Only now, as the Emmy-winning 30 Rock star admits in a candid interview with Playboy for its July/August issue (on newsstands and online Friday), after the phone message was exposed, he contemplated killing himself.
At the time of the voicemail, Baldwin and his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, were in the sixth year of their bitter custody battle over the child. In the wake of public outrage about the contents of the message, Baldwin set about repairing his public image, apologizing during an appearance on The View and writing an advice book for divorced fathers, A Promise to Ourselves. But reaching those points proved an arduous climb.
Talked Out of ItDescribing his thoughts of killing himself as "very serious," Baldwin, 51, says, "I spoke to a lot of professionals, who helped me … If I committed suicide, [Kim Basinger's side] would have considered that a victory. Destroying me was their avowed goal."
His self-destructive state of mind was such, recalls Baldwin, that he also offered to quit 30 Rock and actually went ahead and – briefly – dropped his agent, who also represented Basinger.
As for why Baldwin chose The View as his platform to unburden himself, he says, "Whoopi Goldberg is a friend. I called her and said, 'Do you think I can get a fair shake?' Because when you talk about family law and parental alienation, there is this unfortunate gender-based dynamic. Could I walk into a show with a strong female audience? Would they understand my point of view? I trusted Whoopi and Barbara Walters. Whoopi is an impeccably decent person, and I am grateful she gave me a forum."
More Harsh WordsIn the course of his Playboy interview, Baldwin does not share similar sentiments about some others in the media, whom he has yet to forgive for the roles they played at the time of the controversy. He calls producer Harvey Levin of TMZ – which first made the voicemail public – "a human tumor, a graceless character who lives in that weird netherworld."
Nor will Baldwin agree to appear on his own network's top-rated morning program. "I'm on an NBC show, and Today was considered vital," says the actor, who will also soon be seen with Cameron Diaz in the movie My Sister's Keeper. "But when that voicemail tape thing happened, Matt Lauer interviewed [Harvey] Levin before he even called me. Lauer put Levin on Today, and they never phoned me. When it's in their interest to reach me, they know how. I saw that and said, 'My relationship with the Today show is over.' I'll never do Today again, ever. Life's too short."