The former Star Trekker rides the express train to Macbeth.
Wed Apr 9 2008
Illustration: Rob Kelly
If there's a Shakespearean production in town, chances are Patrick Stewart is in it—and if he's not, you want him to be. Best known for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 67-year-old actor has taken on the lead role in an imaginative staging of Macbeth, set in a Stalinist society and featuring AK-47s and lots of blood. After a critically acclaimed stint at BAM, the play runs on Broadway through May 24. Stewart recently called to give us the lowdown.
Time Out New York: Your voice is even cooler on the phone. You should totally have a voice-off with James Earl Jones.
Patrick Stewart: That's a funny thought. Well, I'm a huge admirer of his and have been fortunate enough to meet him a couple of times. But I just shut up when I'm around somebody like that. I don't even want to compete.
TONY: It could be great, though. You versus him for Most Awesome Voice?
Patrick Stewart: Listen—you find someone to put the money up, and I'll do it.
TONY: You grew up in Yorkshire. How was the pudding?
Patrick Stewart: You're talking about the greatest culinary achievement in the world. There is nothing to beat a fine Yorkshire pudding. The great thing that outsiders such as yourself don't understand is there aren't many other dishes that can be eaten as a first course, a main course and a dessert. You can do that with Yorkshire pudding.
TONY: I do that with pizza. Is everyone over there required to own a terrier?
Patrick Stewart: [Laughs] I would love to own a dog of any kind, but my profession makes that impossible.
TONY: You're forever turning up in Shakespearean plays. Any notable ones you haven't done?
Patrick Stewart: Romeo and Juliet. But there's nothing in that for me now.
TONY: Well, you could play Romeo if the director went a little nuts with it.
Patrick Stewart: Please. Do you want people throwing up in the stalls?
TONY: I do, actually. But then, I also like all the fake blood in this version of Macbeth. What is that stuff?
Patrick Stewart: I've no idea what it is. I never ask. I was once in a production and, without telling the cast at one performance, they used real blood. We knew something was wrong because there was a smell that we'd never had before.
TONY: Gross. Real blood sucks.
Patrick Stewart: Yeah. All in all, I really like blood when it's inside my skin.
TONY: Ditto. Is it true that you took the subway from Manhattan when the play was at BAM?
Patrick Stewart: Every day. I'm a great believer in public transport.
TONY: Did anyone ever mess with you?
Patrick Stewart: Nothing, I swear to you. Well, one day a guy winked at me. Of course, for all I know he might have just been trying to pick me up or thought I was cute. Which I am. No, nothing. I travel as a completely private individual.
TONY: Will you allow me to put on my Ferengi ears for a minute?
Patrick Stewart: Oh, go on. You don't know the titles of the episodes, do you? Because that's going to be really weird if you do.
TONY: Sadly, I don't. Did your classically trained actor friends make fun of you when you started doing Star Trek: The Next Generation?
Are you kidding? They would have died to have changed places with me. Every single one of them.
TONY: Is that because of the money?
Patrick Stewart: Yes, of course it is. When I used to go home to England, I'd meet the most serious and distinguished English actors and it would take less than five minutes before one of them would say, "So, what do you make?"
TONY: You're not in the upcoming J.J. Abrams prequel. Are you done with Picard then?
Patrick Stewart: I think everything to do with The Next Generation is now in the past.
TONY: Now I'm sad. You were funny in Extras, though. I remember that you pitch Ricky Patrick Stewart: Gervais an idea for a script, but what was it about again?
The idea was that I could control people with my mind. All it came down to was making women's clothes fall off.
TONY: Do you wish you had that power?
Patrick Stewart: No, sir.
TONY: I do.
Patrick Stewart: Oh. Well, I have a very nice life. Maybe you lead a very sheltered one.
Macbeth is at the Lyceum Theatre.
See previous The Hot Seat