During the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart – who played the show’s dramatically serious, almost Shakespearean Captain Jean-Luc Picard – said something he has always regretted. A veteran of serious theater, the actor projected a grave sobriety off-camera as well as on, so when fellow cast member Denise Crosby attempted to crack his exterior, saying, “Come on, Patrick, we’ve got to have fun sometimes,” he blew up. “‘We’re not here to have fun,’ that was my line,” the actor says. “I yelled it. What an asshole. What a really, really pompous dick. But I’ve changed. I’m here to have fun more than anything else. If it ain’t fun, I won’t show up.” He bellows with laughter.
In recent years, Stewart, 75, has been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in lightheartedness. Today, he’s dressed notably casually in faded jeans and a grey polo and he’s prone to wild, animated turns when discussing his latest venture into fun: the madcap new Starz comedy series Blunt Talk, which premieres on August 22nd. On the show, he plays beleaguered TV news anchorman Walter Blunt, a trustworthy broadcast journalist when he’s not working past his personal demons. The first episode alone finds Blunt drinking to excess, cavorting with a prostitute, snorting cocaine and allowing himself to be whipped by his manservant (played by Adrian Scarborough), who shouts, “You’ve been unclean, Major!” As he recounts his character’s acts, he laughs boisterously at the ridiculous adventures he’s had so far in making the show.
Although he’s dipped a toe in comedy in the past – playing King Richard in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, appearing in Ricky Gervais’ Extras, doing sketches with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert – Blunt Talk has been an altogether different experience for him. “It’s giddy this time,” Stewart says. “I get dizzy with the thought of it, but it’s giving me so much pleasure because I always wanted to do comedy.” His eyes widen again at the thought of it.