Warning: contains a major spoiler for Skins series four.
Luke Pasqualino arrived on our screens in 2009 as Freddie McClair, beautiful stoner teen and doomed paramour of Kaya Scodelario’s Effy Stonem in E4’s Skins. Since then, he’s dipped into his Italian heritage in The Borgias, played a young Bill Adama in now-defunct Battlestar Galactica prequel Blood and Chrome, and can currently be seen on BBC One on Sunday nights as impetuous young swordsman D’Artagnan in adventure series, The Musketeers.
We chatted to Pasqualino about his role in the new BBC series, his forthcoming part in the much-anticipated Snowpiercer from director Joon Ho Bong, and how one sets about measuring up to Edward James Olmos. What’s more, we made it through the entire interview without singing him the Dogtanian and The Three Muskahounds theme song. That, readers, takes self-restraint…
We’ve been enjoying The Musketeers a great deal so will get on to that, but first of all there’s one thing we at Den of Geek really envy you for.
Presumably, you’re one of the few people in the UK who’ve actually seen Joon Ho Bong’s Snowpiercer?
No! I haven’t actually. I haven’t. I’m still waiting to see that, believe it or not, but I’ve heard good things about it so fingers crossed it’s going to be as good as people say. I saw a couple of the playbacks when we were actually filming but I haven’t seen anything cut together at all.
We’ll take the jealousy down a notch then. Can you tell us about your experience working with Joon Ho Bong on the film?
Incredible, absolutely amazing. When I found out I’d been offered the part I sought out some of his other movies like Mother and Memories of Murder and The Host, all of which I really liked, so I found out what his style was about and spoke to a couple of the other cast about it and what they thought. We worked up a really nice dynamic on it. Bong is so open and willing to take your thoughts on board, he’s a real gentleman to work with really. The Koreans are a very fun people to work with too, I hadn’t had any experience working with Korean people before so it was a completely new experience for me but I enjoyed it, it was fun.
We can’t wait to see it. It’s difficult to answer I suppose, as you haven’t seen the finished product, but did you feel when making it that it’s a film that wider audiences might struggle to grasp?
I don’t know. It is a tough question considering I haven’t seen it so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out completely but the script is based on a graphic novel so it’s already… I think it’s something that people will really enjoy. There’s something in there for everybody, there are different age gaps, there’s men, women, there’s love, hate, action, thrills. And in the talented hands of Bong, hopefully it’s going to turn out to be really good.
The reason I ask is that there’s been some grumpiness about the twenty-minute edit that the Weinstein company has made to the film, something that may be behind its delayed release over here and in the US. Appreciating that no young actor with a career ahead of him is going to criticise Harvey Weinstein if they have any sense…
But I wondered if you’d followed all that, and if so, what the perspective was from the cast?
Any project that you shoot, it’s never going to be completely finished the way that… I don’t think I’ve ever worked on anything where every scene has been kept in the order that it was originally in, or that it hasn’t been cut down in some way.
Obviously, the Korean market is very different to the American and British markets and obviously Harvey Weinstein – like you say – you can’t really argue with him, he knows what he’s doing and his accolades speak for themselves. I have complete trust in him and everybody else and I’m sure it’s still going to be a great movie whether it’s got the twenty minutes in or out.
Fingers crossed. Let’s talk about John Hurt then. Most of your scenes in the film were with him.
Mr Johnno! Is that what you call him?
[laughing] Johnno, yeah.
What do you learn from a co-star like that?
It’s more a case of… I never really learnt too much just from talking to him. Obviously, he answered any questions that I had and he’s had fifty-two years of being a professional in the business – he started when he was twenty-two and he’s seventy-four this year – so it’s fifty-two years of pure experience. You just sit and watch a bloke that like on set, how he presents himself, how he gets himself prepared for scenes.
John’s just such a gent who really just has fun with it, and as long as you’re having fun with it, you’ve got no problem really. Sometimes actors tend to overthink a lot of things but with him I think instinct is the biggest thing really, he just really follows his gut and does whatever he feels is right. He’s always there to put his arm around your shoulder and say ‘Come on, you’re going to be alright, you’ll do this and do that’. We spent a lot of time together. For most of the movie I was pushing him around in a wheelchair and he’s great. Like I said before, fifty-odd years of experience is something, so you’ve got to trust that. It’s not like he’s had a bad career, is it?
Not at all. You’ve the head start on him a little bit then, if he only started acted at twenty-two. You were, what, eighteen?
Yeah, I started at eighteen, so I’ve got four years on him, a measly four years in comparison to Mr John Hurt!
You filmed Snowpiercer in the Czech Republic, which is where you were for The Musketeers.
Moving on to The Musketeers then, the writer, Adrian Hodges said about the main characters that there are enough anti-heroes on TV, and that there’s room for some old-fashioned, chivalric, romantic heroes. Is that your take on them?
Absolutely. We all knew what we were going in to before we started filming, so we all knew what Adrian was trying to get out from pen to paper and then to the screen. It’s not that there are enough anti-heroes, but there’s loads out there. We all trust Adrian in what he wants to do and were happy to go in the direction he set out, which is going to show more as the episodes progress.
Let’s talk about D’Artagnan then. Incidentally, have you seen The Princess Bride?
I have, a long time ago. Hugo Speer, who plays Treville on the show recently bought it for me on DVD so I need to watch it again.
What prompted him to buy it for you, was it because of that line you have in episode one?
Which line’s that?
Essentially, the bit when you go to confront Athos you say something like “My name is D’Artagnan of Lupiac in Gascony, you killed my father, prepare to die”? It’s like the Mandy Patinkin/Inigo Montoya line in The Princess Bride.
Oh okay. I can’t actually remember that bit. Hugo and I we were just talking about it and he recommended it as a good one to watch for a bit of preparation for this show, but I haven’t actually seen it for a long time so I need to get on with it and re-watch that.
That early scene though, the one where you fight all three Musketeers and confront Athos with “Fight me or die on your knees”, when you’ve already burst though that window and galloped around on horseback, all that derring-do stuff must be such a treat.
It is. It absolutely is. I was asked a little while ago which of the three Musketeers do I prefer doing scenes with, and I couldn’t answer it, because I enjoy doing scenes with all of them, not only the Musketeers but every member of cast we’ve got. My answer was really that it’s when all four of us Musketeers are doing a scene together that I’m happiest. We all get on like a house on fire. We’re like brothers on screen and off screen, and it shows, I hope.
Did you see that The Guardian newspaper called in a fencing expert to pass judgement on the swordplay in the show?
[sounding wary] No, I haven’t.
I can report that you did very well. Here’s what he said about you, “D’Artagnan is light on his feet and excellent at changing direction. He gets the gold medal from me”.
Oh wow, and he’s a fencing expert?
A British fencing champion-type man I think.
Oh wow, nice. Lovely, thanks for that.
Howard Charles [Porthos] said something interesting at The Musketeers press screening in December. He said that because of the costumes and the set and other actors, the four of you “get a lot for free” as one of the lead actors on this show, that it’s “easy to tell the truth”. Is that your experience too?
It absolutely is, yeah, definitely. The costumes, the sets, the locations, you do get a lot for free. It’s very easy to suspend your disbelief. I definitely couldn’t agree more with Howie there, he’s hit the nail on the head. If you do a scene yourself just walking down a road, but when it’s all of you guys together and you’ve got somebody else to look at in their glory – because you don’t really see what you look like yourself – but when you’re working with others you see them dressed up to the nines with swords hanging off every possible part of them, it’s very easy to suspend your disbelief.
Is there not a sense as an actor that you want to dial up your performance to stand out when you’re surrounded by all that, the costumes and period trappings, and your co-stars? Do you ever feel the need to do a bit more?
You get through a lot of that in rehearsal, everyone will put their ideas into play of what they feel should be done with the scene but really, it’s for the director to choose whether he feels like it needs to come up or it needs to come down to get the right balance. If I’ve got nothing to do in a scene and I need to be slightly more subtle in my performance there’s a reason for that, because there’s going to be someone else in the scene who’s going to be putting more oomph into what they’re doing. You can’t steal every scene. There are scenes in which you need to sit back and do a lot less, verbally, physically. So it’s at the discretion of the director to pick and choose who’s the focus of the scene. I think we’ve got a nice harmony.
You mentioned working with Hugo Speer, how was that reunion? The last time we saw you two together he was setting about you with a baseball bat in Skins?
I found out Hugo had got the role not long before we went in for our first ever read-through, so me and the boys were at Boot Camp and lots of exciting people were getting cast. When I found out Hugo had got it I was over the moon. I hadn’t actually spoke to him until the day of the read-through, I was walking around the BBC trying to find the rehearsal room and Hugo just popped up behind me and went ‘Luke! Hello mate, how’re you doing?’ and that was the first time we’d seen each other since 2009. Hugo’s just one of the boys, you know. I find it very hard to imagine how the show would have been without him actually.
No hard feelings about him murdering Freddie then?
None at all, none at all. Though I said to him at one point, ‘Maybe in series three of this, I’m going to kill you just to get my own back’ [laughing].
You’ve not yet shared many scenes with Peter Capaldi, are there some coming up?
Yes. There will be a few more as the series progresses. Peter has a lot of scenes with the King and the Queen and Hugo and Milady who are his circle, and obviously D’Artagnan isn’t a Musketeer yet so it would be weird for him to be interacting with the Cardinal one-on-one because it doesn’t make sense in the story. You do see a few scenes though, as the series progresses. I think it’s episode eight that you see more of those scenes coming in.
Are you a fan of Doctor Who?
I never was a Doctor Who fan. I watched my first full episode of it on Christmas Day because I knew Pete was coming into it for the regeneration, and I really enjoyed it, I was pleasantly surprised. I think he’s going to do justice to that role, he’s going to really, really nail it.
No doubt about that.
I’m sure it’s come up before, but there’s a neat connection between The Musketeers and Skins isn’t there? The Three Musketeers was the nickname of your group of friends on the show. There’s that great picture of Freddie, JJ and Cook dressed up with the swords. When did you first make that connection?
Yes. Absolutely. I made that connection when someone Tweeted the picture, probably about six or seven months ago now, and I saw it on Twitter and thought, I remember that! I just thought it was quite funny. It doesn’t really mean anything but it was quite funny.
Freddie was a great breakthrough role for you. Looking back, are you pleased now that you didn’t get the part of Tony, Nicholas Hoult’s role, that you auditioned for?
I am yeah. I think everything happens for a reason and I don’t think I was ready for it at sixteen years old. I was just about ready for it at eighteen. Just to have that couple years more experience under my belt really helped me. My first real acting job was Skins at eighteen years old and I just kind of grew into myself in those two years; I would have done terribly if I’d have got that job at sixteen. I think it was right to go to Nick Hoult.
What sort of offers did you get on the back of Skins?
A lot of comedy offers actually. I did Miranda. I did a movie called Love Bites. I’ve recently been in a comedy called Inside No. 9.
I watched that last night, it was really good.
Thank you very much. Different things have come in really off the back of Skins. You try to get your credits up and get as much experience as you can within the acting field. You read and go up for anything that’s coming your way really, it’s only now that I’ve been able to start making a few choices as to what you do and what you don’t want to do.
Can you tell us a bit about going over there and reading for parts. How does L.A. treat a young actor like yourself?
It depends what time you go. If you go now during the height of pilot season you’re treated, it’s like a cattle market, it really is, everybody just goes to every audition and you’re waiting around for a long time. You can go in to some reads and you don’t have much time, you’re not really given the time of day. It’s not a personal thing, they’ve got a lot of people to see and not a lot of time to see them in, so it’s nothing you can really take personally. When you’ve done a day of it, that beer at the end of the day tastes a hell of a lot better [laughs]. That’s where the theatre of dreams is, over in LA, it’s the land of opportunity for actors, and to go over there with a good team behind you and have a part you want to audition for really makes it a joy.
One job you did we were particular fans of was Battlestar: Blood and Chrome. You had a difficult task on your hands there, playing a young Edward James Olmos is no mean feat but you managed to hold your own.
Thanks. I really enjoyed that. I sent a self-taped audition over to the producers and the director, they flew me over for a screen test and then the day after the screen test, I got the offer, so between me sending my first tape and actually being in Vancouver I think it was about two weeks, so it was a really quick turnaround. Then when we got started, we were shooting a two-hour pilot in fifteen days so we had a week’s prep and then three five-day weeks of filming so there was a lot to do. We shot the whole thing on green screen, so there were never really any locations to worry about. Everything was shot on a sound stage.
How does that change what you have to do as an actor, the backgrounds being entirely digital?
It took me a good two or three days to get used to it and figure out how shooting on green screen worked, because you can’t see anything around you and have to really kind of use your imagination. When you’re in the plane and you have things flying above our heads and stuff, it’s a case of getting everyone looking at the same spot at the same time, which proved difficult at times, so we had to have a little laser pen or a tennis ball on the end of a stick. We got into the swing of it and it didn’t turn out too badly.
Had you had time to do the Battlestar box-set before you filmed it then?
No, my homework was watching Caprica, because ours was set in between Caprica and the Eddie James Olmos one, but I did want to speak to Eddie beforehand, so I got on the phone to him and had a little chat about whether he could give me any pointers. I didn’t want to take in too much because the age gap between the William Adama that I was playing and the William Adama that Eddie portrayed are two completely different ages, and at very different ages you’re a completely different person, so I didn’t want to take in too much but I did take his advice on board.
Advice from the master. What did he tell you?
He was telling me about what kind of a character William Adama is, that he’s going to grow up to be the General, lots of character stuff. He was telling me about how I should present myself, what to look out for, to try and hit these notes and those notes, so I took the technical stuff on board, but as far as character went, I tried to keep that as the twenty-one-year-old Adama.
Finally then, can you give us a tease about the coming episodes of The Musketeers. What’s coming up for viewers to look forward to?
I’ll give you a little bit of a run-down of this week’s episode. It takes us more into Santiago’s character [Cabrera, Aramis], and JJ Feild, who’s brilliant in the episode, plays a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder, who fought in the field with Aramis, and a lot of the past’s dark secrets come to a head. It’s a great episode.
Presumably D’Artagnan’s promise to kill the man who tried to hang Milady is going to come back and bite him eventually?
You’ll see the repercussions of that, yeah. You will see the repercussions of that, but that’s all I can say, I can’t say anymore!
Really, it’s what I’ve been saying all along, don’t expect the usual fairy tale Musketeers. There are lots of dark twists and turns, with every episode the series gets better, so stay tuned!
Luke Pasqualino, thank you very much!