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"Third Chapter": Alan Barinholtz Goes From Courtroom Lawyer to TV Judge

Character actor, 72, shares how he got his star turn after retirement

spinner image attorney alan barinholtz is a tv judge on the streaming show jury duty
Alan Barinholtz stars in the Emmy-nominated Comedy Series, Jury Duty.
Amazon Freevee

Being in your 70s used to mean retirement, Social Security, lawn chairs and shuffleboard. Not so much anymore — and definitely not for Alan Barinholtz.  At 72, Alan is suddenly a rising star, playing Judge Alan Rosen in the popular Amazon Freevee show Jury Duty.

And he has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

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Indeed, with the success of Jury Duty and subsequent roles, Alan says he is just getting started on what he calls the “third chapter” of his life.

As funny and personable in the real world as he is on the screen, Alan explained in a recent conversation with me his philosophy on getting older, fulfilling dreams and living life to the fullest.   

For Alan, chapter one was growing up and going to school. Chapter two included getting married, helping raise a family and working as a successful lawyer while living vicariously through his two sons, Ike and Jon, both established TV and screen actors.

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Now in chapter three, Alan has come full circle back to his dream of being an actor.

After watching him portray Judge Rosen, it is hard to believe he hasn’t been acting all his life. He is a natural in the part, for which he is now getting recognized. In his words. “I’m kind of well known. It’s a little bit scary.”

But from the sound of his enthusiasm, he’s loving it.

Chapter three started in the fall of 2021. Alan learned that a new show was looking to cast a retired attorney or judge with an improv background. Who better could fit that description?

After graduating college, Alan moved to New York with dreams of becoming an actor. In order to pay his bills, he sold radio time and worked as a stand-up comic. At age 25, he enrolled in Loyola Law School. He was hooked by the dean’s welcoming speech, he said, For the past 42 years he has worked as a personal injury litigation attorney.

But with the encouragement of his sons, Alan shot a one-minute audition tape, portraying a fictional judge and talking off the top of his head. Both sons told their father that he was really good. The casting director agreed, and Alan became a contender for the part.  

Three weeks later, he got the formal offer, which he mulled over with his family. A few “not so minor” obstacles stood in the way. He would have to move from Chicago to Los Angeles, join the SAG union and get a car.  

In addition, he was informed, “The pay ain’t great. But you won’t lose money.”  He says his sons told him, “‘Pop, even if you lose money, you’d be nuts not to do this.”

So he signed on, not knowing if the show with its unique premise would be a hit or end up on the cutting room floor.   

Jury Duty is a mockumentary showing the inner workings of a jury trial. The twist is everyone, except for one juror, is an actor. According to Alan, 85 percent of the show is ad-libbed. Because of his courtroom experience, he was one of the actors wearing an earpiece to allow him communication with the director.

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With four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, the show has proven to be a success.  

Alan credits the popularity of Jury Duty to its niceness. In his words, they “out Lassoed, Ted Lasso. It’s what the world needs now — funny and nice.”

Those two words both apply to Alan. My conversation with him was peppered with laughter and I left wanting to get to know him better.

Alan has since landed an agent, joined SAG and will soon be appearing in Apple TV’s Physical and in the NBC pilot St. Denis.

Like most of us who have to scroll to find our birth year on a digital form, Alan says he doesn’t consider himself old. The secret to staying young, he said, is “to stay on the journey, continue meeting new people and encountering new experiences.”

Alan is the perfect example of what he preaches. He has a signed autograph from his hero, Ernie Banks, which says, “Keep Going.” And that’s his advice to other seniors. Keep busy. Keep moving physically, as much as possible. Find a passion, whether it’s shopping, singing, gardening, reading. And keep learning.”

And that is exactly what Alan plans on doing right up until his fourth chapter, which he hopes is at least twenty years from now. At that time, he said, he sees himself surrounded by his beloved family and toasting life with one last martini.

Share your experience: What do you want to do in the third chapter of your life that you've been dreaming about for years? Tell us in the comments below.

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