Malcolm McDowell: “You’re only ever one phone call away from the part that will change your life”

Actor Malcolm McDowell

“Comedy is just telling the truth. It’s the situation really that’s comedic. So really, it’s just finding the timing of that, which is where the laughs are.” – Malcolm McDowell

Malcolm McDowell has fit the definition of a “working actor” for over fifty years — since the mid 1960s he has been working steadily in film, television, and voice acting, often appearing in a half-dozen projects or more per year. Lately he has appeared as conductor Thomas Pembridge in Amazon’s acclaimed Mozart in the Jungle. Speaking with Smashing Interviews, McDowell speaks about what he enjoys most about playing comedic roles, why he always felt compelled to be an actor, and why he always considers his next role his most interesting one.

McDowell admits that playing a role with greater range, like his character on Mozart in the Jungle, has allowed him to have a bit more fun as an actor. He explains, “Comedy is just telling the truth. It’s the situation really that’s comedic. So really, it’s just finding the timing of that, which is where the laughs are. But to be honest with you, it wouldn’t be much fun, I don’t think, playing serial killers every week. That would be a little tough. So to do a part like this is so refreshing for me because in movies, I’m always asked to play the heavy, and they give you sick scenes to make everybody hate you. This way, it’s a little bit more refreshing and more fun to be able to just relax a bit more and to just go for it and go for the comedy. I enjoy it very much, but I also enjoy playing heavies, too, because they’re also fun in their way.”

When asked by the interviewer if he felt a “calling” to become an actor, McDowell confesses, “I would have to say ‘Yes’ because I remember when I was a young actor, and my father tried to get me to give it up because nothing had happened in the first two years, which is nothing. But the thing is, all real actors know that things have to run their course, and you’re only ever one phone call away from the part that will change your life. That was certainly true in my case.”

Though it would be easy for McDowell to point at his most famous role — Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange — as his most memorable role, McDowell says, “I tell you. The most interesting role for me always is the next one. I’m not the kind of person that looks back on what I’ve done. It’s on to the next, and I think that’s more where I am.”

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