At 67, Patrick Stewart has commanded the stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and surveyed the farthest reaches of outer space on Star Trek: The Next Generation but he'd never been nominated for a Tony Award until today, when he was recognized for his starring role in director Rupert Goold's stark reimagining of Macbeth. (The acclaimed production, which opened its U.S. run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February before moving to Broadway, received five other nods as well.) Stewart called EW.com to talk about his feelings on finally being nominated and his plans for the future including a new production of Hamlet and a ''spine-tingling, awesome'' mystery project.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on your Tony nomination. When did you hear the news?
PATRICK STEWART: Thank you very much! I was watching television.
I was surprised to realize this is actually your first time being nominated for a Tony. Are you surprised it's taken this long?
There have been a couple of disappointments in the past, yeah. But I'm not surprised. At awards time, you just have got to be as philosophical as possible. I've won, I've lost, I've been ignored, you know I've run the whole gamut of experiences of awards! But this morning is a very, very special morning. It's always been a dream of mine to have a Tony nomination. It is the premier theater award, and for English actors, of course, it has a very special meaning.
I saw your Macbeth earlier this year in Brooklyn, and it was just spellbinding. As an actor, where do you think this role stands in your career? Has it been a highlight?
Oh, yeah it's a peak. But the fact is, I've done four Shakespeare productions in the last two and a half years. And I've got another one starting in three weeks' time. And each one of these has been outstanding. The last three years have been like a dream for me. When I was living in Los Angeles, I used to fantasize but never really believed in a return to the classical theater experience in the U.K. Then, for it to peak with this extraordinary production of Macbeth, and to go from a 200-seat studio theater, to Shaftesbury Avenue [in London], to BAM at the great Harvey Theater, and then to Broadway and then six Tony nominations! I look back to that first day in that nasty little room above a laundry in Soho [London], where we rehearsed. It's been a great journey.
Macbeth is obviously a pretty dark role. What's it been like to inhabit that character for this length of time?
It's been intense and exhausting at times. Right now, this Tony nomination has really kind of fired me up, because it's an intense role to do eight times a week. And we only have two more weeks left. And yes, I don't socialize much. I come home, I sleep as much as I can, I try to eat sensibly, drink in moderation, all those things because at 8 o'clock, you've got to be one hundred percent. When everybody else is sitting down to dinner or having their second martini, we are on. And I feel so blessed that my career has gone in the way it has, and at my age I can spend my evenings with a brilliant group of actors performing a masterpiece.
So the current run is scheduled to close in a little over a week, and you have another project lined up for right after that.
I do, yes. I'm going to play old Hamlet the dead Hamlet and I'm going to play his brother, Claudius. I persuaded the director to let me double the two roles in Hamlet. And I start that project on the second of June.
That's the Royal Shakespeare Company's production opposite David Tennant, right?
It is, yes.
What can you tell me about that production, and how you're going to approach those roles?
Nothing! I don't know anything. [Laughs] The director is opening another production at the moment, and I guess he'll get around to calling me when Midsummer Night's Dream has opened. [But] I've wanted to play Claudius on the stage I've wanted these two roles for many, many years. I played Claudius on television 28 years ago. So the good thing is, I won't have to learn it.
How do you think this experience will differ from that one? Will you approach the role differently?
Oh, yes, completely. I already know it's going to be a completely different performance. Furthermore, that was television, you know. It was multiple-camera television it wasn't even film. So yes, it's going to be very different in every way.
NEXT: Stewart on his mysterious upcoming project (''It teams me with an actor I've wanted to do something with for a long time. Just the two of us.'')