There are big changes happening in the life of Alec Baldwin, who is suddenly finding himself in a state of flux, adapting to big changes while carrying an unrivaled resume.
For one, 30 Rock, the acclaimed TV show to which he devoted seven years of his life, has wrapped for good, and his professional future is now wide open. Beyond the Friday night of exploration programming that he’s hosting for NatGeo — which he was promoting during a conversation Thursday at Manhattan’s old school Explorers Club — he’s not quite sure what’s next.
It was reported several months ago that, amid all the turnover in NBC’s late night lineup, he was close to landing his own after-hours talk show on the network, but Baldwin says they never found the right fit.
“I had very serious conversations with them and other people about hosting what is essentially the podcast I do for WNYC,” he explains, referring to his show Here’s the Thing. “Transferring that to TV: no desk, no band, no audience, a very Charlie Rose-esque format. I was interested in that, but where does that go in the schedule? Carson Daly is younger than I am and his audience skews younger than I am and he has no audience on [Last Call, his 1:35 am program] — he does well on The Voice. So finding a way to do that is the task. The podcast does fairly well, considering WNYC is the platform, and we wonder where we can take that.”
Cable television, Baldwin says, is possibly a better fit for his demographic, and one he’s considering. He’s had film opportunities in the last few months, too, including a thriller set in Australia and another part offered to him by his “dream director. It was a substantial part, too, and given what he says has been a “mixed bag” of a film career, it was incredibly enticing.
“I’ve gotten to do smaller roles with people I really love; and like most people, I made films with people and I was hopeful — I did The Edge with Tony Hopkins and [David] Mamet had written the screenplay and I was hopeful about that and it came out and it was meh, okay,” he remembers, shrugging his shoulders. “A lot of films are ‘meh, okay.’ You try your best. It’s interesting to me that no one sets out to make a mediocre film but that can ultimately be the end result.”
And yet, despite the allure of working with a hero and getting to visit Australia, he turned both recent movie offers down. His wife, Hilaria, is pregnant with her first child, which will be Baldwin’s second; she’s due to give birth in August.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Baldwin says of the experience, which will see him become a father to both a 17-year old and a newborn. “It is amazing how sometimes you don’t, even at my age, I’m 55-years old, you don’t think — you meet someone, you like them, you marry them and then they come to you one day and say, ‘I’m pregnant’ and you go what?! Oh, right! You forget. But that is one way that you can spin the wheel and that happens. We spun the wheel and that happened.”
Quite the adventure, indeed. But even though he turned down those film roles, the addition to his family won’t entirely stop him in his tracks. To move forward, he implies, is in his DNA.
“I don’t know if I believe in past lives,” Baldwin says. “But I believe that if I did have past lives, they involved something kind of like [adventure], because whenever I’m with my friends who do sailboat racing… something happens to me.”
The 55-year old actor might be inspired by his setting; the Explorers Club is a Jacobean townhouse with arched wooden ceilings and impenetrable walls decorated with the flags and artifacts of the sort of expeditions that helped map the world and make legends of adventurous men who conquered mountains and mastered the beasts of nature.
Baldwin is dressed in a blazer and slacks, gives the air of the kind of guy who a century ago would have set sail for new islands or seek out the South Pole. A noted environmental advocate, who can speak endlessly about alternative energy, climate change — “The extreme weather, the flooding and precipitation, that’s going to be the thing” that sparks innovation, he predicts — and his experiences flying across Africa, he has plans to further pursue his interest in the uncertain and uncharted.
“I’m in conversations right now to do a documentary with [NatGeo],” he reveals. ” I always say we should go catalog the wildlife in the South of France, see what worms are in the vineyards there. Or Tuscany. Those pigs who eat truffles — what goes on with those pigs?”
“We make jokes about that,” he clarifies, laughing. “But really, it’d probably be something that involved being at sea. Maybe we’ll do a cultural, sociological search. What’s going to Cuba? How’s this going to change? What are people in Cuba saying? And not politically. What’s here and how’s it going to change? What do you hope doesn’t change? Here’s Cuba frozen in an amber if you will. How’s that going to change once certain people die?”
He certainly sounds like he belongs at the Explorers Club.