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Bullet Points: Seriously Funny

Patrick Stewart does not take comedy lightly

Author Chris Wright Photography Courtesy of Starz

culture

Patrick Stewart started out at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since become known for his roles in the Star Trek updates and the X-Men franchise, all while keeping his hand in the theater. At 75, after a lifetime of playing noble kings for the stage and heroic captains for the big screen, Stewart returns to TV this month (on Starz) as Walter Blunt, a dissolute, bombastic and charming talk show host in the Seth MacFarlane–Jonathan Ames  sitcom “Blunt Talk.” In his defense, Stewart says of his funny-man role, Laurence Olivier would approve.
 
• On versatility
It was a necessity of life when I started out. You played the roles they gave you. The Royal Shakespeare Company was another matter—I did get typecast there, though the type kept changing. There was a time when I was considered suitable for low comedy, then the hysterical neurotic, then I got stuck with noble kings. Now I find myself in the lead role of a half-hour comedy show.
 
• On Walter Blunt
He’s not a noble character. He’s just divorced his fourth wife, his show’s in trouble, he’s disillusioned and actually quite angry, and as a result he seeks comfort in all sorts of stimulants and encounters, and so gets into all these terrible scrapes. But he is a man with something to say, with an ambition to make the world a better place.
 
• On becoming a comic actor
As a teenager, my biggest hero was Laurence Olivier. I once heard him on the radio being interviewed and, to my amazement, he said that it’s wonderful to hear an audience gasp, or sob, or express horror or dismay, but it’s so much more rewarding to hear them laugh. At the time, I thought, “What?” But, of course, he was absolutely right. I would be entirely content if, in the end, the character I’m remembered for is Walter Blunt.
 
• On abandoning “proper acting”
I do recall being at a fancy event in London, with lots of grand members of my profession, and here’s me, who’s been shooting science fiction in Hollywood. But the only mention of that—and it happened over and over, sometimes privately but very often shouted across the room—came in the form of a question: “How much are they paying you?”

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