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Alec Baldwin talks about the fatal shooting on the set of 'Rust'

NOEL KING, HOST:

Alec Baldwin says he was rehearsing when a gun went off on the set of the movie "Rust," killing the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEC BALDWIN: I was told I was handed an empty gun. There were cosmetic rounds nothing - with a charge at all, a flash round, nothing. She goes down. I thought to myself, did she faint?

KING: He says it took him 45 minutes to realize there was a live round in the gun. Baldwin appeared in his first interview since that shooting on ABC with George Stephanopoulos. And NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans was watching last night. Good morning, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Morning.

KING: Baldwin said something very interesting in this interview. He said, I didn't pull the trigger, and yet we know the gun did fire. How did he explain that?

DEGGANS: Well, Baldwin said he was doing what's called a marking rehearsal, which means that he was positioning the gun at the cinematographer's direction so she could see what the scene would look like in a monitor. And as part of the rehearsal, he says he pulled back the hammer on the gun and he released it, and that's when the gun went off. So let's listen to Baldwin himself talk about what happened in that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BALDWIN: Now, in this scene, I'm going to cock the gun. And I said, do you want to see that? And she said, yes. So I take the gun, and I start to cock the gun. I'm not going to pull the trigger. I said, do you see that? She goes, well, cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that. And I cocked the gun. I go, can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that? And she says - and then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off.

DEGGANS: Now, with luck, investigators can determine what happened with the gun, particularly this question of whether it could have fired without pulling the trigger, which is what Baldwin insists happened.

KING: Did he level blame at anyone?

DEGGANS: Not really. In fact, he walked a fine line between implying that others didn't do their jobs while making it plain that he feels he wasn't at fault but also saying he doesn't want anyone else to suffer and not specifically indicating who might have made a mistake. Now, he did note, as has been reported earlier, that the assistant director, Dave Halls, handed him the prop weapon and said it was a cold gun, which meant it wasn't dangerous. And when Stephanopoulos pointed out that some people have said a gun should never be pointed at someone else on a set, Baldwin said that the cinematographer was telling him how to aim the gun. And he trusted that the people who were in charge of the prop weapons knew their jobs, including the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed.

Now, Baldwin focused the discussion on one question - where did this live round come from? And just this week, the Santa Fe Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant in a local prop supplier to compare the rounds that were there to the ones that were found on the set. So authorities may learn some of the answers to those questions soon.

KING: How did Alec Baldwin come across in this interview?

DEGGANS: Well, I think he came across pretty well. I mean, we're not used to seeing celebrities speak out like this at this point in a hugely public controversy. I mean, there's already been a couple of lawsuits filed. And as Baldwin noted, police haven't submitted a final report to the district attorney's office. But Baldwin said he wanted to speak out now because he wanted to combat a number of misconceptions. He addressed a lot of criticisms and questions up front. Law enforcement and prosecutors have said it's going to be a long process to figure out what happened here. But I think Alec Baldwin gave a masterclass on how to get in front of the news without creating more problems for himself.

KING: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thank you, Eric.

KING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.