History's newest scripted drama Knightfall is as concerned with authenticity as anything, and it went so far as to put its actors in 50-pound costumes to achieve that goal. The new series, produced in conjunction with Jeremy Renner's The Combine production company, premieres next week and is very much in the vein of the network's current hit Vikings, in that it aims to give audiences as authentic an experience as it can, as series lead Tom Cullen learned during production.
The former Downton Abbey star plays Landry, a Templar Knight in Paris questing for the Holy Grail 15 years after it was presumably lost during the fall of Acre in the Holy Land. And although Landry and his Templar brethren are no longer actively engaged in the Crusades, that doesn't mean they aren't in need of their full uniforms – chainmail and all.
During a recent conference call with Cullen, the actor described his initial surprise at the detail of the Templar's costumes and how he was initially concerned that their weight would impact his performance. Soon, however, Cullen realized the heft of the costume actually added a great deal of authenticity to his and the other actors performances. Cullen said:
"Our costume designer, Diana Cilliers, was amazing. I remember the first time we did our screen test, which is where you put on the costume in front of camera and you kind of like pose and walk around, so they can see what it looks like on camera with the makeup and the hair and all of that kind of stuff. And I remember putting the costume on, the chainmail and everything, and it weighed 50 pounds, which was like an insane amount of weight. And I struggle d to walk down the corridor to get to the studio to do the screen test.
And I was like, 'Guys, why is the costume so heavy? How are we supposed to move and fight in this?' And the answer was that Diana tried out lighter material such as plastics and other materials but they just didn't look authentic. And so they put us in the most authentic costume that they could and we just had to deal with it. And we got bigger and we got stronger, and so very quickly we were able to run and jump, get on horses in the 50-pound costumes and do everything that we needed to do to play our parts.
But, you know, you can see the difference in way that the costumes move and the way that your body moves in them. It's just authentic and I think it makes for a very real experience when watching the show."
So it basically comes down to the actors initially suffering for their art, and coming out the other side (literally) stronger because of it. Apparently running around, swinging a sword in a 50-pound costume has quite the impact on one's physique, which, along with making the series seem more authentic, makes for a nice upside for those involved.
It also stands to reason that fans looking for a particular viewing experience will get what they're hoping for with this new Templar Knight drama, as History looks to score another hit to air alongside it's other long-running historical fiction drama, Vikings.
Knightfall premieres Wednesday, December 6 @10pm on History.