Now that he has the main reign over “The Essentials,” Alec Baldwin is tackling the job with his own film knowledge, plus the spirit of his predecessor.
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor co-hosted Turner Classic Movies’ Saturday-night series of “essential” films with his late friend Robert Osborne from 2009 to 2011. In assuming Osborne’s former chair, Baldwin has several partners for the current round: David Letterman just finished a month-and-a-half-long stint; Baldwin’s “30 Rock” leading lady Tina Fey joins him starting Saturday, June 24 (with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”); and Oscar-winning director William Friedkin’s (“The French Connection”) turn is coming in August.
“Robert was that rare person,” Baldwin reflects, “and I can be precise about it and say he was like Johnny Carson, or silly about it and say he was like Santa Claus. No one can replace them, and Robert occupied such a unique place where – above all else – he had the trust of his viewers and his fans.
“They loved him and found him very appealing, but his passion would lead them in all kinds of directions. You didn’t always agree with him, nor should you … but you knew that if he was enthusiastic about something, it was worth having a look at.”
Baldwin hopes the audience feels similarly toward him and his own “Essentials” co-hosts. “Forget about their personalities, they’re distinctive in their tastes,” he says. “I was very excited about all of them doing the program, but Friedkin, I have a special fondness for. He’s such a great cinephile in his own way. Put Letterman and Tina and myself together, and combined, we don’t know as much about film as Friedkin does.”
Also given his dual roles as host and executive producer of ABC’s “Match Game” revival and his much-noted appearances as President Donald Trump on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Baldwin has been a familiar television face lately. A Spike TV “roast” of him, slated to air July 9, only will add to that.
“The business has changed,” he reasons, “in what people want to see and how others want to distribute things to them. I have three little children and I’m madly in love with my wife, so where, when and how I go to work is a limiting thing now. As much as ‘30 Rock’ was celebrated and we all got a lot out of it in our careers, being able to shoot it in New York also made it a great job for me as a dad and a husband. It probably was the best time I ever will have work-wise, and I miss it terribly.”