His Dark Materials is the Dune of the TV world, which is to say: extremely selfish with its cast. As if His Dark Materials didn’t already have more than its fair share of charismatic talent in Season 1, they’ve gone ahead and added Andrew Scott to Season 2 of the epic fantasy series as Colonel John Parry. (Scott’s Fleabag boss and co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge will be voicing his character’s daemon, which, again: let other shows have some talent, would you?)
I jest, of course. It’s been one of 2020’s few joys to see the second season of this show come together because, in addition to getting all of the on-screen perks of such an amazing ensemble, we also get to hear all about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans our faves were up to while filming back in pre-COVID times. Speaking of which, Scott was on hand during a recent promotional panel for His Dark Materials Season 2 (which just launched on BBC in the U.K. and will launch on HBO in the U.S. next Monday) to talk about his experiences on set. We already knew from the SDCC at Home panel that Scott spent a lot of time with co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby in the series, but now we know what they were up to. Yes, filming His Dark Materials, but also singing show tunes between takes…
“A lot of the scenes that I’m in with Lin-Manuel Miranda are in a parachute, and it’s a small space and you’re going through a storm so they just throw buckets of water on you from five o’clock in the morning, on. The rest of the day. It goes on for days,” said Scott good-naturedly of the shooting conditions (at around the 27-minute mark in the below video). “It’s quite a weird atmosphere being in a green screen studio because you lose sense of time and light and all that kind of stuff. It is hard. So Lin and I just sang show tunes.”
Miranda and Scott weren’t the only ones getting in on the show tunes action. In a recent interview with EW, Miranda mentioned that Dafne Keen, who plays Lyra on the series, came to His Dark Materials already with some behind-the-scenes show tunes experience.
“Her other big project prior to this was Logan with Hugh Jackman,” said Miranda, “so she was very comfortable singing show tunes between takes. I dropped right into the Hugh Jackman track of her life. It was like, Oh, yeah, we’ll sing some Oliver! while we wait for the next set up.”
These days, a green screen is not an uncommon working condition for actors, especially when it comes to big-budget TV and film projects. For His Dark Materials, which features fantastical settings and also daemons, aka physical manifestations of a human’s soul that take the form of animals, actors have a bit more work to do when imagining what their character might be seeing.
“It can be quite weird and boring, actually, so you really do have to exercise your imagination because you’re sort of flying and you’re imagining that you’re looking at these great, big cities,” said Scott of the green screen experience. “Particularly, with the daemons, they have a thing called a ‘puppet pass,’ which is a take that you do with the puppets, so that the extraordinary puppeteers are able to go in. And, really, it’s very good for us actors because you can really imagine what way the daemons are going to behave and they’re really experts at what they do. And, you know, it’s all playfulness, so having a little puppet to act with is really fun.”