Alan Alda Saturday Evening Post Cover

Thanks to M*A*S*H, The West Wing and a slew of successful movies, Alan Alda now has his pick of writing and directing projects. But what he really wants to talk about is science. In the May/June issue of The Saturday Evening Post, on newsstands now, Alda shares tales of both acting and his new scientific endeavors to Post contributor Claudia Gryvatz Copquin.

Alda is perpetually in high demand for films and TV, but he is currently spending time as a visiting professor at Stony Brook University’s Center for Communicating Science. He helped form the department in 2009 to help scientists learn how to more effectively communicate their ideas.

On whether Alda has a dream team of actors or directors he would love to work with: “Woody Allen is brilliant. I loved being in the pictures of his that I was in, and I think Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of the best American pictures ever made. But, no, I never had a plan. You have to take what gets pitched at you and make the most of it.”

On his daughters and grandchildren following in his footsteps: “I did much the same thing my father did with me: I tried to discourage them and help them at the same time. It’s a very hard business, especially for women. I was looking at a movie last night with an extraordinary actress in it. The picture was made in the 1970s or ‘80s, and she was wonderful. What happened to her? I’m sure what happened is she got to be 40 and wasn’t interesting to them anymore. That doesn’t happen to men. To see your daughters get into that, it’s not a happy thing. But people need to do what they’re driven to do.”

On his passion for science: “My relationship with science is as someone who’s curious and hungry to know, hungry to understand. So all I have to offer is my ignorance and curiosity, which is a good combination, as long as they come together.”

On online rumors about him signing on for M*A*S*H six hours before they started filming: “I was in the Utah State Prison making a movie: we were there for three weeks. It was called Glass House. And I wanted to talk to them before I said yes to M*A*S*H, but I couldn’t because I was in prison. So I didn’t get there until the evening before we were starting rehearsal. I met with [series co-producers/creators] Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds in a coffee shop, and we talked until one in the morning. We just reassured each other about what we wanted the series to be.”

On whether Alda would star in a television series again: “If they asked me to do a show that I’m interested in or that I’d get to work with someone that I’d like to work with. I like to work with Laura Linney, so I did her show [The Big C] a few times. I did ER and The West Wing. They were really interesting places to act. And 30 Rock. That was fun. Tina Fey is so brilliant. I’m in this wonderful position where I can do what interests me. And whatever comes along that interests me, I do. The rest of the time I bother scientists about communicating.”