Mark Hamill plays forceful character in ‘Knightfall’
LOS ANGELES — Unless you hang around to read the credits at the end of a television show, the addition of Mark Hamill to the cast of the History Channel’s “Knightfall” would seem like a rare move for the actor, who will forever be known as Luke Skywalker. But Hamill’s no stranger to TV, and that doesn’t count a recent guest appearance on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Hamill has hundreds of television credits, but mostly as a voice actor in the animated “Avengers Assemble,” “Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia,” “Miles from Tomorrowland,” “Justice League Action,” “Regular Show” and “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Giving voice to the Joker in multiple Batman animated series has kept him busy.
“With voice-over, they cast with their ears, not their eyes. So you’re able to do a lot more diverse characters. I rarely use dialects on-camera, but in voiceover you can do Australian, Italian, German. The sky is the limit,” Hamill says. “So that was one part of the appeal of this role is it was live action, and I was going to be able to do something that was really in the character actor category. So it was one of those things that it was too good to pass up for me.”
Of course, there was his recent return to the “Star Wars” franchise with appearances in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.” The acting force was plenty strong before the executive producers of “Knightfall” approached Hamill.
“I first was given sample episodes to watch of ‘Knightfall’ when they asked me to be a part of it,” he says. “I had no real intention of doing anything like that, but I got hooked immediately, and it was riveting. I mean, it transports you into this whole other world, and it’s so relatable. And I just thought, ‘I’ve never been offered anything like this before.’ I’d never done a character quite like this before, a religious zealot, a man of deep convictions and, yet, such a paradox. I remember thinking he’s lecturing the troops and he says, ‘Once you become a Templar knight you shall become God’s executioners.’
“How could there be such a thing? I thought, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ But that’s the thing.”
Hamill was flattered he was asked to tackle a character who is part soldier, sinner, teacher and leader. The way Hamill approached the character was as a medieval version of a drill sergeant. That fit the guideline Hamill has used over the years to not repeat himself when possible, and this was a huge change to take on a new challenge.
All the voiceover work Hamill has done helped him when he was coming up with the physical movements of the character.
“It really hit me when I went to my first wardrobe fitting and they just started putting on layers and layers and shoulder pads and a cape and a belt and an axe and a sword. It took upwards of two hours to be camera-ready,” Hamill says. “But it really helps because you look at yourself and Mark Hamill disappears, and you really feel like you can transform into someone completely different.”
The transformation was necessary because “Knightfall” explores a dark time in history from the Knight Templar perspective, embracing an authentically grittier, darker and more brutal medieval period than has ever been seen before. It also goes deep into the clandestine world of the legendary brotherhood of warrior monks to learn who the knights were, how they lived and what they died believing.
Hamill plays Talus, a battle-hardened Knight Templar veteran of the Crusades, who survived captivity for 10 years in the Holy Land and is tasked with training the new initiates to the Order. Talus has a moral conflict with Landry (Tom Cullen) as a Templar.
There is no way Hamill’s going to get away with talking about “Knightfall” and not answer a “Star Wars” question. In regards to whether the Knights Templar were an inspiration for George Lucas when creating the Jedi, Hamill takes a diplomatic approach.
“I’m sure George Lucas came from so many different inspirations of his own, both from the movies and literature,” Hamill says. “He was probably thinking more of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable because it was more idealized and glamorous, certainly, than the Templar Knights.
“But, there’s no question that his inspiration was rooted, partially, in this mythology.”