Veteran stage and screen star John Malkovich has jumped ship to television, where he does a turn as legendary swashbuckler Blackbeard in the new NBC series “Crossbones,” premiering at 9 p.m. Friday.
The southern Illinois native from Benton — who now divides his time between Massachusetts and France — talked about his beloved Steppenwolf Theatre, playing a pirate in Puerto Rico and what’s on the horizon.
Q. Not that long ago, many film stars wouldn’t deign to do television. Is that an antiquated notion?
A. For a number of years I’ve felt these longer form TV series allowed you to do a lot of things you really couldn’t do in movies, so I was quite happy to do it.
Q. Do you watch a lot of TV?
A. The last complete one I saw was “True Detective,” which I thought was spectacular. I’ve watched a lot of “Homeland,” some “Game of Thrones,” a lot of “Borgias.” I love the Danish one, “The Killing.” I haven’t seen the American one yet. I’m working and traveling so much that I don’t get to see maybe all I’d like.
Q. You’re one of the earliest ensemble members of Steppenwolf. Any plans to come back?
A. I haven’t done a play there for a number of years but I still read what they send me. For the last four, really almost five years I was touring in a couple of operas all around the world. That made it difficult for me to do a play. Now it may be easier to go back.
Q. You spent six months in Puerto Rico filming “Crossbones.” What was that like?
A. It’s very pretty, very verdant, very lush. Sadly I think a lot of the city centers are just empty because everything is at the mall. If the malls were particularly good that would be great, but they’re not. All of the actors lived in the same housing development on the eastern coast of Puerto Rico where we were shooting. It was a good experience.
Q. Your Blackbeard is a fan of acupuncture. Is that something you’re into in real life?
A. I’ve done it several times. Years ago I had a rotator cuff problem and I found it very beneficial.
Q. In addition to acting, directing and producing, you’re also a clothing designer. Did you have any input into the “Crossbones” costumes?
A. We had a terrific English costume designer called Caroline Harris. I worked with her a lot but it’s not like she needed my help.
Q. Can we expect a line of puffy shirts from you?
A. Time will tell.
Q. You’ve had a long and varied career. What’s one project that’s still on your bucket list?
A. I have a French film to direct called “NGO” about two warring groups of NGOs [non-governmental organizations], which I like a lot and I think is very funny. Hopefully we’ll get that done in the next year, year and a half. But with movies you never know. Probably I’ll direct another play in Mexico City. Otherwise I’ll see what comes along.