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Frost/Nixon's Stacy Keach interviewed by SGN
Frost/Nixon's Stacy Keach interviewed by SGN
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Frost/Nixon
Paramount Theatre
May 6-10


No matter how you look at his career, Stacy Keach has always been a presence on stage, screen or even a voice-over at a Disneyland attraction. He's won the Drama Desk Award three times and has been nominated for a Tony Award as well. And, whether it's for his performances in television's Mike Hammer or the sitcom Titus or from lending his voice and support to lobbying legal causes, Stacy Keach's name should be well recognized. Despite suffering a stroke in March of 2009, Mr. Keach is currently touring in the hit drama Frost/Nixon. The taut, true-life interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon had the entire country watching and waiting to see what would happen in that now famous interview.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Mr. Keach, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to the Seattle Gay News.

Stacy Keach: Oh no, it's my pleasure.

Andrews-Katz: Since your father was also an actor, did your parents encourage you to go into show business?

Keach: Initially, no, not in the beginning. After I acknowledged that I wanted to be an actor, my parents were hesitant to lend their support. It was meant in a protective kind of love. They knew the business was fraught with rejections and highly competitive and would have been more comfortable if I was a doctor or a lawyer. They came to see a play I did in Berkeley, CA. Once I proved I had talent, they became extremely supportive. I've tried to encourage my children in whatever they wanted to do. My son is 20 years old and studying business, Karolina, my daughter, is a senior in high school and she's interested in theater. I'm trying to use reverse psychology and say, "Sure. Go into theater."

Andrews-Katz: Most people don't know you were born with a cleft upper lip and a partial cleft palate. How long have you been working with the Cleft Palate Foundation (www.cleftline.org)?

Keach: I've been an honorary chairman for almost 30 years. After this call I'm going over to the Capitol building to try and lobby a bill already on the desk, where insurance will cover the cost for palate surgery. They keep saying it's cosmetic.

Andrews-Katz: In 1982, you were in an HBO presentation of Wait Until Dark with Katherine Ross. Towards the end of the show, your character pulls out lipstick and a feminine handkerchief, implying transvestite behavior. What inspired that interpretation?

Keach: I thought it would be dramatic. This character had power over her and yet she couldn't see him. But the audience could see me. I thought I'd show a duality, something theatric and dramatic. Plus, it was something to distinguish my interpretation of a role that was so well done in the movie.

Andrews-Katz: Have you ever played a role you didn't like?

Keach: Yes, but it never started out that way initially. When I go into a role, I go with great enthusiasm. How it turns out depends a great deal on how the producer/director envisions the character. The character will change, and sometimes in ways outside of an actor's control. & An example is a movie I did called Mountain of the Cannibal God. It ended up awful but I got to work with Ursula Andress - I always wanted to - and got to work in Italy.

Andrews-Katz: You've worked with Franco Zefferelli and John Huston among many other directors. Do you have a favorite that you've worked with and why?

Keach: John Huston was the probably most influential man in my career. He came along when I was very impressionable and a young actor. He was so generous with his advice and gave me so much of what he knew. I remember distinctly during the filming of Fat City, he was inspiring.

Andrews-Katz: You've done movies, theatre, and television. Do you have a preferred venue?

Keach: Not really. I often said that if people put a gun to my head and I had to make a choice, I'd choose theatre, but I enjoy whatever project I'm working on at the time.

Andrews-Katz: How does a classically trained Shakespearian actor get to perform with Cheech and Chong?

Keach: I loved working with them. I did two films and it was really fun.

Andrews-Katz: What drew you to the character of Ken Titus in the television series Titus?

Keach: I had more fun playing that part than just about anything else I've played on television. I hadn't had much of an opportunity to do comedy on television. I had in films, but television is different and that gave me the chance.

Andrews-Katz: Since the show is based on Chris Titus' family, did you get any advice from the real Ken Titus?

Keach: He said, "Just be funny." That was it. I loved meeting him because he was a wonderful man who dearly loved his son, Christopher. I asked him how he liked the portrayal by his son in the show and he said, "As long as it is funny, I don't mind."

Andrews-Katz: Do you find it easier or more difficult to portray a real person, like Nixon, who is so well-known?

Keach: Nixon is an enigmatic character, and I think the writing is [done] so well that it prevents me from becoming a caricature. It's more capturing the man's soul, like Peter Morgan depicts through the play's writing. He's made Nixon engaging and sympathetic. He's imbued with a sense of humor, but with a tremendous amount of insecurity about his looks. He was convinced that the shadow of his beard was responsible for losing the election in '68. Those things humanize him.

Andrews-Katz: Do you have any rituals or superstitions before getting into character for such a demanding role?

Keach: Not really. Like many actors, I do have some superstitions. I don't look at the audience before going on. Some actors will look through the curtain, but not me. There's never mention of "the Scottish play" in a theater. Things like that, but nothing special.

Andrews-Katz: Since your stroke in March of 2009, you're continuing to tour in Frost/Nixon. Do you have any thoughts of retirement?

Keach: I'll keep on going. Thankfully, it was only a mild stroke; I dodged a big bullet on that and I was very, very fortunate. I had a slight procedure done and they put a stint into my carotid artery. I am feeling better now than I did before the stroke. After Frost/Nixon, I'm doing a revival of King Lear in DC. I am looking forward to returning to Seattle. I was there for An Inspector Calls, and at the Intiman Theatre for The Kentucky Cycles. I think Seattle is one of the best theatre towns in America.

Frost/Nixon opened on Broadway on March 31, 2007. Starring Frank Langella, it only ran for 160 performances, but was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Drama. Frank Langella won a Tony for Best Actor and later repeated his performance in the Ron Howard film of the same name. It was nominated for five Academy Awards.

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