Malcolm McDowell talks Christmas on season four of ‘Community’

by W. Andrew Powell
Malcolm McDowell on Community

When you write about entertainment, there are a lot of opportunities for interviews, but to me there is a big difference between an interview, and an Interview. Sometimes, what separates the two is the mood, or the topic, but more often than not it’s about the person in front of you and the conversation.

Malcolm McDowell, an actor I have admired for a long time, definitely falls under the category of a genuine Interview, and chatting with him recently about his role on Community, and his busy career, was a highlight of the year so far.

The famed actor, who currently co-stars as Stanton Infeld in Franklin & Bash, has a mind-blowing 221 acting credits to his name, according to IMDb, in both television and film, plus voice over work in video games and cartoons. His most famous roles, of course, have to be as Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and as the villain Tolian Soran in Star Trek Generations, but this month he’s promoting his latest appearance as Professor Cornwallis on the fourth season of Community, which airs tonight on City and on NBC, for the episode “Intro to Knots”.

At first, the genial actor chatted with me about the last time he was in Toronto, and the fact that, when he was here for FanExpo, that was the last time that he spoke with his former neighbour, actor Larry Hagman, who passed away in November 2012.

Speaking with McDowell about Community, he discussed the amazing cast on the series, how impressed he was with Joel McHale, the next few months of travel that he has ahead of him for new roles, and his work in cartoons and video games.

As a fan of McDowell and his work, it was a friendly conversation that is now one of my favorite Interviews to date. Read the interview and then watch Community tonight on City at 8:00 PM (ET/PT), 9:00 PM (MT), and 7:00 PM (CT).

W. Andrew Powell: Considering everything you’ve done over the years, from television to movies and games, what drew you to appear on Community?

Malcolm McDowell: “Well, you know, it’s a sort of very quirky show, in terms of mainstream. The fact that this is on a network is a sense of bemusement to me because, you know, usually they’re scared of anything that’s not sitcom, but, I knew about the show–I’ve seen it a couple of times, of course. I love Joel McHale, and the script was fun, and they asked me to do it because I’m doing a show for Sony as well, and it’s part of a family, and all the rest of it. You know, that’s why I did it, basically.”

Andrew: What is the cast like to work with, since it’s such a big ensemble?

Malcolm: “Insane. They’re insane. The girls [Gillian Jacobs and Alison Brie]–there are not two more beautiful women, by the way, on television at the moment, as far as I’m concerned. Both of them are stunning–or the three of them, actually. And the guys, well, they’re just brilliant at what they do.”

“What’s amazing is that they’re all so different, and they bring the sort of quirky side of their characters, all of them, to the screen, and you see it–you know. I think they’re fabulous, and I think that it’s well-written for them–tailor made for them. And of course Joel, he’s the heart and soul of it, and he’s a very, very accomplished actor. What he does is not easy, and he makes it look easy–he makes it look as if it’s him, but it’s not. He’s acting. He’s got to learn those lines and deliver, and he does it extremely well.”

“Really, having worked with him, I have even more admiration for him, seeing it close up, actually.”

Andrew: What’s going on with your character in the next episode?

Malcolm: “Well, I don’t want to tell exactly what’s going on. I’ll just tell you that there is a kidnapping, and it is the season of giving–it’s Christmas, and that’s all I will say. The rest, you can guess. Your imagination can take over.”

Andrew: Well, assuming that your character isn’t killed off or sent somewhere else, would you come back to do another episode some day?

Malcolm: “Oh, God, yeah. I’m sure I would. Of course, I don’t really want to say that because I’m not really looking for a job, but the truth is, of course I loved working on it, and I love the cast, and yes, I would certainly–I would definitely be happy to do another one.”

Andrew: Outside of Community, I was looking at some of the work you have coming up, and I was wondering if you could tell me about any particular one?

Malcolm: “No. You know what? I’ve got this young manager who’s fantastic, and I really love him. You know, we work so well together, and he just basically goes, ‘This is what’s coming up. Are you interested?’ As soon as I finish Franklin & Bass, I’m going off to do a film in London and Saint Petersburg, then I fly straight from there to Bulgaria to do a film there, before coming home, and then I’m doing a big thing in August.”

“I’ve got so much work right now, touch wood, but things are going extremely well in the latter part of my career, which is amazing, really.”

Andrew: I find it interesting too that not a lot of actors do the range of things you’re involved in either. You do video game voice-over work, you do cartoons too.

Malcolm: “I love doing cartoons. I’ve got young kids, you know, and they love it when they hear their dad. They love screaming out, “That’s dad,” so that’s a real fun thing to hear in the house. I do a lot of different stuff–I love doing video games.”

Andrew: That’s really interesting. Have you ever played any of the games you’ve worked on?

Malcolm: “No. God no. They’re all sitting in the garage unopened, but it doesn’t really matter. I just love acting in them because it’s very different. Being in this square with all these cameras–300 and something cameras–with all this stuff. That’s fascinating–I love doing that kind of stuff.”

Andrew: What was the one role that stood out the most?

Malcolm: “I played the president [John Henry Eden] in Fallout 3, and that seems to be everybody’s favorite one. And I did that in a couple of hours in a morning, and people kept coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh, man, I loved you,’ and I didn’t even know what the hell they were talking about.”

“‘I don’t think that’s me,’ [and they would say], ‘Yeah, man. Fallout 3!’ I’m always looking forward; never back.”

Malcolm McDowell and the cast of Community

Malcolm McDowell and the cast of Community

Images courtesy of NBC.

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