HORSE POWER

Tom Cullen had to get in shape quick smart for his ac­tion-filled lead role in Knight­fall, in­clud­ing mas­ter­ing the bru­tal art of medieval war­fare

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY - SEANNA CRONIN

Tom Cullen cuts down foes with one fa­tal swing of his sword in the medieval drama Knight­fall, but the ac­tor ad­mits he wasn’t any­where near bat­tle ready when he ac­cepted the lead role in the se­ries.

“When I got the job, I looked like a mix be­tween a ger­bil and a Christ­mas pud­ding,” he says.

“I wasn’t in the best shape. I had to go to the gym for about two months lead­ing up to the show just to get my­self into a phys­i­cal con­di­tion where I looked like a guy who had been fight­ing in war since he was 11.

“The cos­tume weighed 23kg and I put on about 14kg of mus­cle. Then we had to learn to fight and ride horses. It was a re­ally fun process.”

The se­ries re­counts the fall and per­se­cu­tion of the Knights Tem­plar, as or­ches­trated by King Philip IV of France.

The cast and crew faced a race against the clock after fire de­stroyed most of the sets at Bar­ran­dov Studios in the Czech Repub­lic.

“They built medieval Paris in the big­gest back­lot in Europe. The sets were just ex­tra­or­di­nary,” Cullen says.

“It all burned down while we were shoot­ing our sec­ond block out on lo­ca­tion ... but in­cred­i­bly we didn’t stop film­ing. The writ­ers had to go back to the room and reeval­u­ate and change the scripts, which isn’t ideal, but we car­ried on shoot­ing, and they re­built the sets and we went back and reshot all the things we were miss­ing.

“De­cem­ber was a crazy month run­ning three units at once. I was do­ing 18 to 19-hour days for 21 days straight, but we got there and we fin­ished it. It bonded us all to­gether and cre­ated a uni­fied front.”

Knight­fall fol­lows the Knights Tem­plar 15 years after the siege of the holy city of Acre, dur­ing which the Holy Grail is lost. Spread across Europe, the or­der is a shadow of what it once was.

Cullen plays Landry, a knight thrust into the po­si­tion of Mas­ter and Com­man­der of the Paris Tem­ple after his men­tor God­frey’s as­sas­si­na­tion.

“Landry is some­one who’s al­ways ral­lied against au­thor­ity,” he says.

“He’s a mav­er­ick, head­strong kind of guy but he’s a nat­u­ral leader and peo­ple re­spect him.

“He’s thrust into this po­si­tion of power which he hates and doesn’t want to be in.

“He has to work out what a leader is, and he makes huge mis­takes dur­ing that process, but he starts to grow into the role through­out the se­ries.” Knight­fall pre­mieres tonight at 8.35pm on SBS

Tom Cullen and Olivia Ross in a scene from new TV se­ries Knight­fall, which screens on SBS.

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