El­liott Gould talks to Closer about fam­ily, fa­ther­hood and Bar­bra Streisand.

The film and TV vet opens up about fa­ther­hood, fame and for­mer wife Bar­bra Streisand

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On his new sit­com, 9JKL, El­liott Gould co-stars as Mark Feuer­stein’s hands-on dad. In real life, he’s an equally in­volved par­ent to Ja­son Gould — his son from his mar­riage to Bar­bra Streisand — as well as son Sa­muel and daugh­ter Molly, with Jenny Bog­art, whom he has mar­ried three times! “Peo­ple will pre­sume how things should be, but things are the way they are,” says El­liott, 79, of his un­con­ven­tional fam­ily tree. “To me, it’s all about us. It’s not about any one part.” And that in­cludes Bar­bra. “I’ve said to her: ‘I know you’re mar­ried to some­one else now and I only wish you well, but this is a small fam­ily unit and you’re a part of it, so I’ll al­ways be there,’ ” he says. “Bar­bra is a very sig­nif­i­cant part of my life, no less sig­nif­i­cant than the rest of my fam­ily. Ja­son is the light of our lives. Bar­bra adores him. So we have con­tact. She’s hap­pily mar­ried to James Brolin. And he is very nice to me.” El­liott opened up about some other fa­mous pals like Ge­orge Clooney and War­ren Beatty as well as his roles in ev­ery­thing from the orig­i­nal film M*A*S*H to the beloved sit­com Friends. — Bruce Fretts

Bar­bra turned 75 ear­lier this year. What did you get her?

We don’t or­di­nar­ily ex­change ma­te­rial gifts. I sent her an ac­knowl­edge­ment with love and re­spect and un­der­stand­ing and ad­mi­ra­tion. I al­ways ac­knowl­edge her birth­day.

Who does Ja­son take af­ter?

Both of us. He’s got my eyes. And he’s bril­liant. He sings. He’s artis­tic. In some ways he and Bar­bra look alike.

You live apart from your wife, Jenny. Why?

I need my soli­tude some­times. I have no com­plaints as far as hav­ing taken the road less trav­eled. As I said to Jenny, ‘‘Thanks for let­ting me go — it’s al­lowed me to get cen­tered and to do all this work for the fam­ily.” Al­though we haven’t lived to­gether for 27 years, I take care of her. I also have two won­der­ful grand­chil­dren, and they are ter­rific to be around.

Who were your early in­flu­ences?

The Lone Ranger, Su­per­man, the Marx Broth­ers and Gary Cooper. And my par­ents were my ma­jor in­flu­ences.

What was your mother like?

She told me, “I’m your sever­est critic. All you have to do is please me.” That wasn’t fair be­cause that meant I couldn’t please my­self un­less she was pleased.

“A grain of pride is good for the heart, but more than that, it be­comes blind­ing.”

— El­liott

How did you get into act­ing?

I al­ways liked to play. That’s what act­ing is. Shake­speare calls us “the play­ers.”

What led to your cast­ing in M*A*S*H?

Robert Alt­man said, “How would you feel about play­ing Duke, the South­erner?” I said, “I never ques­tion an of­fer, I can do it, I have a mu­si­cal ear, but if you haven’t cast Trap­per John McIn­tyre, I’ve got the juice you need.” And he gave me the part. He let me cast my­self. I’d never worked his way be­fore. We did a few more pic­tures to­gether.

How was it work­ing with War­ren Beatty on 1991’s Bugsy?

I have a love for War­ren. He’s very sen­si­tive and tal­ented and rather smart. He’s the con­sum­mate pro­fes­sional. He’s a per­fec­tion­ist — to­tally com­mit­ted and ex­cel­lent to work with.

You’re close with your Ocean’s Eleven through Thir­teen co-star Ge­orge Clooney…

The first TV series I did was a half-hour sit­com called E/R that Ge­orge was in.

He’s down-to-earth, and he comes from a won­der­ful fam­ily in Kentucky. He’s very in­tel­li­gent, has a great sense of hu­mor, and I couldn’t be hap­pier for him now that he’s fi­nally be­come the fa­ther of twins.

Do you have a pref­er­ence be­tween do­ing TV and movies?

My pri­or­ity is to make a liv­ing for the fam­ily. It’s fun­da­men­tally all the same to me. The one thing I have ne­glected that I can’t change is my life in the the­ater. I didn’t re­ally cul­ti­vate it af­ter I got into movies.

Did you en­joy play­ing David Sch­wim­mer and Courteney Cox’s fa­ther on Friends?

It was grat­i­fy­ing. I got along with ev­ery­body. They were all lovely peo­ple.

What’s left on your bucket list?

There’s so much. Not ma­te­ri­al­ism. Peace and har­mony. Se­cu­rity. I want to be able to work and to con­tinue to help and par­tic­i­pate in any way I can with my fam­ily. That means ev­ery­thing to me.

What’s the big­gest life les­son you’ve learned along the way?

[Sings] “Ac­cen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive, elim­i­nate the neg­a­tive, latch on to the af­fir­ma­tive, don’t mess with Mister In-Be­tween…” My life is a les­son. Some­times I’ve been ir­re­spon­si­ble, but I’ve al­ways meant well. I’d never want to hurt or mis­lead any­one.

How would you sum up the essence of El­liott Gould?

Life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness — with­out ever los­ing sight of the fam­ily. So the essence of me would be the fam­ily.

Do you ever look back or only for­ward?

Life is a cir­cle. Ev­ery­thing that goes around comes around. I’ve gone very far, and I’ve still got work to be done.

— Re­port­ing by Bar­bra Paskin

El­liott and Bar­bra bond with their new­born son, Ja­son, in 1967. El­liott and Linda Lavin play Mark Feuer­stein’s par­ents in the new CBS sit­com 9JKL.

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