Camelot premieres tonight on Starz, and we can already tell you – it’s pretty awesome! Joseph Fiennes, Tamsin Egerton, and Executive Producer Chris Chibnall recently chatted with press about the new series and helped get us even more excited! Check out highlights from the interview below!
How do you approached doing these iconic characters… these literary characters and to give them like a fresh spin?
Joseph Fiennes: I guess I kind of read as much as I could but really was speaking to Chris Chibnall and asking all the sort of pertinent questions and make me feel like we weren’t going to do an off the peg kind of Camelot which has been done or at least themes of Camelot or at least characters in Camelot have been touched upon in many films and TV series before.
So it was really to pick his brains. And in doing so I got fired up by I felt that tackling Merlin in a fresher angle. I guess use is predominant factor that we were seeing a young King Arthur and thereby a young-ish really, I’m into my 40s. Actually I guess this is being recorded, (damn) and… And so it was sort of how to kind of tackle it from that point view. And also I wanted to have fun with it. I wanted (Joy) to be the guide with Merlin.
I wanted to have the scope which I felt Merlin kind of has in his Machiavellian bipolar way that he’s not to be trusted yet he is fighting for this great speed of power and is really sort of the publicly a master to some degree in orchestrating Camelot and King Arthur.
So he’s a strange, dark devious character and I just wanted to have fun and get away from the cloak and the staff and long, long beard and the pointy hat.
And we I think through Chris who came to the idea that he was more warrior monk that is coming to terms with his sort of – his power and how they can affect him and others. Done, sorry, long-winded.
Tamsin Egerton: Well I suppose again I mean not to sound like a broken record but it was mostly talking to Chris Chibnall and seeing what he had in mind for the character.
I mean Guinevere been done quite a few times and especially as a mature, you know, young woman who either the damsel in distress or the warrior, the warrior fighting your strong-willed woman.
And so I was talking to Chris and he kind of wanted both of us in a way. He wanted a variety of things in this Guinevere.
He predominately wanted her to be real and natural and make mistakes and be passionate and, you know, be the feisty young girl but then also, you know, completely naive and innocent and ignorant at the same time.
So it was yes, fantastic as an actress to be able to tell their thing and also quite confusing at times. But so that really hits me. I mean I felt I wanted to make her fashion and not take away, you know, whatever actions are done before.
Because I think if you steal other people’s characters it doesn’t work with the context of the scripts in what is written.
And so I wanted to make her my own. And, you know, I was petrified in the beginning because it was such an iconic character Guinevere especially being a young lady myself. I’ve always wanted to play her.
So I mean I remember being on the set constantly asking questions if she really did actually want me to be Guinevere and (after) you know, say yes, yes, you know, we’ve cast you know.
And yes so I very much have (unintelligible) but asked of Chris what he thought and he kind of steered me in the right directions. And yes we just wanted to make her fashion and young and be able to make mistakes which I think is important.
Chris Chibnall: First of all had to approach it and in the sense of take nothing for granted, you know. There have been so many different versions of the legend and of Camelot.
So what I wanted to do is strip it all back and sort of go back to the beginning and tell the story of Arthur from the beginning of the relationship between Merlin and Arthur from its very first meeting and also then really that where Tamsin just used of trying to make it feel real and basically looking at, going back to the source material of Mallory’s more darker which is kind of the most complete version of the myth in many ways and going well here are the events and here are the stories that we know. But what might it have been like if you lived through them?
If you kind of take it for granted that this – all this stuff happened, how would it be to be Arthur and be 19 and just be, you know, quite happy and comfortable in your life and then this mad shaven-headed man turns up at your house and says oh you’re adopted and by the way you’re the king, you know, and come with me halfway across the country. We got to sort out some war lords, really looking for the emotional truth in everything.
And that’s the way I kind of approached it. And from then on you just start to ask questions. You don’t want to go with the received images.
So the conversations that Joe and I had were absolutely not going for the kind of stalk and received way of betraying Merlin but more about asking what does he want? Why is he so keen for Arthur to get to the throne?
What is he seeing and then taking that for example into the (mantic) and going what will it be like to have those powers because nothing really in like comes without a cost and nothing comes without consequences.
So I think the big thing was making sure that the show was full of character, full of emotion and also that every decision and every action had costs and consequences and then it could start to feel emotionally resident to now. So that was the big thing and also to have fun as well as Joe said at the beginning. You know, we had to have a laugh doing it.
Joseph and Tamsin, you’ve spoken about how you prepared for playing these iconic roles. What do you like most and least about your characters and why? And if anything, what has surprised you about them as they’ve been developed?
Joseph Fiennes: What do I like and dislike about Merlin as he’s being presented? Well I like the fact that and you said not necessarily as an icon but we’re stripping the icons away.
And we are – they’re sort of the Wikipedia I guess – not Wikipedia, WikiLeaks forgive me. We’re the sort of WikiLeaks for the age that we’re revealing with the transparency the characters. We’re unearthing the sort of the truth beyond the myth or underneath the myth.
And I love that aspect. And Merlin is really at the forefront in that regard. We get a glimpse into the sort of the dark Machiavellian corridors of power.
I like the fact that he, although that he has powers, his powers is almost in his political guile as much as what he relies on in the – in darker forces.
I guess there’s nothing I don’t like about Merlin in the presentation if I’m interpreting your question correctly and forgive me if I’m not.
But there’s – I love everything, even the things I find despicable and abhorrent in Merlin. Actually they’re a joy to ride on the tailcoats of.
Tamsin Egerton: Well I love the fact that Guinevere is young and feisty and passionate and so naive in the beginning. And I love that quality about her.
But I – what I don’t like about Guinevere is the fact that she can’t control her passions and her urges. And she gets herself into quite a love triangle and quite a web.
And I find – I mean personally I would – I find that very difficult to relate to. But yes, it wouldn’t be interesting if she did everything right. And that’s what’s (interesting) about this series is, you know, we’re real characters making mistakes and having to deal with the consequences.
And, you know, she is, she’s young, she’s naive. She’s whole-heartedly going into her passions in everything that she feels in the series.
I think she’s so used to having her life mapped out in front of her and it’s – and as growing up knowing her future and suddenly this young person comes along who’s like her and actually, you know, turns her life upside down and says I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you know what you’re doing because actually the world is, you know, our oyster and we could, you know, we can do anything.
And he happens also to be very good-looking. And Guinevere’s just, you know, head over heels and doesn’t know how to handle these new emotions she’s feeling as a young woman and unfortunately can’t reign it all in all the time.
And even though she tries to do the right thing and tries to be the good girlfriend and, you know, has her morals. She slips. She slips up a little bit.
But it’s interesting as an actress that as – personally I find that – if that is your question, you know, that’s something I wouldn’t – I’m worried that audience again start judging me personally rather than Guinevere. But that’s fine. You know, it’s, you know, and mistakes happen so yes.
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