Alan Alda Brilliantly Improvised Hawkeye’s Very First M*A*S*H Scene

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Written By Sedoso Feb

While both Alda and Hawkeye are exceptionally charismatic, Alda is a bit more straight-laced than his onscreen counterpart. That meant he had to practice being Hawkeye, and on his first day on-set, he stepped cleanly into the role with a bit of non-verbal improv:

“After 10 days of rehearsal, I was standing behind the door of the aluminum building waiting to shoot the first scene of the first episode, and I still didn’t feel like I knew how to play this character. He didn’t seem anything like me. It was a silent shot. All I had to do was walk across the compound, but I wasn’t convinced I could be this guy who drank too much, hit on women, and was something of a smart aleck. When I heard, ‘Action!’ I stepped out onto the compound and saw a nurse headed toward me. I’d never seen her before, but I made the instant decision that she and Hawkeye had some kind of relationship and gave her a little hug. She played along, we exchanged smiles and walked on. I had a little extra spring in my step. ‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘I’m him.'”

It’s hard to believe that Alda isn’t more like the rascally Hawkeye from the ease with which he seems to play the charming Captain even from the earliest episodes, but maybe he’s really just that darn good of an actor. Alda’s boyish charm makes some of Hawkeye’s more irritating aspects feel funny instead of frustrating, and by the end of the series, he’d become one of the most lovable television characters of all time.

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