Anyone who has seen Patrick Stewart in his guest appearances on “Frasier” or the Ricky Gervais sitcom “Extras” knows that the actor can be very funny, but at 75, Stewart is far better known for his iconic dramatic roles on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and in TV adaptations of “Macbeth,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Moby Dick” and many others.
That may start to change with the Saturday, (Aug. 22) premiere of the new Starz comedy series “Blunt Talk,” which casts Stewart as Walter Blunt, a passionate, opinionated and deeply neurotic British TV newscaster and pundit currently working in Los Angeles on the titular TV program. Playing a comedy series lead is a new experience for Stewart, but it’s one that he relishes.
“We are having a blast,” he tells Zap2it. “One of my primary recollections from this past January, February, March and April were laughing, and not just laughing at stupid things we were doing, but finding the scenes themselves funny, and very interesting as well.”
It was his friend Seth MacFarlane, for whom Stewart has done extensive voice work on the animated comedies “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” who first approached Stewart two years ago about starring in a live-action comedy series, but Jonathan Ames, creator of the underappreciated HBO sitcom “Bored to Death”, came up with the series premise, after catching British talking head Piers Morgan on CNN.
“One of the great thrills of the show is that we have Jonathan Ames as our executive producer, show runner and principal writer, because he is such a smart guy and such an original thinker,” Stewart says. “Even in the little scenes, the ones that aren’t a major part of the story, he writes with such originality that all of us who get to say his lines are thrilled.”
While sophisticated, character-driven comedy is a hallmark of “Blunt Talk,” Ames also is more than willing to give his leading man an occasional chance to shine in more physical comedy, as in a screamingly funny scene set in an airport restroom, where an increasingly frantic Walter, running late for a flight, runs sadly afoul of the auto-flush function on one of the fixtures.
If Ames created the show’s concept, it was Stewart himself who came up with his character’s name.
“Walter Blunt [in ‘Henry IV: Part One’] was the first speaking role that I ever played with the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 1966,” Stewart explains. “It meant that I had arrived at the place and the organization in my career that I had wanted to be for a long, long time.
“When I came to Hollywood in 1987, my reputation became much more widely known, and I needed a pseudonym for checking into hotels. So I chose the name Walter Blunt and have been using that for many years. Now I have to come up with another name!”