Interview: Louis Hunter on BBC One's epic new drama, Try: Fall of a City.
A visceral retelling of the fall of Troy in eight parts, written by David Farr, whose award-winning adaptation of The Night Manager aired on BBC One in 2016.
Told from the perspective of the Trojan family at the heart of the siege, Troy: Fall Of A City is a story of a love that threatens to bring an empire to its knees. Combining thrilling adventure with heartbreaking intimacy, it explores primal emotions, the psychological repercussions of human actions and life-changing decisions amid the devastation and destruction of war.
What does this series do that might set it apart from previous adaptations of these stories?
I think if you’re going to tell an epic story you can fall into the trap of only showcasing the size of it all. We do show that, but the emphasis is on the characters and the more intimate side of these people's emotions and psychology - whether it's the Greeks and the tension waiting for their opportunity to pounce, or if it's up in the Palace of Troy, waiting for the royals to be able to eat, to be able to feel safe once again, to be able to look after their people.
Every character has their own motives, every character has a fully fleshed out world going on inside their heads. We’re able to do it justice and tell it fully over the course of eight episodes, which you just can’t do with a two-hour movie, for example. Here we can give each key character their due, and I think that is the benefit of telling this story in this medium.
How would you describe Troy: Fall Of A City to someone not familiar with the story?
It's an epic story, distilled into something that is modern and relevant, with so many universal themes to appeal to everyone, whether that is falling in love, whether it's family, whether it's having or losing power, whether it's war, revenge. It’s a classic that has it all, and it's a cornerstone of western literature for a reason: these things hold up.
Tell us about Paris.
His existence at the beginning of the show is very basic - it's about the fundamentals of survival, it's about food, shelter, water. It's as basic as it gets, but then he discovers something extraordinary about himself and suddenly his life becomes a whole lot more complex. Quickly he must become more aware of his new responsibilities, and the major way in which actions can affect the rest of the world.
I think he always felt as if there is greater purpose waiting for him, but he’s not sure what it is, so when it is suddenly thrust upon him it takes time to adjust to that. Like anyone who has a lot of power put upon their shoulders or is suddenly put in the spotlight, really. Perhaps more so than any character in this story, we see Paris go on an almighty journey across these eight episodes.
What is it that Paris sees in Helen?
I think he sees a lot of himself in her. At the beginning of the series he’s suddenly in this new world, and even though he becomes fond of his new family over time and becomes part of them in a real way, at the beginning he doesn’t really understand them. They are aliens to him. Everything about them is foreign to him and he doesn't feel like he belongs.
But at the same time there is no escaping it: it is his fate, he has to be a part of this family and he can’t just run away from his new-found life and fame. However, he thinks that there is a possibility he can save Helen from hers. Maybe he can’t break out of his own jail, but he could break her out of her jail. And of course on a more primary level he is incredibly attracted to her and wants to be with her in his new life.
As well as the emotional journey Paris goes on, it’s an incredibly physical role. What new skills did you pick up?
Well I’d never been out on a horse before I got to South Africa to film this, scout's honour! But I think we can surprise ourselves with how fast we can learn something when we do it every day, consistently for many hours a time. I think I had a bad experience with a horse when I was five or six years old that made it a little troublesome to get me on a horse for a few years after that, but they’ve always been beautiful animals to me so I was looking forward to getting on and learning how to do that for this series.
And in terms of sword fighting - that was new to me too. I did some dance when I was younger, and I think there are aspects to sword fighting which is like learning to dance. It’s almost like a dance with an unwilling dance partner. The sword fights we learned are so elegant and intricate, there’s almost a beauty to them. Being taught how to do it all safely by the stunt team was so inspiring - they're one of the best stunt teams you could work with. They did Mad Max: Fury Road, which in my opinion is one of the best action films in the decade, so we were in good hands with them. I enjoyed every second of it - the sword fighting, the archery, the horse riding, all of it. I loved it.
Episode one will air on Saturday 17 February at 9.10pm on BBC One.