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The Bastard Executioner - Interview with Lee Jones

Lee Jones stars as “Wilkin Brattle”: A former warrior knight broken by the ravages of war, Wilkin vows to lay down his sword for a simple agrarian life. But when his idyllic new world is shattered by a cruel English Lord, Wilkin is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all: that of the executioner.

Jones on what he's most excited for the fans to see:

I actually think it's the relationships between the characters, they're beautifully drawn by Kurt, and there's great depth towards that, as well as the epic scale that the show has. I think he has, and hopefully we have done, a great job of creating the heart of the show.

Jones on the props needed to get into the role - the mindset needed to play the character:

Yeah, you know when I had my first fitting, I put the costume on, It really helped me gain a grounding. That helps a lot, I think. And also, the weight of the swords we use when we're not using the safety ones. That's great, getting to the fights and definitely the physicality of having to do all that stuff; it informs the character a great deal.

Jones on making the adjustment to television in his first major role - has done a lot of theater work previously

I think one of the best things about getting to do this job is getting to do television. You know, I've been craving do more film and TV, and it's been a great lesson working from instinct and working really fast. It's allowing me to flex a different muscle, and that's been really enjoyable.

Jones on what's been the most eye opening experience:

I think the speed of which television goes. It's definitely been something I've had to adjust to, but that's been great in itself as you're not sitting around too much and you have to trust your instincts like I said, and also the pace - which can really help the work. You tuck that in your own way.

Jones on the pressure of following up from a successful series such as Sons of Anarchy:

No, I think if I thought about that I'd be doing myself and the show a big disservice. We've just got to get on with it. We're creating such a unique world, I think it would only be detrimental to start worrying about things like that. It's kind of like we're in a parallel universe [LAUGHS], you know the year and filming and such elaborate depth and a fully realized world being
someway away from Hollywood in a way. That's kind of nice.

Jones on what he'd say to those viewers that might compare the show to Game of Thrones:

I think they are very different, this is based in reality, it's not fantasy in an way. There is a very well thought out novelty behind the show, which Kurt is developing. But I think this is a much more grounded in actual history and it's very gritty, real world, than fantasy.

Jones on Wilkin's internal struggle:

That's basically what his journey is, dealing with his internal struggle. And trying to get away from violence, and obviously it's a very violent time and that is really what is driving him, escaping that. He's losing the ability to trust himself and he's a very spiritual man and I think his faith is wavering at times; he's really trying to find who he is at his core, I think. That's what his journey is.

Jones on whether he went back and looked at Kurt's previous work:

That would have been good, had I had the time. It really happened so fast with me landing this job. You know, I knew of the recent success on Sons of Anarchy and I knew what a terrific talent Kurt is. But you know we talked about before, my world was really the theater, so I hadn't been watching so much telly at the time when I was cast. And then I got cast so quickly. I'll have a look at Sons when I get time but the schedule is of the chains right now, and I really haven't stopped since the pilot in March, I think it was.

Jones on if his life has changed since being cast:

Yeah, my life changed as soon as the job. To have the chance to work on this and to work on something so creative, satisfying and epic. And yeah, I feel like everyone - the cast, crew - everyone is really supportive. I know it's going to get crazy. Well, that's what people are telling me.

Jones on working with such a creative team (Kurt Sutter, Paris Barclay, Brian Grazer) with an incredible track record:

You know what, it's really great, because everyone is so specific about what they want, and that felt like we had a short hand from day one. We were on the same page and kept things really truthful within the work, and I felt very supported from the beginning. You know, it's been really great, and that clarity, the drive in knowing what they want is great.

Jones on whether Kurt has told him what he wants to accomplish with the series:

He has. You know it's developing as we go, and you know he's not given me everything - bread crumbs. He's listening to what we do and shaping things as they come back to him.

Jones on the time period, and how it will appeal to audiences not familiar with that time period:

I think what's going to draw people in - what we can all relate to - the time wanting to escape, the darkness. People struggling to survive, and having to improve things for yourself. But for me, life is so delicate; you know a lot of drama comes from that. What was the value of life back then, and you know the brutality of it I think. As actors to play in a world that we're not in is very satisfying.

Jones on his relationship with Kurt Sutter:

It's been great, like I said before from day 1 he was very supportive, looking out for me, making sure I had enough to go on. And he's a caring guy; he cares about how we're feeling so we can deliver the work. We speak about where the characters going from time to time, and I'm always interested in knowing what he's thinking behind things and I'm just trying to serve that back to him. And like I said before, he's feeding of what we're doing. So stuff might come up in an episode down the track that he might have picked up from the dynamic of us. He's a great guy. We have a great friendship.

Jones on how much religion plays a part in the show:

There's a bigger knowledge, and it's certainly a back bone to individual characters and as well as creating the world. My character is struggling with his faith as a result of what has happened to him but it is also about getting him back to that, what's driving him forward. He is trying to find a higher purpose, and that all has to do with his spirituality and his religion.

Jones on why he wanted the role, and if he did any research into that period:

Look, as an actor, selfishly, I get to explore the full range of human emotions. It's such a great role, I just heard about it. I hadn't read the script; I said yep that's for me. Dark things fascinate me. I like exploring heavy material as an actor, which brought me to it. And in terms of research, I just tried to get my head around the sort of social structure behind the time, and the background behind the executioner, getting to know the character. Other than that, it's just been sinking my teeth into the script.

Jones on the sets:

It's incredible; the landscape here in Wales is stunning. The most amazing thing though is the medieval castles and villages we've built. It feels so real, you know. It puts everything into perspective, it's incredible.

Jones on the physical preparation:

I got cast and went straight into a two week boot camp. I hadn't ridden a horse before and we have an incredible horse team, and stunt team here, so it was just non-stop riding and sword fighting. I'd done a lot of sword fighting on stage and stuff, but I had to get rid of all that and be extra careful, and more safe in this role. The stunt guys have got me doing some boxing footwork and that keeps me light on my feet, and keeps the swordsmanship looking quite fluent. But the horse-riding, I love it. It's my new favorite thing. Everyday I'm on the horse I'm happy. But yeah, it's something I need to keep on top of; it's an on-going thing.

Jones on Wilkin's relationship with Milus (Stephen Moyer) :

They have their shared history in terms of being knights, so their relationship is complicated. Milus is using Wilkin completely and he's stuck, trying to survive and get out from his manipulation. There's a lot of loathing in that relationship, they're both struggling to survive and whether they like it or not they're dependent on each other at times.

Jones on what he'd like fans to know about him:

I'm hardworking and dedicated to the craft, that's why I'm enjoying it so much. I'm getting to do some of the best creative work of my career so far. Apart from that, I was a swimmer before becoming an actor.

The Bastard Executioner premieres September 15th, 10pm on FX. You don't want to miss it!