It almost seems like common practice nowadays for a new television show to announce it has three, four, or five seasons of story mapped out, along with an unforgettable ending. That’s not the case for History’s new scripted drama Knightfall, which premieres next week. Although the series has an idea of where it would like to go in future seasons, series star Tom Cullen says that the show’s writers and producers are willing to let its story evolve and change.
In addition to plenty of political intrigue and warfare, Knightfall concerns the Templar Knights search for the Holy Grail after the fall of Acre, the Templar’s last stronghold in the Holy Land. That search and all the trappings that come along with the Templar’s various machinations could easily extend beyond the 10-episode first season.
As Cullen discussed during a recent conference call, Knightfall plans to make use of actual Templar history as scaffolding for the narrative involving the main character of Landry, his fellow knights, as well as the intrigue surrounding medieval Paris, but the real story will be determined by the needs of the characters the most.
“We love the show and we really hope that we can continue making it for as long as possible because we’re a real family and we’re very, very proud of it and we love making it. There’s also still a lot of the Templar history that has yet to be told. We have an idea of where the show will go and where it will take us. But what actually happens is that while you’re making a show it becomes this dialogue that happens between the writers, the actors, directors, the costume designers, the art director, the production designer, makeup artists, etc. where you’re constantly kind of feeding into this pot which is the show.
And it evolves and changes and moves in ways that you would never expect it to. It’s like a living organism but that surprises you. And so though we have an idea of where this is going, actually the truth is that we don’t in many respects. We have the structure of history and what actually happened which we have to stay with but in terms of the characters, and their fuels and wants and needs and how they navigate their way through that history is something that we’re constantly being surprised by with the characters. And that’s a really exciting place to work with.”
Cullen also said the he didn’t want to have his character’s path laid out for him, as it would have effected his performance in some way. He even added that the writers on the series prevented the actors from seeing scripts too far in advance to maintain an element of surprise. While that might just be a convenient way for the writers to cover up blown deadlines, all joking aside Cullen thought it added to the authenticity of his performance.
“And especially as an actor, I don’t want to know where the character is going because in life I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow or how it’s going to pan out. And so I can only be in the present and I can only make choices in the present, and so that’s what you want your characters to do. And so the writers actually withheld scripts from us and didn’t tell us what was happening later in this first season so that we could be surprised in the moments whilst we were making the episode, which is a really fantastic and authentic way to work.
And then once we get the script we kind of talk about them and collaborate on them. Dominic Minghella is an incredible showrunner. He is a force of nature and an amazing man and a brilliant writer, and he really values the actors’ input. And so he is always very good at fielding ideas and whether he takes them or not is up to him but it feels like a very collaborative process where everybody is feeding into it and we all have ownership over the show and that’s really exciting.”
So while the future of History’s newest scripted drama isn’t necessarily set, it sounds as though show’s creators are looking toward the future, but keeping their minds firmly in the present.
Knightfall premieres Wednesday, December 6 @10pm on History.
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