INTERVIEW: Tom Cullen Talks History Channel’s ‘Knightfall’

If you’re a fan of Vikings, The Da Vinci Code, or beautiful men wearing chain mail, then History Channel has the perfect series for you to dive into. Knightfall premieres on December 6th, and audiences will be immersed in the struggles of both Jerusalem and Paris in the 13th century. Tom Cullen, who stars as a noble yet conflicted young Knight Templar named Landry, had all sorts of tidbits to share with expectant audiences before the big day arrives.

(Photo by Larry Horricks / HISTORY Copyright 2017)

Gawain (Pádraic Delaney) & Landry (Tom Cullen)

One of Knightfall‘s most striking aspects is the intense swordplay and beautiful choreography of the fight sequences, and Cullen overflowed with praise for the creative team behind the battles. “The stunt team that we had was led by an amazing Frenchman, Cédric Proust. He really put us through it,” the actor gushed. “The entire team wanted us to be at a very, very high level.” Those three months of physical training and two and a half weeks of boot camp more than paid off, if the first few episodes of Knightfall are anything to go by. Historians may have a few things to nitpick with the depiction of the Knights Templar, but there’s no denying the sword fights look as real as they come. And if you stick around until the finale, Cullen previewed one scene he’s really excited for: “An incredible battle sequence in the final episode which is the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in. We had like 400 guys on a battlefield fighting for about two weeks.”

That being said, Cullen was confident there shouldn’t be too many grumblings about historical inaccuracies in KnightfallAfter all, the production employed an excellent historian named Dan Jones, who is also the author of a New York Times Bestseller The Templars. “He was there on hand at all times feeding into us and making sure that what we were portraying was as accurate as possible,” Cullen explained. “So anything that would come up in the script that we didn’t know, we would use him as a source of knowledge.”

In terms of Cullen’s character Landry specifically, Knightfall is as much his personal journey as it is the tale of the Templars at large. As an orphan, Landry was raised by his fellow Knights and knows very little of the life outside the Order. One man in particular is a father figure to him: Godfrey, played by Sam Hazeldine. “Godfrey essentially took him in and saved him from this orphanage,” Cullen shared about the complex backstory between the two men. Due to Godfrey’s tutelage, Landry because a Templar at the incredibly young age of 11. But that father-son dynamic is tested as early as the first episode, because as Cullen hints, “There is a truth revealed to Landry about Godfrey that he didn’t know. Landry, like a classic hero that we all know… searches for the truth at all costs. And Godfrey is pivotal in that circle of truth that Landry is striving towards.” The journey isn’t an easy one for our hero, but Cullen hopes audiences will enjoy watching it as much as he enjoyed playing it.

(Photo by Larry Horricks / HISTORY Copyright 2017)

Queen Joan of Navarre (Olivia Ross)

Given the religious themes heavily present in Knightfall, it’s natural to wonder what present day parallels viewers may find in a story about wars of belief. Cullen spoke eloquently about ways in which the series would tackle that issue: “The one thing that history will always do is prove itself cyclical and that human beings have very short memories and we forget very quickly what we’ve already been through. Knightfall is a show that is about the Templars and you’d be remiss to not talk about the holy wars.” But the religious angle of the show may turn out to be the most surprising aspect, as the Templars themselves were founded to protect pilgrims and other religious practitioners on the road, that was their purpose. They were not meant to battle for one true faith, but to respect all faiths. “I think the show touches on what faith is and how faith can be manipulated to one’s own needs and how faith is often used for political games, which is something that has nothing to do with religion,” Cullen concluded. The Holy Grail in particular is emblematic of religion being perverted to be used for power or political gain, which is sure to be a recurring motif in the series.

Lest you fear that the ladies will be left out of the proceedings, Cullen assured that Knightfall “is by no means a gendered show.” In fact, there is a love story that emerges early on, “which I’m surprised at how strong and moving that story was as we were filming it. And it kind of grew into this thing that we had no idea it would become.” As a Knight Templar, Landry is sworn to no Earthly love, and yet it seems he cannot help himself. Cullen attributed the affair to Landry feeling a sense of his own mortality. “I think that’s why he kind of falls in love with this woman. It’s not that he’s doubting God or that he’s doubting the Templars or religion, but that he’s doubting himself.” As for the female characters who co-star in the series, Cullen claimed, “They are actually probably stronger than all of the male characters and they’re just as complex and rich as the male counterparts.”

To learn more about the world of Knightfall and the Templar Knights, tune into the History Channel on Wednesday, December 6th at 10/9c for the epic premiere.