Patrick Stewart was ready for some “Blunt Talk.”
Knighted for his work on stage and screen, the former Shakespearean actor and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” skipper had little left to prove in the dramatic arts.
So when executive producer Seth MacFarlane called and said he wanted to showcase Stewart in an outrageous live-action comedy called “Blunt Talk,” the actor jumped at the chance. Stewart had been a MacFarlane fan since first seeing “Family Guy.” The two have worked together for years on another animated sitcom, “American Dad.”
Speaking on the phone from Los Angeles, where “Blunt Talk” is shot, Stewart still chuckles at MacFarlane’s pitch for his role on “American Dad.” In that series, he plays a CIA director who is obviously English — except to the group of American agents who surround him. “They’re not the sharpest knives in the drawer,” says Stewart.
The actor plays another Englishman in “Blunt Talk” (streaming now on Shomi). Walter Blunt is a former Royal Marines major turned cable news journalist. He plans to conquer American cable news just like he captured the enemy in the Falklands. Blunt, however, lurches from one self-inflicted scandal to another.
The role recently earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a TV musical or comedy series.
The part was written for Stewart by Jonathan Ames, who previously created the HBO series “Bored to Death.” Ames and Stewart had several breakfast meetings while both lived in Brooklyn and together they hammered out the bible on Blunt.
Stewart insists his character isn’t based on former CNN host Piers Morgan. He had to convince even Morgan of that. Stewart was at a restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., when he heard this voice saying, “You’re playing me? What’s going on?” It was Morgan, at the next booth.
The two had breakfast and Stewart explained the character had nothing to do with Morgan. “He was fine about that,” says Stewart. Morgan went on to give the actor all kinds of insight into what it was like being a Brit in the American cable news spotlight.
“I’ve actually got a private ambition to have Piers as a guest on the show,” says Stewart.
Morgan will have to get in line. Recurring already are Richard Lewis (as Blunt’s network-imposed shrink), Ed Begley, Jr., Elizabeth Shue, Jason Schwartzman and even Stewart’s old “ST:TNG” pal Brent Spiner as a pianist in Walter’s favourite bar.
“It was endless days of fun,” says Stewart of the production. “The experience is much more like daily reunions with dear friends than shooting a series.” A second season starts production later this month.
After premiering earlier in the U.S. (on Starz), Stewart is thrilled “Blunt Talk” is finally being showcased in Canada.
“I have spent many, many happy months in Canada both doing theatre work as well as film. We shot all the “X-Men” and “Wolverine” films in Canada,” he says. “I really hope Canadians take a liking to Walter and his other dysfunctional teammates.”
He also performed stand-up comedy in Montreal last year at the Just for Laughs festival.
“I’m a long way from calling myself a stand-up,” says Stewart. Viewers can judge for themselves when CBC airs the “Just for Laughs” special, “Sir Patrick Stewart: A Knight of Comedy,” on Sunday.
Stewart looks nowhere near his 75 years and seems determined not to act his age. Being handed the role of Walter Blunt is helping that cause. As he tells his son Daniel — also an actor — “so much of show business is a lottery. You should never give up hope at what could come along.”
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version reported that “Blunt Talk” had been released in the U.K.