Time Capsule, Brian Blessed: Living on the Edge, Celebrating Classic Sci-Fi
A Starburst interview by Joe Nazzaro

Our look at classic Sci-Fi
continues with Brian
Blessed, one of Britain's
most famous actors,
talking about his career.

Brian Blessed will al-
ways be known for being
a bombastic, larger-than-
life character. But this is a
man who claims that his
"best parts are actually when I'm quite
still and quite."
  An hour with Brian Blessed is not un-
like sitting in the eye of a hurricane. All
you can do is hold onto something heavy,
and hope you're still there when the dust
clears. An organized interview is virtu-

ally impossible - the conversation sim-
ply goes where it wants - guided by that
mellifluous, almost hypnotic voice.
  On this particular Saturday, Blessed is
attending a British media convention in
Chicage, oddly appropriate that such a
force of nature should be visiting 'The
Windy City.' For the actor, it's just a brief
oasis in what looks to be an amazing dec-
ade of activity. Upcoming is Branagh's
Hamlet, another gruelling encounter
with Mt. Everest, a new War of the Worlds
film; but we'll get to all that in a moment.
  First, it seems obvious to ask Blessed
about the imposing, bigger-than-life per-
sona he's happily cultivated during his
long show business career. Is this reputa-
tion justified, one wonders?
  The actor chuckles quietly, not the
booming laugh one expects to hear. "With
some of the larger-than-life parts I've
Brian Blessed in The Avengers episode The Superlative Seven
played, people say, 'Oh he's larger-than-
life,' but I've only played about five of
those types of parts. My best parts are
actually when I'm quite still and quiet,
as in I, Claudius, but there aren't many
actors who can do these very erratic eccentric,
bizarre characters, so I'm called upon
more than I should to play them."

BBC Nurturing

  The son of a coal miner, Brian Blessed
came from a very poor background. At
14, his best friends was a young Patrick
Stewart, who lived in a neighbouring vil-
lage, and the two aspiring actors would
get together to practice their Shakespeare.
  After his National Service, Blessed went
to the Bristol Old Vic School for two years,
and then into the rep system. He started
playing leads at Birmingham Rep -
Othello at age 22 - and was ready to move
on to Stratford when the BBC asked him
to work on a new TV series called Z-Cars.
As tough Lancashire policeman Fancy
Smith, Blessed became an overnight suc-
cess, as did the series. "I did Z-Cars for
2.5 years and left a bit earlier than the oth-
ers, but the BBC nurtured me through
that transitional period, so as soon as I
finished Z-Cars, I immediately went into
Porthos in The Three Musketeers with
Jeremy Brett. Then I went on to playing
everything from pirates to kings; one dif-
ferent part to another. The BBC gave me
a variety of parts over those three years."
  Over the next few decades, Blessed's
career continued to grow. His theatre
credits included Cats, Hamlet, Henry V,
to name just a few. Television credits in-
cluded I, Claudius, The Sweeney, Secret
Agent, The Avengers, Space: 1999,
; the list goes on. Some of his film
credits: Much Ado About Nothing, Re-
turn to Treasure Island, Robin Hood -
Prince of Thieves
and Flash Gordon,
where Blessed played Vultan, the wildly
OTT king of the Hawkmen.

From Vultan to Lear

  Blessed has been able to move between
stage, film, radio and television with an ease
that would make fellow Equity members
green with envy. "There's a lot of talk about
stage, films, television and radio being dif-
ferent media, but I think that's nonsense.
  "For instance, in Flash Gordon, I give
as much expression, power and energy
on the screen as I would use for King
Lear. As long as you believe in what
you're doing, then you can do that on
the camera. The idea that you have to
be a quiet film actor, as long as you be-
lieve in what you're doing, the camera

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