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Knightfall season 2: Mark Hamill interview

Mark Hamill stars as Talus, the initiate master

Knightfall series 2 is a darker and grittier affair. Following the revelation of  Landry’s affair with Queen Joan, the former Temple Master has been stripped off his title and demoted to the lowest rank of Templar, the initiate.

To be accepted back into the order, Landry must go back to square one, initiate training. Standing between him and redemption is Templar drill-sergeant, Talus, played by Star Wars alum, Mark Hamill.

Talus is a mysterious, battle-hardened veteran whose holy duty is to train the next generation of Templars. Under his harsh training regime, callow initiates are transformed into 'God’s Executioners'.

In this role, Mark Hamill has swapped light sabres for swords and a Galaxy Far Far Away to medieval France. As Talus you see a side of Hamill, we’ve never seen before, a ‘Medieval SOB’ and as far from his affable self as could possibly be. Luke Skywalker he ain’t.

HISTORY called up Mark Hamill to talk about Knightfall, Talus and how Lee Marvin once gave him some very important advice about life on set.

Talus, is a very different role from what we would usually expect from you? What was it that made you want to play this character and join the cast of Knightfall?

Mark Hamill: They sent me the first season and my wife and I put them on for that evening's entertainment, I had no thought in my mind that I would want to go to Prague for five months and I started watching it and I was just bowled over. I was riveted, I found it fascinating, the period, the character. You always look for challenges as an actor and this was unlike anything I’ve done before. Talus was a character unlike any I had played before. I was flattered that they had even thought of me. He's just so brutal and uncompromising.

The Hollywood Reporter referred to Talus as 'A medieval SOB' (Son of a Bitch) - is that a fair assessment, can you tell us a little about him?

Mark Hamill: They're absolutely right, he's brutal, he uncompromising, he's a religious zealot, very much unlike me. One of the directors compared him to the drill sergeant in 'Full Metal Jacket' because of how forceful he is, (no pun intended). It was great to inhabit a character that was so unlike myself and be able to treat people the way I never would. He has a very harsh way of dealing with his students.

On the surface he is very off-putting and hard to sympathise with but as you go along, especially the later on in the storyline you, hear his back story. Talus was a prisoner of war who spent 10 years locked up, praying for death. His backstory helps you understand a little bit as to why he is the way he is.

He's a paradox, he's training these guys to be 'God's Executioners', and 'you think, wait a second, I thought that God said "thou shalt not kill"'. But it's just an indication of how much of a zealot he is and how devoted he is to the cause.

Talus is really a traditional villain and an antagonist but boy he makes life for Landry a living hell

Mark Hamill on Talus' relationship with Landry

Some people would say the Templars are heroes, other people would think they are war mongers and criminals - killing anyone that gets in their way or disagrees with them. It's a really fascinating period of history.  In my mind, there's a tendency to glamorize and idealize, the Knights of the Round Table and Camelot and the medieval period. Here's an unvarnished look at the brutality of the 14th century.

What did you know about the Knights Templar before you started filming and did you get any pointers from your cast mates about the history.

Mark Hamill:. Simon Merrells (Tancrede) was helpful in pointing me towards the book that he thought was the most illuminating on the subject, (Dan Jones, The Templars) and even though you want to have the historical background to understand  as much as you can, your real commitment is to the script. Once you get into the story, it's your job to be part of what's a compelling, dramatic story more than it is a history lesson. Although the technical advisors were there to make sure it was as authentic as possible.

What was it like being New Kid on the Block and joining an established cast?

Mark Hamill: Absolutely, I was amazed by how kind they were. The relationship between Simon Merrells and Tom Cullen, is really compelling . You empathize with Tom Cullen so much. The whole series is seen through his eyes and aside from being a wonderful actor he's a really nice person and someone who has become a close friend of mine.

It's hard because Talus is really a traditional villain and an antagonist but boy he makes life for Landry a living hell. It's fun to pretend but off-camera, the cast couldn't have been more welcoming.

Was it fun ‘going ‘Medieval’?

Mark Hamill: 14th century man it was brutal. 40 was considered old age and you had to have half a dozen kids to have one or two survive. We're so pampered. I can't start the day without a shower and I don't know if these guys ever showered.

I've done so much voiceover so I didn't think it through how physically demanding it would be with the hour plus in makeup every day to get the wig and the beard and the mustache and all the facial scars and the age spots on your hands.  Then an hour in wardrobe with all the shoulder pads and the belts and the axes and the boots and the tunic and the layers and layers and layers... Two plus hours just to get ready in the morning and then when you look in the mirror, Mark Hamill completely disappears and its' wonderful because you look in the mirror and you're Talus. Makeup and your  hair and your wardrobe does so much of the job for you.

I'm glad I'm not speaking to Talus now...

Mark Hamill: He would have told you to F-Off

Every good drama needs a great bad guy. What makes What makes Philip IV (played by Ed Stoppard) such a perfect villain?

Mark Hamill: He believes he's right, he doesn't think of himself as a villain at all. He's the one who knows what's right and the Templars are the villains to him. Villains never think of themselves. Ed as Philip IV is just terrific, the cast to a person is just perfection and I was kind of hoping there'd be some way my character  would eventually meet the royalty but that wasn't on the cards.

We asked Tom Cullen, Simon Simon Merrells, Clementine Nicholson and Pádraic Delaney about their confessions from set. What are yours?

Mark Hamill: More than anything I wanted a chair. I eventually had this person, who wherever they were there job was to bring me a chair because the weight of the costume is extraordinary what with the wig and the mustache and the beard, it's not easy. I once asked the actor Lee Marvin for advice on a film we were working on and he thought for a moment he said 'Never stand when you can sit'. Wait a second, I was kind of hoping for career advice. ‘Never stand when you can sit!’ Who knew how prophetic that was because it was still so physically challenging to say the least.

What's the funniest thing you saw on set?

Mark Hamill: I was supposed to be riding through this village with these little hovels and campfires going with these leppers hanging around.  (When they first sent me to riding school to take horse riding lessons, I said 'the good news is, I once played an expert equestrian, the bad news it was in the 70s and I haven't been on a horse since').

Mark Hamill plays Talus in Knightfall s2

Any way when I looked over I saw one of the leppers on his cell phone. Obviously you don't want to do it more than you have to so I managed not to burst out laughing. It was startling to see because you really get into the environment and the wardrobe and the sets are so real and you're sort of there in the 14th century and you see someone on their iPhone. Internally I burst out laughing but externally I kept a straight face , and thank God because I got it one take.

Mark Hamill in Knightfall season 2 first look

Watch Knightfall, Tuesday 2 July at 9pm