How an ‘Avatar’ Villain Spends His Sundays

Stephen Lang is perhaps best known for playing the nefarious, strong and lithe Colonel Miles Quaritch in “Avatar.” But if long marriages are any indicator, the stage and screen actor, 70, is more of a good guy: He and his wife, Kristina Lang, a costume designer, have been married for 43 years. They split their time between a house in the Hudson Valley and a brownstone in Harlem, which they share with one of their four children, Lucy Lang, the New York State inspector general, and her family. When the couple is in Harlem, their miniature dachshund, Ginger, “sort of a living hot water bottle,” he said, comes with them.

Mr. Lang might be most recognized for his role in the movie “Avatar,” in which he plays the villainous Colonel Miles Quaritch.Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

HERE’S THE DEAL I generally wake up around 4 a.m. Part of the reason is Ginger starts shaking her ears and makes a sound that means she’s ready to go out. I give her an early breakfast, then anywhere between 4 and 5 a.m., I have two cups of coffee. I have the two cups of coffee because I want all my plumbing to be in good shape for the day. The plumbing needs to be clear because, here’s the deal, I’m about to go do yoga. You said you wanted me to get granular. I’m getting granular.

NONTOXIC When the yoga studios closed down for the pandemic, I put stuff in our place to do yoga, like a full-length mirror and a little space heater. I can get a 60- or 90-minute class via Zoom, although I am usually back at the studio now. When I started doing yoga it was called Bikram yoga, but we don’t call it that anymore. We call it 26&2 yoga because Bikram has become a toxic word because of the person who invented it. However, the yoga process is very, very divorced from that.

CITY GUY My daughter Lucy, and her husband and children, occupy the top three floors of our brownstone — we co-own it — and my wife and I have the garden apartment for when we’re in the city, which at various times in life can be a lot or, during the pandemic, not at all. But I’m a city guy, born and bred. I know the city. When I finish my yoga, we’ll probably have some kind of event we’re going to or maybe the theater. But if not, I’ll take a long walk. If you’re a New Yorker, you know that walking is basically the best mode of transportation aside from the train.

Mr. Lang and his wife co-own and share a brownstone in Harlem with their daughter Lucy, at left, and her family. He insists that of the good cooks in the family, he is “certainly not the best among them.”Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

THE FAMILY BENCH My favorite part of New York is Central Park, so I love to go down there and take a good walk all around. I could traverse the entire park, and I’ve done it many times. I often wind up on 72nd Street on the East Side where we have a bench we call Terry’s bench. My mother bought the bench and dedicated it to my father. When you give money, maybe to the conservancy, you get a plaque on a bench. I like to go sit there and have a little conversation with my mom. She died in 2008. If you come along and someone is sitting on what you consider your bench, you can’t really say, “Excuse me, that’s my bench, get off it.” Or you could say that, but they’re New Yorkers. They would look at you and say, “Sit on this, pal.”

During his long walks, Mr. Lang sometimes finds his way to a bench in Central Park on the east side of 72nd Street that his mother, who died in 2008, dedicated to his father. “I like to go sit there and have a little conversation with my mom,” he said.Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

THE BUS If I don’t feel like walking all the way back across the park, I might take the M10 bus back up to Central Park West. I’m glad the M10 is still there. I believe several years ago, they were going to cut back on its service but all the riders rose up in protest. Before the yoga studio got shut down, I’d take the M10 there for the 5:30 a.m. class, to 72nd between Columbus and Amsterdam. I enjoy riding the bus in New York City tremendously, especially that time of day when it’s quiet and the bus driver a lot of times will embrace his inner NASCAR driver and you will see all the animals, like raccoons, darting back into the park after they’ve been out all night trash hunting. Rats? Rats are a whole other thing.

When he’s not in the mood to walk up through Central Park back to his home in Harlem, Mr. Lang takes the M10 bus.Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

MEMORY MUSCLE I used to memorize something every day. “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning is one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry, and it’s also a cautionary tale about rats, speaking of rats. My head is too crammed now to memorize something every day. I memorize what I need to memorize for work. But now I go through some of the old stuff. I used to know a lot of Shakespeare, and you’ve got to kind of keep working on it to make sure it stays in your brain.

RITUALIZED When you talk to actors, so much of what we do could be considered routine, but it’s actually ritual. They’re ceremonial things that kind of empower us to get the necessary result. In Jane Lynch’s Routine, I read that she eats two peanut butter cups before a performance, then at intermission she eats two more. I understand there’s a certain energy jolt that can result from that, but at the same time, it’s ritualized behavior. And it struck me as absolutely normal, because all the stuff I do is ritualized, whether it be yoga or karate or weight lifting. It brings about a desired state of preparedness, even if it’s just a question of being in a good emotional and mental state.

ON SLEEP I can take a nap anywhere. It can be six minutes. I think they’re restorative. I think they recalibrate you. You always wake up renewed and refreshed. For some reason Americans, we’re ashamed of napping. You know when you call someone and you can kind of tell you woke them up and they’ll go, “No, no, no, I wasn’t sleeping.” And you want to say, “Yes, you were, and it’s good. It’s good to sleep during the day.” I’ve been a believer in naps since college. This is not something I’ve adopted since I’ve gotten older.

DINNER PARTY Everyone in my family is a good cook. I’m certainly not the best among them. Both our sons live in L.A. — they’re both in the movie business as well — but our daughters are local, and they could come over for dinner with their families, or maybe some friends or extended family will come. We’re always feeding people. I remember one Thanksgiving, I didn’t know half the people at our friggin’ table.

Dinner at the Lang residence is sometimes a larger family affair.Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

ACADEMY DUTIES Then I would probably try to get the TV working and end up calling my son-in-law to say, “Can you please get this going for me so we can watch some Netflix?” We try to watch all the movies we have to watch so I can vote for the Oscars with some integrity rather than voting for movies I’ve acted in. Possibly the people who have come for dinner will be there but hopefully not because I’ve got to put my pajamas on. Remember, I’m getting up at 4 a.m.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Stephen Lang on Twitter @IAmStephenLang or Instagram @slang_711.

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