TCA 19: ‘Knightfall’ Season 2 Tackles Redemption and Revenge with Mark Hamill

After the conclusion of its successful first season, the History Channel series Knightfall brought in Aaron Helbing as the new showrunner to spice things up for the second. Not only that, the show also convinced the likes of  Mark Hamill to join as a veteran Templar named Talus. Given how messily things ended for our hero Landry (Tom Cullen) last season, it’ll be fun to watch him try to work his way back into the religious army that is now being zealously guarded by Talus. Cullen, Hamill and Helbing answered a few questions at the TCAs this year regarding the bold new direction of the show.

I’m avenging her death if Landry doesn’t.

Helbing jumped right in by sketching out the theme of Season 2 as brotherhood, though it’s not quite so simple as that. “It’s about redemption, but it’s also about revenge based on the events from Season 1.  So we’re building off of that going into season 2.” In that vein, Knightfall will remain as much a dramatization of vaguely historical events as ever. Helbing credits historical consultant Jason Glenn with providing context and bare bones, but added, “We’re also not beholden to history.  It’s still a dramatic story that we’re going to tell.  So we’ll take creative license where we need to.”

In keeping with the new thematic goals, Helbing described exactly why the latest trailers appeared more cinematic than ever before. “Season One was more of a peaceful season between King Philip and the Templars. They were essentially friends.” But all of that changed at by the finale. “Because of the story that we were going to tell, we wanted to embrace the grittiness, the darkness, the medieval brutality that existed during 1307. So that was mainly the shift, the reason for the shift was to kind of embrace that brutality and that lends itself to have a great cinematic scope that I’m very happy with.”

One may wonder how a veteran actor like Hamill was brought on board, though in retrospect being a Templar doesn’t sound much different from being a Jedi. He happily recounted the journey towards acceptance, explaining how he watched the series first to decide. “I got hooked immediately, and it was riveting.  It transports you into this whole other world, and it’s so relatable.  I mean, it’s seen through Landry’s eyes.” Material aside, the setting was appealing as well. “To be part of a largely British cast and in a period drama like this, which I’d never done before, [that’s] what I look for. Challenges to try not to repeat yourself, and this was certainly a challenge.”

When you realize Jedi are fictional Templars.

When he was reminded of the similarities with Jedis themselves, Hamill broadened the likeness to Knights in general. “I’m sure George Lucas came from so many different inspirations of his own, both from the movies and literature.  He was probably thinking more of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table because it was more idealized and glamorous, certainly, than the Templar Knights. But there’s no question that his inspiration was rooted, partially, in this mythology.”

Cullen, meanwhile, shared the gory tale of his recent onset injury – which occurred in the first day of filming, during a rainy battle scene. “We have to do this part of the fight where we charge, and I’m charging, and one of the guys slips and it causes us all to slip,” he began. “A guy fell onto my toes, to my feet, and I broke both of my big toes on the first day of shooting. And so for the first month and a bit I’m doing the show with two broken toes, which is incredibly painful.”

The two actors were friendly on stage, but promised to be less so onscreen. Hamill broke down the character dynamics quite easily: “I’m playing basically the equivalent of a medieval drill sergeant, and Landry is seeking redemption and wants to rejoin the Templar Knights. I’m dead set against it, of course. Hence, you have drama.” Cullen expanded on that, gushing that, “I was thrilled to have an actor like Mark on it. He’s just brilliant in the show, and it was so great to get a chance to play against somebody like that.” As for his take on the relationship itself? “[It’s] everything that you want it to be. It’s complex, but it’s got a lot of soul and heart to it. And the arc of that relationship I think will be very satisfying for the audience to watch.”

While Talus may seem one-dimensional at first, Hamill hinted that he could reveal more layers as the season progresses. “You discover more about him, his back story and why he is the way he is. I’m particularly pleased with the scene that I had with Tom later in the arc. Because [he’s] just so brutally harsh, to have a glimmer of empathy come from him is much more powerful.” Cullen agreed once more. “You think that he’s one thing, and then he’ll surprise you and be another,” the star added. “And that happens with every character in the show throughout the show. And I think that is what makes good drama, and I hope that’s what comes across.”

Audiences can see for themselves when Knightfall‘s second season premieres on the History Channel on Monday, March 25 at 10/9c.