Full interview with Kevin Spacey: ‘I’m always looking for the shy kid in the corner because that was me’

The day before his benefit concert, Kevin Spacey sat down with senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown to talk about Jack Lemmon, Frank Underwood and the Kevin Spacey Foundation. Watch part one of the interview.

Two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey made a splash in Washington this week at the Shakespeare Theatre Company as he promoted his educational foundation. But it wasn’t with his acting or speaking that he wowed a gala crowd, but with his singing. He told PBS Newshour’s Jeffrey Brown the day before his performance, “I really just wanted to, in a sense, sing for my supper.”

He sang in high school musicals but quickly turned to focusing on his acting. He said he was so fortunate that his parents, drama teachers and eventually actor Jack Lemmon encouraged him:

“A very perceptive drama teacher clearly saw that I had some potential, and then led me toward this workshop where ultimately we had to get up and do scenes from a play in front of Jack Lemmon who was running this workshop,” Spacey said.

“At the end of that, he walked up to me, and this was a man who was like my idol — I had grew up loving movies, and maybe secretly wanted to be an actor somewhere in the back of my head, but was very shy — and to have Jack Lemmon walk up to you when you’re thirteen years old and put his hand on your shoulder and say you are a born actor, you are meant to do this, you should go to New York and study, you are meant to do this, was such an extraordinary boost of confidence … and it did change my life.”

Watch part two of the interview.

Spacey, who won Oscars for the movies “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty,” was also the star of “Pay It Forward.” The Juilliard-trained actor struggled as a middle-class student trying to pay tuition by working as a hat-check boy and an assistant to a casting director. The Kevin Spacey Foundation provides grants to train and support emerging artists in the performing arts and film. KSF also gives students scholarships to study arts in college and supports projects in high schools.

As for Spacey himself, as he steps down this year as artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre in London, he told the Newshour where he’s setting his sights:

“I would love to do much more singing, it’s just one of those things where I can’t quite describe what it feels like when you’re standing in front of a forty piece orchestra and there’s nothing between you and an audience but a microphone. It’s like strapping yourself to a locomotive, and I love it. It makes me feel different, and it’s a different kind of performance than I’ve ever felt before. I love it, and it’s only this year when I’ve gotten back to it in concert form that I’ve realized how much I miss it.”

Watch part three of the interview.

Of course it’s not possible to come to Washington and not riff on his Netflix “House of Card’s” character, Frank Underwood.

Spacey says of the cunning, conniving (occasionally murderous) congressman turned president: “Audiences have dug Francis Underwood because he kicks ass. I’ve had the gambit of political leaders say to me it’s very cynical, and it’s not like that at all, and I’ve had other say to me it’s closer to the real thing than anyone would like to imagine. And, I believe that’s probably more true.”

Tune in to tonight’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour for Jeffrey’s report on the concert. You can watch on our Ustream Channel at 6 p.m. EDT or check your local listings.

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