CableFAX’s Michael Grebb sat down to talk to legendary actor Malcolm McDowell about his role in the new TNT series “Franklin & Bash" (premieres June 1, 9pm ET), which follows a couple of young, shoot-from-the-hip lawyers who shake up McDowell’s conservative law firm. But big surprise: The conversation quickly turned toward McDowell’s long career, especially his iconic role as a brainwashed psychopath in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” But c’mon… It’s Malcolm McDowell. What do you expect us to ask about?
CableFAX: You’re a big movie guy. But you’re all over TV lately.
McDowell: Yeah. Lately, I’ve done quite a bit of it, actually. I did “Entourage,” “Heroes,” “The Mentalist”—a recurring thing, I may go back on that. And then I did “Law and Order,” which opened the gates for big movie actors to go on that show. I think I was the first to do that. It’s a very well written show. I just take it on the value of the part, and whether I’m interested in the part or not.
CableFAX: What brought you to “Franklin & Bash”?
McDowell: My manager Chris here read it first and said “I’ve found the show for you.”
CableFAX: Had you been looking for one?
McDowell. Well, not particularly. I was pretty well employed, going from movie to movie. But it’s always nice to be at home. I’ve got young kids, so it’s nice to wake up and be able to take them to school and all that.
CableFAX: You’ve done both cable and broadcast shows. Is there a big difference at this point?
McDowell: The only difference is that you’re not paid quite as much, but the trade off, I think, is actually better because you only do 10 or 12 shows in a season. So you’ve got 8 months to do movies, which I love. Or not. You can do whatever you want. And I love that because I love doing movies, and I’ve got movies in the works [Editor’s Note: He’s not kidding. Check out McDowell’s IMDB page HERE].
CableFAX: You did four movies last year, right?
McDowell: Yeah. So it’s great for me. And I don’t have to carry the show. We’ve got two fabulous kids [Breckin Meyer plays Franklin; Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays Bash] and me, and they can do it. And I can just come in and do my six scenes, and I’m done. So I love it. And they love writing for my character. So I always get good stuff.
CableFAX: You wouldn’t want to carry a show?
McDowell. No, I would not. Because I’m a certain age now. I don’t want to be working at 2 or 3 in the morning. I mean, forget it!
CableFAX: The TV shooting schedule can be crazy.
McDowell: I know. And they have to do that because of all these long scenes in the court and all that. Oh my God. It’s tough. But mind you, when I was their age, I would do it happily, no problem.
CableFAX: You’ve had a long career that began with you playing a lot of psychopaths such as your roles in “A Clockwork Orange” and then “Caligula”—but you later showed a lot of range and ended up playing a wide range of character types. How did you avoid getting typecast?
McDowell: Well, look… It’s nice of you to say, but I did get typecast. Because honestly, I’m always offered heavies. I mean, I can play heavies until the daisies pop out. So when something like this comes along, I really go for it because it shows that I am a versatile actor, and I love doing different things. I don’t want to be stuck doing one thing. You know, when you do something like “A Clockwork Orange” early in your career, all they want you to play is that part forever and ever more. So you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to sit it out for a while. I mean, I turned down so much very early on in my career because I just didn’t want to continue doing the same thing. But now, you’re right… I can go from one and move around a bit.
CableFAX: But you also seemed to mix things up a bit earlier in your career as well. I mean, you played a perfectly nice guy in “Time After Time,” and that came out in 1979.
McDowell: He was a lovely guy, but it wasn’t a box office hit. And “A Clockwork Orange” was a mega-hit for the studio. International. Became one of the iconic characters in movies ever! I mean, it’s the burden of all burdens on the shoulder! You just have to walk around with it.
CableFAX: And you were such a young kid.
McDowell. Yeah, but you know, it’s also one of the most beautiful things you could ever do is to work on a masterpiece and have people still… I mean, kids find it today and think it’s a new movie. I mean, they go, “Which part did you play? The old guy?” And I say “no.” They don’t get it.
CableFAX: Any thoughts on Stanley Kubrick versus other directors.
McDowell: He was an amazing, extraordinary intellect. I mean, completely zeroed in and concentrating on the movie and the scene of the moment. Nothing would distract him. He was laser beam. But you know, he wasn’t into the human condition as much as say Lindsay Anderson, who I started my career with—who was a genius. I love him. He was a great director… But I was very lucky as a young actor to be chosen by [Kubrick] to play the lead in a movie like that.
CableFAX: It’s hard to imagine anyone else but you in that role. It’s almost as if you were born to play Alex.
McDowell: That’s exactly it. I wasn’t acting it; I was channeling it. I don’t know. I mean, it’s weird. Now I look back and think, “Oh my God. I don’t know where that came from.”