Joseph Morgan is juggling TV & movie projects at the moment moving from Immortals to hit show The Vampire Diaries.
Immortals has just been released on DVD & Blu-Ray and I caught up with the actor to talk about the role of Lysander as well as what lies ahead.
- Immortals has just been released on DVD so for anyone who has not seen the movie yet can you tell me a little bit about it?
It’s a story of Theseus, played by Henry Cavill, whose village is overrun by King Hyperion and the army that he is building. Hyperion is played by Mickey Rourke and he is scarring their faces and they are joining his army and turning to the side of evil.
So Theseus decides to make a stand against Hyperion after his mother is killed. My character is called Lysander and he is one of the soliders in Theseus’ village but after seeing how devastating the damage is that Hyperion’s army is doing he decides to get with the winning side.
He beheads two of his guards and takes them to Hyperion as a token of his loyalty - but it doesn’t all go to plan. It gets worse and worse for Lysander and he becomes the dog of the army at the bottom of the food chain. Eventually he has an opportunity to do one final thing that will redeem him slightly. So it is the age old struggle of good against evil.
- You take on the role of Lysander in the movie so what was it about the character and the script that drew you to the movie?
The utter wretchedness and hopelessness of the character to be honest with you - I think there is a certain liberation that comes with playing a part that is so utterly self-loathing.
The coolest moment for the character is when he is just about to join Hyperion and he realises that that is the decision that he has got to make, that is the highest point from him and from then on it gets worse and worse.
What really attracted me was that in a huge film like this, where there are lots of people, often characters just have little moments but this character really seems to have an arc and a journey and that was a huge part of it for me.
And then working with Mickey Rourke that is… (laughs) he was on my list as an actor that I wanted to work with before I got the job.
- So was he great to work with?
He was fantastic! He is a wonderful kind of crazy. There were a lot of people who were intimidated by him, you hear horror stories about everyone and you wonder ‘how will they be?’ But he was wonderful with me as he read off camera for me and he was open to talking about it all. He improvised a lot, which was great.
Tarsem told me ‘I’m going to just let Mickey go crazy with this part so just stay in character’. In one of the scenes he offers me a walnut and the whole scene becomes about this walnut and that was no where in the script. I was able to just go along with whatever was thrown at me and that was a wonderful challenge because I didn’t have to stick to the script so strictly.
- There was a very physical aspect for everyone involved in the movie so what sort of training did you do before hand?
My mate Luke Evans described it best, he was there a couple of weeks before me, and when I arrived he said ‘Listen it’s like a pack of animals here, we literally exercise and learn to fight and then they feed us, this protein and stuff. Then everyone sleeps one the mattresses around the place for twenty minutes and then gets up and trains again’.
So I had two weeks were we did all the fight training, we did some boxing; but mainly it was loads of exercising. I tried to do a bit before I got there just to get myself ready, and I am really glad that I did because it was really intense when I got there.
- Tarsem Singh was in the director's chair so how did you find working with him?
I absolutely loved him because he had such an energy and he is just running around and really excited about everything. He was such a ball of energy and I commented on it when I was there and he said that he is on set for about half the year and so he has to make it the most enjoyable thing possible - why do it if you don’t love it?
He is just cracking jokes and not taking everything too seriously, which is just crazy because of the size of the production… it reminded me of Alexander and I remember seeing Oliver Stone standing in the middle of a huge field of fake bodies laughing as everyone was desperately spraying fake blood and trying to get it all done before the sun went down. That laughing amongst the chaos Tarsem had a bit of that as well.
- During the shoot how much CGI and green-screen work did you have to do? And is that an aspect of modern day filmmaking that you enjoy?
What was wonderful for us, while there was a tremendous amount of green-screen, they actually built a lot of the sets; the village at the beginning of the film was built and then there was green-screen surrounding it.
Then what they did was they had two monitors and one of those monitors that had a technician showing us the perspective of what we were going to see; say you are looking out over the whole kingdom they showed us how far the shot was going to stretch and how it was going to look.
It’s new for me as this was my first movie that was shot completely in a studio, I never shot under the open sky, but it was a new experience and I had a great time. It is becoming more and more popular I think and I think that is good because the more types of movies there are the better.
- There is a real boys own feel to this movie so what was it like on the set? Was a fun movie to work on?
Oh yes, without a doubt. It was a really really good experience from beginning to end. I really love Montreal where we shot as it is an amazing city. I knew Luke Evans before we did the film and that was great because I had a familiar face on the set.
Henry was just the most wonderful and humble guy and completely great with the weight of something like that on his shoulders - he was always so relaxed about it. He is the perfect choice for Superman, who else can do it? I can’t think of anyone else who could do it. He is in tremendous shape and he looks exactly right so I am so thrilled about that.
It was just wonderful and, like I have said, the ultimate thing was getting to work with Mickey and live that dream.
- And are you working on any projects at the moment?
Yeah I am in Atlanta and I am shooting Vampire Diaries. I am playing the opposite of the food scale on this show; I am the character with the highest status and the most powerful; so I have switched from one end to another.
But it is great fun as I am playing the main villain on the show - I do a lot of tearing out hearts and breaking necks and things like that. So that is a tremendous amount of fun. I am a geek for all of these fantasy genre films and TV stuff so I love the opportunity to put in some fangs and play with that whole idea.
- Season 3 of The Vampire Diaries is in the middle of airing here in the UK so can you give us any little hints as to how we are going to see Klaus develop through to the end of the season?
We are going to start to see a little bit more of his humanity, we are not turning him good, but he is going to develop an attraction to a character in the show, so there is going to be a love interest introduced.
And because of that we are going to start to see a more caring and therefore a more vulnerable side to him. This is really interesting for me to play as I am not trying to change the character I am just trying to evolve it.
So I have got to build on top of all of these horrible things that he has done and all of the silent murders that he has committed. I need to build in the motive for that and how he can be vulnerable and how he justifies those two sides to him.
So it’s a really interesting challenge but I am really enjoying it. We have got some great writers on the show I have to say, which has been a blessing as they always keep me busy.
- There has been huge hype surrounding this series ever since the beginning so how have you found being part of such a massively popular TV series?
I didn’t realise when I joined how popular that it was. For me it has been huge, quite literally life-changing and I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that.
Even at The Immortals premiere there were so many Vampire Diaries fans and I think I answered as many question about the show as I did about Immortals, I suppose it didn’t help taking a couple of my co-stars along to the premiere.
It has just been so overwhelming, especially the social media side and the ever growing amount of Twitter followers.
It’s wonderful and I feel that I have really been given a chance to show what I can do and I’m so glad that people are responding to the character so positively because I am having the time of my life doing it.
- Throughout your career you have worked in both TV & movies with the likes of Ben Hur and The Vampire Diaries so how do you find the two mediums compare?
Until recently I thought that they were pretty similar but after doing Vampire Diaries the big difference is with TV there is such a strict time to meet, the show has to be forty two and a half minutes long. One thing I learnt was if you really draw out your speeches and speak slowly they are going to cut away from you because they don’t have the time to sit with you.
So I got to episode four of season three and I started thinking ‘there is a pattern here with what is happening’ because I am trained I love to taste my worlds and take my time. Then I started rattling things of a little more and being a little quicker and I know it sounds like a superficial thing ‘speak quicker’ but it is a real lesson in American television.
They have six ad breaks and everything is leading up to the hook at the ad break and it has all got to come together, it doesn’t matter if they haven’t got the perfect cut at forty five minutes they have got to cut off two and a half minutes somewhere - and you bet they will take it out of the pauses. So it really has been a learning experience.
- Finally what's next for you?
We have got the rest of The Vampire Diaries season 3, so I have to see if I am going to live through that. It’s the time where everyone is a little nervous as we are filming episode twenty, there are twenty two episodes, so somebody’s got to die - we are waiting for the scripts wondering who it is going to be.
And they are all plotting to kill me in the show so I am getting nervous every time I read it. If I don’t die I only have a few months free and then I am back again.
I am directing a shot film, which stars Persia White, and that is coming along great; we are well into pre-production for that and we are hoping to start shooting as soon as we finish. My aim is to take that to festivals and so on.
I have been reading other scripts and there are three that I am really interesting in so I am trying to see if I can fit a movie in if I am coming back to the show. So I am juggling at the moment basically (laughs).
Immortals is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw