From 1972 to 1983, Alan Alda played Hawkeye on the classic wartime comedy “M*A*S*H.” The legendary actor has worked consistently since then, playing countless roles in both television shows and movies. But interestingly, he didn’t approach his acting career with a specific plan in mind. And the 85-year old actor lives his life the same way to this day.
There are those out there who won’t be satisfied until they accomplish their long-term goals. But get this. Alan Alda’s philosophy says that if you don’t set long-term goals, then you get to be content all the time. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration. But that’s basically how he summed up his outlook on his career and life. Just take it from him.
The specific context for the “M*A*S*H star’s philosophical comments is a 2019 interview for SAG-AFTRA. He was asked if there was a particular role that he felt he needed to play during his lifetime. His response?
“No, I really do approach my life like an improvisation. I have very few long-term goals,” Alda said. “But as an actor, I just make the most of what’s in front of me. Things come in front of you or they don’t. So to say, ‘I really want that.’ What’s the point?”
Well, good thing the “M*A*S*H” script came in front of him. The history of classic television would look drastically different without Alan Alda as Hawkeye. In fact, one of the reasons he took the role in the first place was because he had no idea how to play the character.
The ‘M*A*S*H’ Star Was Improvising When He Took the Role of Hawkeye
Alan Alda couldn’t imagine how he’d play Hawkeye on “M*A*S*H.” He saw that as a challenge, and it drew him to the role.
“And I think when I’m reading a script that somebody’s offering me, and I think this writing is good but how could I ever be that character? That makes me want to do it,” Alda continued in the interview. “As long as it’s in my range, and I think this is almost scary, I’m not sure I know how to be this guy. Which is how I felt about Hawkeye.”
So he went ahead and created Hawkeye. Of course, Hawkeye was already there on paper. But each actor is going to have a different approach to a character. And with how central Alan Alda was to “M*A*S*H,” it’s hard to imagine the show being so successful without him.
The “take things as they come” approach worked out pretty well in regard to “M*A*S*H.” So why wouldn’t he apply that philosophy to his career going forward? That’s exactly what Alan Alda did, and he hasn’t seemed to regret it yet.