McShane Talks 'Scoop,' 'Deadwood'

Ian McShane, pay cable's most unexpectedly philosophical vulgarian, transitions from megalomaniacal saloon owner to altruistic specter for his role in Woody Allen's new comedy "Scoop."

The 63-year-old McShane isn't worried about audiences accepting him as helpful deceased journalist Joe Strombel in "Scoop," despite the fact that his latest character shows no interest in prostitutes, never wields a blade and speaks with refined tones befitting a PG-13 movie.

"A totally different audience will be seeing this than 'Deadwood.' I don't think Woody knew who the hell I was before I met him. I don't think he's a 'Deadwood' fan. He's not a television guy. So it's a different audience completely."

Indeed, rather than wading in the muck and mire of "Deadwood," McShane gets to show a light comic touch in "Scoop," as his character escapes from a barge captained by Death to go back to Earth to give the story-of-the-century to a clueless journalism student (Scarlett Johansson). McShane found it easy to get into character.

"When you get on a boat at Pinewood studios, on the Bond set, and you're on a boat with a guy whose nine-foot with a cloak on with a huge scythe hanging over you think 'Am I in a comedy? I think I am.' So you just play it regularly."

McShane's role is pivotal, but small, though the Golden Globe winner knows why he took it.

"Everybody should work with Woody once in your life, if you're lucky enough," he reflects.

McShane continues, "It looks great on your CV for a start -- everybody's, 'Woody, huh? You worked with Woody Allen?' because everybody's fascinated by that. I've been a fan of the movies, so it was really interesting to see the way he worked. He's a regular guy, Woody. He has his family. He watches sports, plays the clarinet and makes movies. But he's a Brooklyn guy. He's not influenced by anything else, which is kind of like the opposite to David Milch."

Bringing up "Deadwood" creator and guiding light Milch touches on an obvious nerve with McShane. It was back in May that HBO revealed that the gritty Western's third season would be its last.

"The whole way 'Deadwood' ended, whatever, we're not in those rooms with the suits and David and whatever was said, but I think it was a shock to everybody, the way it was handled, but you know, you've gotta get over that now," McShane says. "That was a while ago and we all've got to get on with our lives in many ways. 'Deadwood' has been incredibly profitable for everybody, I think, artistic-wise, financially-wise, whatever. Not for HBO, that was part of the problem."

Of course, weeks after the cancellation notice was signed, HBO reached an agreement with Milch to direct a pair of two-hour telefilms to tie up the storylines. McShane still doesn't sound satisfied.

"It wasn't finished yet," he says simply. "Because it's not a television show that repeats itself every week, it's an ongoing saga is what it is, I feel a little cheated that we weren't allowed to finish it. On the other hand, maybe with the two television movies, he'll be allowed to expand the form. In films you can play with time and space a little more than you can in a regulated one-hour series."

You can catch McShane on HBO's "Deadwood" on Sunday nights, while "Scoop" opens around the country on Friday, July 28.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times