Alan Alda talks reuniting with ‘M*A*S*H’ co-stars, secret to his lasting marriage in Hollywood

Alan Alda is still feeling the love.

The 82-year-old actor, a Golden Globe and Emmy-winner, became the 55th recipient of Screen Actors Guild (SAG) lifetime achievement award in late January 2018. The award was handed by Tom Hanks in the televised ceremony.

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Throughout a career that has spanned seven decades, Alda has appeared in “The West Wing,” “The Aviator” and "Manhattan Murder Mystery,” just to name a few. However, he is best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the hit TV series “M*A*S*H.” That series aired from 1972 until 1983.

Alda has since won six Emmy Awards and was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2004 for his role in “The Aviator.”

“All I can tell you is that I was smiling all night,” Alda told Fox News. “Nothing bothered me. No mattered what happened, I was very happy. It makes you very, very happy. I recommend it to everybody.”

But Alda isn’t just sitting back and savoring the fruits of his decades-long labor. In fact, the surviving cast members of “M*A*S*H,” which followed the staff of a mobile Army surgical hospital during the Korean War, have reunited for Alda’s “Clear + Vivid” podcast. The reunion was supposed to happen earlier in 2017 but was postponed after Jamie Farr, who starred as Max Klinger, nearly lost his home in the California wildfires.

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Mike Farrell, US actor, Loretta Swit, US actress, and Alan Alda, US actor, in a publicity still issued for the US television series 'M*A*S*H', USA, circa 1975. The medical comedy starred Farrell as 'Captain B J Hunnicutt', Swit as 'Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan', and Alda as 'Captain Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce'. — Getty

Mike Farrell, US actor, Loretta Swit, US actress, and Alan Alda, US actor, in a publicity still issued for the US television series 'M*A*S*H', USA, circa 1975. The medical comedy starred Farrell as 'Captain B J Hunnicutt', Swit as 'Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan', and Alda as 'Captain Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce'. — Getty

“The reason why I wanted to bring them together was not just for the reunion — we have reunions all the time,” explained Alda. “We get together for dinner at least once a year. What I realized was that the experience with them on “M*A*S*H” taught me something that really led in part to the podcast in itself.”

In July 2018, the National Press Club reported Alda was launching a podcast to encourage meaningful conversations that lead to better understanding of one another. At the time, he cited his experience as the host of PBS’s “Scientific American Frontiers” during the ‘90s, where he interviewed scientists about how they can use language that the general public could understand, as inspiration.

Alda said he and his “M*A*S*H” castmates were always determined to better understand each other over the years.

“We figured out how to relay to one another off camera by sitting in a circle of chairs and just kidding with one another and laughing together,” recalled Alda. “So we had this connection when cameras turned on. And it turned our performances into something much more alive than it would have been otherwise. It was the essence of the show. Once we began talking to each other, we quickly got past that experience of sitting in chairs and sharing stories.”

Alan Alda poses for a portrait in New York on Oct. 25, 2018. The 82-year Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actor became the 55th recipient of the annual Life Achievement award at the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Award ceremony on Jan. 27. — AP

Alan Alda poses for a portrait in New York on Oct. 25, 2018. The 82-year Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actor became the 55th recipient of the annual Life Achievement award at the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Award ceremony on Jan. 27. — AP

Alda said that even now, he’s still learning some surprising facts about the making of “M*A*S*H.”

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“Mike Farrell tells a story really well about a series of practical jokes that everybody played on one another,” Alda chuckled. “It started with a hilarious joke that got even more hilarious when the other person got revenge. I wasn’t in on the practical jokes. So I didn’t know what happened. But it’s a really wonderful story and Mike tells it very well on the podcast.”

Alda also recalled filming the show’s final episode, titled “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which he also directed. The Washington Post reported more than 106 million viewers watched the series finale. The newspaper shared the episode was so highly anticipated that 30-second advertising slots sold for $50,000, more than some slots for the 1983 Super Bowl.

Cast members of "M*A*S*H*" (L-R) Allan Arbus, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, Burt Metcalfe and Alan Alda accept the Impact award at the seventh annual TV Land Awards in Los Angeles, on April 19, 2009.

Cast members of "M*A*S*H*" (L-R) Allan Arbus, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, Burt Metcalfe and Alan Alda accept the Impact award at the seventh annual TV Land Awards in Los Angeles, on April 19, 2009. (Reuters)

In addition to this, the United Press International reported an estimated million viewers in New York City alone used the toilet after the show ended, pouring 6.7 million gallons of water through the city’s sewers.

Alda said the pressure was on to deliver a final goodbye that fans wouldn't forget.

“I wanted to end it in a way that showed that everybody was going home with some kind of wound from the war,” said Alda. “That the war didn’t leave anybody the way they were when they started. Sometimes it was physical wounds and sometimes it was emotional. We wanted to be authentic about that and genuine.”

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Alan Alda

Alan Alda (Getty Images)

“I also wanted to give everybody a goodbye, including the extras,” Alda continued. “You know, the audience got to know the extras on the show. So I gave them all speeches about what they were all going to do when they got home. Which didn’t always go well with them because they weren’t used to acting, they were all used to being in the background.”

The star admitted he was faced with even bigger obstacles.

“The other challenge directing the final episode was the outdoor location that we used in the mountains of Malibu,” said Alda. “It caught fire on a Friday night or Saturday morning and the entire set burned to the ground. I still had a lot of scenes to shoot there. So I spent the weekend rewriting the script and wrote a fire into it. And the rest of the show took place in another location. But that’s what one of the fun things that happen when you’re acting. You have everything prepared. Everything is all set up to go, and then at the last minute, you have to improvise, which is exciting.”

Alan said “it was wonderful” to revisit the past, but his focus is now on the future. The TV star told CBS’s “This Morning” in July 2018 that he’s been battling Parkinson’s disease for over three years. Still, he told People magazine that not much has changed since he made the shocking revelation. In fact, he’s as excited as ever to raise awareness on better communication to spark one’s curiosity on his podcast.

Alan Alda and Wife Arlene Alda during "A New Life" New York Premiere Party at Tavern On The Green in New York.

Alan Alda and Wife Arlene Alda during "A New Life" New York Premiere Party at Tavern On The Green in New York.

“It takes up most of my life now,” he said. “I act whenever I find something fun to act in, but an awful lot of my time is devoted to this. … I went in with curiosity. … I want to help people communicate better in every part of their lives. Between couples and diplomacy, business, sports — it’s important to communicate and relate to one another as well so we can move on with what we’re trying to accomplish with people.”

He has also learned many lessons personally with the help of his wife, Arlene Alda. The couple has been married since 1957 and share three daughters.

“Arlene says that the secret to a long marriage is a short memory,” said Alda. “So far it works! I think it’s really good to remember. Two people can’t live together unless they occasionally have a difference of opinion or a different way of doing things. And as you’re working that out, no matter how strongly you feel, I think it’s good to remember that you love this person. It’s easy to forget when you get upset about something. And it shortens up the conversation a lot.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.