Australian actor Craig Horner returns this weekend to the lead role of Richard Cypher in the syndicated series Legend of the Seeker. Last week, while he was on a break in shooting, I spoke to Craig on the phone. In addition to being a terrific actor, Craig is also a great person and really fun to talk to. Don’t forget to read our interview with Craig’s co-star, Bridget Regan and check back on Monday when we share our thoughts on the second season premiere.
PCZ: Hey Craig, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
CRAIG HORNER: Hey,man, thanks.
PCZ: Congratulations on the second season.
CH: Thank you very much.
PCZ: To start off with, how do you feel about the progression of Richard over the course of the first season?
CH: I love where he’s going and the combination of the writers doing their thing, the writers kind of looking at my personality. When I started this show as an actor I knew I had twenty-two one hour episodes to develop a character and it was great. We start him off as literally this innocent farm boy, he just has no idea what magic is or anything like that. He doesn’t want anything to do with it, but has good personal qualities that when any kind of situation is thrust upon him he can use his morals, I guess you could say, to attack the situation and rise to the challenge. So, I used those twenty-two episodes to really go let’s start him at zero and end him at hero so that when we start season two he can just jump straight into it and be ready for whatever. He’s a man now and his challenge starts straight off in the first episode of season two as he gets, literally, the D’Haran army, the guys he’s been fighting, saying you have to lead us now because you’re the next Lord Rahl. He’s now, like, leading armies of both forces to try and fight an even greater force, which is the Keeper, basically the devil if you will.
PCZ: Yeah, you guys go from celebrating your victory right into you’re the brother of Rahl, you have this huge army and the forces of darkness are rising.
CH: I know, right? I mean, gosh, man, do we ever have a day where we’re just chilling out? (laughs)
PCZ: In the premiere, though, Richard does kind of turn his back on owning Rahl’s army. Does that come back into play later?
CH: (pause) I can’t tell you too much…actually, to be honest, we’re only shooting episode eleven right now and I’ve kind of gone off on a solo journey to kind of embrace Richard’s wizard powers that are coming through him. Right now that’s important because I’m getting these incredible headaches that wizards get when they stop feeling their powers. Mine are unbearable and I will die if I don’t get them controlled. I’ve actually left Kahlan and Zed for a little while and Richard’s learning to grow as a wizard.
PCZ: Interesting. Now how has it been adding a new member to the cast this year.
CH: It’s cool. Us three, Bridget, Bruce and me, our characters are so wholesome, they’re the good guys. Now they have this girl who has her own agendas, she’s like, “I don’t care about any of you, I’m only here because I’m sworn to serve Richard. I’ll die fighting for him, but I don’t like any of you and I’m not ashamed to say it.” And that kind of good versus bad mix in the main group of heroes is really, really good to have because you’ll always have conflict and, let’s face it, conflict makes good TV.
PCZ: Had you read any of Terry Goodkind’s books prior to starting the series?
CH: Yes, when I was gearing up for my final audition for the role of Richard I read Wizard’s First Rule. It was my friend who put me on to it actually. When I told him I was audition for what at the time was called Wizard’s First Rule, he was like, “Oh my god, I love that book and the others that follow! You’ve got to get this role, you’d be a great Richard, please read it.” So, I read the book before I had the job. But then once I got the job I had about six weeks before we started shooting and I was in New Zealand the whole time and we had time to do horse training and fight training and, basically, we didn’t have a script so we could just read the book to get our characters down. Now I’m just on the second book because we’re kind of following the second book in the main arc, we’re on the search for the Stone of Tears and that’s essentially the second book. We don’t want to just go verbatim, you know?
We’re bringing Cara in now, Cara doesn’t come in until later in the book series. We’re bringing her in now to take Richard to the Palace of the Prophets at some stage, we might do it earlier, we might do it later than it happens in the books. To be honest, I think that’s the best way you can do it. I know a lot of people said, “It’s got to be an exact replica of the book and if not I don’t want anything to do with it.” I think the fans of the book would want to see something different, I’m a fan and I do. I want a surprise. I don’t want to be like, “Oh, I remember when this happens, that means in the next episode he does this…yeah, that’s kind of boring, I don’t really want to see that.” Also, you look at Star Wars and when those first three films came out it wasn’t long after that you had books, novels by completely random writers, you would have comic books and your own fan fiction, you would have video games. It doesn’t matter, you pick up a Star Wars book and you know what a lightsaber is, you know what a Jedi is and you’re away. You can just have these different adventures, so, why not do that?
PCZ: And it seems like if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to be able to put your own stamp on it.
CH: Totally. I mean, let’s face it, 95% of our viewers won’t have read the book, that’s just the truth, ok? First of all ,why stress out about catering to 5% of the population? Second of all, you’re talking about 2.5% of that 5% actually freaking love what we’ve done with the show and love the books. There’s maybe a minute group out there who are like, “NO! KAHLAN’S EYES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE GREEN! AND RICHARD HAS GRAY EYES!” How the hell do you have gray eyes, man, come on! (laughs)
PCZ: (laughs) Ok, yeah, I agree with you there. Ok, so I totally have to ask this, does it add any extra layer to the acting when you have to use an accent that’s not your own?
CH: Absolutely. In fact, it kind of allows me to get into the character a little bit more because it doesn’t resemble me. When you’re doing an Australian accent you’ll start putting your own inflections on it and you can’t help that. When you are speaking like you don’t speak at all I think it actually helps and is not a hindrance. You can’t really worry about the accent, you need to have done your practice and know you’ve done the best you can and do the scene. For some of the guest-stars the accent can be a bit of a problem, especially actors with a strong Kiwi accent. They’ll be doing fine, but they’ll start thinking about it sometimes and stressing out about it, but, hey, we’re in the Midlands, man, we’re not in California, so if they do slip up a little bit or they say a word slightly different no one’s gonna go, “Ah, that’s not American.”
PCZ: Right, who’s to say what the Midlands accent is.
CH: Exactly! Graig Parker, our Darken Rahl, has an English accent and Bruce has kind of developed what he likes to call a “wizard accent” where he just goes, (imitates Bruce Spence) “I’m just trying to talk like this and I make Richard sound really powerful!” (laughs) Whatever makes you feel like Zed, you do that.
PCZ: I saw in some of the behind the scenes features on the season one DVD set that it looks like you guys are all just great friends. I think that translates well to the characters on the show.
CH: That’s true, man, that’s true. We do have a really, really good energy. I’ve been doing this for nine years now and this is the first time I’ve been the lead. And I knew, having watched leads before, I knew the power they have in terms of setting the tone on set and the right kind of vibe. If your lead is an…asshole or a bitch people don’t want to make you look good. If they don’t like you, why would they want to work with you? You’re their bread and butter and if you come on set and you’re the lead and you have one of the most gruel ling schedules and you have a lot on your shoulders, but you’re so enthusiastic and you love the show then everyone will just automatically up their game. You can’t have the lead of a show really excited and the props guy going, “Eh, no, I’m not doing that buddy.” So every department just ups their game. That’s not saying I’m solely responsible, they are all just fantastic people, I just knew that I do have an influential role, so the best I can do is just go in and make everyday enjoyable. You know what, I’m tired all the time, but I don’t get grumpy and I try not to freak out. I’ll just take my time and I’ll go nap and regain my strength and then I’m back on.
PCZ: Do you think it’s a benefit that you guys are in New Zealand?
CH: Definitely, imagine if we just went to a massive studio lot everyday where there’s like fifty other programs being made and you clock in and then go home. It’s not like that. We’re our own little community. It’s like we go out into the wilderness and we’ll shoot there for five days. You get up at five, drive out in the dark into the middle of nowhere, you shoot all day, only with your own people. You don’t see anybody else, no one’s coming out to the forest. You’ll see one or two people walking their dogs and that’s it. And then you go home and kiss your family, maybe you live by yourself and you’re back in it the next day. For an actor New Zealand is such a humble place. In LA or something like that it’s all hustle and bustle. Every weekend I would have a publicist or manager going, (Californian accent)”We gotta get you to, ah, this premiere, we gotta do that.” But down there, man, it’s all about the job and on the weekend I can do whatever the hell I want and that’s usually to stay indoors and watch DVDs and play guitar.
That allows you to keep focused on the job, keep focused on the work and not be swept up in the insane side of celebrity and the crap side of it really has taken away from the acting industry. It’s all, (movie studio executive accent)”Hey, you know who’s hot right now? Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron. What we should do is put them in a movie and, uh, basketball’s pretty hot right now so we’re going to make them play basketball and we did some research and, apparently, dancing movies are so popular so we’ll put a bit of dancing in there. And we’ve got Macintosh supporting us so every twenty minutes we’ve got to have an iPod or something…” Dude! What the hell are you writing? How can you try to sell this crap to people? You know what I’m trying to say?
PCZ: Definitely and it’s gives a better quality to the show that you guys shoot far away from all that. Hey, you also play guitar and write music. Is there any chance of a CD or album from you in the future?
CH: I hope so, I hope so. I’ve got a kind of little band going on at the moment. We’re just working on some music. But, yeah, I love music and I would love to share my music with people who want to listen to it. That’s what music is for, for listening. I can’t tell you how much I love music, it’s the language of the Universe, man. Let’s face it, words can get in the way. Think about the relationships you’ve had when you talk to the other person and they’ve just completely misunderstood what you’re trying to say and there is no way you can say what you really feel. But you pick up a guitar and you play a few notes and people go, “Ok, I get you, now I understand.” And you’re like, “Wait, I feel more like (guitar noises).” and they respond, “Yeah, ok I hear ya, I hear ya.” (laughs).
PCZ: Looking forward to hearing your music and the rest of season two. Craig, thank you very much for your time.
CH: Oh, thank you so much, it was a pleasure.
“Legend of the Seeker” hottie Craig Horner who plays “Richard,” the Seeker, on the series, marked his presence during his visit to Times Square November 5th, “slashing” a vehicle in the middle of Military Island with the Sword of Truth, a 9-foot custom faux sword. The actor, who shoots the nationally syndicated action-adventure series in New Zealand, was in town promoting the second season which premieres the weekend of November 7 (check local listings).