M*A*S*H was just one project Alan Alda juggled as he charmed millions of viewers as Dr. Hawkeye Pierce.
But he was so much more than his famous character. At age 85, he’s won multiple Emmys and has been nominated for an Oscar, Grammy and Tony. He’s directed, written and produced. Reading his entire resume can make you feel unworthy. Alda even hosted a show on PBS called Scientific American Frontiers.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Alda talked about how he juggled during M*A*S*H.
Alda said: “I sometimes don’t know where I’m supposed to be the next day or even two hours from now. But when I was writing, directing, and acting in M*A*S*H and producing and writing another series at the same time, I learned to give my full attention to what I was engaged in at that moment.
“I didn’t worry about the other things, even if there was a pressing deadline. That’s a kind of mindfulness—being as much as you can in the present—but it’s also the engagement you learn from improv, not distracting yourself with the past or the future or “How am I doing?” Of course, one time during M*A*S*H when I was trying to write a scene with collaborators, I lay down on the floor and fell asleep while I was talking.”
Alda really pushed the idea of improv, or improvisation, in the Harvard interview. He was a member of the Compass Players, an improv comedy group in Chicago and St. Louis, during the 1950s. He said that’s where he got most of his training for acting.
Alda Won Emmys For Acting, Writing, Directing M*A*S*H
His talents were on true display in M*A*S*H. Alda won a total of five Emmys for acting, directing and writing for the show, which ran from 1972 to 1983. He took home his sixth Emmy in 2006 for playing Arnold Vinick on The West Wing. Vinick, like Alda, was a tireless go-getter. He was a senator from California, who won the Republican nomination for president and served as the Secretary of State.
Alda was beloved as Hawkeye. And he helped bring the other M*A*S*H characters to life. He wrote 19 episodes and directed 32. One of the episodes he co-wrote was the series finale titled Goodbye, Farewell and Amen. He also directed it. The episode was broadcast on Feb. 28, 1983. Advertising for the show costs more than a spot for the Super Bowl. And it probably was worth it. Almost 106 million people watched the series finale.
And through his whole time with M*A*S*H, Alda commuted across the country. He spent weekdays in Los Angeles, where the series was filmed. Then he flew home to New Jersey on the weekends. Alda still is married to his wife, Arlene. They wed in 1957.
We’re stunned Alda fell asleep on the floor just once.