If you are a fan of tales of good vs. evil, then there are a couple of programs that should be on your radar.
A third season of the swashbuckling “Black Sails” unfurls on Starz with the addition of the meanest, most dastardly pirate to ever sail the Seven Seas, Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson), who will be stirring up the world of 18th century pirating.
BBC America launches the five-part mystery, “London Spy.” Two people from two very different walks of life – one from the high-powered ranks of investment banking and the other from a world of clubbing and youthful excess – have their love story fall apart when the banker disappears under suspicious circumstances, exposing his real identity as a spy. His lover (Ben Whishaw) faces real danger in trying to reveal the truth.
Although each episode of the cable series has the production values and big battle sequences that rival feature films, Zach McGowan, who plays Capt. Charles Vance, stresses that it’s not just the action that has made the series so popular.
“From the beginning, the writing crew and producers have never just wanted to have a story about guys swinging from one ship to another and trying to kill each other,” McGowan says. “They wanted to be about a group of people who have been disenfranchised from a society that doesn’t represent them.
“They have been forced into the only thing they can do. ”
I don’t give a damn if you like me. I don’t give a damn if you like the character. If you believe me, my job is done.
Actor Ray Stevenson, who plays Blackbeard in ‘Black Sails’
As the new season opens, the world lives in fear of Capt. Flint (Toby Stephens). But when his campaign of terror crosses over into madness, it falls to John Silver (Luke Arnold) to locate the man within the monster. Meanwhile, Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Capt. Charles Vane struggle to secure Nassau for the ages. Their plans are disrupted when Blackbeard arrives.
Ray Stevenson is taking on the role of Blackbeard the way he has played parts in projects from “Thor” to “Dexter.” He puts the same amount of work into preparing for a role, whether it is contemporary or historical.
For Stevenson, it comes down to one thing: “I relish making someone live and breathe within their own period of time,” Stevenson says. “What is exciting for me as an actor is being able to flesh that out.
“I don’t give a damn if you like me. I don’t give a damn if you like the character. If you believe me, my job is done.”
That the series is being shot in South Africa helps both actors. Along with giving them amazing settings for the show, the cast and crew have formed a tight bond because they are all so far away from home.
The actors use that feeling to get an understanding of what it was like when the real pirates were traveling uncharted territories.
“They can write the scripts, but when you get on your feet and you are standing in front of the other character and you are surrounded in this amazing scenery, this set, it’s so visceral, it’s like no acting required in a sense,” Stevenson says. “It’s just like you are so facilitated by everything and everybody around you that you lose yourself in it.”
Ben Whishaw is one of the busiest actors working, with appearances in “Suffragette,” “The Danish Girl,” “Spectre” and “In the Heart of the Sea.” He knew as soon as he read the script for “London Spy” that he had to be involved.
He was drawn to the very distinct nature of the characters in the short series that is part love story, part thriller.
“What I loved about them was that they were very idiosyncratic. They didn’t feel like they’d been made by a committee. It felt like a very personal vision, and it was an incredibly exciting thing to read,” Whishaw says. “My agent said, ‘It’s like a kind of dark ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
“Every episode, Danny is meeting a new set of people who very rarely are exactly what they appear to be.”
Every episode, Danny is meeting a new set of people who very rarely are exactly what they appear to be.
Actor Ben Whishaw on his character in ‘London Spy’
The series comes from best-selling author Tom Rob Smith (“Child 44”). What he’s done with the series is take a character who isn’t familiar with the world of spies and pushed him into the middle of the madness. The author blended in the love story to give the project a broader appeal.
In the end, he wants the viewer to make a connection through Whishaw’s character.
“Ben’s character is representing all of us when we are watching it. He’s very much an everyman, and you have to engage with him from that point. The series would not have worked unless we have fallen in love with Danny, fallen in love with Ben and gone on this journey,” Smith says. “And the sort of outpouring of fan art ... I’ve never experienced anything like it with anything that I’ve created before, and the love that was felt by Danny and Ben is really extraordinary and wonderful to have been a witness to.”
- 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, Starz
- 10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, BBC America