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Smart Alec

If you planned it right, you could run from one screen showing Stephen Baldwin in The Usual Suspects (he's the dopey-looking one who turned to God and bad poetry) to another showing Alec in The Juror, and then, when the usher wasn't looking, go and see young William in Fair Game -- before running home to see Daniel do his cop thing in Homicide: Life On The Street. That's a whole lot of Baldwin. Circa 1995.

"Yeah, there was a time there where even we were getting a little sick of seeing Baldwins on our screens," smiles the 52-year-old Alec, "but, you know, it's a lot of fun too, having your brothers get involved in what felt like the family business. A lot of people feel it was all my fault, but I think these guys would have found their way to a film set with or without me.

"My only concern was that none of them were better at acting than me. Or better looking, of course."

Well, Alec needn't have worried all that much, proving to be the biggest star of the four brothers back then, and he's still the leader of the pack today. Which, given that he comes from good Irish Catholic stock, must make the family get-togethers pretty volatile occasions.

"Ah, the old sibling rivalry that fuels many an Irish family to great heights of drama and drinking, and singing," he laughs. "We've had our share, sure, but I don't think it ever got to be quite the little Irish opera that it could so easily have been. We came from good stock, and we knew the value of what we had, and the luck we'd had, and we weren't about to squander any of it by turning on one another.

"I guess that was all down to my incredible modesty, and the fact that I rarely spoke at the dinner table about just how much better I am than all my brothers . . ."

In many ways, Alec seems to be enjoying something of a second career, critically acclaimed supporting turns in the likes of The Departed and The Good Shepherd leading to your much-loved and award-winning turn as CEO Jack Donaghy in TV's smartest sitcom, 30 Rock . . .

"I've certainly had a wonderful run in recent years, and to land a role like Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock is just one of those lucky breaks that every actor dreams of. Great script, great cast, a network that gets it, an audience that gets it -- it's a lot of fun when everything comes together like that. And, having been in this business for quite some time, I know just how rare that perfect combination can be . . .

"Who knows how far we can take this, and how many twists and turns we can come up with. I think we've managed to stay fresh through the four seasons so far, and it feels like there's still that buzz of excitement there. That sense that there's still plenty more to do . . ."

30 Rock has added a few Emmys, Golden Globes and SAGs to his mantelpiece, after so many nominations earlier on.

"The show has certainly created a surge of sorts, and that's always welcome in an actor's life, especially when you're getting on in years," he says.

"I had a huge amount of fun with Meryl Streep and Steve Martin on It's Complicated, and stuff like Lymelife and My Sister's Keeper, they're all good experiences, you know.

"Because they're different experiences, they're new adventures, with some new people. That's what this acting lark is all about really. Telling new stories, in new ways, with new people, and it's what makes this job one of the best jobs in the world."