08/04/2014 11:35 am ET Updated Oct 04, 2014

Watch: John Lithgow, King Lear and Our Uncertain World

Previously published on

As violent, disturbing images on the front pages confront us daily, reminders of the uncertain times we live in, we're surrounded by productions of Shakespeare's King Lear, the story of an elderly monarch losing strength and sanity, seeking order in chaos.

Why are we so drawn these days to the tale of Lear and his dysfunctional family? John Lithgow, the award-winning actor and writer, is playing him right now in The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park production. This week he talks to Bill about what it's like to perform the monumental role and its significance in a time of so much unrest.

"When we talk about King Lear, where he fits in our time, we are in a very strange moment. I look around and 50 percent of the big-budget entertainment you are seeing these days is dystopian," Lithgow tells Moyers. "This is the era of Hunger Games and blasted landscapes and The Walking Dead. The zombie is the new, sort of, archetype of our times."

After the broadcast interview ended Bill also talked to Lithgow about the new film he stars in, Love is Strange, about a newly married gay couple who are forced to live apart.

All performance images of John Lithgow as King Lear are courtesy of The Public Theater Free Shakespeare in the Park.

Moyers & Company airs weekly on public television. Explore more at