Since MASH, Alan Alda has been a father figure to me. I’ve even gone so far as to say that I like being Alan Alda’s daughter.
In an interesting new interview with the Saturday Evening Post Alan Alda gives some advice to his real daughters and granddaughters. I hate it when he talks about them. It just makes me feel like, “What am I to you, Alan Alda—Chopped liver?” I think it’s kind of rude.
But anyway, Alda is his charming, well-spoken, dad-like self. He calls Tina Fey brilliant and admits to being a Downton Abbey fan (like father, like daughter!)
Speaking of daughters, his so-called real ones wouldn’t even join him on the set of MASH. He commuted to the West Coast from his home in New Jersey for years!
“Not the whole year,” he says, “but say, four months out of the year for about six years. It was when my kids were still living at home, not in college. Everybody stayed back. They were just entering their teens when we started the show, and we didn’t want to uproot them. I was in a constant state of jet lag. But for several years towards the end I didn’t have to commute. My wife had come out with me, and the kids would visit when they could.”
Visit when they could? Pfft, Alan Alda. I’m always here for you.
How does Alan Alda feel about having his daughters and granddaughters pursue an acting career?
He says, “I did much the same thing my father did with me: I tried to discourage them and help them at the same time. It’s a very hard business, especially for women. I was looking at a movie last night with an extraordinary actress in it. The picture was made in the 1970s or ’80s, and she was wonderful. What happened to her? I’m sure what happened is she got to be 40 and wasn’t interesting to them anymore. That doesn’t happen to men. To see your daughters get into that, it’s not a happy thing. But people need to do what they’re driven to do.”
So, are his daughters in “the business”?
“One of my daughters, Beatrice, is a writer/director and has lately done documentaries. She did a documentary, Out Late, which won a lot of awards around the world. She and another daughter, Elizabeth, were actresses for a while. But then Elizabeth decided she didn’t really care for acting. She became a teacher of the deaf and a special education teacher in general. They all have advanced degrees and I’m very proud of them.” Proud daddy. Cute.
He’s currently visiting professor at Stony Brook University’s Center for Communicating Science—a department he helped found in 2009 to train scientists to communicate more effectively with the public. Why is he working in science now?
He explains, “My relationship with science is as someone who’s curious and hungry to know, hungry to understand. So all I have to offer is my ignorance and my curiosity, which is a good combination, as long as they come together. Ignorance without curiosity is not so hot. But I actually do have something to offer, which is that I’ve spent my life communicating and thinking about how communication works.”
Married since 1957, father of 3, grandfather to 7, still curious, vibrant, and making the world a cooler place at age 77—You see why I’m so proud of him.