 24/7. Someone like Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He can get on TV and talk about whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
In your first episode, you and Seinfeld get into #MeToo, and how men you both knew were being taken down like bowling pins. You’ve stepped in hot water with your support of Woody Allen on social media. What is the concern level on your part and ABC’s about doing so on TV?
What we saw for a while, in my opinion, was people who were perpetrators being exposed. There was a lot of rhetoric about people who were being outed. When the community at large runs out of perpetrators, they start to turn on the supporters of the perpetrators because they need more fuel for the fire. The next thing they throw on the fire are the friends of these people who aren’t stepping out and renouncing them. I have suffered from some of that: Woody and [James] Toback. I’m eager to see the legal consequences of this. I think innuendo and accusations are a first step, but you’ve got a guy like [Harvey] Weinstein — he’s not even low-hanging fruit, he’s right in the dirt to pick up — and we need to see a conviction.
If I was involved in that movement, I would be crowdfunding as much money for legal fees as I could and have a team of lawyers harangue the L.A. and the New York D.A.’s office 24/7 to bring charges against these people. Someone’s gotta go to jail and prove that there are real consequences. Right now, no one has been prosecuted. Nobody. Is that going to change, or are we going to stay in the realm where it’s just accusations and condemnations being played out in the press? … But my inclination to want to defend my friends — who either A) I thought were innocent, which is Woody or B) I had no knowledge of what they did and I still have no knowledge of what they did, which is Toback — is a normal inclination. It’s a normal inclination to want to rally by your friends up until the point that they are convicted of something. If they’re convicted of a crime — well, then, you’re sad, and that’s tragic, but they’ve got to go through that process. In the meantime, I hope that we see some manifestation of this beyond just social media.
Would you have Allen on as a guest?
I doubt there’s any amount of money you could pay Woody to come on and talk about this stuff. He has already said everything he has to say. I tried to invite [Weinstein accuser] Annabella Sciorra to do my podcast. She turned me down. I’d like to invite somebody who’s not a litigant. Rose McGowan? I would like to talk to her. I doubt she’d want to talk to me. She has taken a long, steady piss on me in the past about this stuff, which is fine. I understand that this is what she feels she has to do. And she has no shortage of access to the media. She can sit down in front of a microphone anytime she wants to.
You have a lot of balls in the air. What will have to go to make room for this?
I’m developing a pilot for a TV show that I can’t talk too much about. In all likelihood, I’ll shoot a pilot for it in the summertime or September. If it works, that would be my main diet for a while and then we would do the talk show and the game show [ABC’s Match Game]. The rest of the time? I gotta be honest with you, I hate to leave my home. I hate to leave my wife. I’m desperately in love with my wife. We have three children. I turn 60 in April, and you can guess what my wife is giving me for my 60th birthday: another baby. So, I’m going to have four children under 5 years old in May. I need to make money and then go home to be with my wife and kids.
How much longer with you play TrumpNight Live?
Every time I do it now, it’s like agony. Agony. I can’t. If things don’t go in the right direction for the midterms. … I could go out on the street, stand on any corner and tap 10 people on the shoulder. And all 10 of them, in all likelihood, would be more qualified — ethically, morally, intellectually and spiritually — than Trump. I’ll vote for Mitt Romney. I don’t care. Anybody over this guy. It doesn’t matter. We have to get rid of him. And that’s another project I’m working on. I was the keynote speaker at the Democratic Dinner in Iowa, and I’m gonna go do a couple more of those this year. My wife and I agreed that we’re gonna give it everything we have. And then if, God forbid, he wins again in 2020, I’m wondering can I host a game show in Spain.
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