He just received the Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, but Alan Alda isn’t finished achieving. He recently guest-starred on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and he hosts a podcast, “Clear + Vivid,” on which he interviews guests like Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Michael J. Fox.
Like the Family Ties alum, Alan, 83, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but “my life hasn’t changed much,” he said in the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now. “So far, it’s really interesting. I think it’s helped me understand a little better that everybody has something they’re coping with.”
Alan has always lived by the motto “adapt, adjust, revise,” and he’s doing just that. “The only thing you can be sure of is that everything is going to change,” he has said. He’s seen plenty of changes in showbiz since his father, actor Robert Alda, used him as a comic prop onstage during a vaudeville show when he was a baby. “In a way, he was training me,” Alan recalled. “But when I told him I wanted to be an actor, he tried to discourage me. He knew it was a hard life.”
His professional life got easier after he landed the role of Korean War surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on the hit sitcom M*A*S*H. The show ran for 11 seasons, and its 1983 finale remains TV’s most-watched episode of all time. “It actually could have gone on longer,” Alan said. “But I think it was important not to end the show when we were fading, but when we were doing our best work.”
Even longer-running is Alan’s 61-year marriage to wife Arlene, whom he met in college and wed after graduation. Together, the couple shares daughters Eve, 60, Elizabeth, 58, and Beatrice, 57. “We still experience a kind of puppy love,” he gushed of his marriage.
Alan says he’s never felt pressure to try to top M*A*S*H. “I was freed from worrying about ever experiencing that success again because that was a success that comes along not once in a lifetime but once in several lifetimes,” he said. “So I do things that interest me — sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t, but I’m free to explore.”
That ’s the idea behind his podcast, on which he recently reunited with his five surviving M*A*S*H costars for an episode entitled “How We Learned to Relate.” “I’m having one of the best times I’ve ever had doing ‘Clear + Vivid,’” he said. “I talk to wonderfully interesting, funny people about communicating and relating. It’s a way of offering what I’ve learned as an artist to help fill a social need.”
As for what’s next, “I really have never made plans for the future,” Alan said. “My life is more of an improvisation. I just try to make the best of what’s in front of me.”
For more on Alan Alda, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more news!