Malcolm McDowell: 'Critch' role 'one of the most enjoyable' of career

Malcolm McDowell plays Pop Critch on "Son of a Critch." File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
1 of 5 | Malcolm McDowell plays Pop Critch on "Son of a Critch." File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Malcolm McDowell said his role of grandpa "Pop" Critch on the TV comedy, Son of a Critch, airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW, is among his favorites in his 60-year career.

"He's one of the most enjoyable characters really," McDowell, 80, told UPI in Los Angeles. "I love playing him."


Son of a Critch is based on the life of Mark Critch, 49, who created the show and plays his father, Mike Critch.

Benjamin Evan Ainsworth plays young Mark, who shares a bedroom with Pop. Though McDowell has played historical figures like Emperor Caligula, author H.G. Wells and Albert Schweitzer, he has a little more artistic license with Pop Critch.

"He doesn't make the headlines like those characters, but he's every bit as important in the vocabulary of my career," McDowell said.


Critch said Pop actually is based on two other relatives. Critch's grandfather died of tuberculosis in 1920 before Mark was born.

But, Critch lived with a great aunt and great uncle. Because he was unknown before he became a television actor and writer, he gave all his cast members license to make their characters their own.

"I'm not Churchill," Critch said. "Nobody knows what those people were like."

Each episode of Son of a Critch is inspired by a real-life memory of Critch's. Some of those incidents involve the Pop character -- from winning a live turkey to buying a cable descrambler.

Critch said he thinks about how fleeting moments become lifelong memories. Contemplating why a three-minute moment stood out when he was 12 often inspires an entire episode.

"What makes a moment a memory?" Critch said. "Why is that important to me? Then that gives you an idea of the whole episode."

McDowell said he had few memories of his grandfathers, who died by the time he was 5 years old.

"I remember a man at the top of the house with a shock of white hair," McDowell said. "He was treated with great reverence."


McDowell said he would like to have grown up with a relative like Pop, whose schemes are part of his appeal.

"Sure, it's going to be a disaster, whether he's selling cheap beer on the side or whatever," McDowell said. "Whatever is going on, there's always an energy about him."

Thursday's episode has Pop trying to thwart his daughter-in-law's (Claire Rankin) plot to donate his favorite chair to a bonfire. Critch said Pop reveals his sentimental side trying to save the chair.

"[Pop] says, 'Absolutely there's a story about that chair you don't know,'" Critch said. "So we learn a bit about Pop's history while they go to try and save this chair from being destroyed."

Sentimentality has rarely been a part of McDowell's career. His breakthrough role as a violent rapist and killer in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 adaptation of A Clockwork Orange led to a career playing villains.

He said he considers himself to be a comedian, despite being typecast as a tough guy and a gangster. McDowell said A Clockwork Orange was intended to be satire, but was taken more seriously because of its intensity.

"Clockwork Orange, I always thought, was a black comedy," McDowell said. "At the time, it was so overwhelming to audiences, they just sat there in silence."


The 1979 time travel fantasy Time After Time allowed McDowell to show his softer side. He played author H.G. Wells, who must chase Jack the Ripper (David Warner) to the present day in his own time machine.

Wells falls in love with a banker (Mary Steenburgen), and although the film became popular through cable airings, McDowell said he laments that it was not originally advertised as the love story it actually was.

"They sold it as a chase movie between Jack the Ripper and H.G. Wells, which was nonsense," McDowell said. "It was actually a love story, and that's why the movie endures today."

McDowell said he still loves doing a family show like Son of a Critch and hopes Critch has more memories for a fourth season. Critch assured McDowell he does, as Season 3 only culminates with the end of junior high school.

"Next year, if we're so lucky to have a Season 4, will be high school, a new school, new teachers, new world," Critch said. "He's just found his group and now he's going to be torn apart again."

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