A couple of weeks back scifipulse was invited to phone conference with some of the cast and crew of Syfy Channel’s forthcoming Peter Pan prequel ‘Neverland,’ which will premier on 4 and 5 December.
During the chat SciFiPulse along with other blogs and media websites learned a little about the mini series and quizzed the actors about what drew them to their roles and what appealed to them about the project.
Below are some of the highlights from the conference, which ran for well over an hour.
In this show Anna Freil gets to play a role, which was created specifically for the story and when asked about growing up with the story of Peter Pan Freil revealed something really interesting about herself.
Anna Freil: I’ve grown up with the story. I’ve seen it in many versions and watched all the films and having a six year old daughter, encourage that much more cause she’s a musket fan. And I love the new take on this story and the introduction of a very new character. And Wendy was never my favorite and apart from her, there were never any female roles to be offered in this wonderful story so I was very grateful to Nick for creating one.
Freil plays Captain Elizabeth Bonny, who gets her hooks into James Hook and is pretty much what tips him over the edge into a life of piracy.
Rhys Ifans gets to play James Hook and when asked about the sword fighting in the series. Rhys revealed that the physical demands of the role did not come naturally to him.
Rhys Ifans: I’d kind of done it many years ago in drama school and there were several injuries so I wasn’t – I wasn’t a great swordsman but I guess (unintelligible) it was really exciting to fight Anna and Charlie. It’s quite a fill and, initially it took some time to pick it up again but as the shoot went on, rehearsal times got less and less and less. So it’s more of a dance than a combat.
Neverland was written as a prequel to Peter Pan by Nick Willing, who has a fairly good track record when it comes to writing mini series for Syfy. So when asked why he chose to do this as a prequel to Peter Pan. Willing gave the following insightful answer.
Nick Willing: I was interested in the genesis and how it is that a boy doesn’t want to grow up and I was interested in how it is that it ended up in a place called Neverland and what that was and why there were pirates and fairies and Indians there. I was just – when I read the book I loved it so much that my imagination ran wild and I kind of wanted to know more of the facts behind the story and I thought that would make quite an intriguing movie.
The role of Peter Pan in this series is played by Charlie Rowe, who by all accounts has proved to be a really good choice for the part and quite the accomplished up and coming young actor. During the conference he was asked how became involved and he revealed that it was thanks to him having done a little work with Nick Willing on a prior occasion.
Charlie Rowe: I worked with Nick a long time ago on my very first job when I was nine and so the minute I heard that he was directing and he’d written this, I was – I just wanted to get involved so originally I was going up for the part of Fox, Peter’s best friend. And I went out for that and I wasn’t too keen on it.
And then I read the script and I was like mum, I just really want to go out for Peter and then the next day Nick called and was like I want you to go for Peter. And so that was just absolutely amazing and I got the part eventually and I’m so glad I did.
When asked about the process of casting for the mini series Nick Willing revealed that he had very strong ideas about who he wanted for the key roles in the series.
Nick Willing: I wrote – the part of Hook I really wanted Rhys from the beginning. And even when that – because the thing about Rhys is that he’s one of the few actors that is incredibly powerful and imposing on the screen but at the same time shows a certain vulnerability.
And Hook to me – if Hook as villainy could seem vulnerable, that would be cool I thought. And so I kind of had in my mind this tall figure or Rhys I have to admit.
Anna too was – funny enough was also – I know it sounds weird but in fact, when I cast a movie, I always think who would be the best person and I just try and go for them and if I don’t – and if I get them, that’s fantastic. I’ve always been very lucky with this.
Bob Hoskins too I thought I’d love – I mean because I’ve seen him obviously in Spielberg’s version. To me he was the embodiment of Smee. I couldn’t think of – I couldn’t get him out of my head when I was writing and I always imagined that he’d be perfect for Smee and indeed he said yes. I mean I was – so I kind of got three hits.
And then with Charlie, I’ve just told you that story. It turned out to be perfect. So we were very, very lucky or at least I was very lucky to get all the people I kind of dreamed of and it’s proved to be, you know, true.
I mean one of the things about making this film was that it was quite a collaborative process in all. You know, you’ve got to get the right people – there’s a little kind of team and working with these actors is perhaps one of the better experiences I’ve ever had.
As mentioned earlier a new character in this mini series is Captain Elizabeth Bonny and when asked about her Nick Willing and Anna Friel were more than happy to discuss her creation and what her place is in the story.
Nick Willing: Very briefly Captain Bonny is an incredibly beautiful, vivacious rather nasty, slightly twisted and irresistible captain of the Jolly Roger. You probably think that the captain of the Jolly Roger was Michael James Hook but no. It’s – it is actually this rather extraordinary woman.
And to find out why it is that she is the captain of the Jolly Roger and how it is that Hook becomes eventually its captain, you have to watch our movie because our movie is about how it is that all these people became the people we know and love; it’s a prequel.
And – but Anna – I have said that Anna does it – does an amazing job of bringing her to life. Incredible. And one of the roles of Captain Bonny in our film is to be the conduit, the trigger for liberating Hook from the repressed Edwardian gentlemen that he starts out as.
Anna Friel: And let me just say about the Captain. She was a woman who’d been stuck on a ship with the same 20 men or 25 men; however many – so two per 100 years or more. And when Captain Hook arrives he’s like a God that’s come from the sky and she wants all his knowledge.
She’s a very smart woman and has a great understanding of astrology and I think makes a great captain but she becomes instead greedy and wants more and more and more and I think doesn’t want to go back to her old life because she won’t have the power that she’s discovered being in Neverland.
And I’ve just become fascinated with female pirates. I think it’s a more fantastic thing today. If I could go back in history and be anyone, I’d be a captain of a ship. Thanks very much.
When quizzed about how different the relationship is between Hook and Peter Pan in the mini series. Both Nick Willing and Rhys Ifans provided some pretty valuable insights about where the characters start off and where they could end up.
Nick Willing: Well Hook is – for me I was interested in – I mean maybe I should pass this to Rhys because I know he will say it better than I could possibly say it but I was interested in Hook as a boy also – as a character with a sort of Peter Pan syndrome who had yet to grow up.
And the relationship between him and Peter who looks up to him and wants to be like him and who admires him enormously as a role model. And how in the gradual deterioration of that friendship – that relationship and friendship because Hook wants things that aren’t always right for the world and for Peter and how that relationship damages Peter to the point where he is the boy who doesn’t want to grow up.
That to me seemed like quite a good story to tell. And it seemed like a modern story to tell. I mean I suppose it’s universal. It will always be told. But the idea that we aren’t always initiated in the way that we should be as men.
That about it. What do you think?
Rhys Ifans: Yes. It is. I think from what both Hook and Peter are presented with when they arrive in Neverland is the prospect of eternal life. And when you see him is in many ways a lost boy but a grown man. And it was just interesting to explore what, you know, the offer of eternal life does to a boy and what the offer of an eternal life does to a man.
I think it makes a man greedy because a man is closer to death than a child. So eternity to a child offers goodness and eternal life to a man is essentially corrupting because it involves a certain amount of vanity I think to embrace it.
Anna Friel: And has any story ever before explained why Hook despises Peter so much. I don’t think it has. That’s what fascinated me with the script is that you get the story before. Which therefore lies the prequel. Why does this man hate this boy so much? In this case, he doesn’t hate him. He’s just very torn.
I think it’s a great arrival at the story that we all know. That’s what I found most fascinating is – is that you cleverly did Nick. Is giving that back story of what was the path between them and you’ve created that really beautifully.
Rhys Ifans: It’s something that works on very – on a very modern level, you know. To, you know, father – son relationships and also the way that Hook grew up in a very, repressed, sexually repressed Edwardian society and what Captain Bonny offers him is total and utter sexual liberation. And when you give that to a man, everything else falls by the wayside, including their friends sometimes.
Neverland will premier on December 4 and 5 on Syfy Channel in the USA.
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