Interview 45

Speaking With Richard Chamberlain

Among his hundreds of roles, Richard Chamberlain has portrayed a doctor, a Shogun, a Nazi war-criminal hunter, a priest and a von Trapp. He may now add "king" to his resume, when he joins the cast of "Spamalot" as King Arthur on Tuesday in Chicago.

The Emmy-winning actor, most familiar for his TV roles in "Dr. Kildare," "Shogun," "Wallenberg," and "The Thorn Birds," talked to the Sun-Times about entering the wacky world of Monty Python.

Were you familiar with "Spamalot" before you were offered the role?

Curious thing is that as much as I love Monty Python, I'd never seen the stage show. I got the offer to join the tour when I was talking to one of the producers who said they had a three-month space in "Spamalot" and would I like to play King Arthur. I said absolutely and saw the show finally this past Christmas.

How hard is it to join a tour already in progress?

It's just so very different from starting at the beginning. I'm rehearsing with wonderful dance captains and such, but my very first "put-in" will happen in Chicago, and it will take a few performances, I'm sure, to get in total sync with the actual cast.

What do you like about Arthur's character?

The show is so zany and off-the-wall [laughs], and he's the only character who doesn't get the joke. He's got such an interesting story arc. The Lady of the Lake has made him King and he's the only one who believes it. He suffers a terrible defeat and serious depression and then it's sort of uphill from there. It all makes him more human in a way.

So how uncomfortable is your regal costume?

[Laughs] It's reasonably comfortable and the mail is thankfully not metal. The crown is a little problematic because it can be a little painful, but it's all worth it.

Were you a Monty Python fan prior to joining the show?

I was living in England when they were really big. I never missed a show.