‘M*A*S*H’ Star Alan Alda Explained How He Pulled Off Acting, Directing at Same Time: ‘Not Easily’

by Joe Rutland

There are many “M*A*S*H” episodes where star Alan Alda finds himself both as actor and director. How does a person do both roles at once?

“Not easily,” Alda admitted in a 2017 interview with the Harvard Business Review. “One of our daughters, when she was about eight, said, ‘You’re directing yourself? What do you say? “You, go there.”‘ It’s a problem because when you’re directing you need objectivity, and it’s hard to be objective about your own performance.

“One of the things I would do is shoot many more takes if I was in a scene,” Alda said, “so I’d have things to choose from in the editing room. Maybe that came off looking like I was more concerned about my own performance than other people’s, but that wasn’t why I did it.”

‘M*A*S*H’ Star Admits To Not Knowing How Difficult Doing Both Roles Would Be In His Cacreer

Alda, who played Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce for 11 seasons on “M*A*S*H,” also said he really didn’t realize how hard handling both roles at once would turn out.

“Sometimes I’d give a bit of direction to a fellow actor,” Alda said, “and they’d look at me as if to say, ‘Who are you to tell me what to do?’ It’s a real breach of etiquette for actors to do that to one another. But I was, in fact, the director.

“So you have to be very adroit,” he said. “Sometimes I wasn’t. I’ve been learning how to do this.”

Alda was able to take his directing talent after “M*A*S*H” into movies. Those included “The Four Seasons,” “Sweet Liberty,” “A New Life,” and “Betsy’s Wedding.” Alda picked up a writing credit while also starring in the lead role of “The Seduction of Joe Tynan.”

He still turns up on TV series, too, through reruns. “The West Wing” and “30 Rock” were series where Alda had recurring roles. Did you know that Alda first appeared on the small screen in 1958? He played Carlyle Thomson III in “The Phil Silvers Show,” which starred comedian Silvers as Sgt. Ernie Bilko.

If You’re Expecting To See Alda Rehearse Before A Performance, Then Think Again

These days, the “M*A*S*H” star continues to stay active despite going public a few years ago with his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

One aspect of acting that Alda definitely does not like is rehearsing. Don’t believe it? Well, here’s Alda talking about it in an interview with SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.

“One thing I miss about theater, even though I loved doing television, is the rehearsal process,” Carteris said.

“I have to say I hate rehearsing,” Alda of “M*A*S*H” said.

“Oh do you really?” Carteris asked. “I love rehearsal.”

“It’s like lifting weights,” Alda said. “It’s good for you but I don’t like it. You know in French they call it ‘repetition’ and that’s what it feels like, repetitions. Repetitions are boring.”

Don’t expect to see Alda going through rehearsals anytime soon.