‘Sinbad’ Interviews: Elliot Cowan & Estella Daniels

In our third batch of Sinbad interviews we learn about Gunner (Elliot Cowan) and Nala who is played by Estella Daniels.

Gunnar – Elliot Cowan

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A crew member on The Providence, Gunnar is sexy and strong, and older and wiser than Sinbad. He avoids conflict whenever he can and has a gruff sense of humour which he uses to hide a painful past.

He was a good and noble Viking until he, like most of the men in his position, went to war. Pillaging other lands, Gunnar developed a skill (and a love) for killing. In one particularly bloody battle – his blood lust took over and he completely lost control. Realising what he’d become – an animal lusting for the kill – he was unable to face his wife and child and so travelled as far away as he could, making a life as a trader.

How would you describe your character Gunnar?

Gunnar is a man we don’t know a lot about for a long time. He’s enigmatic, reserved and introverted for the first few episodes and seems like a regular working guy who just keeps himself to his self. eventually we learn more about him when the situation becomes dire and he has to start stepping up to the plate. As a result, Gunnar is revealed to be handy around the boat and when it comes to self-defence.

Strangely though, he’s reluctant to use too much violence or aggression. It seems he’s hiding a darker past that is linked to this violence. In the end, Gunnar starts to develop a loyalty to and understanding with Sinbad and the rest of the ship-mates, which brings out his strength. He atones for his sins and weaknesses in the past, and becomes as strong as his leader at times, a man of action capable of making decisions more sagely than Sinbad.

How did you prepare for the role?

You use whatever means are at your disposal in the scripts. I had already done a certain amount of physical preparation because I was training for a big charity swim, so that was something that made me feel prepared for the role of Gunnar, as well as being on the high seas and getting in and out of water all the time. We also did quite a bit of diving and swimming, and clambering on boats and up ropes. My physical appearance was changed by the brilliant Jacqui Fowler, who made me look more scandinavian and I worked on an accent. Once I got all that locked down, the character began to breathe through the lines.

What makes this incarnation of Sinbad different?

He’s much more of an everyman, an international man. While we’re, of course, playing something in english with British actors, Elliot’s portrayal of Sinbad is such a brilliant, multi-national, suggestive connection for so many different people. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it seems to me that a gateway is open for nations around the world to feel that it is relevant for them. It’s not an
English, historical, period, stuffy representation, but neither is it a patronisingly Hollywood or
too exotic portrayal. Sinbad is accessible, there’s something adventurous for the younger crowd, and it’s edgy, it has sexy elements and it is also quite funny.

What was it like filming in Malta?

I loved it. The Maltese people are brilliant and the landscape and history is so stimulating, both when you’re filming and just to wind down around. I love the fact we could go swimming every day after work, or be out in the sun. It got pretty hard-core when it hit 40°, then we just doused ourselves in water and went for a swim. There’s a good infrastructure for filming in Malta as well.

What was it like filming on green screen?

All the stunts I was doing were with good old fashioned swords, with punches and grabs. The green screen is when you’ve got to stare up into the empty sky and see a 40-foot dragon.

Have you got a favourite monster from the series?

If you’re referring to one of my colleagues, I’m not going to answer the question [laughs]. I suppose the roc is going to be bloody impressive, with amazing cGI, and it’s a nice story between her and Sinbad.

What is your most memorable moment from filming?

Towards the end of summer, we’d been shooting on this amazing part of Malta that looks like a moonscape. It’s right by the water and is actually a rock beach on an eroded peninsula.It was a scorching day and a few of us stayed behind, dropped our costumes and dived into the water. We swam out for about 500m and stayed there until the sun came down. I really savoured that moment.

Who are your favourite mythical heroes and heroines?

Theseus has to be one of them. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the play Phaedra, but, at the end of that, a titan kills Theseus’s son Hippolytus. Theseus invokes the titan from the sea because Hippolytus was seemingly having it off with his stepmum, and Theseus is so freaked out by that, is such an arsehole that he summons this titan. The horses bolt with Hippolytus in the back of the carriage and he’s thrown out onto the road, terrified; they drag him across the stones and he’s ripped to smithereens. Theseus basically goes mad for having killed his son, especially when he realises he was actually innocent.

What has it been like working with Sky? And what does it mean to have another big producer of UK drama on the scene?

What I admire about sky is that they’re breaking new ground, trying to be bigger, better and more ambitious with their programming and commissioning. I don’t think Sinbad would have made it onto the screen elsewhere. There’s a lot of energy, good people working for them and money behind the ideas.

What three things would you take with you for a long voyage on The Providence?

Sunscreen, an umbrella and probably something warm, so a few furs that Gunnar’s been wearing. and some Twisties, Maltese crisps made with corn and various e-numbers probably – we were all addicted to them.

Nala – Estella Daniels

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Nala is the beautiful and intelligent daughter of Zalelew, an African diplomat. she had a cultured and sophisticated upbringing and is used to being waited on hand and foot. But things are different on board The Providence, where she and her father are on the run from a mysterious past.

In any other situation she would be a charming, outspoken and witty young lady, but following the loss of her beloved father, she expresses herself with haughtiness and arrogance. she also has an unsteady relationship with Sinbad who she blames for her father’s death. In truth, she doesn’t know how to cope with the loss of everything she’s ever known.
?But her life has not been as carefree as others assume; her move into adulthood has been scarred by an arranged marriage to Death, an ancient tradition of sacrifice in her community. Her father managed to prevent the union at the last minute, and they have been on the
run and living in fear ever since.

While her father’s death comes as a terrible blow, Nala tries to maintain her perfect appearance, despite feeling increasingly lost and angry. But this turns out to be a liberating journey of self-discovery for Nala: without a chaperone for the first time, her true physical and mental strengths emerge. and when Death arrives on The Providence in episode four, Nala must face her past.

How would you describe your character?

Nala is strong. she is a haughty, aristocratic and possibly misunderstood princess with a dark past. As time goes on, we see a softer, warmer side to her.

How does your character fit in with the storyline?

Nala finds herself stuck on The Providence with the rest of the gang after her plans to escape Basra go horribly wrong. away from home and everything and everyone she knows, she is forced to buckle down and work within the team. she also adds a touch of class and sparkle to the mismatched scruffy group.

How did you prepare for the role?

I couldn’t swim, so I took an intensive swimming course.

What makes this incarnation of Sinbad different?

I think you see a more human side to all of the characters. everyone is flawed, which allows you to relate to them. and even though it’s a period show, there is a contemporary feel to it.

What was it like filming in Malta?

It was a nice backdrop for the first instalment of Sinbad. The weather was great and the locals were very interested in what we were doing.

What was it like filming on green screen?

It was very strange at times. acting against nothing takes some getting used to and forces you to think outside the box. You really need to use your imagination.

Which is your favourite monster from the series?
?The water monster – Sha’Maa

What is your most memorable moment from filming?

Filming the water scenes in episode four. I felt a great sense of achievement, conquering my fear of swimming.

What is the worst bit of advice you have ever been given?

I can’t remember. It was probably so bad, that I totally ignored it and eradicated it from my memory banks.

Why should people watch Sinbad?

It’s a great family show, full of swashbuckling fun. I think it will appeal to a wide audience because there is something for everyone.

What has it been like working with Sky? And what does it mean to have another big producer of UK drama on the scene?

Working with sky has been a great experience. It is always refreshing to work with people who have fresh ideas and who are willing to take risks. I definitely think sky has and will shake up the uk television viewing experience.

What are your favourite types of show to watch with your friends and family?

The list is endless and it also depends on who I’m watching with I love drama, action, comedy, romance and psychological thrillers. I’m really into the new american series suits and I’m about to jump on the Mad Men bandwagon.

What three things would you take with you for a long voyage on The Providence?

My iPod. My kindle. and a voyage supply of Jacobs crackers. sorted.

Sinbad will sail into living rooms across the UK on 8 July on Sky One and Sky One HD.

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