Saturday an all-new episode of A Discovery of Witches
premieres on AMC+, Shudder, and Sundance Now in the U.S. The third season of the series is based on the final book in the All Souls
trilogy by Deborah Harkness, The Book of Life
. In the television series, Steven Cree portrays vampire Gallowglass de Clermont.
Cree was unfamiliar with the book series when he first got the role, but once he found out there was a such a large fan base, he did feel some pressure. “The expectations for Gallowglass were huge,” said Cree during an exclusive interview with Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision, “and the Internet was littered with the book fans’ dream casting, and it was all people who were about five feet taller than me and incredibly muscular, because his physicality's mentioned in the book a lot. So, I was aware that people had a very, very strong image of who he was.”
Getting it right was important to the actor. “I absolutely just wanted to do the best job that I could whilst also trying to service the fan base as well, because none of these shows are anything without the fan base.”
It was that physical part of Gallowglass that the actor had a difficult time with as well as getting into shape for the role. It however, gave him focus for the character and helped him get it right. “With that kind of focus, it kind of bleeds into your playing of the character, because I always felt it was important for me to try and represent the physicality of Gallowglass as well as the mentality. It was a tricky…[balancing] being quite larger than life sometimes and almost bombastic, but also, he can be very sensitive and soulful and quiet. Then, also, he can be this kind of fierce warrior as well.”
The actor added that the elaborate sets and costumes are also a big help getting into character. “[P]articularly on genre-type jobs like A Discovery of Witches
,” said Cree, “I feel like 90% of my work is done. By the time I get my costume on and by the time you're on the set…so much of that world is created for us by the incredible set designers, the costume designers, the makeup designers, and everyone involved in the look of the show.”
During the interview, Cree also talked about how Gallowglass having a secret this season affected the way he played the character in an interesting way. “[A]s an actor, when you have a character who's got a secret like that, it means that in every single scene you're in, whether you've got dialogue, whether you don't have dialogue, wherever you're doing, there's always something you can be playing or thinking about, and it informed how I felt or how I played almost every scene.”
For more from the interview, including how he originally auditioned for Hamish on A Discovery of Witches
, what costume piece he added to his character, and much more, as well as a bit about his role in the film The Twin
, check out the full transcript below. Be sure to catch all-new episodes of the final season of A Discovery of Witches
on AMC+ or it’s affiliated networks.
SCIFI VISION: How familiar were you with the books and with the show when you first got the role?
I wasn't familiar with the books at all, but I knew of the show, partly because I had auditioned for the role of Hamish in season one, but then, around about that same time, I got cast in a movie. So, whether there was any interest in me for Hamish, I've got no idea, but I think…that worked out perfectly. Greg [McHugh] is great as Hamish, and I love playing Gallowglass.
I remember noticing that Matthew Goode had been cast in it. So, when I got the part, I watched season one and then did a bit of research and of course found though that, you know, when it's a book, you can find out the rough trajectory of the story and of that character, and when I read the throughline for Gallowglass, I thought it sounded like a fascinating and growing character.Okay, well, I was gonna ask you if you read it, but I guess that answers my question.
I did. In the end I did. I've read all the books.
Once you found out about the books, did you feel any pressure knowing that it had such a huge fan base?
Yes. Yes, I felt enormous pressure. I've actually never felt pressure like that before, because the only other big book to TV adaptation I'd done was Outlander
, and when I got Outlander
, I really didn't know that much about it at all, and I didn't look into it as much. I wasn't on social media; I wasn't aware of the reaction, really, to my being cast. And I think the role that I had in Outlander
, even though he's a popular character in the books, is a very, very, very, very different ballgame from Gallowglass. The expectations for Gallowglass were huge and the Internet was littered with the book fans’ dream casting, and it was all people who were about five feet taller than me and incredibly muscular, because his physicality's mentioned in the book a lot. So, I was aware that people had a very, very strong image of who he was…Listen, you're never going to be able to make everyone happy all of the time, but I absolutely just wanted to do the best job that I could whilst also trying to service the fan base as well, because none of these shows are anything without the fan base. So, yeah, I absolutely felt the pressure but also, once you're on set, you just have to do the best that you can and the rest of it's out of [your] hands.What has been maybe the hardest part of the character to connect with for you?
Well, I don't know if this is necessarily the hardest part to connect with, but one of the hardest parts, and purely from a physical point of view, was a getting into the necessary physical shape for him in season two. Then particularly, in season three, when I tried to ramp up, it required a lot of time in the gym, a lot of time eating the right foods, a lot of time restricting myself from eating my favorite foods, like Ben and Jerry's, and anything with chocolate on it. So, that purely was pretty hard but also give me a great focus. And with that kind of focus, it kind of bleeds into your playing of the character, because I always felt it was important for me to try and represent the physicality of Gallowglass as well as the mentality. It was a tricky, but I remember, before I started in season two, I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to get across the balance I think he has of being quite larger than life sometimes and almost bombastic, but also, he can be very sensitive and soulful and quiet. Then, also, he can be this kind of fierce warrior as well. You kind of just have to trust that the script is going to help you get that across as well.Can you talk a bit about working on such elaborate sets and with the costumes and everything, because that must really help to get into character?
A hundred percent. I always say, particularly on genre-type jobs like A Discovery of Witches
, I feel like 90% of my work is done. By the time I get my costume on and by the time you're on the set, as long as I can say the words in the correct order and hopefully add something to it, so much of that world is created for us by the incredible set designers, the costume designers, the makeup designers, and everyone involved in the look of the show. We saw that hugely in season two, I think. When they created the Elizabethan backstreets, genuinely, when we walked on to it, you were like, “Wow!” And in particular, I think it was episode seven in season two, when we go to Prague, I was blown away by that set. There’re so many details that when you walk around the set, so many little details that you see that are never going to get picked up on camera. It just makes it so much easier for you to imagine that you're in that world. As you'll see as season three goes on, it's exactly the same in season three, even moreso, even more impressive, perhaps, because we were hindered by COVID, so they had to be even more imaginative, I guess.That was my other question. How did COVID protocols affect the filming, especially filming the last season? I would think it probably made leaving even harder.
It definitely did. It was a mixed bag, because at that point, we were one of the first big TV productions that went into production during COVID. So, purely from an employment point of view, I was just really, really grateful that I had a job again, because when the pandemic really kicked off, we didn't know what was going to happen with our industry at all. So, we were just happy. I was certainly just happy to be back on a set, but we were meant to film in France, Italy, and Spain. That couldn't happen, of course, so we just had to film in various locations around England and Wales and use the sets as much as we could. Obviously, with all the COVID protocols as well, there wasn't [any] socializing...[As] actors, obviously, we're in a bubble, but you couldn't mix with the crew in the same way, which was sad, because that's one of my favorite things on jobs, the social aspect of it and speaking to the crew and just creating this kind of family. But, listen, [they did] such a fantastic job of making it all work that you very quickly can just adapt to it and get on with it. Were you given anything or did you take anything from the set before you left?
No, I didn't, actually, and I rarely do that, but on this one, I actually brought something to the character. I did a movie four years ago called Outlaw King
with Chris Pine and Florence Pugh, and my character was meant to have have a kind of Nordic ancestry, and I had this little rope with a kind of anvil hammer on it, and you never saw it. So, I asked if I could add it to my costume for Gallowglass, because I felt like it really fit him, and actually, it's very, very visible in A Discovery of Witches
. But now, as I'm talking about it, I actually can't remember where it is. So, I might have lost it.Is there anything this season that's from the book that you're looking forward to people seeing? Or maybe not from the book, but just something that maybe you're allowed to tease for this season?
Yes. You know, Gallowglass is harboring secrets this season which, for me, [was] something really interesting to play from the very beginning, because, as an actor, when you have a character who's got a secret like that, it means that in every single scene you're in, whether you've got dialogue, whether you don't have dialogue, wherever you're doing, there's always something you can be playing or thinking about, and it informed how I felt or how I played almost every scene.Now, a silly question. If they were real, would you rather be a vampire, a daemon or a witch?
A vampire. A vampire, definitely. I mean, it's probably the obvious answer since I played one, but I have always been a big history buff, so getting to experience history firsthand through your own eyes as it's going in front of you would be pretty fascinating, I think, unless it's history as it's happening right now, which is not as fascinating.True. Somebody asked me to ask if there're going to be any bloopers. I don't know if you even know that, but I'll ask you anyway. Do you know if there will be?
I've got no idea, and I'm trying to think what big bloopers there were, actually, but no, I can't think [of any].That's okay; I just figured I'd ask. The other question I got from fans is, when is your movie, The Twin, going to be released, and what was it like working again with Teresa [Palmer] after the fact?
I think the release date is roughly around April or May, but that's not set in stone at all. I genuinely don't know, but I think that's the aim for it. It'll depend on festivals. It's actually going out on Shudder as well.
And it was great working with Teresa again. The great thing about working with somebody that you know already is you've got an immediate kind of firsthand [experience]. You don't have any barriers to break in the same way, but it was also entirely different, because of our roles. If you watch our roles in The Twin
, we play husband and wife in The Twin
, and certainly the characters are so different from A Discovery of Witches
that actually the dynamic between us was entirely different, which I think at first was kind of odd, because we'd literally finished A Discovery of Witches
a month before. Then, you're playing these two other characters who have totally different feelings about each other, and that took a bit of adjusting to, I think.