Black Sails is written as a prequel to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, hence why I thought it good to start this Q&A by asking, are you a fan of Treasure Island, and if so, was this the reason why you were drawn to this project?
I was initially drawn to the project because STARZ had produced such great work in the past such as the award-winning Spartacus TV series and with Michael Bay (being one of the most successful directors in Hollywood today with movies grossing over $5.5 billion worldwide) attached to produce his first fore into television, that was obviously a bonus. It was a no-brainer really – What actor doesn’t want to work on a new pirate TV series! Treasure Island is such a wonderful story and in my research and preparation prior to shooting season 1 of Black Sails last year, I re-read the book and watched the 1950s Bobby Driscoll film, as well as the 2012 Eddie Izzard TV movie. Other reference material was Colin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates and George Woodbury 1951 edition of The Great Days of Piracy. Of course our story takes place 20 years prior to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, but it was essential for me to place myself in that world and understand the politics, drama and feel of that specific period in history.
With your character Richard Guthrie, your accent is so perfectly sounding like a native British gentleman, even better than mine, yet you are South African, so who did you base your accent on for the part of Richard?
Thank you. Besides working with dialect coaches to try and perfect Richard’s very unique old English accent, I also referenced programs like Downton Abbey and was fortunate to work with Game of Thrones’ legendary Charles Dance on Sky1’s Strike Back two years ago, so he too was an inspiration. Over the years I’ve played quite a variety of foreign characters, from a Polish scientist, a Dutch businessman, a French UN worker to a Russian mafia boss, so learning and trying to get my tongue around a number of interesting accents is always a challenge but truly fulfilling when it works. Characterization is an organic and perhaps methodic process for me. I really want to understand, live and breathe these characters and bring them to life with honesty, authenticity and sincerity.
I know you are now filming the 2nd series of Black Sails and there are more episodes this time around, but do you still find time to read a book, and if so, what are you reading or have read recently that you loved?
Reading the full original Black Sails scripts as they arrive is actually very enjoyable and really all that I’ve had time to immerse myself in over the past months, however, I did meet with top Hollywood acting coach Ivana Chubbuck last year and plan to work with her later this year, so I’ve recently been studying her The Power of the Actor which I can highly recommend to others in the industry. There’s obviously other classic acting technique books such as Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting and A Challenge for the Actor, as well as Harold Guskin’s How to Stop Acting which too is a good read.
Still talking about books, as this website is “pro-books”, can you tell me what your favourite book is, and why?
I love reading biographies and autobiographies and recently re-read Richard E. Grant’s Wah-Wah Diaries which is a hysterical, frustrating and mind-boggling behind-the-scenes account of independent filmmaking from a director and producer’s point of view. Another book by Mr. Grant that I can highly recommend is his With Nails – The film diaries of Richard E. Grant. It’s a touching, funny, inspiring and wonderful read – and certainly one of my all time favorites.
I know quite a few actors that have or are writing novels, is this something you have or will consider at some point, if not already?
Yup, I think every actor out there has a couple of books they’ve either started writing or are thinking about writing. I think the nature of our business and careers in this demanding and challenging industry certainly leads to wonderful, almost unbelievable storytelling. Over the years I’ve co-written an Afrikaans screenplay for an art-house independent feature that I hope to produce in the near future, as well as working on a semi-autobiographical story that I’d also like to bring to the screen at some point. It’s a tough business, getting a book published or finding the funding to produce a feature film, which is why I think many writers and creatives sometimes give up on their passion and dreams. That said, if one writes an “original” or touching, thought-provoking and important story with universal appeal and the book or screenplay thereof is genuinely brilliant, I believe that it will be realized/published/produced.
Here comes the tangent question! – "If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?"
Hahahaha – Wow, err, never really thought about that one, but let’s say a dog! My Jack Russel seems to live an interesting, exciting and fulfilling life with his somewhat schizophrenic master, so I think that would be a fun animal to be.
Lastly Sean, after you finish the filming of Black Sails season two, what is your next project?
I’m about to start rehearsals on a new South African stage musical called Vers Kabaret based on the writings of famous Afrikaans poets, so that’s going to be sufficiently time-consuming and challenging. There are also a couple of exciting TV series and features coming to our shores in the coming months that I’m hoping to be part of, so here’s holding thumbs.
Thanks Sean for doing this Q&A and I hope the filming schedule is not too tiring, it probably is but thanks for allowing me a bit of your time to conduct this Q&A session.
I must end by saying I have been waiting to watch Black Sails for ages Sean and I can see it being a big success with viewers around the world, so the very best of luck with the show and the awards it will surely bring you and the rest of the cast/crew.
Thanks Carl. I always find interviews quite an introspective and pleasurable experience. I think your website and blog is awesome. Keep up the great work. Black Sails has indeed been well received in the States and as the episodes have progressed, has built-up a strong and dedicated following. We’re excited that fans around the world are now getting to enjoy season one and can’t wait to present the second season which promises to be even more exhilarating and entertaining.