Alec Baldwin Says Being on Knots Landing 'Was 1 of the 5 Most Important Times of My Life'

In The Story of Soaps, Alec Baldwin reflects on his time as a soap opera star and how it changed him

Long before making us laugh on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin was dominating the drama of soap operas.

In The Story of Soaps, the upcoming primetime documentary special presented by PEOPLE and ABC on May 19, the Emmy winner, 62, reflects on his early days on The Doctors and Dallas — and the indelible mark they've made on his career.

In the early 1980s, he was cast as villain Billy Aldrich on the New York City-based NBC daytime soap The Doctors, which concluded in December 1982. Not long after, the future Emmy winner was headed west and, in 1984, he debuted on Knots Landing as manipulative preacher Joshua Rush.

"I went out to Los Angeles and got cast on Knots Landing," he recalls in the special. "It was probably one of the five most important times of my life."

knots landing (1985)
CBS photo archive/Getty

For Baldwin, it was his fellow actors who really helped him succeed.

"They had a very good cast. They had a very talented cast," he explains. "That changes everything when you go to work. You don’t care if it’s a soap, if you’re working with somebody who’s great, everything goes up. I loved it."

Baldwin also enjoyed flexing his bad-boy muscles as Joshua.

"When I play that kind of character, I want to give it everything I can so when the hero kills me or thwarts me in the end, it’s more satisfying for the audience,” he says. "You really want that guy to get it."

  • For more stars who began their careers in soap operas, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
alec baldwin on the doctors
NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

"It's that kind of investment in characters that make television special," Baldwin says. "Daytime TV and TV in general, you have a different relationship with the audience because they see you all the time. You have to go somewhere and buy a ticket and watch a movie. With television, we’re people that are in your living room."

In The Story of Soaps, Baldwin is joined by some of today's biggest stars, including Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Susan Lucci, Carol Burnett, Andy Cohen, and Vivica A. Fox to highlight the massive impact soap operas have had on television over the years.

The Story of Soaps airs Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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