I think we'll have to rename Sundays "Derek Jacobi Night" for the actor now appears in two shows that air on Sunday evenings on MPT. Last Tango in Halifax at 8pm and Vicious at 10:30pm.
Sir Ian McKellen & Sir Derek Jacobi as Freddie and Stuart in Vicious.
Jacobi's starring partner in Vicious is one of Britain's most distinguished actors, Sir Ian McKellen. Jacobi, who is also a "Sir", having being knighted in 1994, is every bit as accomplished as McKellen. Both men have garnered practically every major award for their stage performances and both have extensive film credits. Of the two, Jacobi undoubtedly has the most television experience. As well as Last Tango I'm sure you will also recall his amazing performance in I Claudius.
McKellen as Hamlet, 1971.
Although McKellen and Jacobi have known each other for over 60 years and are long-time friends, Vicious is the first time the talented duo have worked together since they were undergraduates at Cambridge University. It was there that McKellen confesses he had a crush on Jacobi. According to McKellen it was, however, "a passion that was undeclared and unrequited". Both Jacobi and McKellen have lived with longtime partners for a number of years and I'll be taking a closer look at both actors' lives in the next few weeks.
The roles of Freddie and Stuart are very different from the type of characters McKellen and Jacobi usually portray - they tend to play more dramatic roles. In fact, McKellen was initially doubtful as to whether he wanted to be in the series and he admits that some of his friends felt doing a sitcom was beneath his dignity. What concerned him more, though, was the fact that he'd be playing a gay actor who is the same age as he is and comes from the same background. In the end McKellen came to the conclusion that Freddie is really nothing like him and so his portrayal of the character is drawn on his experiences of people he knows that are Freddie-like in nature.
Jacobi as Hamlet, 1979.
As well as the challenge of playing against type, McKellen knew that Vicious would be great fun for both its cast and the viewers. That certainly seems to have been the case, as McKellen confesses it's often hard to keep a straight face and not laugh out loud while filming the show. One particular episode that McKellen thinks will go down as a classic is when the boy from upstairs (Ash, played by Iwan Rheon) prepares Freddie for a Downton Abbey audition. We'll have to look out for that one!
Vicious airs on MPT on Sunday at 10:30pm and on MPT2 at 9:30pm.
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117