An English Shakespearian theater actor. The captain of a starship on American television. The leader of the X-Men. An arrogant and chaotic news man. Sir Patrick Stewart has been all of this and more, and his career shows no sign of slowing down.
The breadth and variety of Stewart's roles suggest few artistic limitations: last year, the actor assyed the central role of a sexually ambiguous and eccentric Juilliard ballet instructor in Stephen Belber’s Match (2014); since 2005, he has provided the voice of FBI Director Avery Bullock on American Dad! (2005); in the 1998 miniseries Moby Dick, he played Captain Ahab. Following these wildly divergent roles, the actor stretches himself yet again in his Golden Globe-nominated performance as Walter Blunt on Starz’ original comedy series Blunt Talk (2015), produced by longtime Stewart collaborator Seth MacFarlane.
Before Blunt Talk, Stewart had not appeared regularly on a live-action television series since Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), and he had never done so in a comedic capacity. "A lot of people have been saying, 'Patrick Stewart doing comedy, that doesn't seem right,' " Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter. "But the fact is, thanks to people like Seth MacFarlane, Ricky Gervais and Jon Stewart, I have been dipping my toe into comedy more and more over the last few years, and finding it just makes me very happy. There is the famous quote, [that Edmund Kean] apparently on his deathbed said, 'Dying is easy; comedy is hard.' What I've found is despite our long hours, comedy was not just not hard, but as a performer, [it's] a liberating experience."
Stewart's approach to playing the verbose Walter Blunt draws from his days as a Shakespearian actor. In the same interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Stewart explained, “[Blunt Talk creator] Jonathan [Ames] has one element of Shakespeare: Shakespeare was the first dramatist to create character through language. None of the principal characters in Shakespeare's plays talk quite like any of the others…MacBeth's language is quite different from Hamlet or King Lear's. And King Lear's is instantly recognizable. Jonathan does the same. In Blunt Talk, the characters are what they say and how they say it. For me, it's a very important thing to say about how Jonathan has created at least the first 10 episodes of this show.”
The AV Club writes, "Even in these early episodes, when most writers would be finding their footing, Ames already has a knack for lines that fit Stewart’s rhythm. One of the star’s talents is his ability to pivot from manic to subdued in an instant, and Ames’ scripts often invite him do so in the space of a single line. Blunt cries in a moment of grand inspiration, 'I need to be a better father to the American people!' before adding, as an afterthought, '…and of course to my own children.'
During the series' first-season run, headlines spoke of Blunt Talk with phrases like "Patrick Stewart behaves badly," framing the distinguished English actor's near-regal status as a counterpoint to his off-kilter role on the show. But awards voters love characters like Walter Blunt as much as more dramatic creations, especially when played by an actor whose body of work is chiefly known for vastly different material. It is the same type of genre-shock that made Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk's dramatic characters in Breaking Bad (2008) so exciting. With Patrick Stewart achieving a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, it seems he has struck the same chord of appeal for his off-color and darkly entertaining character.