On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with award-winning and celebrated actor Alec Baldwin to discuss the acting craft with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.
Alec Baldwin has received a Tony nomination for his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, a supporting actor nomination at the Oscars for The Cooler (2004), and he has won three Emmy awards, three Golden Globes and seven consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards for ‘Best Actor in a Comedy Series’ for his role as Jack Donaghy on NBC-TV’s 30 Rock.
Baldwin’s filmography also includes the critically acclaimed film The Hunt for Red October, for which NYFA’s Founder, Jerry Sherlock, was Executive Producer, as well as Glengarry Glen Ross, It’s Complicated, The Departed, Pearl Harbor, Blue Jasmine, Still Alice, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and many more.
More recently, Baldwin has gained critical acclaim and popularity surrounding his portrayal of President Donald Trump for Saturday Night Live, joining the cast regularly for ongoing appearances as the 45th President.
Laiter began the Q&A by asking Baldwin about his successful career and finding his place in Hollywood. “In the beginning, you have a boyish gratitude [on set], similar to being a guest in someone’s house,” he began, “everyone on the set knows more than you, but that changes later on when you are on a film and someone says something to you and you go ‘no, I think it’s this,’ as you begin to understand what will make a scene work.”
The conversation then switched to Baldwin’s successful career as not only a dramatic actor, but a comedic performer, where Laiter brought up Baldwin’s hilarious and well-timed character Jack Donaghy on NBC’s critically acclaimed TV series 30 Rock. “The show, to me, is one of the ultimate examples of me being the beneficiary of very good writing,” he shares. “The writing was the best I had ever seen in terms of comedy and it was natural to me.”
One student asked Baldwin about how he chooses the right script as an actor. Baldwin responded: “I try to decide ‘is this movie a movie I want to make or I want to see?’ Then, I look at my character. I’ve played parts where my character wasn’t the biggest role or well-served in terms of page count, but there was an opportunity to me where I could see that character having an impact on that film.” When it comes to looking at a script, Baldwin explains that it’s about the quality of storytelling and the impact of your character that matters.
Another student asked Baldwin about what it can be like for an actor when giving a performance in a film versus acting in television series.
“Moviemaking is intense because you have to narrow everything down to what is worthwhile and what works,” he shares. “Television allows for more time to spread your character arc or story along. There is more complexity involved because there is more time. If not in this episode then in the next…”
To the question of whether one should try everything or stick to the one that already works, Baldwin recommended that when you are just starting out and you are young, to try everything to become the actor you can be and want to be, Baldwin reminded students that it isn’t just about finding an agent, “making it,” or getting everything “right” after studying acting: “Join a rep company. Do as many shows as you can. Do as many roles as you can off the beaten path so you can make your mistakes under the radar before you get typecast.”
Baldwin also provided profound advice to students when auditioning for a role. “Remember they asked you there.” He explains that it can be easy to go into an audition with a “people pleasing attitude,” but “they want what you have; they invited you to come to audition and they need you. You are a professional and they are looking for someone to play a part, and you give everything you’ve got in the audition. Once you walk into the room and realize no one is doing anybody any favors, it’s business, and you’re a part of that business, then everything is going to change for you.”
Baldwin closed the conversation by thanking Laiter for the conversation and the students for their time, and expressed that he hoped his words were helpful to those looking at a career in acting.
New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Alec Baldwin for sharing his time and acting experience with NYFA students and alumni.
To listen to the full conversation, click the video below or check it out on our YouTube channel here.