Long before Patrick Stewart stepped on the command deck of the Starship Enterprise and went on a seven-year mission with “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” he had a long and established acting career. He not only appeared in films like “Dune,” but he was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
All his work before and since “Next Generation” has been overshadowed by the science fiction series. Stewart knew if he was ever going to create a new shadow, it would have to be something big, bold and beastly funny. He found that role with the new Starz series “Blunt Talk.”
“I was looking for something different to do, and I think I’ve been looking for it for quite a number of years,” Stewart says between bites of his lunch in the restaurant at the Beverly Hilton. “When the opportunity of something new, novel, untried – from my point of view – came along, I wanted to do it.”
“Blunt Talk,” a 10-episode half-hour series set in Los Angeles, follows Walter Blunt (Stewart), a British import intent on conquering the world of American cable news. He must do this while dealing with network bosses, a dysfunctional news staff, numerous ex-wives, children of all ages and his own misguided decisions.
Stewart feels comfortable playing a character who works in news. His first year out of school, Stewart worked at a small newspaper. When that didn’t work out, he ended up in acting.
He’s also been a life-long fan of news presented in any form. So, he can talk about almost any issue, probably in more in-depth terms than his TV character.
The 75-year-old Stewart wants to work on projects that scare him a little. He experienced that as the host of the Montreal comedy festival and now he’s finding that with “Blunt.”
The way Stewart looks at it, he’s had several careers.
“I felt once I reached my 70s it was time to turn around and try to do something completely new,” he says.
The confidence to do something like this comes with age.
The role of Walter Blunt gives Stewart the chance to do serious work when the commentator talks about issues of the day. Then, in a blink, Blunt is involved in a dream sequences where he’s dancing and singing with a bevy of showgirls. He’s just as apt to fake a news story because of a missed flight as he is to create a nude painting of his local right-hand-man, Harry (Adrian Scarborough).
Stewart and Scarborough worked together only once before the series in a BBC radio play when Stewart portrayed Raymond Chandler and Scarborough was Billy Wilder. The pair get involved in some outlandish situations in the new show.
Even though it’s a comedy, Stewart has been able to use his dramatic skills.
“I have never had successive days of acting deeply seriously as I have on this show. Forget about all the other stuff. We are in an absurdest and comical world, which at times seems difficult to understand how it holds together. But it does,” Stewart says. “And it holds together because every single one of the principal characters are passionate and deeply serious about what they do. So there’s nothing funny about the show. It’s just one serious situation after another that somehow has to be resolved. That’s how it feels to me in a way.”
It won’t happen in the first season, but if there’s a second season of “Blunt Talk” Stewart wants to add actual interviews with news makers after the episode.
“Who would not want to watch if we said, ‘Coming up, Walter Blunt talks to Taylor Swift,’” Stewart says. “Who’s going to switch over?”
The launch of “Blunt Talk” is being paired with “Survivor’s Remorse” returning for a second season.
Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher) is a hardworking, NBA basketball star who is trying to deal with the game and his wild family. It’s the family antics that dominate the show.
“There is an ongoing theme on the show that has stood out more than anything, and that is that this family is so tight, that like nothing that the outside world would try to make a big deal really matters to us, other than the relationships that we have with each other,” Usher says.
- 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, Starz
- 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, Starz