Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
Summary: From WNYC Studios, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin takes listeners into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by going inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people we want to understand better: Ira Glass, Lena Dunham, David Brooks, Roz Chast, Chris Rock and others. Hear what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and many others. © WNYC Studios
A prestigious agent signed playwright John Guare before he had even graduated from Yale School of Drama, saying he showed promise. In the five decades since, Guare has been one of the most humane—and absurd—voices of American theater. He says "there's no such thing as a 'hit recipe,'" though if one existed, Guare would probably know about it; his acclaimed work includes The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the film Atlantic City. Lisa Dwan began dancing ballet with Rudolf Nureyev when she was just 12, and she carried that poise and fluidity with her as she evolved into an actor. She says nowhere is that more evident than in her recent interpretations of fellow Irishman Samuel Beckett. Dwan gathered critical acclaim for a grueling one-woman show featuring three of Beckett's most intense works: Rockaby, Footfalls, and Not I. The last of these is a stream-of-consciousness monologue, with only Dwan's mouth visible hovering over a black stage.
The Graduate. Midnight Cowboy. Lenny. That's just the beginning of Dustin Hoffman's legendary Hollywood career. Over the last five decades, he's stretched and contorted himself into dozens of defining roles, earning recognition as one of the most talented actors in cinema history. Hoffman tells host Alec Baldwin that he savors each new opportunity like it's the first, and recalls his salad days when he was mis-cast, underestimated, and, on at least one notable occasion, sick on a co-star's shoe. Listen to a young Dustin Hoffman explain why he's scared of Hollywood in this WNYC interview from 1967.
When Gay Talese couldn't land an interview with Frank Sinatra, he wrote the profile instead by talking to Sinatra's tailor, stylist, valet, and other secondary characters in the pop star's world. The resulting piece for Esquire magazine, "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold," is a classic of New Journalism, which Talese helped pioneer. "I wanted to be a storyteller," he tells host Alec Baldwin. "I used my imagination to penetrate the personalities, the private lives, of other people." For more than six decades, those people have included mafia crime bosses, civil activists, literati, prizefighters—and innumerable "normal" characters, with their own secret desires, triumphs, and failings.
Ian Schrager is in the hospitality business. Hotels or nightclubs, uptown or downtown, Miami or Manhattan, Schrager defines luxury and leisure. When he and his late business partner Steve Rubell opened Studio 54 in 1977, the club quickly became the epitome of the disco era's cultural mores. It was Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Cher, and as Schrager recalls, "serious, sweaty dancing." Today, Schrager says nightclubs are a young person's business; he's long since reinvented himself as one of the inventors of the boutique hotel. The aim, he tells host Alec Baldwin, is essentially the same: make people comfortable, and change their expectations. At 68, Schrager shows no sign of slowing down; his heroes are Giorgio Armani and Clint Eastwood—passionate people who are inspired by work they love.
Edie Falco says she is nothing like Carmela Soprano. Nor does she have much in common with Nurse Jackie. But Falco made these characters two of the most identifiable and human women in television history. She has an armful of Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards—and a cadre of dedicated fans—to prove it. Along the way, she's battled cancer, raised two children on her own, and is a recovering alcoholic. But Falco doesn't want your sympathy; she tells host Alec Baldwin that her greatest professional accomplishment is creating a fun, respectful atmosphere on-set. She credits her multiple successes to good luck, great mentors, and says there's no predicting which way her career could have gone—or will go yet.
Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2006 book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Most recently, filmmaker Alex Gibney directed an HBO documentary based on Wright's reporting in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Unbelief. Much of Wright's work is about how religious belief animates personal action and political conflict. He has documented the Jonestown massacre, explored allegations of Satan worship, profiled brimstone-tinged gospel preachers, and, of course, tracked the histories of al-Qaeda and the Church of Scientology. Regarding the latter, he isn't necessarily sympathetic to the Church's claims, but he understands its appeal. "People don't go into it because it's a cult, they go into it because they're looking for something," says Wright. "It's like going into therapy; people do benefit from it." "But it's one thing to get into it, it's another thing to get out of it."
David Blaine begins his visit to Here's The Thing by pushing an ice pick through his hand. He tells host Alec Baldwin that he began training his brain to overcome pain at a young age. Blaine grew up in Brooklyn, an only child with a single mother. He spent many afternoons at the local library and he channeled his isolation and loneliness into an early fascination with magic. Today, Blaine is an acclaimed street magician and sleight of hand artist, and also performs staggering feats of endurance: He has balanced on a 100-foot pillar for 35 hours; hung in a transparent box for 44 days; held his breath for more than 17 minutes at a time. He calls it magic, but says his work is mostly about mental toughness. "Anything I do, anybody could do... It's playing with that line of how far can you push yourself before you crack, live in front of an audience, that I'm intrigued by."
Roz Chast's cartoons exude warmth and whimsy, but often share more in common with the dark humor of cartoonists like Charles Addams or Gahan Wilson than they do with "Peanuts." When she broke into a regular gig as a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine in the 1970s, she had already cultivated the eccentricities that became the hallmark of her work. As proof, an adult Chast drew a cartoon that shows a young girl with her head stuck in the "Big Book of Horrible Rare Diseases." It's labeled "Me, Age 9." Chast has illustrated more than 800 cartoons for The New Yorker, as well as a number of books. Most recently, she published Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a sharply-observed memoir of her parents at the ends of their lives. In this episode of Here's The Thing, Roz Chast talks to Alec Baldwin about life with her parents, growing up in New York, and her neurotic pet birds.
George Stephanopoulos was only 35 when he left his post as a senior advisor to President Clinton, his rolodex full of contacts and his head full of political insights. He didn't know what he wanted to do next, but he knew he was wrung out from his time inside the D.C. bubble. "White House years are dog years, multiplied," he says. "I knew that in order to feel my age again, I had to start a different career." Today, Stephanopoulos is the chief anchor for ABC News, a co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America, as well as the host of ABC's political interview show This Week. In this episode of Here's The Thing, he talks to Alec Baldwin about another prominent TV host, Brian Williams; the prospect of a Bush-Clinton presidential race in 2016; and how he's learned to be himself on national television.
From 1877 to 1950, nearly 4,000 black people were lynched in the United States. Bryan Stevenson says these stories aren't part of the collective historical memory of most Americans, but they should be. Stevenson is the founder and director of the Equal Justice Institute, an Alabama-based non-profit that fights for retrials, death-sentence reversals, and exoneration in the face of racially-charged legal practices and policies. The Equal Justice Institute's report about lynching, recently detailed in The New York Times, is one piece of Stevenson's work focused on "confronting the legacy of racial terror"—a legacy that is directly observable today in the record numbers of incarcerated black men and boys. In this episode of Here's The Thing, Stevenson tells host Alec Baldwin that he believes the history of slavery and violence needs to be radically acknowledged and addressed if Americans are to achieve the promise of an equal society.
After shooting the pilot for Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker told HBO she didn't want to go through with the project. But after the first day’s taping, she says, she "didn't want to be anywhere else." Parker is now indelibly associated with Carrie Bradshaw—one of the most prominent women in the history of television. She tells Here’s The Thing’s Alec Baldwin that she was surprised to be considered for the part. Sarah Jessica has a fully-formed casting philosophy: she confesses to Alec that she tends to overcompensate when a co-star brings less than ideal energy to a part. "You know what they won't bring," she says. "And you end up projecting onto the other person what you wish they were bringing into the scene, and you become a bad actor." htt (htt)
The massive protests after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City strained relationships among police departments, the neighborhoods they serve, and political leaders. Then, in late December, the assassination of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos further escalated the rhetoric and what was at stake. This week on Here’s The Thing, Alec Baldwin talks to two people with years of street experience. Both have compelling visions for improving the broken relationship between police and communities. John Eterno is a retired captain in the NYPD who once defended “stop and frisk” policies. Today he teaches criminal justice at Molloy College and worries about how many more people were singled out for aggressive police scrutiny during the Bloomberg administration. Eterno advocates for a more individually autonomous, accountable, and, above all, transparent police force. David Kennedy is the architect of Operation Ceasefire, a community-based approach to de-escalating inner city gang violence. Over the last three decades, his work has transformed relationships between law enforcement and communities in cities across the country, including South Central Los Angeles and Boston. Now, he’s working in New York City. Kennedy believes that the influence of families, friends, and neighbors has a greater impact on lowering crime than handcuffs, firearms, and courtrooms.
We often think of Julie Andrews as the prim nanny from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, but her personal path may have the greatest resemblance to one of her Broadway roles: Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Andrews says she grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in a family strapped for cash during wartime, and her initial training as an actor was in the less than prestigious field of vaudeville. But right before opening night of her breakout role in The Boy Friend, it was producer Cy Feuer’s advice that we have to thank, in large part, for the level of excellence Andrews has brought to musical film and theater for generations. “Forget camp,” he told her. “Get real.”
John McEnroe is one of the most accomplished tennis players of all time, but he lives just as vividly in the public imagination for his volcanic interactions with line judges and umpires. It’s no surprise, then, that McEnroe wants line judges out of the game entirely (”they’ve already proven they can’t see anything”). To revive the sport from what he calls its current status as an elitist cult, tennis needs more than just the introduction of instant replay. And as McEnroe works to cultivate new talent with his tennis academy on Randall’s Island, he’s also focused on keeping his own six kids happy.
Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore are members of a select club. For them, names like "Edge," "Search," "Days," and "World Turns" mean something. They came of age at a time when soap operas were a big deal, and as they tell it, soaps provided an opportunity for some of their best raw acting. Now Moore, who has performed in everything from independent films to widely-released big budget classics like Boogie Nights and Jurassic Park, stars alongside Baldwin in the acclaimed drama, Still Alice. She plays a linguistics professor who starts forgetting her words as Alzheimer's sets in. This isn’t the first time the two have shared the screen—Moore’s also famous for her cameos as Baldwin’s high school sweetheart in 30 Rock. Hear two actors reveal why they do what they do, and how the decisions they’ve made have gotten them where they are today.