Monday, December 15, 2008

All I Know is I Have a Thing In My Head

A fun little 1997-ish interview with French Stewart, by EW. I can believe the bruises part; that thing where he was working out with the resistance bands and hit his head on the TV made an awfully loud thunk:

Validation has come in strange packages for 3rd Rock From the Sun star French Stewart, but on the streets of New York this October, it darn near killed him.

''I'm walking along and this huge workman is standing there in a hard hat, tool belt, and dirty boots,'' says the 32-year-old Albuquerque, N.M., native, readying a blunt Brooklyn accent. ''He looks over at me and says, 'Hey! It's f — — — in' Harry! What are ya, kiddin' me?! Co'mere!' Then he squeezes me — nearly crushes me — and invites me home so his wife can cook for me. I thought, If this guy can love me, I'm going to be okay.''

Stewart's meteoric rise as Harry — the hyper-kooky alien with more loose screws than a Sears tool department —is quite a charmed tale, considering the 12 years of prologue: donning a Yogi Bear suit at trucking conventions; performing safety-themed puppet shows at kids' parties; getting rejected for a sitcom starring a talking goat. ''I was working harder than anybody but getting nowhere,'' he says. ''You start thinking, Should somebody be having a talk with me?''

Thank a higher cosmic force for the arrival of 3rd Rock, which embraced Stewart's salty-eyed squinting (''a bad acting habit that just got out of control'') and loopy physical shtick. (''He's like liquid,'' coos costar Kristen Johnston. ''No bones.'') The key word is simplicity: ''Stumble into a room, say something stupid, hurt yourself, get the hell out,'' chuckles Stewart. ''It's amazing how much mileage you can get out of a character who has only a brain stem.'' Judging from the gashes and bruises he sports after filming, we're talking major commitment. ''French is willing to die for his art,'' notes Johnston.

A frying pan to the face may not be the dream of every American Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate, but this former Shakespearean actor is downright giddy. ''I never thought of myself as an actor of amazing depth,'' says Stewart, who'll play Happy in the film McHale's Navy, due out in January. ''I have a certain talent, and now I've found a place for that, so I'm going to ride it into the ground.''

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