On his way to being a silent icon in television.
Fifteen years ago no one would have predicted that Alec Baldwin would end up being network comedy's favorite straight man. Back then, the bad boy actor was best known for his smoldering good looks and serious turns in big screen dramas like The Hunt for Red October
, Working Girl
. With a raspy voice that makes women weak in the knees and a razor sharp stare that makes men sit up and listen, he was poised to continue along the path of being a big screen star.
Born in 1958 in Massapequa, a town on the south shore of Long Island, New York, Baldwin was raised with his three brothers and two sisters by his mother Carol, a substitute teacher turned stay-at-home mom, and his father, also named Alec, a high school history and social studies teacher. All three of his brothers- Stephen, Billy and Daniel- would go on to have acting careers in film and television, albeit not as well-regarded as Alec's.
After a short turn at George Washington University, Baldwin later transferred to NYU where he studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute. Early spots on television shows like "The Doctors" and "Knots Landing" and his stage work on and off-Broadway, led to a steady movie career in the late '80s/ early '90s.
But after a series of studio bombs and a publicly messy divorce from actress Kim Bassinger, Mr. Baldwin's big screen career seemed to quiet down. He spent the early 2000's doing guest spots on sitcoms like "Friends" and "Will & Grace" and the narrator's voice for the children's show "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends".
During this period of time, he also built himself a loyal fan base as one of "Saturday Night Live's" favorite guests. Who can forget his spot-on impersonations of Robert DeNiro and Tony Bennett? Or his deliciously deadpan turn as characters like Pete Schweddy and the Scoutmaster?
This gift for comic timing and his ability to keep a straight face during the wackiest of situations is what makes his character, Jack Donaghy, on "30 Rock" such a standout. He is the perfect combination of foil and confidant to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. Their relationship is reminiscent of classic sitcom pairings. It combines an almost vaudevillian banter with a deep sense of connection. Even though Jack is the guy in the suit who runs the show, he's just as quirky as the rest of the characters and we know, with one look, how much he cares about Liz.
In the recent episode, "Dance Like Nobody's Watching", Jacks realizes he doesn't know everything about Liz when he catches her kissing a mystery man. Baldwin's ability to subtly go from smug sitcom boss to hurt friend in a smooth, split second is a lesson in talent- no wonder he has received so many accolades. In an article on the actor in The New Yorker, former president of NBCUniversal, Jeff Zucker, is quoted as saying, "Alec brings to '30 Rock' a level of comedic excellence that is unparalleled in network television."
But it's not just his acting career that makes Mr. Baldwin a contender for television icon. His outspoken political involvement and ability to unabashedly be himself without apologies is rare in Hollywood. He writes a column for the Huffington Post
, tackling subjects like Occupy Wall Street and the death penalty. After a media storm during both his custody battle with Kim Bassinger and the infamous phone message he left his daughter, Ireland, Baldwin penned, A Promise to Ourselves
, a book dealing frankly with his divorce and his journey as a father. This candor is refreshing in an industry full of smoke and mirrors.
He's also the type of man who can wear a suit without it wearing him. Style is a key component in the entertainment industry. Alec Baldwin's penchant for suits, ties and crisp button downs, makes him look downright stately- you can almost imagine his profile on a coin.
It's this combination of classic style, flaws and all life approach and an indelible gift for comedy, that make him the kind of performer future generations will look back on with high regard.