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Photo credited to Jeffrey Scott French
It’s not everyday that you get to rub shoulders with a world-renowned Shakespearean actor, much less Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, but last night, I was in the audience for “A Life in the Theatre: A Conversation with Sir Patrick Stewart,” a chat hosted by WQXR’s Elliott Forrest held at New York’s Greene Space, the performance venue of the radio stations WYNC and WQXR. A Life in the Theatre is also the name of the David Mamet two-hander comedy Stewart is currently performing on Broadway opposite former Grey’s Anatomy star T.R. Knight.
The Mamet piece consists of short comedic scenes tracking the professional partnership between an aging veteran thespian (Stewart) and a budding young star (Knight). In London, Stewart played the role of Robert as American, and he fully intended to repeat that feat in the Broadway production.
“I pride myself on doing absolutely standard American,” Stewart told us last night. But Mamet and director Neil Pepe wanted to use Stewart’s real accent. “‘We cast you because we wanted him to sound like you,’” he said Mamet told him. “This man should have the sound that you have. And I resisted and resisted and resisted, but then totally gave in.” The compromise? Sir Patrick’s role became “an American actor with a rather pretentious way of speaking,” he said.
So full is Stewart’s own personal life in the theater, he had to rush uptown for his nightly Broadway performance after he completed his live Q&A. But, at 70, Sir Patrick is as hearty and vibrant as men a half-century younger.
Let me just come out and say it: the man is strapping and certainly wouldn’t look out of place on a football pitch. (I’m not kidding: check out the legs on this guy.) Back in the late ’80s, he made being follically challenged sexy as Captain Picard, but he’s no less commanding a presence now. Stewart recently made GQ’s list of the 100 greatest bald men in America.
In his hour-long interview, Stewart regaled us with some more fascinating inside-the-theatuh tales and spoke a bit about his new knighthood, and yes, he does talk a bit about his years on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After he took the lead part on the sci-fi series, critics accused him of “slumming it.” Stewart says he once angrily told a disdainful journalist, “All those years of sitting in thrones of Kings of England in the Royal Shakespeare Company was nothing but preparation in the Captain’s chair on the Enterprise!”
You can watch video of the entire conversation with Patrick Stewart here. It’s well worth your while if you enjoy listening to a master explain his craft.
What’s your favorite Sir Patrick Stewart role? What did you think of his live chat?
by Kevin Wicks
See more posts by Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.