Often, the best consolation prize of finding out your favorite series has been cancelled — or is ending after a respectable run — is learning that the showrunner is spearheading a new project. Hence why Hannibal fans will likely flock to Bryan Fuller's American Gods on Starz next year... and why Sons Of Anarchy fans will likely flock to Kurt Sutter's The Bastard Executioner on FX this fall. The showrunner certainly wasted no time in diving into a new show: TBX (as the network is abbreviating it) premieres this Tuesday, a mere nine months after the Shakespearean biker drama roared off into the sunset. The medieval show stars Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle, the titular headsman. But who is Jones? And where did Sutter find the actor who would become his Bastard Executioner?
Chances are, unless you've been attending theatre in the Down Under, you've never seen Jones before. While Sutter populated his cast with plenty of familiar faces — including SOA star Katey Sagal, Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Brían F. O'Byrne (FlashFoward), singer Ed Sheeran, and even himself as a character called "The Dark Mute" — he chose a virtual unknown to fill his leading role. Jones' previous screen credits include an episode of an Australian TV series called Home And Away, a short film called Slut: The Musical, and two episodes of a children's show called William & Sparkles' Magical Tales. "Who is this guy??" would be a fair question right about now.
The 32-year-old Aussie is a classically trained theatre actor most famous for his role as The Creature in a 2013 production of Frankenstein, according to the New York Times, a performance which won Jones the Glug Award (basically the Australian Tony) for Outstanding Performance — an award which has also gone to other Aussie-born Hollywood actors like Cate Blanchett and Joel Edgerton. How exactly did Sutter stumble across such a diamond in the rough? In an interview with Access Hollywood, the showrunner and director Paris Barclay (who helmed the first three hours of TBX as well as numerous episodes of SOA) reflected on their discovery.
Sutter insisted that they didn't specifically set out to find someone who was "obscure or unknown," but that they were looking for a certain "rawness and vulnerability" that was missing from most of the British actors they were auditioning. (TBX takes place in 14th century Wales.) While the Brits proved to be too "composed and refined" for the role, Jones was the perfect amount of "athletic," "raw," and "organic." Coming from such a heavy theatre background with very little experience onscreen, Sutter quickly cottoned to Jones' "less polished and affected approach" to the material.
For his part, Jones has been enjoying the change of pace from his typical line of work. "One of the best things about getting to do this job is getting to do television," he told Spoiler TV in an interview. "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." He had auditioned for the part without even skimming the screenplay, simply based on what he'd been told about the show and its acclaimed creator. "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."
He also tried to assuage fans who might fear Sutter is going too Game Of Thrones with his new series. "I think they are very different, this is based in reality, it's not fantasy in any way," he clarified. "There is a very well thought-out novelty behind the show, which Kurt is developing. But I think this is much more grounded in actual history and it's very gritty, real world, than fantasy." And is there anything else TBX viewers should know about the show's leading man? "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." Good to know!
Witness Jones in all his full medieval glory this Tuesday on FX, during The Bastard Executioner's two-hour premiere, starting at 10 p.m.
Images: Ollie Upton/FX (2)