Exclusive: 'Crossbones' Star John Malkovich Previews NBC's Pirate Drama Miniseries
John Malkovich is coming to TV this summer with NBC's "Crossbones" (premieres Fri., May 30 at 10 p.m.), which is being touted as "the new legend of Blackbeard," the revolutionary pirate.
Yahoo TV has an exclusive first look at the show's poster, as well as the first interview Malkovich has given on this fascinating career turn as Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Take a look:
Nominated for two Oscars (both Best Supporting Actor nods for 1985's "Places of the Heart" and 1994's "In the Line of Fire"), Malkovich's career is defined by its indefinability, from the obscure (playing Peter the Clown in Woody Allen's little known "Shadows and Fog") to the blockbusters (most recently "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Red" and "Red 2"). Malkovich has made a few visits to the small screen with miniseries and TV movies, but this is his first leading role in a network show. Why now?
"I thought it was very well-written," Malkovich said to Yahoo TV. "It made me slightly worried because I sort of had to commit to it having only read two of the  scripts, but I was really impressed by the quality of Neil's writing, and I thought, 'Why not?'"
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Neil being writer and executive producer Neil Cross, creator of BBC's "Luther." "Neil is a very clever writer. He's very clever about doing interaction and behavior. Because there are quite a few big, or large-ish, characters in this, it's a nice kind of ensemble to balance off of. Neil is very good at characterization."
Casting those large roles played a part as well. "Richard Coyle, who really kind of plays the lead in the series, we had been in a movie called 'The Libertine' years ago, which we produced, so it was a good group, good cast."
When we pointed out that "The Libertine" also starred Johnny Depp, who starred in Blackbeard's most recent famous onscreen outing in "Pirates of the Caribbean," Malkovich agreed that Hollywood is a very small world. "It is very small!"
But is that because he's maybe become a Kevin Bacon, someone who's worked with everyone? "Maybe," Malkovich said with a laugh, adding, "Yeah, well, it's strange and I didn't know this but Toby Stephens who does 'Black Sails' [Starz's pirate drama] is a great friend of Richard's, and I worked with Toby's father [Richard Stephens, in "Empire of the Sun"] years ago. It's just a tiny world."
[Related: Richard Coyle To Star In NBC’s 'Crossbones']
For his part, Malkovich admits he's never seen any of the "Pirates" movies, or any other Blackbeards on screen. "There actually isn't all that much known about him. They think he came from Bristol, or somewhere around there, and was sailing on boats very, very young. But, of course, he died in his 30s, and our story sort of says actually that wasn't true. He went on to create his own country and continue his pirate activities."
So what kind of accent does John Malkovich have when playing someone in the islands who came from England? "It's a kind of British with a little tiny sort of Caribbean sound thrown in."
With his varied career, could this be his most accessible or most mainstream project to date? "Honestly, when I first read it I just thought, 'My goodness, this is awfully esoteric.' Not so much for television, but I thought maybe it was too esoteric for the public, because it's very cleverly written and I think, to a great extent, very cleverly plotted. The good thing about this is the plots are not too stretched, and Neil concentrates on the behavior and the relationships."
And yes, he understands that John Malkovich calling something esoteric is something to laugh at a bit. "Well… [laughs] I could see how one might think that's funny, but … yeah, I've done some things that could be considered esoteric, but my face can be quite middle-of-the-road. If I chose projects by whether or not the maximum number of people would go see them, I could've done that pretty well I think. It's just not what I choose to do normally," Malkovich admitted before listing the roles he's recognized for the most.
[Related: John Malkovich to Play Blackbeard on NBC's 'Crossbones']
"Well, I'll tell you what... none of them are esoteric. 'Con Air,' ' Rounders' ... 'In the Line of Fire,' which was very popular and, I think, well received by the public. It's mostly things like that. I suppose 'Being John Malkovich' also, which is certainly esoteric."
As he prepares to add TV star to his resume, what does he watch on TV?
"I miss a lot of things because so often I'm traveling – I was doing these two operas for four years and on the road constantly – but I watched 'Homeland' a lot, I watched 'The Killing,' the great Danish series, at least the first year. I watched 'The Bridge,' another Swedish/Danish series. I watch 'Luther.' With my son, I watch 'Game of Thrones,' and I just finished watching 'True Detective,' which I just thought was spectacular. It really is an instant classic."
With "True Detective's" anthology style meaning HBO is casting for its next season, would he consider signing on for Season 2? "Maybe! I can't imagine why I wouldn't if I were asked," Malkovich said. "I think what they did was so special, and that combination of characters – and there were a lot of terrific performances there – but also it's written by one person, it's directed by one person, and it had a terrific visual language and style, as well as very good storytelling. Just an all-around superb effort."
Yes, after nearly four decades in this business, Malkovich shows no signs of slowing down: "They're going to have to retire me."
"Crossbones" premieres Fri., May 30 at 10 p.m. on NBC.