Alan Alda described his first experience playing Hawkeye

The moment Alan Alda became Hawkeye Pierce.

Despite the fact that the M*A*S*H television series wasn’t the first iteration of the popular novel, it can be difficult to picture anyone else but Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce. Alda played the character with such wit and charm, accompanied by a quiet devastation that snuck up every so often just to break viewers’ hearts and remind us that the character was human, just like the rest of us.

Still, that doesn’t mean that Alda felt he was without a doubt, destined to play the role. In fact, according to his memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned, Alda still had reservations after he had won the role, right up to his first scene on set. He struggled to determine whether he could do the character justice, especially one that he felt was so different from his own personality.

Alda wrote, “‘Look,’ I thought, ‘how different am I from him [Hawkeye]? We’re all human, right? We all have these same impulses…'” While the scene only required Alda to walk across the shot, he had imbued his first scene as Pierce with such pressure that it may have felt that everything in his life was riding on such a simple moment.

“I opened the door and walked out across the compound. So far, I was still me. ‘If I get all the way across this patch of dirt without transforming into him,’ I thought, ‘I’m sunk. Jump, for God’s sake.'”

Finally, the transformation occurred when Alda noticed an extra who was playing a nurse moving in front of him. “Without thinking, I reached out and grabbed her around the waist and pulled her over to me.

She smiled and patted me on the cheek. All of a sudden, I was Hawkeye. Even before the shot was over, I was walking with a lighter step. ‘Gee,’ I thought, ‘that wasn’t so hard.'”

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